Managing Remote Teams

Managing Remote Teams: How to Increase Engagement and Performance

Managing Remote Teams: Relationships First

Dear Karin and David,

Do you have any best practices for managing remote teams? I’m finding it hard to build genuine connection and to stay on top of performance when the team is so dispersed.

Signed,

On the Road Again #AskingForAFriend

How to Increase Engagement and Performance in a Remote Team

Employees working from home, virtual teams, and global teams in multiple time zones are an increasingly common reality for managers across industries. While some organizations are insisting everyone come to the office to work, the trend is undeniably toward geographically dispersed teams. To be an effective leader, you’ll want to master the art of managing remote teams.

When David talks with leaders about remote teams, one of the common problems he sees is diving into technology first, without thinking about why you’re using it.

To succeed with virtual teams and remote employees, think relationships first, tools second. As with a face-to-face team, what does your team need in order to succeed? The answers here are the same as for any team, eg: trust, connection to purpose, clear expectations, encouragement.
When it comes to managing remote teams, think relationships first, tools second. (Tweet this)
Once you’ve re-clarified these foundational team needs, then you can look for tools and methods to fulfill them. Key areas to focus on include communication, trust or connection with one another, mission alignment, and accountability.

Karin first tackled this topic back in 2012 when she was still at Verizon leading a remote team of 300 people around the country who were supporting 10,000 outsourced employees from 7 different companies.

In that post, she shared that despite the challenges, when done well, there are also some real benefits to managing remote teams.

  • Every interaction counts, people plan more for the time they have.
  • Both the leader and the team make extra effort to show up strong.
  • Teams and team members gain more confidence in self-direction.
  • Teams feel more encouraged to take risks.
  • It’s easier to be creative when no one is looking over your shoulder.
  • When teams are together they work hard to create relationships and are deliberate about maintaining them across distances.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder—remote teams call on one another when needed, and have quality interaction.
  • They make better use of tools and technology.
  • They listen more closely because they are not distracted by the daily noise.

You can read additional insights here. 

Many of our clients work extensively in remote teams, and in fact, we often leverage a variety of technical solutions to keep communication going across continents to create high-engagement while training these teams together, virtually.

Here are a few behaviors to focus on as your working to increase engagement and productivity while you’re managing remote teams.

  1. Establish and over-communicate a crystal clear vision and expectations.
    Managing a remote team forces you to be very clear and organized about your priorities and goals. Everything we share in Winning Well about establishing clear MITs (most important things), checking for understanding, and communicating frequently through multiple channels is EVEN MORE important when leading a remote team. Be sure your team knows what’s most important and why. It is more important than ever to check for understanding and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

    For example, to ensure meetings translate into action, an international project manager we worked with relied on agendas that are built entirely around the Winning Well meeting formula. Every item on the agenda is detailed as to the decision to be made and includes a clear ‘who is doing what, by when, and how will the team know’ outcome.

  2. Formalize your approach to informal communication.
    When you work together it’s easy to pop into the next office or catch someone in the elevator for casual updates. Don’t leave communication to chance. It’s helpful to formalize a communication process, even for informal updates, to keep your remote team informed. This is particularly important if some of your team are in other time zones.
    Mix it up – a common mistake when working with remote employees is to default to only one form of communication. Remember that people receive and retain information differently. In addition to project management software, chat platforms, and email, use a mix of more personal communication as well. There’s no substitute for a real human voice. We’re big fans of using video over phone calls whenever possible. Find creative ways to leverage technology.
  3. Be real.
    Building trust can be extra hard when face to face interaction is limited. A little vulnerability can go a long way. Find ways to get to know one another as human beings. Ditch the Diaper Genie® (or as this Fast Company article says, make an effort to  “talk about the tough stuff.” ) When people don’t have information, they make it up. And most of the time what they dream up is way worse than the truth. Reduce this tendency by taking time to intentionally “re-humanize” yourself and your team. Be vulnerable, be real, and use tools to help you make these connections. For example, one manager we worked with use a private Facebook group where her team had different fun and personal activities from sharing a meaningful object in their office to discussing what in their life mattered more to them than their work.
  4. Foster collaboration.
    One overlooked part of leading remote teams, is fostering peer collaboration. As the leader, it’s easy to become the hub of the communication, which can be extremely time consuming and limits creativity. Invest in building up the communication skills on your team. Encourage them to reach out to one another and to meet without you.
  5. Show up face-to-face more than is practical.
    Even with a solid communication plan, it’s hard to beat the benefits of spending some informal time together getting to know one another as human beings. If your budget allows, travel to your remote teams from time to time and invest great skip level interactions, roll-up-your-sleeves work, and some time to grab dinner or take a walk.

