Receiving Feedback- Pointers For Your Performance Review

The scene: You and your manager are in a meeting to discuss your performance this past year.   So far most of the conversation has been positive, but now you sense a change in the tone of their voice and perhaps event notice the subtle shift in their body language and now your mind immediately goes to a dark place.

Let's face it.  None of us are perfect.   There is always something we can work on to make ourselves better, stronger, whatever.   However, before we can get to those better places or opportunities we need to know our starting point and what might need to be "tweaked."  So, instead of tuning out the boss, I would ask you to consider the following pointers:

1. Be grateful for the feedback.   Someone is taking the time to share with you their perceptions of you (and/or your behavior).  Even if you don't agree with it, their perceptions are their reality. 

2. Don't take the feedback personally.   Detach yourself from your job title and don't take the feedback home with you.

3.  If you are not clear on how to interpret the feedback, ask questions that will help you understand what the other person is trying to share.

4. Thank your manager for the feedback.   You now understand their perspective on a situation and you can decide if you want/need to modify your behavior going forward. 

Do YOU Need A Business Coach?

The Importance of Business Coaching.  

Business coaching focuses on sound inner judgment and that leads to the best possible outcomes.  When you have business coaching in your company, you are opening the door for advancement in the performance of your employees, thus your organization.  Here are a few benefits you will realize by implementing business coaching:

  1. Employees will perform at their best- When you incorporate business coaching into the employee developmental process, your employees will challenge themselves and seek to perform at a higher level. One-on-one interaction with a business coach provides the environment for employees to untap their hidden potential, demonstrate their additional capabilities and the added value their enhanced performance brings.   When you want your business to grow, you need to think about how your employees will help secure this growth.  Business coaching is your answer. 
  2. Recognizes their experiences- This goes along the same lines as employees performing at their best. With business coaching the employee works with their coach to reinforce their current strengths and to surface new opportunities where these skills can be utilized allowing the employee to expand their contribution to the company.
  3. Increases your bottom line- When you have business coaching available to your employees, you recognize and communicate their worth to the company. The main goal of business coaching is to offer the tools and support individuals need to enhance their performance and to facilitate change.  Outcomes that you can expect when you have business coaching in practice are higher levels of engagement, more efficiency and productivity.  Investing in your employees is a sound business decision that will yield a high ROI (return on investment). 

Got Goals?

"Vision without execution is hallucination."

- Steve Mills, IBM Executive


This is one of my favorite quotes.    Right now many of you are going through your annual performance review process at work and are setting goals that you are to achieve during the coming year.   But realistically speaking, once the performance review discussion is conducted with your manager and the form is filed away how often do you review, never mind act upon these goals?   If you are like most folks, you are scrambling to find the form a few weeks before the next performance review cycle begins.   What if you were to map out a plan to achieve your goals from day one?  What sort of impact do you think that would have in productivity as well as personal satisfaction?    

Interested in giving it a shot?  Then take a moment to review a few key steps you can take to help you achieve the goals you took the time to set.

Step 1:  Rewards and Consequences- Let’s face it – this is a powerful incentive.   The odds are that you will only accomplish a goal that is aligned with the desire results you want or to avoid the negative consequences of not attaining the goal.   Not to worry if you find yourself driven mostly by the need to avoid the consequences, based on various studies you are in the norm.  

Step 2:  Identify any obstacles – Before you begin the goal achievement process, ask yourself - what are the possible barriers that might prevent me from realizing this goal?  By writing down these obstacles you can reduce uncertainty and adjust your attitude to develop action steps to move you forward.

Step 3: Develop Solutions and Take Action:  Once you have identified possible obstacles the next step is to think of as many solutions as possible to overcome each obstacle.   Once you have selected the most effective solution for your particular situation, and then convert that solution into an action step.   However, it does not stop here.   The key to the goal achievement process is to act on the action step you have identified by incorporating it into your daily activity so it becomes a part of you.

Why not take responsibility for your life by setting and achieving your goals?

Forging Ahead in Unknown Territory

The previous blog (How to Outperform and Outlast the Competition) discussed the four primary reasons why people are resistant to change.  I would like to continue this line of thought with a visual.  If any of you have ever seen a bucket of live crabs, you know that when one of the crabs tries to climb out of the bucket, the other crabs pull him back in.  Something very similar happens to the people you are leaving behind as you look to make changes in your behavior.   You will start hearing:

-          What are you doing?

