Schlagwortarchiv für: managing others

Leadership: A practical exercise for managers

Do you ever stop and ask yourself the simple question: “What are my responsibilities as a manager?”

Sounds obvious, right? But how often do you really give yourself a chance to reflect on your performance as a leader?

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The John Adair Action-centered leadership model

Over the years there have been countless models developed on this theme, and millions of books sold (and some of them even read! ).  Although it’s not the very latest of models, John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model is a simple and effective starting point when reflecting on your personal impact as a manager.  According to the model, the heart of your responsibilities as a manager are:

Leadership circles

  • to achieve the task
  • to develop your employees
  • to build an effective team

When you are performing at your best you are able to do all 3 of these things, and find the right balance. This balance means you and your team get the results you need and everyone benefits. This balance also makes your life easier, as synergies quickly build e.g. by achieving the task the team grows and individuals have a chance to develop. Likewise a strong team sharing ideas and supporting each other in difficult situations, naturally enables individuals to develop and therefore you achieve the task.

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PUSH & PULL

Learn more about the two basic approaches to influencing others

influencing

 

A simple reflective exercise for managers

This is a simple and practical exercise to help you reflect on your performance and focus your actions.  You’ll need an uninterrupted 10 minutes, pen and paper.

Step 1

As a manager you are responsible for achieving your department’s task, building the team and developing individuals.

  • Take a moment and think about how well you are performing in these three areas.
  • Now take a pen and draw the three circles in proportion to how satisfied you are with your performance in each area. (and not how much time you spend on each area).  For example, if you feel that you are doing a good job of achieving the task, but your employees aren’t really developing and there’s very little team building then you might have something like the example below:

LeadershipStep 2

Now look at your circles and consider these 3 questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with your situation?
  2. Can you identify  3 concrete actions you can take to improve your performance?
  3. What has been preventing you from doing this and how are you going to overcome this?

Step 3

Identify one concrete step you can take in the next days – and do it.

More on action-centered leadership

This activity is used in our Practical Toolbox for Managers seminar, and something I try and do every few months myself. Clients and participants have consistently found this activity hugely useful.  A little focus and some “time out” from the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day challenges can go a long way. Take a look at these links for more information:

 

Prioritizing Work: 4 Categories to Help

4 Simple categories to help in prioritizing work

Prioritizing work can be a challenge for anyone, especially managers. I have just returned to work after being on holiday for two weeks. After reading all of my emails and speaking to my colleagues, I now have a huge to-do list. In the past, I wouldn’t have known where to start but I recently learned a very simple method for prioritizing. Based on The Eisenhower Matrix, I label each task on my to-do list with a letter, A, B, C or D.

Prioritizing work with A, B, C, or D

 

1.  ‚A‘ tasks: Do it

These tasks are:

  • urgent, very important and should be done straight away
  • directly affect the work of others and they are waiting on you to continue their own tasks

2.  ‚B‘ tasks: Plan it

These tasks are:

  • important but not urgent, so you can take the time to plan when you will do them
  • ones that require extra thought and consideration and should not be rushed

3.  ‚C‘ tasks: Delegate it

These tasks are:

  • ones that aren’t overly important but need doing quickly
  • easily done by others who have more time to do them

4.  ‚D‘ tasks: Drop it

These tasks are:

  • not urgent, nor are they necessarily important
  • ones that could be skipped, forgotten about, or done only if you have extra time at the end of the day

 

The A tasks are the most important, so I start with them, then the B and so on. One challenge I face is to find the time for the C tasks. Normally, at the end of the day, I find it useful to make my to-do list for the next day, along with the priorities; that way I know exactly what to do when I arrive at the office and I can get straight to work. It also stops me from brainstorming tasks for the next day when I should be listening to my bedtime story!

What methods do you use for prioritizing work? Let us know in the comments area below.  Are you interested in improving your time management?  Click here for information on how.

 

Meeting Rules: Mobile Phones and Laptops

Does your company have clear meeting rules?

While some organizations have clear policies about whether laptops and mobile phones can be used during meetings, in other companies the rules were never established or have been allowed to grow relaxed. Ask a group of professionals what they think about this issue and you’re bound to get a mixed response. Some people will say these devices should be banned from every meeting with no exceptions; some will say they don’t see any problem with using them in meetings; others will say that remaining in touch is an absolute business necessity. We’re not here to tell you how to run your meetings. We are here, however, to bring your attention to the fact that you need to have clear meeting rules on this issue, regardless of how you decide to handle it.

3 Dangers of not having clear meeting rules for mobile phones/laptops

  1. There’s not a unified approach to the meeting – In previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of setting ground rules for your meeting. Mobile phones and laptops should definitely be addressed when you set the ground rules along with your team.
  2. There’s a chance some colleagues might be unhappy – If a member of your team is strongly against the use of laptops and mobiles in meetings, they should have a chance to discuss the issue with their colleagues. In the end, a conversation about the situation might highlight key issues. What if, for example, one colleague has responsibilities that force him or her to be in contact with another group of people at the same time as your meeting?
  3. You’re not as efficient as you could be – While we’ve stated that it may be necessary for some people to be in contact all the time, the fact is that when someone’s attention is divided between the meeting they’re in and their laptop screen, they’re not completely focused on the matter at hand.

