How To Manage Difficult Conversations At Work

In many cases difficult conversations rarely get a chance to happen. Instead, we spend days, weeks, even years telling ourselves (and perhaps our unfortunate partners at home), stories about how rude, inappropriate, unhelpful and/or arrogant some people are. We rarely have the conversation with the person or people we are having difficulty with. We bring our own preconceptions to the events and don’t even get close to finding a viable solution. So… does the challenge get resolved? No… like a coffee maker, our stories keep perking – getting stronger and more bitter as time goes by.

Difficult Conversations Perk

Presto© Coffee Perk

Note for clarification: Firing someone isn’t a difficult conversation. Having a difficult conversation often starts uncomfortable but usually leads to quickly working with someone to help you and them understand a disruptive situation and correct it.

Lets face it – in a heated moment we all tell ourselves stories. What matters is how long we allow ourselves to be ‘stuck’ telling our stories. Your stories likely sound something like:

¤  She did ABC because she just knew I wanted XYZ.
¤  It’s like he thinks none of us know what we are doing.
¤  He always interrupts us because he doesn’t value our ideas.

If we do nothing we don’t find solutions. Instead we tell stories that build walls and increase stress while also degrading the quality creativity and productivity of our work environments. And if we keep it up, we may even put our employment status at risk.

Of course, while these negative stories go on and on, the person who is challenging us often knows nothing of our internal struggle. Until we talk to the person who is challenging us, we stay frustrated but we do not know their true motivation and beliefs – we only know our (biased), guess of Why the problem happened.

How To Quit Telling Yourself Difficult Stories And Start Having Difficult Conversations

  1. Most importantly, reclaim space and authority to build community. Take back your power to do something good… even though it may be difficult. I bet, 9 times out of 10 it will get better… and it is certainly better than you telling yourself difficult stories for months or years on end.
  2. Realize when you are telling difficult stories.
  3. Know that our subconscious often adds fuel to the fire; what we feel we make real. We may even subconsciously do or say things that promote a behavour. If you think your challenger will be:

¤  Creative – he will be creative “Wow Bruce, that is a great fresh approach.”
¤  Arrogant – she will be arrogant. “Yvette is such a know-it-all.”
¤  Rude – you will see examples of rudeness.
¤  Dismissive – you will feel you are being disrespected and dismissed.

  1. Show emotion but don’t be emotional. Tap into your empathy and that of the other person / people, “I’m feeling uncomfortable about something that happened yesterday but I feel it’s important we discuss it so I understand it better. Do you have some time now?”
  2. Explore WHAT someone did – not WHY. Stories that focus on Why is a path that often leads to blame (and the Dark Side for Star Wars fans). And if we haven’t spoken with anyone, our stories about WHY are also speculation which is dangerous and not helpful. Consider, they may not have even noticed they did XYZ.
  3. Let’s consider a situation at work when someone did something inappropriate / against policy. If someone does something outside of work boundaries then it needs to be addressed – not because someone is rude, disrespectful or mean… but because WHAT they did is inappropriate. Inappropriate behaviour must change in order to support a trusting, creative, collaborative environment. And while the conversation may be uncomfortable… even difficult conversation… in the majority of time it doesn’t need to get heated… in my experience.
  4. On rare occasions – do nothing. If it happens once, then sure – you may choose to let it slide… but if it is behavior that repeats, it should be discussed ASAP for the harmony of the team.

If you don’t manage difficult conversations, what are your options?

¤  Do nothing and keep being stressed
¤  Wait until you have had enough, lose your temper and yell at them.
¤  Continue to complain to all your coworkers and your partner

They don’t sound like great options. I recommend having a calm conversation where you share your observations and how those actions make you feel. I’d say something like, “When we are in meetings I feel you often interrupt me when I’m speaking. It makes me feel like you don’t value what I have to say. I wanted check in with you and see if you noticed and what might be happening.” This should start a helpful, respectful, calm conversation.

In conflict situations, you decide how you are going to respond when something doesn’t go your way. Be conscious to Feed Positive Energy – not the negative energy. Elevate the conversation. As we see Michelle Obama saying in this Youtube video, “When they go low, we go high.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu_hCThhzWU

Before difficult situations even happen, choose how you want to act. Who do you want to be in a difficult relationship? Do you want to be the person who shuts down, the person who screams or the person who moves on? OR, do you want to be the manager that deals with the situation?

Instead of generating a negative conversation, elevate the conversation – add positive energy to the conversation and your feedback. Take control of how you act – how you feel – what you own. Ask yourself:

¤  When I think someone is Rude, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Selfish, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Unsupportive, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Aggressive, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Taking More Than Their Share, How do I act?

Conclusion

More hate doesn’t beat someone else’s hate; more rudeness doesn’t beat someone else’s rudeness – they just breed more hate, rudeness and frustration.  The only thing that can beat negativity is respect and talking about it.  It doesn’t always fix the problem, but if you start showing respect and listening to the person who shows you hate, rudeness or frustration,  eventually everyone will see them as being the A$$#!*& – not you. Your reputation will improve. Theirs… not so much.

It is amazing what happens when you build trust / build respect between parties. With a base of trust two people could discuss and try a proposed solution quickly vs. discuss and debate it for hours or days. The beauty is that if you try you would both be able to quickly evaluate what worked / didn’t work and perhaps how to improve.  

If we keep telling ourselves difficult stories we will never find a mutually beneficial / satisfactory solution and office productivity and morale will go down as our stress levels go up. Having difficult conversations is far better better.