-          Why do you want to do that?

-          Stay here where you belong.

At some point additional obstacles may appear by the noise that you create in your own head.  You might hear yourself saying:

-          What am I thinking?

-          Can I really do this?

-          This is a lot harder than I thought.

-          Is it really worth it?

Between the noise from others and the noise from your own self-doubts and fear, these challenges become so great that many of us make a “u-turn” right back to where we started.  In order to avoid this detour, you need to muster the strength to carry out your purpose. Your success depends upon your dreams, goals, and vision being strong enough and deep enough to get you through the journey.

How to Outperform and Outlast the Competition

Regardless of the economic environment, most individuals are always looking for ways to outperform and outlast their competition.  How is this done?  Quite simply by embracing change.    Most of us have created an environment that is safe, comfortable, and predictable and where “change” is a much feared concept.   So, how is it that successful people are able forge ahead in unknown territory? They focus on overcoming the obstacles, fears, and doubts they encounter on their journey. 

To help you navigate your own journey here are four primary reasons why people are resistant to change.

1)      FEAR– it’s internal; it’s in our heads; you can say fear is False Emotions Appearing Real.

2)      EGO--the need to be right is a powerful human need.

3)      CONFLICT--when you try to leave the people and things that make you comfortable you can sometimes create conflict.  Depending upon the situation, most people do not like conflict; it is not fun, so they just avoid it all together.

4)      LACK OF PURPOSE--without a sense of purpose, people become stagnant, complacent, and burnt out. 

So ask yourself, which one of these reasons is holding you back the most and what can you do to change that?  The good news is you don’t have to take drastic measures to create change. However, you do have to do things differently.  I encourage you to examine yourself, your attitudes, and your habits. Change starts with you. If you want to have a different result, then change your way of thinking, doing so will enable you to outperform and outlast your competition.

Leaders of Today

Today, as a leader, you must make sure that your team is aligned. Be sure your employees are focused on accomplishing their goals, and that these goals are aligned with the Critical Success Factors. The Critical Success Factors are, in turn, aligned with the Mission and the Vision. There must be a relentless focus on performance and results, but that in and of itself is not enough.

If everyone is in alignment each step of the way, the organization will see amazing RESULTS. If there is misalignment, you will see inefficiencies, lack of focus, unproductive teams, conflict, turf wars, politics, and a host of other organizational ills.

An organization’s real competitive advantage comes from harnessing the will, commitment and EMOTION of their people. You must look at ways to not only create a compelling VISION that is in alignment to the individual action steps…but you must also create ways to positively impact the attitudes of everyone on your team.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a nationwide survey asked employees what was most important to them. The answer wasn’t salary or wages. The top of the list wasn’t advancement opportunities or flexibility of work schedules either. It was open communication.

Creating a Compelling Vision- Mistakes to Avoid

The two common mistakes that companies make with regard to their vision that keep them from reaching their potential are (1) the failure to clearly articulate a vision and (2) the failure to communicate the vision effectively.

There’s another huge mistake that can derail all the efforts you may make to overcome the first two mistakes. It’s failing to make sure that all employees’ activities support and are in alignment with the vision. 

Once a compelling vision is developed the next step is to create a mission. The mission is the short-term view of the vision. What can be accomplished in the next year that will support the vision?  From there, you will want to determine the critical success factors. These are usually four to eight key factors that are both necessary and sufficient to realize your company’s Mission.   Then SMART goals (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistically High and Time Bound) should be set to meet the Critical Success Factors and then broken down into Action Steps that spell out who does what by when.

The big mistake that most companies make is that often the action steps of some goals are out of alignment with the Vision.

You see, your employees need to understand your expectations and receive your feedback. They need to understand the Vision and how their role plays a part in it.

How To Communicate A Compelling Vision

Once you’ve determined your vision, there are six key elements needed to effectively communicate it.

  • Keep it simple. Eliminate trite expressions, techno-gobble, or jargon.
  • Use metaphors, analogies and examples. Paint verbal pictures so people can picture and visualize where they are going.
  • Use multiple forums. Utilize big and small meetings, memos, articles, as well as formal and informal interactions.
  • Incorporate repetition. Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times.
  • Lead by example. Behavior must be consistent with the vision since we believe what we see more than what we hear.
  • Give and take. Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication. Listen and be listened to. By listening, you may find out about a better route, a short cut on your journey.