3 Ways for your team to deal with the issue

  1. Establish a total ban – This might not be a popular approach, but it solves the problem permanently. This means all mobile phones and laptops are switched off and put away, out of sight.
  2. Ask colleagues who absolutely must take a call or send an email to leave the room – This is probably a healthy compromise, but the risk is that attendees will still spend the entire meeting checking their phone or laptop, even if they don’t make any calls or send any emails.
  3. Put an “email break” on the agenda of longer meetings – This doesn’t take care of urgent phone calls or emails, but can probably satisfy even the most hardcore smartphone and email addicts.

3 Outcomes of establishing meeting rules

  1. You display leadership – Setting ground rules and then sticking to them is key to running meetings that really work. When you take charge effectively and suggest solutions, the members of the group will feel more committed to working together with you as the leader of the meeting.
  2. You save time – A few minutes spent discussing this issue now can potentially save a lot of time (and problems) later.
  3. You ensure everyone is on the same page – Without the chance to discuss opinions, small disagreements about issues like these can turn into bigger problems. A unified team will ultimately work better together over time.

Having clear meeting rules will help everyone focused on the topic and not distracted by calls and emails. Let us know what has worked for you in the comments area below.  Click here for more information on how to make your meetings run more smoothly.

Female Management Quotas: Key Terms and Phrases

Female management quotas are currently a hot topic in Germany

What is the approach in your company towards having a quota for the percentage of women in management positions? The opinions on this topic are wide and very relevant in that Germany’s coalition has recently agreed to set a 30% target of women for supervisory boards in German stock exchange companies. Here are some opinions which could be raised when tackling the issue within your departments responsible for corporate culture and diversity.(Or make for a potentially heated small-talk discussion in your next business social event!.)

  • „A quota merely treats the symptoms, not the causes of the low representation of women in leading roles“.
  • „Quotas are an important signal to improve the chances of women in the workplace“.
  • “Concentrating on a quota solely in the boardroom risks making it a purely symbolic act. What is needed is systematic support for female workers even at junior recruitment level.”

Key terms and phrases for discussing female management quotas

Discussing female management quotas can involve quite specific vocabulary and there are a few language points to look out for.

  • As an alternative to a fixed quota, why not have a voluntary commitment to gender equality?
  • There needs to be more transparency on the root causes of the share of women in management.
  • There is a need to identify legal and cultural impacts that foster or interfere with gender diversity.

Things to watch out for when discussing female management quotas

  • Use ‘quota’ not ‘quote’. In English, ‘a quote’ (spelt with ‘e’ and pronounced ‘kwoht’) is either a price estimation, or when you cite the words of someone else.
  • Be consistent in your use of the words ‘woman’ and ‘female’. Both have come to be used as a type of adjective. E.g. ‘the share of woman executives’ has the same meaning as, ‘the share of female executives’. There is some argument, however, that using ‘woman’ as an adjective has become more favoured in recent years. There are many articles on this debate, including this one from the NY Times.

By using the correct terms and phrases when discussing female management quotas, you will keep the focus on the important topic instead of causing confusion on what is being said.  Let us know in the comments area below if you have any other suggestions or questions. Want to learn more on how to improve your management skills?  Click here.

Giving feedback using the DESC model

Giving feedback effectively will have a real impact on your business

Everybody understands that performance feedback should be constructive, focused and to the point. Effective feedback can resolve conflicts, overcome problems and improve individual and team morale. It doesn’t really need mentioning that ineffective feedback often accomplishes the opposite. Or that if you are skilled at giving effective feedback, your team will be more motivated, which leads to better performance.

While feedback should focus on behavior, performance feedback is still a personal conversation between people about people. Emotions always play a part in interpersonal communication. Effective feedback is as much about bringing the right message(s) across as it is about how your message is interpreted.

No matter how skilled the feedback giver is, if the receiver isn’t interested in hearing or taking the feedback, nothing will get through.http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2014/03/05/douglas-stone-the-importance-of-feedback-in-business-communications/

The more difficult the feedback, the more the giver needs to consider the the emotional impact of the feedback. Giving positive feedback is easy.
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DESC is simple and it works

In our skills-based Leadership training, we use the simple 4-step model DESC for structuring feedback. Participants in our “Practical Toolbox for Managers” seminars often highlight DESC as one of the most valuable tools they are taking away. This model is designed to help you to get your message clear and it can even take the stress out of the feedback conversation for those of us that weren’t born with effective feedback-giving skills.

DESCRIPTION

Give an objective and concrete description of what you have observed using „I“ statements.

EFFECT

Explain the effect or impact it had on your business, the team or its members. If the effect was an emotion, name it. Your body language and tone of voice will already be showing your elation or frustration – putting them out in the open can help you move things forward.

SOLUTION

Build the solution through a directive (“What I would like you to do next time is …”) or a participative approach (“What do you think we can do to avoid this next time?”).

CONCLUSION

Build a “contract of commitment”. Check your understanding of what has been agreed, and get commitment for the future.

Further Leadership resources:

Managing High Performers: Miles Davis Part 2

What does Miles Davis have to do with managing high performers in business?

Good question. Miles Davis is rightfully acclaimed as an icon of jazz but he didn’t make music alone. Miles worked with the best of the best to create music that stands as among the highest forms of the genre. In part 1 we explored three key lessons we can learn from Miles‘ approach to managing his high performing band mates. They were: Be excellent, publicly; Don’t hire a trumpet player; and Play together.