Happy communicating… mentoring… and training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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Beliefs & Change Management

About a month ago I wrote about beliefs. I frequently discuss beliefs – most often in the Difficult Conversation training I do – but I think a discussion is relevant in this public forum because how beliefs impact our minute-by-minute experiences and behavior. I also think the discussion is relevant because the current international political climate provides many a unique ‘global’ examples of how beliefs impact change as well as strengthen and weaken bonds.

At a basic level our beliefs define us and our behaviour. As I said in my earlier post, Beliefs are the foundation for what we believe about ourselves and the world around us… they may also represent what we WANT to believe about ourselves and the world around us.”Beliefs and Change Management

So as a discussion point, let me begin by asking you… “What motivates you to change your beliefs?” I’m sure you’ll agree that it takes a lot to change your beliefs… especially deeply held beliefs. Changing a belief is rarely easy; it usually takes time and patience – even if someone is open to listening / learning. But imagine trying to change someone’s belief who has a vested interest in keeping his or her belief intact. For example:

  • Imagine I believe I deserve a promotion (and then don’t get it).
  • Imagine I believe the way we’ve always done it is how we should do it moving forward.
  • Imagine I believe a politician will bring my job back – even though automation has been shrinking the global workforce for years.
  • Imagine my whole life I’ve believed I hate all green vegetables, (even though I’ve only ever tasted spinach… once… 20 years ago).

Trying to force people (or countries), to change their beliefs doesn’t work. Personally, I hold on steadfast if I feel pressured – I bet you act similarly. Or, if we are forced to change our belief – we may do it only to get our bosses off our back or to fit in (peer pressure), and we go back to our original belief as soon as we can. Pressuring others to change his or her beliefs just doesn’t work.

But change is inevitable and change is accelerating. This means we have to learn safe ways to challenge each others beliefs. Change management requires we help people make informed decisions and help each other evolve to take advantage of new opportunities… and not hold onto beliefs that will hurt us in the short or long-term.

Sure – believing you hate green vegetables isn’t going to do you much harm (I hope you are eating other vegetables). But holding onto the belief that your product / service shouldn’t evolve may have long-term negative consequences.

When we question our beliefs and they remain intact then that is great… in fact, we might find a deeper understanding of our beliefs. But, we must be open to the exploration… and to the reality that our beliefs may change… and that either way we will be better because we’ve evolved.

How do we begin the process of exploring our beliefs? Or, how do we introduce the idea to our team? My recommendation is as follows:

  • Step 1. Set ground rules for engaging – set a space of mutual respect
  • Step 2. Everyone must be open to listen, learn and share, but never try to force change.
  • Step 3. Agree to set aside negative judgment or biases.
  • Step 4. Everyone must accept science, data and proven theories – we cannot accept lies or untruths.
  • Step 5. Faith is OK. However, if you want others to respect that you have ‘faith’ – you must respect other people’s ‘faith’ equally.

I strongly agree with a famous quote from Senator Daniel Patrick “Pat” Moynihan, (March 16, 1927 – March 26, 2003), “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” I believe that we can choose to believe in something – have faith in something that is unproven… but our belief can not dispute what is scientifically proven or state your unproven belief as fact (or Alternative Facts).

Since 2017 may go down as a year of ‘Alternative Facts’ I think Senator Moynihan’s words are critically important. Basically, I believe what Senator Moynihan means is if I’m going to say I hate all green vegetables, I had better have tried all of them… or at least most of them. I can’t dismiss all green vegetables if I have only had one experience.

If you are a leader, consider the people around you. When you help them understand their beliefs and enter into respectful dialogue about those beliefs (not a threatened argument), you can trust them to make good decisions in the context of change management.

All of this assumes that the beliefs in question aren’t morally or legally problematic or go against corporate values, mission or vision. For example: If my belief is that I should be able to drive 120kms in a school zone… then I’m going to have to change… no compromise. And if my belief goes against society norms or law, I will accept the consequences of standing up for my beliefs.

In the end, I cannot correct your beliefs and I cannot be responsible for your beliefs or actions… only you can.

As long as we are both speaking truth and can back up our position with reliable data, we have to accept each others statements and beliefs. I can engage you – challenge you – I can even express if I agree with you or not – but I can not force you to change. And, in the end perhaps you don’t change your belief – but after an open, honest respectful dialogue we have a better understanding on how to move forward… with (hopefully), greater mutual respect. And, through the experience we may learn there are multiple ways to understand the world. Your way and my way are not mutually exclusive.

Conclusion

We owe it to ourselves to ask difficult questions and to watch, listen and learn from people we respect. And, we also need to respect proven data and think independently. In the end, you and I are the only people who can truly determine what is best for ourselves.

And yes, unfortunately there are truly hateful people – people bent on cheating others, but when we know better we do better. When we are aware of our beliefs and our core values we can act independently and make decisions with confidence. We can be sure our beliefs will guide our actions well.

Happy communicating… mentoring… and training.

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Embrace Your Night Owl Employees

I can’t even imagine working at night. Anything I do after 8PM had better not need strategic thought.  But at 6AM (or earlier), I can plow through creative, thoughtful, strategic work like an Olympic runner at a marathon.

Yup – I’m a morning person. Even on weekends ‘sleeping in’ past 8AM rarely happens.

And then there’s my friend Catherine. Catherine is a Night Owl. For Catherine, she’s not at her ‘best’ in the morning; her energy patterns – her Circadian Rhythms – are ‘different’ than 80%-90% of the population.Circadian Rhythm

No matter what time you sleep, each of us does our best, most strategic, most creative work when we are rested.