Your turn. What is your best advice for managing remote teams? 

Do you have a leadership or career question? Would you like some additional insight? Submit your question here and we’ll do our best to offer our perspective.

how to mbwa without getting in the way

How to MBWA Without Getting in the Way

My phone rang, “Karin, she’s here …”

“Crud, just what we needed today! Bad MBWA. Aghhh. You know the drill, warn the others. I’ll let John (my boss) know.”

John picked up the phone, “Okay, is your team ready? Remember there’s no such thing as a good executive visit with her, let’s just keep it from being a bad one. We don’t need the team distracted, we’ve got important work to do. We don’t need any more fire drills.”

“We should really let her know that her visits are backfiring,” I said, trying to solve this problem once and for all. I was a big fan of “no diaper genie,” even back then, “No way,” John warned. “She won’t hear you, and you’ll just get on her bad side.”

And so we did our best to protect the team, tell her what she wanted to hear and prayed that she got back on the private jet to headquarters as quickly as possible.

I’m sure her intentions were good—get out in the field, stay close to the people serving our customers, inspect what you expect, be visible… but her reactionary nature and sarcastic communication style left a destructive wake of frustration, low morale, and petty clean up that distracted the team from their MITs (Most Important Things).

When MBWA (management by walking around),  becomes OCHTC “Oh crap here they come” you’re better off staying in the office.

Seven Ways to Add Value During Your MBWA Skip Level Visits

Once I became an executive, I understood why these MBWA visits can be so hard. In any large team, there’s a 100% probability that someone is doing or saying something stupid at any minute, and tripping over that is enough to distract you from the real reason you’re there. Heading into your visits with a solid game plan will ensure your visits leave a positive impact on results and relationships.

  1. Be clear on your most important message.
    I’ve seen so many executives leave their teams with 37 action items after their visit. The team then runs around fixing things and checking them off to report back, but don’t really learn or refocus their efforts for long-term change. It’s far more impactful to pick a few key priorities and focus your messaging. Connect what you’re asking them to do and why. Plan your key messages in advance and ensure they are the focal point of your visit.
  2. Ask your middle managers how you can be most helpful.
    Your managers are working hard to keep their teams focused. Ask them how you can help reinforce their priorities. Be as helpful as possible to reinforce their influence and credibility. If they’re not focused on what you care about, WAY better to deal with that directly than to react at the front line.

  3. Talk behaviors, not numbers.
    As executives, we spend lots of time looking at numbers and trends. We get impatient for results to improve. A common practice is to leave the team with a numerical challenge, “Improve by 10% by the time I come back,” which can be inspiring … but works much better when you focus on the one or two behaviors that will help them get there, and help them find a way to measure that.
  4. Celebrate what’s working.
    You get more of what you celebrate and encourage. Look for what’s working and point it out. Thank them. Make a big deal of the good behaviors (not just the outcomes) so that everyone around notices you noticing.
  5. Ask great questions.
    If you want to know what’s really going on ask open-ended questions and really listen to the answers. What’s frustrating our customers? What is the most difficult part of your day? How is this new system making your job easier? How is it making it more difficult? Why is this metric so hard to move?
  6. Catalyze the sharing of practices.
    If you’re out and about, chances are you are seeing people in other offices or locations with some great best practices. Leverage this for some cross-pollination. “You know who’s doing this well, Laura in Poughkeepsie. You should give her a call. Tell her I sent you.”
  7. Follow up.
    Find one or two ways to be helpful and follow-up. “Here’s the additional funding you need.” “I talked to IT about that fix you were needing and they’ll have it done by next week.”