Managing high performers: Lessons 4-6

4.  Don’t tell them what to do, tell them what not to do

Related to lesson three, play together, is the style of debriefing and guidance Miles offered to his band mates following their performances.  Miles didn’t put a group together hearing the music he hoped they would produce in his mind, then correcting them to come as close as possible to his vision. Miles believed in an experimental approach to developing new music. When reflecting about what took place in performances, Miles would say what his band mates shouldn’t do but he wouldn’t tell them what to do. He hired them for their expertise on their individual instruments. He wanted them to bring their ideas to the table so they could take ownership of their performances and the product of the group.

The high performers in your organization reached a level of success before becoming members of your team. When managing high performers, take advantage of their creativity and input by channeling, not directing their contributions to the organization.

5.  Listen to save the day
“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” Miles Davis

Deep listening is the art of hearing not only what is said but also what isn’t said.  On stage, Miles had the opportunity to lay out and listen to what his band mates were playing.  There were times when while reaching for new forms of expression, the band lost its way. By listening to what wasn’t there, Miles could enter the fray at the right moment with the phrase that would bring the other players back together again, finding a groove that was satisfying to the musicians and the audience.
Look for your opportunities, especially in conflict, to find what isn’t being said and remind the participants in the argument that they are on the same team. Listen for agreement that the parties may be missing, summarize, and encourage them to listen deeply to each other when emotions run high. “What I am hearing is…” is a great way to interject.

6.  Talk about life, not music

With our busy lives it may be tempting to leave work at work and leave life at home.  We can get through our workdays without sharing with others the experiences that shaped us outside of the work environment. Miles believed knowing the personal histories of his band mates was crucial to being able to know them musically. He invested time in learning about the backgrounds of his band mates and he shared his own. This sharing created an environment of trust that helped his musicians to work with each other more closely.
Be willing to be more open when you are managing high performers as it can lead to more effective, trusting relationships. A deeper bond of respect can increase loyalty to you, and commitment to your organization and its goals.

6 Lessons for managing high performers from Miles Ahead:

  1. Be excellent, publicly
  2. Don’t hire a trumpet player
  3. Play together and produce excellence
  4. Don’t tell them what to do, tell them what not to do
  5. Listen to save the day
  6. Talk about life, not music

Let us know what you think is missing regarding managing high performers in the comments area below.  Want more on managing high performers as well as others?  Click here.

 

Managing High Performers: The Miles Davis Way

What does Miles Davis have to do with managing high performers in business?

Good question.  Miles Davis is rightfully acclaimed as an icon of jazz but he didn’t make music alone.  Throughout his career as a bandleader, Miles worked with other iconic figures of jazz to create music that stands even today as among the highest forms of the genre. John Coltrane, Herbbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, “Philly” Joe Jones, Keith Jarrett, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and many others known as among the giants of jazz graduated from “Miles University”. Miles Davis, time and time again, brought together some of the most talented musicians in their own right to work with him in his musical exploration. How did he do it? This two part blog will explore the lessons of Miles Davis in the art of leading the best to be their best.  In this part, we’ll look at lessons one through three on managing high performers and part two next week will cover lessons four through six.

Managing high performers: Lessons 1-3

1.  Be Excellent, Publicly

Miles Davis was able, on many occasions, to put together bands of some of the most talented musicians of their time throughout his career. Miles‘ reputation clearly preceded him as receiving a call from Miles was seen as having achieved a high level of musicianship. But that wasn’t the only reason so many musicians with promising solo careers agreed to support Miles. They believed they would learn something based on Miles‘ excellence as a musician and band leader. Miles greatness was easy to see through his performances, compositions and recordings.


How easy is it for high performers to recognize your excellence? There is a tendency among many leaders not to “toot their own horns” about their own performance and accomplishments. While a leader may not need to sing his own praises, it is important that someone does it for him. A leader’s excellence will attract others who want to achieve the same level of competence, while increasing the leader’s  credibility and ability to guide, mentor and teach.

2.  Don’t hire a trumpet player

Miles‘ great combos included players with different styles and tendencies. He hired players who would complement his playing and each other’s. He didn’t need anyone who sounded like him in the groups because he had that covered.


In business, it can be difficult to avoid the temptation to hire people who mirror our backgrounds, experiences, styles and tendencies. After all those competencies served us well in our careers. It is important to remember as a leader that our success is a reflection of the past while we are hiring for the future.  The pace of change doesn’t only require different technological skills it also requires new communication and leadership skills from those current leaders needed at earlier stages of their careers. Hiring teams with complementary but different skills and areas of expertise broadens the set of problems they can solve and increases their impact on the organization.

3.  Play together and produce excellence

Miles‘ bands grew into cohesive units through performances, not rehearsals. They played together and learned through reflection about what happened on stage adjusted to the different situations, approaches, sound systems and audiences that influenced what they produced.
Each performance created a wealth of learning opportunities for Miles and his band mates. The urgency of the moment created a focus and intensity that would be very difficult if not impossible to reproduce in a rehearsal. By focusing on playing together and learning from the experience, Miles could correct on the spot, encourage and support his band to take risks, push themselves and reach new heights of excellence.

How often do you perform with your high performers? Finding opportunities to produce excellence together will give you more chances to learn about them and coach. They will have the chance to learn about your approach to problem solving and managing high performers.

Let us know what you think of the first three lessons in the comments area below.  Make sure to check back next Wed as Part 2 on managing high performers will be posted.  Want more on managing high performers and your employees?  Click here.