What a Compelling Vision Needs to Be

Creating an effective vision is no simple task. A vision should be succinct, clear, and exciting. It should guide the organization and everyone in it while leaving wide latitude to pursue new opportunities.  The vision is a statement of your department/company’s potential; of what your department/company can become. When your vision is effectively communicated to all employees, it should provide a common focus and direction.

An effective and “Compelling Vision” will be:

  • Based on an insightful analysis of the present situation facing the organization
  • Appealing to deep desires of those who work within the organization
  • A clear statement of the motivating force that drives the organization forward
  • Achievable

Creating a Compelling Vision- The First Step to Great Leadership

As a leader in your organization, part of your job is to get the other people that you work with on the bus.  (Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats is a discussion topic for another time)

Some people may eagerly hop on the bus. Others will probably be more hesitant. They’ll ask things like, “Where is the bus going?” Don’t you think they should know where you’re taking them? Think about it. If you were to go to the bus station and ask a bus driver, where is this bus going? And the bus driver replied, “We’re going to drive around a bit, but there’s no set destination. We’ll see how the trip goes and play it by ear.”  That is probably not the bus you want to hop on.  Well, that’s how your people feel when you haven’t determined where you are taking your company and where they’re headed on the company bus.

So, the first thing you’ll have to do as the company bus driver is pick a destination.  One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to shape and communicate the vision to everyone in their organization.   A simple and understandable vision is essential since delegation to and empowerment of your people depends on a shared understanding of the organizational purpose. A vision should honor the past but prepare for the future. Most importantly, a vision must be “lived.” If your vision is not “lived” every day in every way, it will be hollow and empty. It will not empower anyone. In fact, it may do more harm than good. And you’ll find more people not wanting to ride on your bus.

Strategies for Planning

In my last blog I focused on the fundamentals of time management.   Many of you commented that you are still working on implementing your New Year’s resolutions.   Below I would like to share with you some strategies for making things happen!  Try a few out and let me know how it goes.

  • Determine  your best time of day to plan
  • Write your plan in command form (Go, Do, Call)
  • Write one item per line
  • Prioritize your goals and activities
  • o   Schedule appointments, phone calls, planning time
  • o   Define the Must Do’s/Should Do’s
  • o   Keep an ongoing To Do List
  • Resolve each “planned” item at the end of each day
  • Review your goals daily or weekly. Adjust activities to achieve the goals.
  • Update your plan

Time Management is not a Time Management Issue; it is a Goals Clarification Issue!

Fundamentals of Time Management

  • Get organized – set aside time and organize all paper and projects- block the time in your calendar or PDA
  • Three D’s – Do it, Delegate it, Dump It- get rid of anything that is not in alignment with your personal/professional goals.  When paper comes in create a filing system not a piling system.
    • Delegate- to the appropriate person
    • Dump – Dispose of in nearest recycling bin
    • Do It- decide which category it falls into (1) Immediate, (2)This Week,  (3)Next Week, and (4) When I have the time
  • Do the Right Thing Right- Management expert, Peter Drucker says “doing the right thing right (effectiveness) is more important than doing things right (efficiency)
  • Timing- Determine your most effective time of day and take advantage of your body’s natural clock to achieve your tasks.  Decide the best time of day to plan out your day (typically the night before is the better option)
  • Expand upon your To Do List- Break the tasks into either “Must Do It” on the top of the sheet and “Should Do”
  • Plan for interruptions – build in buffer time.  If necessary, take your phone off the hook, post a do not disturb sign on your cubicle wall if you don’t have an office door
  • Make the most use of waiting time
  • Make your meetings productive
    • Provide a written agenda and include the purpose and objectives of the meeting
    • Start and end on time
    • Have someone take notes and send a summary with the action items to attendees
    • Determine the best way to share the information communicated in the meetings
  • Time Management at home – our professional and personal lives are intertwined – use the same time management skills at home to help maintain control
  • Learn to say “no”- taking on too much causes stress. 

Investing vs. Spending Your Time

One of the most important concepts of time management is to understand and acknowledge the difference between spending time and investing time.  The definition of spend, according to the dictionary, is “to use up, exhaust, consume.”  However, when we invest our time we do so with the expectation of some sort of ROI, return on investment.  If we were to attach the value we put on money to the concept of time, we would be more motivated to manage it better. 