Your Turn

What would you add?  What are your best practices for more meaningful MBWA?

How to Motivate Your Team - Not Your Goals

How to Motivate Your Team – When You Don’t Set the Goals

Wondering How to Motivate Your Team When You Don’t Set the Goals? Hint: Don’t Motivate, Cultivate

Have you ever been given a goal by your supervisors and thought, “Ugh! What are they thinking? My team’s gonna hate this!” If so, you’re not alone. Every manager has to figure how to motivate your team in situations like these.

People don’t like it when they feel goals are ‘shoved down their throats’ – goals that might have been set by people who may not have all the facts and didn’t ask for input.

The good news is that you and your team can still thrive in these situations – there are ways to motivate your team even when you didn’t set the goals.

How to Motivate Your Team When You Don’t Set the Goals

  1. Understand that you don’t actually motivate anyone
    A person’s motivation always comes from inside them. Your responsibility is to help release that motivation. The first step when you’re wondering how to motivate your team is to remember that you can’t actually motivate anyone. Don’t motivate, cultivate.
  2. Take Responsibility
    In these situations, the very worst thing you can possibly do is walk into your team meeting and say, “Those clueless jerks gave us these goals and I guess we’re stuck with them.” These kind of statements are leadership suicide. They kill your credibility, disempower you and your team, and make your team wonder who they should be talking to, if not you.Do not shirk this responsibility. Own it.
  3. Be Transparent
    While you don’t want to act like a victim nor encourage victim-thinking in your team, it is also okay to acknowledge the situation. If the goals are difficult, say so. Remember, the most important currency you have with your team is their trust. If the team is clearly feeling that the situation is unfair or challenging, it is okay to voice those feelings for the team. Eg: “You may be feeling that this is tough or even a little unfair, and I get that.”
  4. Believe In Them
    Your team needs to hear you voice your belief in what is possible. This is the “vision” work of leadership – picture your team succeeding and let them know their own potential.” Yes, these are difficult goals and I know you haven’t done anything like this before, and I also believe we are up to the challenge. In fact, this will be the most significant achievement we do together.”
  5. Help Them
    Rather than, “These are your goals, go figure it out and stop your complaining…” Try, “This will be our greatest achievement…and, you won’t be alone. I will be with you each step of the way. I’m committed to helping all of us succeed together.” Note: you MUST back this offer of help with real action or you won’t be asking how to motivate your team, but how to reclaim your lost credibility.
  6. Own the Problem
    Top-down goals are difficult because people feel disempowered. Motivation drops when they don’t feel they have control over their own fate.Your job as a leader is to restore some of that power. You may not have had input into the goals, but as a team, you can have full ownership over how you will accomplish them. Ask: “How can we solve this problem?”As you settle on specific strategies and tactics, make sure to get people working out of their natural talents and energy wherever possible.

    When you help the team own the solution, you will have restored some of their power (and their motivation!)

  7. Advocate for Your Team
    Part of your responsibility as a leader is to advocate for your team, department, or organization. Actively manage up and get as much information about why goals were set the way they were. The more information you can share with your team, the better. Also, take the opportunity to share any facts the decision-makers may not be aware of – be sure to share it in a way that will help them with their needs and goals. Note: you will not always succeed in changing the decision-making, but your credibility with your team and the organization will grow. Your team knows you have their back and, over time, you will gain more opportunity to speak into the goal-setting process.
  8. Do It
    Whatever strategy your team developed – do it! Become its biggest champion. Remind everyone of their potential, the process, and their input into the decision. Hold yourself and the team accountable for results.
  9. Celebrate
    When you get it done – make it a big deal! Thank individuals for their efforts. Celebrate the team effort. Fly the flag and let your own supervisors know what the team did and how they did it.