 

Listening Skills: 10 Areas to Improve

Listening effectively is not easy.  How often do you find yourself in a conversation and not completely concentrating on what your partner is saying?

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How good are your listening skills?

Take a look at the ten simple questions below and assess how good your listening skills are. Be honest with yourself.

  1. As soon as you think you know what your partner wants to say you turn off and stop listening (jumping to conclusions)
  2. You spend the time used by your partner to prepare your next comment (rehearsing)
  3. You only concentrate when you expect that the point will be of direct interest to you (filtering)
  4. You expect to disagree so you only listen for weaknesses (judging)
  5. You continue nodding in agreement although your thoughts are on something else (dreaming)
  6. You refer everything to your own experience and compare what you did / would have done (comparing)
  7. You start thinking about the possible solutions before your partner has finished outlining the issue (solving)
  8. You don’t give your partner room to build their argument and start to discuss before the speaker is ready (interrupting)
  9. You think you / your work / your team are being criticized and jump in to block the supposed attack (defending)
  10. You agree politely to whatever your partner says so that you can move on to the next subject (placating)

 

Improving your listening skills awareness with ALF

Now next time you are talking with someone be aware of your internal listening behaviors. Focus on listening to them. A simple trick to improve your listening skills is to remember ALF:

Always Listen First

And finally here’s a tip from Lars, a project lead for an automotive manufacturer.  I met Lars a few years ago when he was a participant in a Virtual Teams seminar we ran.  A few months ago I bumped into him at a train station. He told me that he’d bought himself a key ring of ALF, the character from the 1980s comedy show.  Just so he wouldn’t forget to Always Listen First.

Let us know what has worked for you in the comments area below.

 

Getting to know what your employees want

Do you know what your employees want?

Most employees are hopeful and positive when they start out in a new role. From the employer’s point of view it may have been hard work finding a suitable candidate to fill a specific post – you need to keep this newbie.
Most companies have an induction process, assign a mentor or buddy, and arrange for someone from HR and/or the line manager to spend time with the new recruit showing them the ropes.  First days and weeks in a new role or a new company can be quite overwhelming. It all seems to be about learning – the newbie learning about what they have to do. How often though, hand on heart, can we say that we really invest time finding out what the newbie really wants?

3 Reasons to show an interest in what motivates your new employee

  1. Showing genuine interest from the start makes the employee feel cared for and welcome.
  2. Knowing what they want and how they like to work will help you manage them better.
  3. You will start building up a trust relationship and employees are likely to feel motivated to contribute more than you expect.

3 Questions to find out what your new employee wants

  1. What do you want from this post? You know what you expect them to do, but have they really thought about why they are here and what it is going to do for them?
  2. What do you hope to learn on the way? This is an early indicator of things to come, and a great question for finding out more about attitude in general. If no interest is shown in learning, then perhaps you will see early on that this is a relationship that won’t be going anywhere. There are also those who expect you to tell you what they should learn and find the right training for them. And then there are those who have clear goals, and will not be afraid to say what they want – and they will definitely warm to this question.
  3. How much support do you expect from me? Different people have different expectations. Some people may expect and want a line manager who controls every step they make. Others may want a boss who leaves them completely to their own devices.  And there are plenty of options between these two extremes. Doesn’t it make sense just to ask? Once we know , we can try and work around these expectations. But if we don’t know, how can we possibly be aware of whether  we are keeping them happy or not?

3 Possible outcomes of not discovering what your new employee wants

  1. Allowing the wrong people to pass the probationary period. Getting some clear answers early on shows you so much about attitude. Making the wrong decisions in terms of the probationary period can be a costly mistake, de-motivate other members of the team.
  2. Losing great employees. If no interest is shown, then those employees we really want to stay, will eventually move on to the competition.
  3. Never getting the full potential. An employee may do their job well, but if they feel that you care what they want and are doing something to help them achieve it, they are just going to give so much more.

We only suggest three questions you could ask to find out more about what your employees want. There are hundreds out there. We’d love to hear what questions you use. Why not share them with us by posting in the comments box below?

Change Management: 3 Tips on Dealing with Resistance

Change management is something we all have to deal with on a daily basis.  It would be nice if all of our ideas were easily put into action without any people resisting the change.  These „resisters“ can fight change for many reasons: they are comfortable with how things are, they have different ideas, they don’t see your issue as a priority at this point, etc.  No matter the reason, we have to find ways to get the resisters on our side in order to implement the change we feel will benefit our department, or company as a whole.  You may think it is easier to ignore these people, but that may lead to problems in the future.

3 problems that can arise if you don’t deal with resisters

  1. The transition is slowed down.  When you are looking to implement a new process, the speed of transition is important.  The longer it takes to implement the new process and get people trained on how to use it, the more expensive it is.  The sooner everyone is on board, the better.
  2. People working against you and your change.  If you don’t get buy-in early from people, some may make it a point to make the change difficult to carry out and work with the new process.  This will cause the change to be seen as something that made things more difficult, instead of bringing about positive results as planned.
  3. Future buy-in issues.  If someone resists change on one project, they are likely to do the same for future initiatives you may introduce.  Things may become personal and what may seem to be small issues, can turn into regular resistance in the future.

So, not addressing those who are resisting change early enough can lead to a number of negative outcomes.  How do we deal with resisters, then?

