4 Secrets to a Successful Performance Improvement Conversation

You sit down for an earnest performance improvement conversation. Things improve for a minute. And the next day (or the day after), she’s back to her “hot mess” behavior.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s her. Some people are hard to reach.

But before you write her off as “unfixable,” take a hard look at your approach.

Center Your Performance Improvement Conversation Around These Four Components

Successful performance improvement conversations should include discussion around the following components:

Clarity: “I know what to do.”

Almost every time I work with supervisors on improving their coaching, they are sure they have communicated what to do. And, of course, they’ve been crystal clear on many levels. What is often missing is isolating the very specific behaviors that must change for the employee to be successful. What exactly do you want your employee to do? How will they (and you) know that’s happening. Isolate and breakdown the behaviors you most need for success. Note: “A positive attitude,” “More customer focus” and “Being more strategic” don’t count. Be specific.

Conflicts: “This is where I’m stuck”

Listen here. Closely. It’s easy to discount the “reasons” they can’t improve:  competing priorities; overload; mixed messages; customer angst. This is the part of the conversation that will give you insights to not only what’s getting in the way for her, but also what is driving your high-performers nuts and frustrating your customers.

Confidence: “I can do this.”

Okay, here comes the hard part. If you don’t think she can get there from here, she will see that a mile away. First do a gut check. Are you giving her the benefit of the doubt? Do you believe this is possible? (If not, cross your t’s and dot your i’s on your performance documentation.) But if you are coming from a place of “Yes you can,” be clear on why. Show her examples of how she’s done this before. Break down the goals into bite size behaviors. Start small and be impressed.

Conviction: “I’m committed to doing it.”

If here in lies the challenge, start by asking questions. Why does she choose to work here? What makes here feel great at the end of the day? Connect what you’re asking of her to why it matters.

Holding successful performance improvement conversations takes practice. Consistent focus on these four areas will help you get to the root cause of the issue more quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask her, “What else can I do to be most helpful?” And then, really listen to the what she has to say.

leading for results

3 Ways to Rock Your Role in the New Year

Carol was visibly shaken on the other end of the phone.

Karin, you know that new job I got, well I lost it. I mean, it’s not really my fault, the contract they had anticipated didn’t come through. I get it. But what bothers me more than anything is what my boss said a few days after I got the news. He said, “You never showed up in any meeting as well as you did in the interview. That was disappointing.” So I wonder if I could have saved my job, if I had showed up differently.

The thing is, I didn’t prepare for any of those other meetings like I did for the interview. For the interview, I thought through every possible question and rehearsed my answers. I made sure I got a good night sleep the night before. I was careful to showcase my expertise. What makes me so mad (at myself) is that I’m 50 years old and am just now learning this. The need to prepare and always be your on your game is so obvious.

It’s never too late to up your game.

3 Ways to Rock Your Role in the New Year

“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

Whenever anyone asks me the secret to my career success, my answer is simple. I work very, very hard. Yes, I’ve had great mentors, built great teams, gotten a few breaks… but honestly at the end of the day, the common denominator in any success I can think of has been– effort.

Carol’s not alone. It’s hard to bring your A game 100% of the time. But there are people who are giving that a shot. Want 2017 to be your best year ever? Rock your role.

  1. Perform at Concert Level Every Day
    When I was in high school our  band director drilled into us the cliché, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” Hokey but true. If you want to be seen as an A player, perform at your very best even when you think it doesn’t matter. People will notice, and you’ll get better each day you show up stronger.
  2. Find the Hook
    The hook is the part of the song you find yourself humming 17 years later when you walk down the street. In Winning Well terms, this is the MIT (Most Important Thing). If you want a truly stand-out year pick the right success to be known for, and nail it. Start by talking to your boss. Ask, “What could I accomplish this year that would add real strategic value?” “What contribution could I make that would turn a few heads?” And then work with your team to establish a strategic plan for execution. Focus on the behaviors you would need to perform every day to build toward that success.
  3. Learn From the Virtuosos
    If you want to rock your role, you can’t just keep doing what you’ve always done. You need to hone your craft. Read what the experts are saying about the future in your field. Find a mentor or two who has skills you admire. Invest in a leadership development program for you and your team.

It’s never to late to sing a stronger song. What will you do to rock your role in 2017?

Get Your Team Off To a Great Start

Contact me for a free Rock Your Role leadership consultation to discuss how you can make 2017 your best year ever. You can see learn more about my approach by watching my new 2017 speaking reel. 

 

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in the New Year

It’s the time of year where many of us are talking about what we want to lose–a few pounds, some bad habits, a toxic relationship. Today, I’m inviting you to consider what you have to gain– investing in a few key actions to improve your credibility and enhance your reputation.

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in 2017

Focus on these behaviors, early and often to give your credibility a boost in the new year.

1. Admit a mistake.
No. not just a small one. I’m going to assume you do that every day. Is there a decision you regret? A strategic move that took the team down a rabbit hole? Or perhaps you let your personal stress bleed into your work, and were harsher in that meeting than necessary.