Your Turn

When you’re wondering how to motivate your team, remember that you don’t actually motivate anyone. Cultivate an environment where you honor them and bring out their best.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts on how to motivate your team – especially when you don’t set the goals?

ceremonies, celebration and the power of beginning well

Ceremonies, Celebration, and How to Create Meaningful Beginnings

Imagine the Olympics without the opening ceremonies.

What if the games just started. No torch. No sexy flag carriers, no dancers. No music. No costumes.  No human interest stories. No ceremonial coming together of divided political interests.

Just, “Up first, curling.”

Ceremonies and rituals invite us to stop and consider the magic of the moment. Ceremonies signal us to pay attention to what’s coming next. They remind us that we’re up to something exciting. AND that we’re in this together.

The ROI of Investing in Workplace Ceremonies and Celebration

If you’ve heard my Build an Army of Brand Ambassador’s keynote, you know that my favorite turnaround story as a Verizon executive was leading the dramatic transformation of our outsourced call centers. We were able to transform the channel from mediocre quality to almost all the centers (and their ten thousand employees) performing at parity (or better) in quality than internal centers.

It was a three-year journey of cultural transformation of results and relationships. My hand-selected team of enthusiastic change makers partnered with several amazing leaders at these partner companies to build and execute the plan. All sides worked relentlessly to change the mindset from that of a vendor to trusted strategic partner.  (See more here)

I suppose we could have just jumped in and started working on the new contracts, training, quality programs, and workforce planning that was the stew of our success, but I’m convinced it would have been a heavier lift if we had not paused for a bit of ceremony.kickoff celebrations

First, we changed the name of our organization from the “vendor management organization” to the “strategic partnership channel.” We banned “the V word” from any communication in either company, and I would even politely correct those in the C-suite who accidentally use the V word in our reviews. We staged a team contest to create a new logo and branded all of our correspondence with the new strategic partner channel (SPC) theme.

We brought the senior leadership teams from these (technically competing) companies together for a retreat and collectively built the vision of this new strategic partnership relationship. But we all knew, even if we were acting differently at the executive level, even with new investment and new approaches, it was going to take a lot of consistent communication and serious behavior change for life to feel different for the human beings taking the calls every day.

So we turned off the phones. And the strategic partner execs and I got on lots and lots of airplanes.

Okay, we didn’t turn off the phones all at once. But over a month and a half period, we held 26 kickoffs across the country to launch the new vision. Every kickoff was different and was a clear partnership between Verizon Wireless and the Strategic Partnership company.

In Tucson, the team built a stage in the parking lot and rented chairs for 1000 reps to join the party, with balloons and noisemakers and lots of sports-team fun. In Boise they formed a remarkably high-quality rock band, singing new strategic words to “Red Solo Cup” — you can watch a video of that ruckus here); in every center, there were skits and noisemakers and recognition and prizes all reinforcing the why behind what we were asking them to do. We were crystal clear on our MIT priorities. And of course, the strategic partner execs shared the microphone with me as true partners, describing the vision and our commitment to supporting the teams with the tools they needed.

Our celebration signaled that something different and exciting was happening.

I know every penny of lost time off the phones; every hour we spent in cross-country flight, and every tee-shirt added up and would have to be made up in improved results. The ROI proved in, and we were given funding again to hold them the following year.

Those ceremonies punctuated the beginning of a new era. We demonstrated that we were going to do something that had never been done before by doing something that had never been done before.

Of course, not all change efforts warrant a parade, wigs, and noisemakers. But if you’re really looking to change the game, consider—What could you do to turn off the phones, pause, celebrate and reinforce your new dramatic beginning?

Your turn. Have you ever a powerful workplace ceremony?