3 solutions to deal with resisters

  1. Use another tactic.  Take the time to listen to the „resisters“ and find out what is important to them.  Take this information and shift the focus of your change a bit to take their preferences into account.  If you make an effort to show them you are working together, they will be more likely to buy in and support your efforts.
  2. Start low.  If upper management is resisting your change, then start from the bottom and move your way up.  Building support at levels below you, as well as at your level, may allow you to gain strengths in numbers.  Then you can go to management and restate your case.
  3. Make friends with those closest to your resisters.  By befriending administrative assistants, co-workers, and people who report directly to those who are resisting your change, you can share your ideas and increase the chances of getting your message across.  People listen to and trust ideas coming from close colleagues or friends.

Once you try one, or more, of the possible solutions, you will start to see some positive results.

3 possible outcomes from dealing effectively with resisters 

  1. You will turn adversaries into allies.  The more people that are working with you, as opposed to against you, at work will allow you to get more things done.  Plus it provides for a more comfortable working environment.
  2. You will be seen as more credible and competent.  If you can implement change quickly and effectively, you will be seen as a good leader and someone who can get things done.  This can lead to a number of great career opportunities in the future.
  3. Your company culture will be more open to change.  People naturally resist change, but once they embrace some change, it is then easier to embrace more and more.  A company culture that is open to change is open to progress which can lead to better business results.

Change management will always include dealing with those who resist change.  Try a few of the solutions above and let us know what worked for you in the comments area below.  Also, click here for more information on Target Training’s seminars designed to help you handle conflict within your organization.

 

Motivating People: Using Emails Within a Virtual Environment

Motivating people isn’t easy no matter what position you hold in the company. There is an old Japanese proverb which says ‘the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.’

A common mistake

I was reminded of this recently when working with a client who was responsible for communicating a company-wide change. He needed colleagues in three different global locations to log in to an existing system and perform a task before the system could be replaced with a different, better tool.  It would take them 5 minutes. The most efficient way to communicate this request? Email of course. Easy he thought….wrong I’m afraid.
The first email he sent was a masterpiece of clarity and politeness. It laid out beautifully what was changing and how. The instructions were clear and easily understandable, (even when put through an online translator tool and back. Trust me, he tested that). There were six weeks until the deadline for the switch to the new tool, plenty of time.

The countdown began….
Four weeks before the deadline and two reminder emails later – only 54% of colleagues had carried out the request….
Three weeks before and another reminder, 61%….
Two weeks before and another reminder about the reminders, 69%….
One week before the deadline, another two slightly less polite but very clear reminders and still only 82% of his colleagues had carried out the request.
Why weren’t his colleagues more motivated to make the change? There was time for one last email, and this is when he came and saw me.
‘What’s wrong with my English?’ he asked me. ‘Nothing’ I said. ‘You’ve told them what will happen, you’ve simplified the technical language so even I can understand it and your instructions are clearer than those for an IKEA flat pack’. ‘So why are they so reluctant to make the change?’ he asked. ‘Simple’ I said. ‘They’re made of oak, and you want them to be bamboo.’

Realizing what your message should say

Before he thought I’d completely lost it, I told him the proverb and explained that at the moment, his colleagues were the oak trees. They knew how the old system worked and didn’t want to change to the unknown. If they were going to be like the stronger bamboo, they needed to know why they should bend. ‘That’s simple’ he said. ‘The old tool often asked you to repeat information and it could take a long time to enter data. The new tool only asks for information once and is far more accurate. Their life will be much easier. It will all be much quicker which will make their customers happy too.’
Great, that should make everyone happy, but where did it say all this in the original email? It didn’t, and there was the root of the problem, (or oak tree).
Normally, when communicating a change via email or group media, the biggest concern is making sure the ‘what’ and ‘how’ is explained as clearly as possible so people understand what they must do. It’s easy to lose focus of the motivational side, the ‘why’.

Getting results with your emails

It doesn’t matter how polite your request is, if people can’t relate it to themselves they will resist. To avoid this, try following these five simple steps:

  1. Explain what the change is
  2. Explain why it makes sense
  3. Explain why they should care about the change, (what’s in it for them)
  4. Explain how the change is going to happen
  5. Explain what you need them to do and when

Of course, these can be applied to any situation where you’re asking people to make a change, whether it’s by email or face to face; to 1,100 or 10,000 people.
By the way, the deadline was met, the new tool was launched and it has proved a success. I’m not so sure my client would be so ‘Zen’ as to say he’s now surrounded by a forest of bamboo trees, but I do know he didn’t have to send 12 reminders when he next asked people to do something.

Click here for more information on to work effectively in virtual teams.  Also, let us know in the comments areas below if you have had any similar situation in your job, and what worked for you.

Time Management: 2 Simple Tips

Time management does not come naturally to me. Managing my own time is something that I have had to work at. And, good time management is something that I find works best if you apply one or two systems. Here are my two tips for improving your time management:

1.  Use a calendar

Sounds simple, yes? But, I use a calendar for everything. Every meeting and discussion that is planned goes into my calendar. Additionally, I also include tasks that need to be done, followed by planning the time for these tasks and then blocking the time in my calendar.

I plan long-term, non-urgent tasks in advance and block the time to complete them.

At the start of each day, I write a list of any additional tasks that need to be completed. Where possible, I include the time of the day when I will do these things. Each task gets crossed out once it is completed. If it is the end of the day and something has not been crossed out, I put it into the list for the following day, or find an actual time-slot in my calendar to perform the task at a later date.