As a chronic morning person I used to believe Night Owls routinely went to bed too late and that if they changed some of their habits they could also enjoy getting to the office early. Now, as a Time Management Trainer I’ve see over and over evidence that tells me Night Owls are only embracing their natural way. When I’m training there’s usually at least one person in the team that says they do their best work at night.

Thankfully for Catherine and other Night Owls like her, work spaces are changing so Night Owls can better embrace their late-night energy spikes.

As work environments change businesses are becoming more accepting that people work on different schedules – whether employees want to because of family commitments – or have to because they are Night Owls. Virtual ‘work wherever & whenever’ companies that have employees throughout the country or the world are becoming more and more common.

Benefits Of Embracing Night Owl Employees

  • If you are an “in-the-office” company, see if you can give employees more flexibility. It’s not a perfect solution for a Night Owl, but if someone can travel during off-peak hours it means they will be working when THEY are more productive. It likely also means your employees are less stressed and will be happier because they spend less time sitting in traffic and more time doing the work they enjoy or being with their family/friends. And, happy employees are more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values – meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re….
  • If you are a “virtual” company, it’s likely you’ve already embraced the idea of hiring the best people vs. the best people living within 100kms of… wherever; your employees are likely in a different time zone. It’s also likely you and your employees are happily experiencing a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), who cares when they do their work as long as they meet their timelines, budgets and work quality. Your virtual employees can work when THEY are most productive… it also makes them happier. So – what you have is a happy, productive employee who again, will be more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values – meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re….

No matter what your company structure is like, leaders need to explore what is right for each member of their team… and to focus more on keeping their team collaborating and focused on the vision and goals vs. when or where they are doing their work.

When Should Night Owls Send Email?

I get asked this more and more often when I deliver Email Etiquette Training. Proper workplace etiquette has put more pressure on employers to leave employees alone during their time off. For most, this roughly means no contact from 6PM to 8AM.

If you are a Night Owl like Catherine I recommend you use a delay-send feature for email so the email you write gets sent closer to 8AM vs. 11PM, 2AM or 4AM. Other than not disturbing your fellow co-workers, I believe this is especially important if you are emailing clients. Consider that a 1:30AM email might give your client a negative feeling that you are out of control.

Conclusion

What is your Circadian Rhythm and work-life pattern? What are your most productive hours? More importantly, as a leader when are your employees most productive? As work-spaces change it’s important we enable our employees to be productive when people are productive. If you are a leader – help your team find joy… you will be rewarded with loyal, hard-working, creative team members.

Our work and our work schedule should give us joy. Hopefully you can find a schedule to help you be the best person you can be and do your best work.

Happy communicating… interviewing… mentoring… and training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Change Beliefs At Work

Changing a belief is rarely an easy thing to do (if at all possible). On one hand beliefs can be as socially harmless as food preferences and on the other hand beliefs can be as socially controversial as religion and politics. At work, beliefs can hold you back professionally and hold back the future success of the organization you work for… if your beliefs cause you to resist change.

Changing Beliefs

Changing beliefs is like a house of cards.

People resist change because beliefs help define our social network; and frame how we behave; they establish boundaries. Beliefs are the foundation for what we believe about ourselves and the world around us… they may also represent what we WANT to believe about ourselves and the world around us. They begin developing when we are born and we never stop building new ones or reinforcing the ones we already have.

Don’t expect all beliefs to be rational. We – as a species our natural pattern builders. That is often how we learn and often how we build beliefs… including irrational or untrue beliefs. For example: Say you tried spinach as a young child and didn’t like it. Justifiably, from that moment on you would believe you didn’t like spinach. And then, you were introduced to kale and lettuce. It is likely you would believe – without even tasting kale or lettuce – that you also do not like those vegetables. That ‘pattern building’ is called Cognitive dissonance (see below).

Pressure to change beliefs and embrace new ideas can catapult us into a scary, undesirable departure from the security we know and depend on. Also, beliefs are built one on top another; one belief may be a cornerstone of many… so changing beliefs is often like a house of cards – one impacting many others. To change (or evolve), one belief, many beliefs may be ‘adjusted’.

Understand Beliefs / Change Beliefs / Evolve Beliefs

Changing a friends’ or co-workers’ beliefs can take seconds… or years. Blind spots, prejudice, and ingrained biases are among the hardest things to overcome. In general, when trying to change beliefs show emotion but don’t be emotional. To do this, listen with empathy and understanding not judgment or attitude. NOTE: This doesn’t mean you have to agree.

Before you begin to influence others, take a look at yourself. How do your beliefs control your opinions and actions? Are you open to new ideas? Where did some of your most prominent beliefs come from… you know – the ones like food preferences, politic and religion? Did you inherit any of them from your family?

Already – by reading this post you are far ahead of the next guy when it comes to understanding and changing beliefs (yours and theirs). Most of us are not aware our thoughts, feelings and actions are largely controlled by beliefs we’ve never explored or questioned. So, be mindful that it’s natural for people to put up a wall / get defensive when they feel judged, fear of being wrong, looking stupid or losing their social network / standing. Your friends or co-workers may be putting up a wall because they feel vulnerable and attacked.

Much of our ability to rationalize unsubstantiated, hurtful and even harmful beliefs is explained by Cognitive dissonance and Confirmation bias… neither I will explain here – but I do recommend you look into further.