See Also: 

Fast Company Three Rules For Creating Workplace Rituals to Improve Company Culture

innovation and creativity at work

Innovation and Creativity at Work: A Frontline Festival

Are you searching for ways to bring more innovation and creativity to your team? In this month’s Frontline Festival, thought leaders from around the world share their insights on how to foster innovation at work.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about employee engagement. New contributors always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Innovation and Creativity in Customer Service

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group (in the Inc. article, How to ‘Kaleidoscope’ Your Customers reminds us that today’s customers do not talk (remark) or tweet about good service; only experiences they find unique, special, and ingenious. Research shows value-added (taking what customers expect and adding more) will not provide a solid ROI. But, value-unique (delivering an unexpected, compelling surprise) creates animated advocates and fuels bottom line impact. Follow Chip.

As technology advances, you must innovate certain aspects of your business, too. Because so much communication takes place online, in-person customer service is limited.  Kaylee Riley of Patriot Software, LLC inspires us to come up with creative ways to provide excellent (and personal) customer service when we communicate with customers online.  Follow Kaylee.

Innovation & Critical Thinking

Own the UglySusan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership  shares why positive thinking isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes we need a more realistic view of reality to create positive movement and action. Sometimes what may occur as “negative” is actually a very good thing for business. Follow Susan.

According to Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership to lead well you have to be able to think creatively and independently. The good news is that thinking is a skill; these 25 ideas will help you sharpen those thinking skills and improve your chances to succeed as a leader. Follow Ken

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership helps us learn about the neurological mechanisms that can impede your employees’ creativity and ability to collaborate. He gives us three strategies leaders can employ to overcome these impediments. Follow Tanveer.

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding  posits that as complicated as sometimes we try to make it sound, innovation is most often either a MODIFICATION of an existing idea or the MARRIAGE of two existing ideas in a new or unexpected way… consider this very simple equation: NI = OI + YI.  Follow Sean.

Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey shares that in order for HR to help eliminate the salary gap, we need to change how we look at compensation and stop asking for salary history.  Follow Wendy.

Innovation Through Collaboration

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
– 
Steve Jobs

There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period. Brene Brown
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/innovation

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference offers that we’re at the tipping point of a new era of leadership. leaving stale leaders behind. The big change required is better collaboration and productive problem-solving. To get smart citizens, we need smart leadersFollow Jon.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds tells us that a key prerequisite for creativity and innovation is curiosity.  This post explores what it is and how to leverage it for improved results. Follow Julie

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates takes an innovative look at the role of feelings in the workplace. Follow Shelley

Encouraging Innovation

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
Brene Brown

According to David Grossman of The Grossman Group  research published by the Harvard Business Review on fostering innovation within companies underscores the value of encouraging employees to be decision-makers. Read on to find out what the most successful innovation leaders do to foster innovation in their teams. Follow David.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement advises we make sure people have time, encouragement and freedom to pursue their passion. Far too often managers spend their time dealing with problems: problems with employees, and dealing with internal politics. Shift priorities so we instead prioritize creating space for people to flourish with other things being done if there is time.  Follow John.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides questions, answers, and the four commandments of creativity and innovation. Follow Wally.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership shares: Your questions are more important than your answers. In your role as a leader, before jumping to a conclusion, ask questions that increase possibilities and creativity like “What don’t we know yet?”  Follow Jesse.

Are you a leadership blogger? We would love to have you join us in the next Frontline Festival. New contributors are always welcome.

surprising reason nonprofit struggles to grow

One Surprising Reason Your Nonprofit Struggles to Grow

I regularly speak with nonprofit leaders who wonder why their nonprofit struggles to grow. They have a great theory of change, clear intended impact, enthusiastic donors, but … something is wrong.

Here are a few quotes from some of these leaders. I’ve disguised their identities. Let’s see if you can spot the problem:

“We didn’t hire our staff to be leaders, we hired them because they’re good with clients.” –Human Service Nonprofit Founder

“We’re a family. We don’t want to become corporate with managers and all that.” –Healthcare Nonprofit President

“The last time we did leadership development? Oh, I should do some of that, shouldn’t I? Anyhow, I’m frustrated that people aren’t committed to our work. What do you think is wrong with them?” –Education Nonprofit CEO

It’s a little obvious, isn’t it?