2.  Keep your inbox clean

Again, this sounds simple. But, almost every day I see someone’s inbox with 200+ emails and 50+ not even read. Part of my solution is to be honest with myself. If I really don’t think I will do anything about an email, I won’t keep it in my inbox “just-in-case”.

When reading a new email, I immediately decide if I’ll do something with the email. If not, I will delete or archive it. If I plan to do something with the email, I’ll either do it straight away (for small tasks) or plan the task into my calendar. Once the task is planned, I’ll move the email to the relevant folder and also put a copy in my calendar if necessary.

It seems that a lot of people use their inbox as a “to-do” list. They leave the email in the inbox as a reminder to do something and this is how they “plan” their work. But, cleaning out my inbox forces me to actually plan tasks in my calendar and make time for the tasks.

Both of these ideas are simple. What works for me is the combination of the two ideas.  Why not share your own time management ideas in the comments below?  Also, click here for information on how to further improve your time management.

 

The 9 Ground Rules for Effective Groups

In a recent conversation, one of my program participants mentioned the workplace value of the skills of moderation and facilitation. This conversation piqued my interest, so I searched the Net for the best books about facilitation and chose one that is considered a classic text on the topic of facilitation: The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches by Roger Schwarz.

As a trainer who very often works with groups, one of Schwarz’s theories caught my eye: establishing ground rules for groups. Schwarz compiled a list known as The Ground Rules for Effective Groups that help make sure groups are communicating effectively. Below, the nine Ground Rules are listed with a short description (some or all of these rules can be adopted, or the group can create their own, at the first group meeting).

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9 Ground rules for effective groups

1. Test assumptions and inferences – making inferences from available information is a valuable skill, but what if we make these assumptions based on incorrect information or a misunderstanding of what someone else said? 

2. Share all relevant information – If members of the team don’t share all of their information, this can lead to incorrect decisions. Even worse, if it’s discovered later that someone withheld information, it can cause major problems. 

3. Use specific examples and agree on what important terms mean – If important terms are fully defined, team members can be assured that they’re speaking about the same issues in the same way.

4. Explain your reasoning and intent – If you can explain your line of reasoning to your colleagues, they’ll be better able to understand where you’re coming from. In addition, listening carefully to your colleagues‘ explanations will help you understand the situation more fully.

5. Focus on interests, not positions – Closely linked to Ground Rule 4, number 5 suggests that we discuss the interests of the people involved and not the position they are taking. Rather than, for example, “He says the budget can’t go up, but I want a new computer,” think, “He needs more money for the advertising costs, but I can’t process the graphics with my old, slow computer.” Then, we’re thinking in terms of what people really need, instead of what we think they might want.

6. Combine advocacy and inquiry – In a nutshell, this ground rules means that when you state an opinion, you ask for comments and questions immediately. 

7. Jointly design next steps and ways to test disagreements – Agreeing on a system for solving disagreements beforehand can save time and make sure disputes don’t bring the meeting to a halt. 

8. Discuss undiscussable issues – Bringing sensitive subjects out into the open needs to be handled very carefully, but can ultimately lead to a group that is moving forward rather than constantly avoiding an uncomfortable conversation.

9. Use a decision-making rule that generates the degree of commitment needed – If these (or other) ground rules are followed, hopefully all members will feel that they have all the information necessary to make an informed choice and that their voices have been heard. If this is the case and a consensus is reached, every member of the team will feel more dedicated to following-up on the decision, as they they have been an active part of the decision-making process.

The short description of the ground rules above doesn’t really do the book justice. If you’re interested in this topic, I’d recommend getting a copy of The Skilled Facilitator for yourself. If you have experience with groups that work well together (or more tips for how to make group interaction more effective), please share them with us in the comments section below.  Click here for more information on how you can build effective groups and teams.

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Giving Negative Feedback: Quick Tips

A stone makes a chip in your windscreen. If you leave it, it will spread and a small crack will become significantly larger, and likely more expensive to repair. Leave it too long and the chances of you having to replace the complete windscreen are pretty much guaranteed.

Being unhappy with one of your team’s performance in a task can be like that original chip. If you avoid the issue and do nothing, the action will be repeated or increased. Over time the situation will escalate and you are likely to become more judgmental than objective. Dealing with a performance related issue in a timely manner is key to stopping the problem from increasing or spreading like that crack.

However, giving negative feedback is not one of the more enjoyable aspects of people management, and one that is often avoided. So how can you do it in a way that is constructive for both you and your team member? What can you say so that they leave the room motivated to do something differently in future, rather than feeling like they’ve been in the head teacher’s office for kicking a ball through a window?

3 steps and language points to motivate you to try something different:

1. Start with a positive.

„Thank you for the effort you put into correlating the timesheets. It really helped the finance team put together the claim for the first quarter.“

2. Give a specific example of the problem and the impact. This shows that you have an understanding and vested interest in the situation.

„I noticed that the deadline you gave the Project Managers to get their information to you was two days before your own deadline to get the finished report to the finance team. I saw that this put a lot of pressure on you and you had to work considerable overtime. I also noticed Birgit working late to organize the Managers‘ Webcast as you weren’t free to support her.“

Now compare the example to the one below:

„Your deadline for the Project Managers was too late. You shouldn’t have had to have done that overtime and you left Birgit to deal with the Managers‘ Webcast on her own.“

Doesn’t sound so good…Only using ‚you‘ or ‚your‘ to start a sentence sounds judgmental and is likely to make them become defensive and not open to constructive direction of what you would like to happen next time.  Alternatively, in the first example each sentence starts with ‚I‘. This sounds more objective, backs up that you understand the situation and that you want to help them do better in future. It is also much more difficult to argue against a statement starting with ‚I‘ than ‚you‘. However, avoid using „I think“ as this implies a personal feeling and can be felt to be more judgmental than „I noticed“ or „I saw“.