  • Cognitive dissonance: When your mind tries to hold two conflicting ideas at the same time – like doctors who smoke and justify their habit because they believe it helps them not gain weight… another health risk they may be justifying as more risky.
  • Confirmation bias: Seeking confirmation of our beliefs using any possible evidence… even far-fetched evidence… thereby minimizing the importance of conflicting, highly relevant evidence.

Until we become self-aware and willing to explore ‘old’ biases and a ‘new’ ideas, our beliefs will – at some point – block our future potential. The wonderful thing is that once people voluntarily change / evolve beliefs, the new behavior is usually permanent and fully supported by the individual.

Remove The Threatening Voice

I find it really helpful to find a common goal and to acknowledge that while we my have different beliefs, we agree to have a respectful discussion. I like the idea of each of us self-identifying how / where / when our beliefs create possibilities for us… and also limitations. Create a safe place… socially and emotionally. Explore your and their beliefs by looking at:

  • Why they were formed
  • How are your beliefs helping you
  • How  your beliefs are hurting / restricting your / our possibilities now
  • Could there be new evidence that supports or disproves your beliefs

Give people encouragement and space. Perhaps though listening and non-threatening discussion, the person will likely come to their own conclusion that their beliefs are holding them back and it’s time to change beliefs / evolve beliefs. You may be surprised of the power of deep – non-judgmental listening.

At some point you may feel you can ask them if they want to change their belief and the impact it has on their life and the people around them. At this stage you may need to explore what is (has been), holding them back from changing (Cognitive dissonance / Confirmation bias). But be careful, if you make someone feel wrong or feel threatened, their defenses will likely turn on strong… and once defenses are up it will be near impossible to gain their trust.

When you help them understand why some of their beliefs exist and the impact they have on their actions / thoughts… you can begin to help them accept new beliefs (without judgment). When you do there’s a very good chance that you both will become even more committed to your relationship.

Conclusion:

Remember, we can really only control our own beliefs… so allow yours to be elastic – not rigid. Recognize when your beliefs are holding you and or others back. Learn to listen to your subconscious and to respond with thoughtfulness and compassion – not ReAcT… which often comes across with frustration and judgment.

The important part is to never stop exploring your own mind and your reasons for your actions – otherwise, you might find yourself holding on to out-of-date beliefs that are limiting your potential before you know it.

Work on changing hearts – not minds. Once you change a heart you make a permanent change.

Happy communicating… interviewing… mentoring… and training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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3 Tough Interview Questions for Employers

These 3 interview questions are often not asked, but I find very helpful to identify the best candidate to hire.

Let’s back up a second. Interviews offer a micro-opportunity for you – an employer – to assess a prospective employees’ abilities and compatibility with the work, the organizational culture and the customers / clients. During the interview you are looking to hire a person who will:

A: Go above and beyond, be creative, be dependable, be respected by co-workers/customers/clients.
B: Manage their responsibilities well, be respected by co-workers/customers/clients.
C/D: Nobody wants to hire a C or D option, so I won’t even talk about the employee that just gets by.

A or B would be great… but really, we want to hire the A employee every time – and we want them to stay with us for more than 2 years.Storytelling Word Mix By Bruce Mayhew

These examples follow the Behavioral Event Interview (BEI). What is a behavioral interview question? A BEI is a structured interview usually used when selecting employees. It gathers information about the history of an applicant as a means of predicting future performance. A Behavioral Event Interview asks for examples of a candidates past actions / behaviors… not answers to hypothetical situations.

A BEI can easily have 10 to 15 prepared interview questions that the interviewer asks every candidate. The following are 3 interview questions I find very helpful to find A-class candidates.

Behavioral Event Interview (BEI)

1: Tell me about a time when you have been promoted or given more responsibility?

A-class employees are hard workers who look for opportunities to grow and do great work. This often leads to being promoted – or at least frequently being given more responsibility and greater challenges.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. Why did your supervisors / leaders give you this promotion / more responsibility?
  2. How did you feel about being given this promotion / more responsibility?

2: Share a large project or challenge you have led.

A-class employees often find themselves running large or important projects; even introverted A-class employees. Why? Because they are creative, collaborative, dependable and have a high work-quality ethic.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. Please share the key deliverables and what you did to achieve them.
  2. Discuss any crisis that came along and what you did to correct it.
  3. Share experiences you had with delegating tasks and/or collaboration. Questions b&c explore leadership abilities/qualities in forming, leading and mentoring teams.
  4. What did you do to create something new? Here you are looking for them to demonstrate that they are a thought leaders… by either coming up with a new idea/process… or repurposing something that exists into a new format/purpose (like taking blog posts and creating a webinar from them for team training).

3: Are you committed to continual learning??

A-class employees love learning – especially Millennials; they want to gain experience. In addition, most exceptional employees also want to meet new people to add to their professional network. Learning can be books they read, courses they took or Professional Development they participated in… or a combination.

Sub-Questions Level II:

  1. How do you learn best? What is your learning style?
  2. Describe something that pushed your limits – engaged you to learn in your previous role.

Conclusion:

Interview questions are critically important and often not given the forethought they deserve.

It’s important employers look beyond a list of credentials and education and discover how candidates will act in the future by explaining what they’ve done in the past. Look for how they think, their personal and professional values and how they communicate.

Encourage candidates to share stories about their past experiences – both work experiences and perhaps (especially for Millennials), experiences they’ve had elsewhere (volunteering, education, vacation etc). Look for their expressed behavior in situations – because if they can tell you how they handled a stressful situation in the past, it’s a very good indicator that they will handle stressful situations in a similar way in the future.