In my experience, the number one reason an otherwise healthy nonprofit struggles to grow is the failure to develop leaders.

Insidious Consequences

Would you be surprised to learn that employee engagement in nonprofit organizations is among the lowest in any sector?

At first, this might seem like a contradiction. After all, we know that connection of work to meaning and purpose is one of the big drivers of energized, motivated employees. Shouldn’t there be a lot of meaning and purpose in charitable organizations?

Of course, there is. But when that passion for the cause is used to justify poor leadership or governance, it creates dangerous pitfalls for culture, leadership, employee retention, and financial resources.

With healthy leadership at every level, your charitable nonprofit can be some of the most fulfilling, productive work you’ll ever do. Without that leadership, however, it can feel like a treadmill of futility and growth is all but impossible.

How to Build Leaders and Get Ready to Grow

Your mission matters. Your people are working hard. Your donors deserve the best impact for every dollar they contribute. Build the leaders you need at every level of your nonprofit to be the best steward of the time, talent, and money you received.

“Every person that gives their life for a cause deserves a competent, diligent leader who invests in their development. It’s time for nonprofits to step up to the challenge of developing healthy organizational cultures. Real human lives are in the balance.”  – John Oliver, Chief Program Officer, National Education Nonprofit

If you’ve got a clear mission, an articulate theory of change, and motivated donors, but your nonprofit struggles to grow, here are five steps you can take to build the leadership you need to get to the next level.

  1. Train Every Leader. No Excuses. No Exceptions.

Don’t give anyone responsibility for people without fundamental leadership and management training.

You would never entrust your life to an untrained surgeon – why would you entrust your most important resources, your people, time and money, to an untrained manager? (Tweet This)

No excuses.

If you’re a smaller organization, you can start internally. Create a leadership development circle (you can download the free Winning Well Facilitator’s Guide to get you started). If you’re a growing organization, consider bringing in experts to help you create a common leadership language, use consistent, practical management skills, and create a performance-oriented, people-centered culture in your organization.

  1. Expect Performance.

As you invest in leaders and equip them with the skills they need to be effective with people, expect them to excel in their leadership responsibilities. Clarify the MITs (Most Important Thing) and ensure you’re both on the same page about what successful performance looks like. Celebrate success and hold one another accountable when performance drops.

I’ve watched too many nonprofit take a few hours with a volunteer trainer to share some leadership tools and then never mention the tools and training again. Don’t undermine your training. Evaluate your leaders based on how well they’re achieving results and building healthy relationships. (Use our Winning Well MIT Huddle Planner to help you and your leaders stay focused.)

  1. Measure What Matters.

Don’t lose yourself in the metrics maze and focus on meaningless measurements. If this year’s 75% functional program expense allows you to double your impact next year, great! Help your Board and donors understand how they’ll have more to celebrate.

Rigorous performance evaluation is a hallmark of effective nonprofits. Every investment you make should have a clear path to increased mission impact. As you invest in your leaders, demonstrate the value: reduced attrition, improved talent recruiting, improved efficiency with donor dollars, greater impact on your clients and cause, and a “next-one-up” succession plan that guarantees effective work long into the future.

  1. Boards, Get Serious.

Boards have an important role to play by setting clear expectations regarding leadership development and regularly reviewing these processes to ensure it is happening. Hold your executive staff accountable for developing their talent and ensuring the organization’s current and future success.

  1. Donors Make a Difference.

Educate your donors about why they should invest their money in organizations that build leaders at every level rather than with those who don’t.

As a donor, when you contribute to charitable organizations, look at their management team and leadership development. Ask questions about how the organization trains leaders at every level to be effective at achieving results and building relationships.

Your Turn

My favorite leadership development is with people who commit to making the world a better place. Whether you’re a part of a for-profit, nonprofit, or public organization, there is an energy, joy, and passion for performance in those teams that’s infectious.

If that’s not your team; if your mission and people are as important as you say they are; if you have the fundamentals covered but your nonprofit struggles to grow, then it’s time to invest in your leaders.