3. Say what you would like to see in future. However, only set one concrete action unless absolutely necessary. Keeping it short and simple means you are far more likely to see success.

„Next time, set a deadline for the Project Managers of one week before your own deadline.“

Let us know if you have any other suggestions or experiences on giving negative feedback in the comments area below.  Also, click here for more information on how you can improve your approach to delivering difficult news.

Asking for Feedback

Could I ask you for some feedback? Seven words which can make both the person asking and the person being asked nervous. Asking for feedback can be awkward and challenging at times, but there are a few things to help make it easier.

I recently asked a colleague of mine for some feedback following a presentation which I thought had been a bit shaky. ‚You did great‘ was the reply, and the conversation moved on. Later on, when the warm glow of being told ‚well done‘ had faded, I asked myself what I had actually learnt from that feedback and how would it help me improve. I realized that apart from thinking what a nice person my colleague was, I’d actually heard nothing which would help me do better next time. It then dawned on me that this was because of how I’d gone about asking for it. If I wanted to get meaningful feedback, then the way I asked for it had to be structured too.

Getting feedback from peers is one of the most useful tools we have for enhancing our performance. Peer feedback is in real time, looks at learnt skills being used in real situations, and it’s from ‚end users‘. But how we go about asking for this feedback has a huge influence on how useful what we hear will be. No more ‚Do you think my presentation was OK‘? type questions, what do you really want to know?

Basis steps to get the feedback you want

1. Check with your peer that they are comfortable giving you feedback. Don’t be offended if they say no, it’s not necessarily because they have nothing good to say! Not everyone is comfortable giving feedback, and those that aren’t tend to give the type of empty answers such as ‚great‘ or ‚it was fine‘.  A few ways to ask could be:

  • „I’m really hoping to improve my presentations skills and could use your help.  Do you mind giving me some feedback after my presentation?“
  • „Could you give me some feedback on my presentation afterwards?  It would help me a lot in improving my presentation skills.“ 

2. When asking for feedback, briefly explain what you would like to cover, and why it’s important to you.

  • „It would help me a lot if you could specifically pay attention to my body language during my presentation.“
  • „Could you try and focus on how I transition from point to point during my talk?“

3. If the other person is struggling to think of something to say, ask two basic questions:

  • „What did I do best?“ 
  • „Is there something I can improve?“ 

4. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. For example, I was told that I had lost the audience in a presentation. By asking where I had lost them, why did they feel this had happened and did they have any suggestions for what I could do differently, I was able to think of ways to prevent this happening in my next presentation.

                                   

Since following these steps, I’ve found feedback far more useful and an increase in respect from both sides. There have only been a couple of times that I’ve winced at something somebody has said, but what they said was true. Ultimately, audiences at future presentations have benefited. So, take a big breath, smile and ask the question – could I ask you for some feedback?


 

 

Target Talks: Chris Slattery on the importance of staff, intercultural and soft skill training

Target Talks is a series of interviews with key Target Training GmbH employees, designed to put them on the spot about some topics that really matter to all of us: staff, intercultural, and soft skill training. This week, we talk to Chris Slattery, one of the company’s directors.

As the Managing Director of a training company, how important is training when it comes to your own employees?

CS: The phrase ‘never buy hair restorer from a bald salesman’ springs to mind.

We are obliged to take training seriously for any number of reasons but, most importantly, when training makes our staff stronger, we move up a notch as a company.

Our challenge is to make sure that we promote internal training to ensure that the company as a whole benefits from external measures taken by individuals.

You recently led a seminar for an international bank which included intercultural elements.  The world is now so global: how is intercultural training still relevant?

CS: Without wanting to encroach unduly on the abstract arts of the Zen Buddhists, I would suggest that the intercultural aspect is everything… and nothing.

“Nothing” in the sense that the theoretical study of regional differences (e.g. be sure to wear white socks on a first date in Ballybunnion), while possibly of some passing interest, is not necessarily conducive to effective communication.

“Everything” in the sense that communication – which is our business – is founded on shared understanding. Beyond a rudimentary level of language proficiency, working out what is meant becomes more important than the words that are used and what is actually said.

You might see this, for example, when Brits and Americans work together; the former tend to give you the background of a situation before moving on to the problem. The latter tend to prefer a bottom-line-up-front approach (This is what we have to do, and here is why). Intercultural awareness is relevant and useful in helping people to understand how their partners tick.

Tell us about Trompenaars.  Who is he, what does he stand for and why did you put your key staff through certification  in his approach?

CS: Fons (as he is known to his friends) is impressive. Profound knowledge, worn lightly and with a touch of self-deprecation. The Dutch have massively influenced the study of cross-cultural questions for two decades and have developed two very distinct approaches. It is to Fon’s approach that I am drawn.  His work introduces the concept of dilemmas which every society is confronted with  (for example, do we see events as individual and isolated or do we approach them within the context of a larger picture? How do we balance the rights of the individual against the interests of a wider society?). How a society deals with these dilemmas is the essence of that society’s culture.