Happy communicating… interviewing… mentoring… and training.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Implementing A Performance Management System (PMS)

A Performance Management System is about building trust, capacity and a respectful partnership between a manager and each of their employees. Some people see performance management as trendy words for the annual performance review. It’s Not… it’s much more! This is especially true if the organization is transforming and leading change.

In a time when employees don’t feel their employers are loyal, a Performance Management System is a commitment by employers to partner with their employees and help them reach their work goals, career goals and personal goals by investing in opportunities, mentoring, encouragement and training.

In a time when employers don’t feel employee loyalty, a Performance Management System is a commitment by employees to understand and respect the organizational values and to do their best to support the organizations strategic plan and improve team / organizational effectiveness.performance-management-plan-for-success

Note: One-Year plans are common for full-time employees. Part-time or seasonal employees still participate in Performance Management, but goals may be measured by project or a shorter time-period.

Step 1: Co-Developing A One-Year Performance Management Plan

Performance Management Systems define how an organization will support its employees as they pursue a set of goals. It also defines how each employee will support a department and/or organization strategic plan.

To set a One-Year Plan, each employee and manager should:

  1. Review the employee’s job description to ensure it is up-to-date and reflects the work the employee is doing and appropriate measurement criteria. This is especially important if the organization is leading change and transformation.
  2. Review how the employee’s work supports the teams and the organization’s goals, objectives and strategic plan.
  3. Identify three to five employee performance objectives for the year. These should be specific and measurable and dependent on:
    • The organization’s strategic plan
    • Key deliverables that are associated with the employee’s responsibilities
    • Employee goals
  4. Recognize that at some point, unexpected opportunities and crisis will happen and will have unexpected (positive and or negative), impact.
  5. Develop a more detailed work plan (tasks / tactics), based on the three to five employee performance objectives.
  6. Specify the consequences for the employee and the organization if they are responsible for the performance objective not being met.

Note: Experienced managers and employees will leave time for unexpected opportunities/crisis (practicing good Time Management).

Step 2. Monitor A Performance Management System / Year Plan

To be effective, performance must be continuously monitored. Therefore, when implementing a performance management system be sure to include an agreed upon way to monitor progress. In today’s work environment where autonomy, relevance and progress are important, monitoring refers to measuring results for both the employees and the organization.

One approach to monitoring I particularly like was introduced to me by one of my previous bosses; it’s what I call ’10-minute laser meetings’. In this case, my boss met with each of his employees once a week for 10-minutes to discuss critical issues on major projects. For each of these meetings, it was each employees responsibility to chair these meetings and be prepared to:

  • Introduce the project and what success looks like (the performance objectives).
  • Share what progress has been made towards meeting the performance objectives.
  • Identify any barriers that may prevent the employee from accomplishing the previously agreed upon performance objectives. (Get management input and support here)
  • Suggest what needs to be done to overcome any barriers. (Get management input and support here)
  • Identify if there has been a shift in organization priorities or if the employee has assumed new / unexpected responsibilities. (Get management input and support here)

Defining the appropriate measurement criteria is one of the most difficult parts of developing the strategic year plan. Remember people often respond better to positive reinforcement vs. punishment. I strongly recommend considering the value of intrinsic motivation to help managers encourage employees.

Step 3. Managing Shortfalls

Sometimes there will be shortfalls. Sometimes those shortfalls are outside of an employees control… and sometimes they are within the employee’s control. In the cases where performance fell short of objectives…

  • Stay positive and cordial – good rarely comes from hostile behavior.
  • Document the challenges/shortfalls encountered:
    • Answer the What, Where, Why questions.
    • Did the challenge fall within or outside of the employee’s control?
  • Are the change management and transformation plans impacting the project?
  • Identify opportunities for coaching… by the manager or professional executive coach.
  • Give constructive feedback in a non-threatening way.
  • Identify areas for training and development.

Throughout the year (perhaps quarterly), managers should formally assess each employee’s performance. The beauty of the laser meetings mentioned above (for example), is that both the manager and employee have up-to date examples of how goals are… or are not being met; there should be no surprises.

Step 4: Continuous Coaching / Having Difficult Conversations

Coaching / mentoring and managing shortfalls can be done by the manager or by bringing in a professional executive coach.

Implementing a performance management also means making sure everyone feel comfortable having difficult conversations. Learning how to give constructive feedback in a non-threatening way helps everyone address performance issues in a productive, supportive way and ensure that even challenging moments lead to a positive contribution.

The role of the coach is to demonstrate good listening skills and to deliver honest feedback. In a coaching role, the manager is not expected to have all the answers… but they do ask questions that help the employee and themselves analyze the situation. Coaching means working with employees to identify opportunities and methods to maximize strengths and improve weak areas.

Mentoring can include providing constructive feedback to address a particular performance issue if an employee is not meeting the agreed upon performance expectations. The beauty (and my belief), importance of weekly 10-minute laser meetings is that challenges or shortfalls are identified early and don’t have time to become critical issues… they are taken care of early when they first arise.

Step 5: Employee Training and Development Plan

A critical part of a Performance Management System is for the manager and each employee to identify areas for further training and development opportunities. These should support the workplace activities that the employee should undertake as well as their career goals and personal goals.

This step should not be taken lightly.  Training and development opportunities must be supported and pursued by the employee, their manager and the HR department. All parties involved must take a leadership role – no matter how high or low on the seniority scale they are.

The main goal here is to find, mentor, train and motivate… and therefore retain top talent all while also leading strategic corporate change. Hiring and training new people is a great expense compared to a modest training and development investment. This is a critical component to the long-term success of a Performance Management System… I cannot emphasis this benefit enough.