I’ve built these teams as a nonprofit leader and consulted with many leaders who have done the same – even with limited budgets. It’s not about money; it’s about mindset.

How do you ensure leaders at every level receive the training and skills they need to succeed?

Overlooked for promotion again - now what

Overlooked For Promotion Again: Now What Should I Do?

Dear Karin and David,

I’ve been sitting in the “ready now” box on the performance potential grid for over a year. But this is the third promotion in a row that’s gone to someone clearly less qualified for political reasons. I’ve been overlooked for promotion again, but my boss says to “be patient,” that “my time will come.” I’m not so sure. What should I do?

Signed,

Impatient and Frustrated

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Overlooked For a Promotion

Dear Impatient and Frustrated,

We are so sorry to hear about your situation and know how frustrating that can be. The most important thing you can do at the moment is to respond well. Don’t let your frustration at feeling overlooked for promotion bring out any poor leadership behaviors that could get in the way of you being considered the next time.

1. Keep Your Cool

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. If the decision really was political, there will be others frustrated along with you and it’s tempting to commiserate and gossip. Resist the urge to complain (even behind “closed doors.” Take the high road.) Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster respect and differentiate you for future consideration.

2. Ask For Genuine Feedback

There are a lot of criteria that go into who was selected and why. There may be political reasons that have nothing to do with you, or it may be true that there is someone (or someones ) involved in the decision who have concerns about your performance or behaviors. Calmly ask your boss for candid feedback about what you can do to be best positioned for the next promotion, in terms of results and relationships. The feedback may be hard to hear, but it’s better to know.

See our post on 5 Behaviors Keeping You From Getting Promoted , our Fast Company article on communication mistakes that silently damage careers.

3. Be Supportive

Another classy move. Be supportive and helpful during this change. Be sure you and your team go out of your way to help the newly promoted manager.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Remember How This Feels

Someday someone will come to you frustrated at being overlooked for promotion and asking for candid feedback. Remember how you wanted to be treated during this time and use that to inform your leadership in the future.

Most of all, remember that your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

(Note: we recognize and have observed real discrimination and ethical violations in promotions. In these instances, a conversation with your human resources department is the place to start.)

Your turn. What advice would you give Impatient and Frustrated?

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.

Jennifer secret to retaining high performers

One Obvious Secret to Retaining High Performers

Recently, I received an incredibly strong message about retaining high performers.

The message came from Jennifer, a former store manager at a national women’s clothing chain. Jennifer is outgoing, incredibly gifted at making customers feel comfortable, and was considered a “high-potential” by her district and regional managers. Within a year, however, she had quit.

A few months later, she ran into her district manager at a coffee shop. As they talked, the district manager expressed surprise that Jennifer had left. “You were one of the most talented, capable, managers we had. You had so much to offer and you left. Do you mind if I ask why?”

Jennifer told me, “It took me a few moments to recover from the shock … the district manager had never shared any of those positives with me. I got a weekly, sometimes daily, breakdown of where I wasn’t good enough – and that was it.”

Jennifer told her former district manager, “I thought I was failing. I’m shocked to hear that I was doing anything right. I wish you had told me I was talented or capable at the time.”

A “Secret” to Retaining High Performers

This shouldn’t be that much of a secret. Sadly, however, it’s not as common as it should be:

Tell them.

Tell them they’re doing well. Be specific about what they’re doing well and why it matters. Build on that foundation with a path forward. How can they continue to grow? What future roles are available for them and what skills will they need to master to thrive in those roles?

Unfortunately, we still run into managers who ask (with a completely straight face) “Why should I have to encourage people for just doing their job?”

That depends … how important is retaining high performers? How much lost talent, energy, and productivity will a lack of encouragement cost you?

Human beings need encouragement. It’s a fact of life. You get more of what you encourage or celebrate and less of what you criticize or ignore. If you want a team that doesn’t need to be encouraged, get a cat. Otherwise, if you’re working with people, they need encouragement.