As to why we signed up for the program, there are two distinct levels; as a company we now have the tools and the certification to run another series of specialist workshops. More importantly, the concepts behind the program are now available to the whole company and will supplement (dare I say enrich?) the courses we are already running.

How do you personally best learn new soft skills?

CS: Running a train-the-trainer programme recently, I found myself chanting a mantra; it is not what you know, but what you do. This was usually followed by; telling is not training.

In this sense, I don’t see a huge difference between soft skills and any other kind; time management and influencing are not so different from playing the piano and passing a rugby ball. Basically I should know why I’m doing it.

I should know/see/be told/experience how it is done.

I should try it.

I should get feedback on how it went.

I should try it again.

When I learn, it is no different.

Personally, I need time to comprehend and digest ideas. Thereafter, the learning can start.

Many thanks, Chris, for taking part in our Target Talks series.  Now, over to our readers: which questions do you have for Target Training GmbH about training?

 

 

Target Talks: Scott Levey on the importance of training

Target Talks is a series of interviews with key Target Training GmbH employees, designed to put them on the spot about a topic that really matters to all of us: the importance of training.  This week, we talk to Scott Levey, one of the company’s Directors.

As the Director of a training company, how important is training when it comes to your own staff?

SL: Training is as important to us as it is to every company.  Ironically though, trainers in the industry just don’t get enough training themselves, and there tends to be very little done on an incidental basis.  By nature, trainers often work independently and at best get development opportunities by accident.

Regarding our own staff?  Our policy is to attract and hire the best trainers and, through training, help them to stay sharp.  When we hire, we look specifically for evidence of continual improvement so we know we are working with people who are open to development and learning.

What advice would you give to a new manager confronted with his/her first training budget?

SL: Haha. Phone us!

No, seriously, take time to talk to your people about their current skills and their needs.  As their manager, it’s vital that you carve out your own time to think about these needs; skills; and the future situation of the organization you manage.

Another thing to bear in mind is that it is not always feasible to solve a current problem by throwing training at it: training often takes too long to solve an immediate concern.

And be ready to be actively involved in supporting whatever training you go for.  Your support, or lack of, makes so much difference.

What’s the most beneficial training you have put your staff through?

SL: This is a very difficult question to answer: some of the training has been directly job-relevant, while other is designed to introduce new skills (e.g., management courses for new managers).

I suppose the training from which we have had the most positive feedback has been our in-house „Boot Camp“.  This is where we explore the new skills an InCorporate Trainer needs in order to be successful when delivering in-house training. New trainers generally have low expectations coming onto the course (‘training for training’s sake’ being a classic attitude) but the feedback has been consistently strong and participants report that they have been pushed, been developed and gained confidence during the week.  Not only that, their line managers have reported a clear difference, as have the end client.

The Boot Camp has acquired an outstanding reputation within Target; in fact, for budget reasons we recently looked at reducing the time required but decided against it.

And the most memorable training you have personally taken part in?

SL: Looking back at the last year, probably the Kirkpatrick Certificate Training in March (2012).  Jim Kirkpatrick is a skilled and charismatic facilitator, and just watching him caused me to pick up lots of tips and tricks for my own work.  The majority of the participants were HR managers—who are typically our clientele—so it was nice to be able to work together with them on a collegial basis and get a first-hand insight into how they work and learn.  Interestingly enough, their challenges closely reflected our own. I was particularly interested to hear how the soft skills training market in the UK compares to Germany: it seems to be a much more competitive—and perhaps saturated?—market than the one we operate in here.

Many thanks, Scott, for being the first to take part in our Target Talks series.  Now, over to our readers: which questions do you have for Target Training GmbH about training?

 

Job-focused Business English Training

Last week I was in Berlin to give a presentation at a conference called “Sprachen und Beruf” or Languages and Business. My presentation got me thinking (and hopefully it got the audience thinking too). A large part of my presentation was dedicated to the goals of job-focused Business English training from the perspective of our participants, the clients (managers) and the training managers. In other words, what sort of training do our customers really want?

We included video interviews with the various stakeholders in the presentation. When I sat down and watched all of the videos, including the out-takes and the drafts, it was obvious that there was a very strong recurring theme throughout.

Quite simply, and this will probably sound obvious, our customers who buy our InCorporate Trainer concept want job-focused training. So far so good, but, more to the point, they want training directly focused on what they do in English in their jobs. OK, still nothing really new here. But, what did they really want?

What managers want with their English training

Universally, what they wanted was:

  • focus only on the skills that they actually use for their jobs
  • integration of their own documents, emails and presentations in the training material
  • activities that reflected what they actually had to do in the workplace
  • training to do what they do on the job better, not simply training to improve their knowledge

Without consciously thinking about it, the participants and clients (managers) were highlighting the importance of relevance on transferability. This is a core concept in the InCorporate training model. The training should reflect what the trainer sees on a daily basis. The ideas for the training should come from the on-the-job support that the trainer does on a daily basis. The role-plays and activities should be as close as possible to the real meetings, presentations and phone calls going on in the office.

By creating and running this sort of training, the learner can more easily apply the learning. Sure, if you watch a lot of English movies, eventually your vocabulary will improve. But, taking that learning and applying it to improve your negotiations at work is another matter.

The training really needs to reflect not just the real world, but it needs to reflect the learner’s real world. The literature and research supports this concept – “relevance aids transferability”. But, it sure is nice to hear that the participants and managers instinctively know this too.