Conclusion

A Performance Management System is a much more than recapping performance once-per-year with an annual performance review. As I said above, this is especially true if the organization is transforming and leading change.

Performance management includes activities such as joint goal setting, continuous progress review and frequent communication. The idea is to ensure resources like talent are valued and maximized (monitored and respected), as much as resources like technology, equipment and finances are monitored and respected.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and leading change.

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A Checklist For Your Performance Management System

Performance management is a much more than correcting negative behavior throughout the year and recapping performance once-per-year with an annual performance review. It is much more.

Performance management includes activities such as joint goal setting, continuous progress review and frequent communication. The idea is to align an individuals core-competencies and goals to an organization’s core-competencies and goals. The idea is to ensure resources like talent are valued and maximized (monitored and respected), as much as resources like technology, equipment and finances are monitored and respected.

Performance management refocuses the lens on the individual, ensuring they have all of the knowledge, resources and motivation to exceed their capabilities and expectations… and because the individual does, so does the team and organization.

Checklist For Your Performance Management System

An effective performance management system will:

  1. Support each employee by being job specific, based on well written job descriptions, key performance indicators and job-related activities.
  2. Hire the right people by using a measurable interview / selection process (a BEI).
  3. Align with your organization’s strategic direction, culture and values.
  4. Be practical and easy to understand and use.
  5. Have the manager and employee work together to set personal and professional goals and behaviors… including measurement criteria. This includes why each goal and behavior is (or is not), important. This includes hard and soft skills.
  6. Create opportunities for clear and regular communication between managers and employees.
  7. Provide training and development opportunities for improving performance and helping employees achieve their work and career goals.
  8. Work with each employee to ensure their 3 top priorities (daily), are reflective of the agreed upon goals and Important Work (with exception of interdepartmental Urgent Work).
  9. Agree in advance how challenges will be managed.
  10. Provide ongoing constructive feedback when improvement is needed as well as positive feedback (praise), for work that exceeds agreed upon expectations.
  11. Train managers on how to manage, mentor, coach employees and how to have difficult conversations.
  12. Ensure there is commitment from management to quickly act on situations that are both positive and negative to support the process, the individual and the team.
  13. Periodically review the performance management process to ensure it is being applied consistently.
  14. Ensure each employee keeps a copy of the performance plan (work plan) so that they can refer to it.
  15. Establish an appeals process.
  16. Designing effective compensation and reward systems looking at the benefit of Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivators.
  17. Perform exit interviews to understand the cause of employee discontentment.

Each should refer to their goals regularly and meet to evaluate progress and make many smaller adjustments throughout the year.

Conclusion

If you are looking to create lasting change  look to how you can motivate your employees. When employees – and leaders are motivated they will do more… do it better… and finish earlier.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management, Mindfulness and More…

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Call us at 416.617.0462.

4 Ways To Help Your Employees Motivate Themselves

Wouldn’t it be nice to have employees motivate themselves?

Helping your employees motivate themselves is easier than you might think – and it starts by helping them feel good about the work they do. A powerful approach I teach in my Leadership Training or Executive Coaching is called Intrinsic Motivation. At a high level, Intrinsic Motivation is about helping employees feel one… or all of the following 4 things:

  1. Making a difference – working on something important
  2. Learning something – growing – developing
  3. Demonstrating an expertise they have
  4. Exercising independence – over what they do, when and how they are do it

Helping employees exercise independence (point #4 above), is a scary concept for some organizations; they fear no work will get done. On the contrary… most of the time. Of course, a balance between autonomy and accountability must be outlined and agreed upon. Once that balance is agreed upon, when employees are Intrinsically motivated they will be engaged, work harder, work longer and be more creative. When employees are Intrinsically motivated they will be happier. When employees are Intrinsically motivated no one needs to be worrying about work quality.

Personal pride is a wonderful motivator.

Here are 4 ways you can help your employees motivate themselves.self-motivation

  1. The first opportunity is a best practice that is as old as the hills (as my dad would say), but it works. Encourage employees to break projects and/or long-term goals into smaller manageable chunks.

Why does this work? Breaking projects into smaller projects lets people feel they are accomplishing things frequently. Big projects can feel overwhelming… especially when we are working on multiple big projects / priorities at the same time. Smaller chunks of work also have the wonderful advantage of helping us mentor junior employees; for example, smaller projects can be explained and delegated to Millennials who want to gain experience.

A word of caution, do not lose sight of the main project goals. We can sometimes get too involved in the details of the smaller project and this might compromise the success of the large project.

  1. See mistakes as learning opportunities. A positive and supportive work environment will always improve employee effectiveness. We all make mistakes. Let me say it again… we all make mistakes, and we have a choice to point fingers at who may be to blame (if there ever is only one person), or we can see mistakes as opportunities to be even more creative, to try something different and/or learn a new approach. Trust and respect are huge when it comes to self-motivation and group motivation.

Why does this work? When we are scared to try something new – when we blame ourselves or others for mistakes, we risk locking ourselves into ‘how we’ve always done it’. If you stand still you can be sure there is some other organization that will innovate right past you. Positive thoughts inspire us – negative thoughts can pull us down… so, evaluate mistakes as learning opportunities.

The Best Dreams Happen When You Are Awake.

  1. Surround yourself with positive people. This doesn’t mean you have to spend time with happy, bubbly people 7/24; that would be annoying.