Time is like money.  You can expect returns if you invest in it wisely (current economic situation excluded) and losses if it is spent without purpose.  How you use your time is a reflection of who you are.  Not only is it an indication of what you think about yourself it also reveals what you think of others.  Your focus on achieving the goals you have set for yourself is reflected in your use of time.  How you allocate your time mirrors your purpose, your vision and your values. 

Time and the Importance of Meaning

Still struggling to become more effective in managing your time?   Perhaps now is a good opportunity for you to review and/or identify what are your purpose, values and visions.  We often get so caught up in the “daily grind” that we fail to think about what we really like to do.   What we need to do is to stop and consider- is the future a consequence of what we are doing now or is what we are doing now a consequence of how we view our future?   To help you get started on this exercise, ask yourself the following questions:

1)      What is your purpose in life?

2)      What would you like to accomplish in your job? At home?

3)      What are your strengths/talents?

4)      What gives your life meaning?

5)      What is most important to you?

With these answers you can begin to visualize your future and this will help you stretch your ability and achieve higher levels of success.

Your Personal Growth

Your success is dependent upon your ability to set meaningful goals and the achievement of those goals.  Knowing who you are and where you are going is the foundation for your growth.   You can expand your personal growth by focusing on developing key leadership traits.  Here are a few suggestions to help you chart your developmental path.

  1. Self-Discipline- making the commitment to pursuing your goals and maintaining a positive attitude at the same time.
  2. Self-Confidence/Self-Esteem- believe in yourself and your capabilities. 
  3. Be empathetic- by understanding and appreciating others you empower them and in return gain power yourself.
  4. Have integrity- set high standards, select strong values and have a clearly defined purpose.

Self-development is a journey not a destination.  Enjoy the trip!     

How to Make the Best Decisions

Quite often life presents us with challenges that require us to make decisions.  So, what can you do to make sure you are making the best decision you can?  Try and follow the steps outlined in this blog and see what results you are able to achieve.

  1. Clearly define the issue before you go about solving it and making decisions.
  2. Do your due diligence.  What sort of information will you need to gather and review before making this decision?
  3. What are your options?   Don’t necessarily settle for the first thing that comes to mind.  Take the time to think through all the possible alternatives and then select the best one.
  4. Move forward.  Once you have identified the best alternative think through the details of how you are going to execute this task.   What are the potential risks, the resources needed, timelines, etc.   Also make sure to identify how you will measure your progress.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

When you stop and think about it we make an extraordinary number of decisions in a day.  Most of these decisions are the execution of our subconscious.   This may be ok for things like deciding what to wear, what to eat, etc.   But what about the other decisions we make during the day?   Are we really making quality decisions in our lives?  Not sure.  Try this exercise on for size.   List a few important decisions you have made over the past 2-3 years.  Now evaluate those decisions.  Did they produce the results you wanted? If not, which ones would you change?

The Purpose Behind Communicating

Quite simply, the purpose of communicating with others is to convey a message that elicits a behavioral response.  In most situations there is a particular behavioral response that you are targeting to elicit.   If you are looking to get your message across the first time around be sure to follow these fundamental principles of successful interpersonal communications.

a) Be logical.  Communicate one idea at a time in the proper sequence.

b) Be aware of the words you are using and the pictures/thoughts those words may portray.  We know that a “picture is worth a 1,000 words” but a word can also mean different things to different people.

c) Be concise.  Too many words is not better.  Be brief, concise and clear in your communications. 

Remember the purpose of communication is to convey a message that draws out a behavioral response not just to hear yourself talk. 

The Emotional Side of Communication

No, I’m not referring to the “warm and fuzzy” topics that many try to avoid.   What I mean by the emotional side of communication is truly being empathetic to the feelings and emotions of others that develop during a conversation.   It is not only the nice thing to do, but it will have an impact on what you are trying to achieve.  Let’s face it, our feelings and emotions have a significant impact on our behavior.   The more you are able to identify and understand the emotional dynamics intertwined in your conversations and put yourself in the other person’s shoes the better position you are in to tailor your message to become more aligned with the intended recipient and advance your interests.

What is Effective Communication?

In this technological day and age, we would all agree we have more than ample tools available for use to communicate with one another.  So how can you make sure that you are practicing effective communication?   The answer is quite simple.   If you are able to convey yourself clearly and convincingly and others take action based on this communication you have been successful.   Familiar with the saying we were born with two ears and one mouth?  Well communication involves active listening as well as speaking.   So the next time you are deep in conversation, why not take a pause and elicit a behavioral response from the person you are in communications with.