If you want a team that doesn’t need to be encouraged, get a cat. Otherwise, if you’re working with people, they need encouragement. (Tweet This)

If you’re married, imagine what would happen if, after your wedding, you never said “I love you” or never held hands or kissed the other person. You couldn’t expect your relationship to last very long.

That’s the equivalent of never saying “thank you” or encouraging your team members. Yes, it’s their job in that they’ve made a commitment to your company – just like spouses make a promise to commit to one another. That doesn’t mean you should take that commitment or your team’s work for granted.

3 Keys to Effective Encouragement

Recently, when I shared Jennifer’s story, an audience member asked, “How do I encourage people? I understand the concept, but struggle to do it well.” Effective encouragement requires three things. Try these:

  1. Avoid saying “Great job!” Instead, try something like: “I really appreciate the extra effort you put in on that project last Tuesday. The client loved the work and renewed their account.”
  2. Encourage people in ways that are meaningful to them. The easiest way to find out, is to ask. When you onboard people into your team, ask them, “How do you like to receive recognition for a job well done?”
  3. Make sure your encouragement is related to the work and business outcomes. It demoralizes everyone when you encourage someone for something that actually detracts from the team.

Consistent encouragement doesn’t need to take hours of your time. I often work with managers to create ‘micro-encouragement’ with their team members – small moments where you are specific, meaningful, and relevant in a sentence or two. These consistent micro-encouragements add up to massive influence, productivity, and yes, retaining high performers.

Your Turn

Remember, when it comes to retaining higher performers, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. Start with encouragement. Everyone needs it in ways that are meaningful to them. (On that note: Thank YOU for investing in your leadership. You’re making a difference for the people you work with.)

Leave us a comment and share: How you make sure to give people the encouragement they need?

how do I stop workplace drama?

Workplace Drama: How Do I Stop It and Improve Morale?

Are you having trouble with workplace drama? Perhaps this will sound familiar.

Dear Karin and David, 

I try so hard to be an empathetic leader. I really do care about the human beings on my team. But there is one woman on my team who is driving me crazy. She’s a drama queen.  She’s got drama at home. Drama at work. Drama with her co-workers. Drama on personal calls … I want to show that I care, but she’s sucking up a lot of my time and energy and it’s dragging the team down. What do I do?

Signed,

Her Workplace Drama is My Workplace Drama

Six Ways to Address Workplace Drama

Dear Her Drama is My Drama,

This is one of the toughest dynamics for a Winning Well manager. It’s really hard to know if she’s overly dramatic or if she’s truly in a bad situation. You want to be approachable and you want to help. There’s also a limit to what you can, and should, do in your role. It’s time to establish boundaries and find her some additional help as needed.

1. Limit the Audience

Don’t entertain her complaints or stories in front of the whole team. Acknowledge her issues and schedule some limited time to understand her concern privately.

2. Watch Your Body Language and Facial Expressions

Looking annoyed and ticked off will only reinforce her opinion that you’re an idiot who doesn’t care and now you’re part of the drama. It’s easy to slip into passive-aggressive mode here, to roll your eyes, or sigh deeply. Stay true to your values as a Winning Well manager.

3. Listen with an Open Mind

Sometimes within the fury of complaints and drama about her experience on the team or at your company, there is something important to learn. Listen carefully. We’ve both had times where chronic complainers brought us real issues, we were glad we had the opportunity to address.

4. Engage Professionals As Needed

If she needs real help, help her find it through HR and your Employee Assistance Program.

5. Reinforce Clear Expectations

Assuming you’ve appropriately addressed the real issues, and engaged support, it’s time to reinforce clear expectations for her role both in terms of results AND relationships. An I.N.S.P.I.R.E. conversation may be just what you need here, where you notice specific behaviors that are destructive to the team and the work that you are doing.

6. Give Her a Project

If the drama is work-related, they may just have too much time on their hands. Get her involved in solving the problem, not just talking about it. It’s always easier to tear something down than to build something up. Pull her into the solution-building equation.

Who wants to play? What advice would you give Her Drama is My Drama?

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.