Why does this work? When we stay positive we feel better and are often more creative and more productive. When we stay positive we evolve. The more you focus on being positive – in life and at work, the more you will motivate yourself to passionately focus on your goals. Even during difficulty, positive people are looking for solutions – not holding a grudge.

People who see the glass as half-full are so much easier to be around. Negative thinking is unpleasant to be around and your best employees might quit just to get away from it. This means you might be losing valuable talent for no good reason. By encouraging a positive approach you’ll soon see your work environment will become a happy, creative and productive place!

  1. Write in a Journal. I know – I know… you just rolled your eyes. Please try to write in a journal every day – even if it is only a short paragraph while you sit having breakfast, on the Go-Train or when you have a private moment.

Why does this work? By writing you get to explore feelings you might be holding back… and I bet you will come up with the best solutions. You’ll also begin recognizing how many wonderful experiences you have each day and that some of your challenges aren’t so big – or aren’t so important. By keeping a journal you’ll be building a more positive mindset and you’ll find yourself more motivated and look forward to what’s in store for you.

Keep track of your thoughts and feelings. Most importantly, each day write down two things you are happy or excited about.

Conclusion

If you are looking to create change in your organization – lasting change – look to how you can help your employees motivate themselves. In fact, when people experience self-motivation they will likely do more… do it better… and finish earlier. You and your employees will not be able to adopt these habits overnight… but with consistent, positive attention, before you know it these 4 ways will start making a difference. I promise.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

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What Leaders Should Know About Intrinsic Motivation & Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are important engagement opportunities that have very different results.

Extrinsic motivation is what many of us are familiar with; it’s the primary way Boomers and Gen Xers have been rewarded throughout their working career. It’s how we most often motivate children as well. Extrinsic motivation is based on earning a reward (like money $$ or praise), or avoiding something undesirable. It’s motivation by carrot or stick. Extrinsic motivation is also often the most expensive and the least effective way to motivate employees over long periods of time. As a good friend and Chief Financial Offices (CFO) says, “Money is an external reward and a lousy motivator, it’s good for a week or two and then forgotten.” screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-10-16-16-am

Intrinsic motivation is when we find doing something personally satisfying. It’s the engagement that often leads us to choose our career in the first place. Intrinsic reward supports long-term motivation and professional development that is rooted in taking pride in our work – not making your boss happy so he/she will give you a raise. It’s why many of us volunteer, or paint, play a musical instrument or garden. It’s why we enjoyed curling up with a good book when we were a kid… and still do now.

The easiest way to ruin a persons satisfaction and pride in their work (intrinsic motivation) is to monetize it (give them money $$ for doing something they enjoy). Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation will decrease when external rewards (extrinsic rewards), are given.

Example 1: I know a lady who loved to bake cookies and cakes – she took great pride in them and they were delicious and beautiful. So she started a bakery business and soon had an employee and lots of clients. She felt stress in keeping clients happy, and managing the employee, and there were deliveries and… and… and. Worst of all she no longer baked to relax and enjoy herself. She closed her business.

Example 2: In an experiment to test motivation, psychologist and professor Edward L. Deci studied two groups of students who enjoyed playing puzzle games. The 1st group was paid whenever they solved a puzzle; the other group played for no monetary reward. Deci noticed that the 1st group stopped working on the puzzles when they stopped being paid. The 2nd group continued to solve puzzles because they continued to enjoy the game. By offering extrinsic motivation, the 1st group were trained to see puzzles as work.

All too often our parents, leaders, coworkers… and even ourselves focus only on…or mostly on extrinsic rewards. This begins to cause problems as we disconnect with what feeds our heart… our spirit… our humanity. Instead, we are trained to ignore our natural spirit and instead focus only on (mostly on), physical – short-term recognition / respect. So, what is the real benefit and what can we do?

Benefit: Intrinsic Motivation Increases Pride

The impact of intrinsic rewards on an employee’s self-management is great. An intrinsically motivate employee will likely stay late to finish an important project – not because they have to… or want to please their boss/customer. Because of this pride, they will routinely go the extra mile because it makes them happy and… this pride makes them want to be loyal… a win/win.

Benefit: Intrinsic Motivation Increases Employee Loyalty

Employees who are self-motivated, proud of their work and feel they are making a difference often also demonstrate greater employee loyalty. BMC have seen this in our Millennial At Work study.

If employees are intrinsically motivated they will not quit to go to a company that pays a bit more – they stay with a company that respects them and gives them greater autonomy. Their loyalty will be largely derived from work life balance and how much they enjoy their work – and the company. Pride makes a difference; they stay with the company that feeds their spirit.

Intrinsic rewards mean people feel good about feeling good about what they are doing / thinking.

Benefit: Intrinsic Motivation Increases Professional Development

Extrinsic motivation isn’t all-bad – it actually plays an important part in the learning / teaching process – especially helping learners overcome the frustration of acquiring new skills. Positive reinforcement and praise (extrinsic motivation), helps people keep trying – keep learning. Unfortunately, we all-too-often only reward professional development on extrinsic motivation. We don’t include motivation that helps people feel a sense of personal pride and accomplishment in their newly acquired skill. Ultimately this means that the learners will not fully invest in adopting new skills. Instead they feel pride in getting praise for their work… and will need it again and again. This is a problem I hear all the time from Baby Boomers when I give Generational Differences training.

What Can We Do? How Can We Use Intrinsic Rewards?

Intrinsic rewards help individuals find satisfaction in ‘doing’ of their work or task as much as the end result. The journey is as important as the destination. I’ve mentioned in other posts, there are 4 very effective ways to develop intrinsic motivation in others. From your children to your employees, help them see and ‘feel’:

  1. C – Competence / Mastery… learning new things – gaining  and/or using an expertise.
  2. A – Autonomy / Choice… what to work on, when and how
  3. R – Relevance / Purpose… why the work is meaningful – important
  4. P – Progress… what they are doing is adding to the greater good or perhaps they are gaining experience.

Conclusion

The last 50 or so years we got used to extrinsically rewards but we forget to help people feel good about feeling good about their work or what they are learning. As leaders we’ve underestimated the importance of intrinsic rewards and its low-cost… and instead have got used to thinking of financial rewards as the primary way to motivate.

Intrinsic rewards are a strong win/win for organizations that want to stay innovative and retain great, inspired, happy and proud employees. Research has shown that when people are proud, feel like they are making a difference and feel some ownership of how they structure their time at work they stick around… and they do great work.

Happy communicating… and mentoring… and training.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Body Language / Non-verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication, also known as body language can account for over 90% of your communication. Yup – you are likely saying more with every action you make than you are with every word you speak. Therefore, understanding how people interpret body language will help you share your message – and will also help you ‘read’ what other people may be thinking / feeling.

Lets start looking at how we use body language by starting at the top of our body… or more specifically, your face.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-27-34-pm

Benedict Cumberbatch

Your Face:

Making eye contact is usually great and often demonstrates you are engaged and interested in your conversation. But too much eye contact may come across as staring and can be threatening. In addition, it’s generally accepted that if you don’t make ‘good’ eye contact or frequently look away you may be feeling uncomfortable with the person or the subject; in addition you may be feeling the person you are speaking with is lying.

Smiling during a conversation often means you like what you are hearing, saying or doing. But, if you are frowning you may be stressed, uncertain or do not agree. Be careful with your facial expressions; for example, when I’m in deep thought I naturally frown (many people do). Because I know I frown I try to change my behavior – especially when I’m in meetings with clients.

Your Hands:

Your hands deserve their own section. Your hand are a natural part of how you share information and interact with your environment. The added bonus is that when you use your hands you are entertaining your listeners (keeping their attention), and giving them visual cues to help them remember what you are saying.

Steepled fingers (or Steepling), is a non-verbal cue often used by actor Benedict Cumberbatch as he represented the fictional private detective Sherlock Holmes. Steepling is also a favorite of professional speakers and politicians. Steepled fingers (either with fingertips touching and pointed up or fingers crisscrossed), demonstrates you are confident and can give the impression of authority and knowledge. Steepled fingers can also be a sign that demonstrates you are listening and quite interested.

Using one finger to point at someone is often interpreted as offensive – especially if you are communicating with someone you don’t know or who may be ‘sensitive’. For me – using one finger to point at me is like saying “Let me tell you,” which immediately gets my back up. My recommendation is that if you want to point at someone or something then use an open-hand with your palm facing up; that is an accepting gesture. The bonus of an open hand is that when we show our palms, people interpret what we are sharing as being honest.

Use head or hand movements to help express an idea or meaning.

Clenched hands often mean you’re feeling anxious and negative and are holding back your emotions (or you may be freezing and need the air conditioning turned down). Similarly holding your wrists behind your back all about self-control.

Shaking hands (handshaking), is one of the most common ways we share nonverbal communication. When you shake hands I recommend looking the person in the eyes (but don’t stare). Do you have a strong grip (confidence) – or perhaps a soft grip (shyness or a lack of confidence)? When your handshake is vertical with both parties shaking with equal pressure, the mood is set for a positive rapport. If you have ever turned someones hand to face upwards you are demonstrating dominance – forcibly stripping away their power or authority. In a similar way, a crushing handshake can identify dominance – or it might be that you are overcompensating.

Standing & Your Arms:

Most of us know that if you sit with your arms crossed and/or are slightly turned away you may be feeling skeptical, angry, unhappy, bored or closed to new information… or you may simply be sitting that way because it is comfortable or because you are cold. It’s important to note that sitting with your arms crossed is one of the most misinterpreted body language cues. My recommendation is to try to avoid crossing your arms and creating misunderstanding – especially when sharing information with people you don’t know or who are important to your success.

Similar to good eye contact is leaning forward. If you are leaning forward you are likely feeling engaged and interested. If you are in negotiations you may be giving a clue that you are ready to agree or to buy. Alternatively, if you are slouched or leaning back in your chair, your non-verbal communication may be interpreted as closed, bored or unhappy.

Especially when standing many people don’t know what to do with their hands and arms.

Standing in a fig-leaf pose covering your groin strips away your own authority or suggests you are not confident or are afraid. Alternatively, standing with your hands behind your back can demonstrate you are patient, ready and likely waiting. But… because standing with your hands behind your back is also a common military posture some people can interpret this position as threatening. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, the best thing you can do is to get comfortable with your hands resting by your sides.

Standing with your hands in your pockets, thumbs showing or thumbs tucked into your waistband can say, “I’m not moving or negotiating.” It may also say, “I’m better than you / this place.”

Cultures:

While I’m not going to discuss it in detail here, be mindful that different cultures have different non-verbal / body language cues. They may be different but they are equally important to how we and they interpret information. If you are working with people from different cultures (and most of us are), I recommend getting familiar with body language behaviors unique to other cultures.

Conclusion:

Picking up on non-verbal cues can create opportunities for you.

Being able to recognize your – and other peoples body language helps you make an informed decisions or take informed actions. It’s always best to be making the impression you want – willingly – purposefully.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

 

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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