The truth is when you screw up, your team already knows. You’ll gain instantly credibility points by admitting it.

2. Stop doing something stupid.

I’ve yet to work with a company where folks couldn’t list the “stupid” things they are still doing for stupid reasons. Want credibility as a leader? Pick one of those things and figure out how to stop doing it. Your team will want to kiss you, and you’ll free up more time for them to work on their MITs (Most Important Things).

3. Take a stand.

I bet if I asked you to describe the leaders you most admire, or your favorite boss, we’d only be a few sentences in before you told me a story about them standing up for something that mattered.  Be that person. You know that thing you’re not saying because you’re too afraid? If it really matters, figure out a way to say it well.

4. Forgive a grudge.

I know. This is a hard one. But you know who you’ll gain the most credibility with if you can pull this off? Yourself. There’s huge value in knowing you’re the one that can take the high road and give someone a second chance.

5. Open a door.

The most credible leaders are ones who help people when they have nothing to gain. Building a reputation as a door-opener is a great way to catalyze credibility, not to mention karma.

6. Have a real conversation with your boss.

I was exchanging stories with an old boss the other day about times where we had found ourselves being the only ones having the tough conversations with our bosses. That audacity has served us both well over the years, and has helped me build the muscles I need to now be a successful consultant. There’s huge power and influence in being viewed as the person who will speak the ugly truth in a way people in power can hear it. Gain credibility by being the one who will own the ugly and work to make it better.

And guess what? If you do it well, your boss will start proactively coming to you asking for advice.

7. Rock your role.

Of course you can’t beat the credibility that comes from being ridiculously great at what you do. Show up every day with your A game. Give 10% more than is necessary to every task. Be constantly learning.

Credibility is built through small and consistent actions over time. Imagine the power of paying some extra deliberate attention to a few of these vital behaviors as you turbo-charge your career for the new year.

what if my team is having conflict?

5 Questions to Help You Resolve Your Conflict

We’d both been looking forward to it–our first Thanksgiving together. We’d each been the primary holiday cooks in our previous marriage, which can feel lonely and overwhelming at times. But not this year. Now we had each other. We’d planned the perfect menu the week before while eating sushi over candlelight. We’d had fun shopping. We were all set.

I was full of anticipation of a snuggly time of gravy tasting, stolen kisses, the warm glow of the fireplace in the next room, and the happy ruckus of the parade marching in the background.

Apparently David had a vision for the morning too, which included precise execution, a clutter-free work space– and not so much noise.

So when I started peeling potatoes while still neck deep in the residue of pumpkin pancakes and bacon grease from breakfast, and he pulled out his spreadsheet to do some “backward mapping…”

We decided to take a time out and go for a walk in the woods.

“I just want this to be a romantic time of cooking together. I’m so glad to be with you and want share the experience.” I shared, a bit choked up.

“You’ve told your Dad I’m a great cook, and your Dad IS a great cook. I’ve got to live up to expectations.  It’s important for me to make a good impression on your family.” David explained.

And there we were neck deep in the frustration of miscommunication and unmet expectations.

Ever happen to you?

5 Questions to Ask When Trying to Resolve a Conflict

1. What am I trying to achieve?

What do I really want the outcome of this situation to be? Have I shared that? What does the other person want? And how do I know?  Have we shared our objectives with one another?

2. What is this conflict really about?

Conflicts are almost never about what you’re talking about. At least at first. Despite the obvious dialogue, we were not really talking about whether the apple pie needs an egg white wash before the apples. We were defining how we were going to roll as a couple, in real life. It’s amazing how we can write a book, share many stages, negotiate the financial aspects of the business, and then get worked up about how to mash a potato.

3. What am I expecting?

What are my expectations? Have I said them out loud? Not once did I say, “Hey what I really want here is for you to pay more attention to me than the Brussels sprouts.” Nor did he say, “It makes me feel better to start with a tidy work space.” As it turns out, all that was a nontroversy. I’m always happy for him to clean the kitchen 😉

4. What’s the best way to communicate about this?

Clearly, we needed a time out. A walk in the woods reconnected us to what mattered most– we were together at Thanksgiving and delighted to be a team. We then laughed and pulled out our Winning Well techniques of clarifying expectations and talking about our MIT (most important things).

Another great tool is to consider the range of style-options you have for resolving the conflict and picking one that may come less naturally for you. The TKI indicator is the best tool I’ve found for working with teams on this.

5. How can we achieve the results we want AND enhance the relationship?

Winning Well teams have conflict. Conflict is valuable and often inevitable whenever two or more people are passionate about creating something remarkable. It’s important to keep both the results and the relationships in mind as you’re working through the conversation.

In our case, relationships won on this one. The walk was productive, but the potatoes cooked too long. My nephew ran out to get a box of instant spuds to save the day. I’ll take it.

how do I raise the tough issues at work?

4 UGLY Conversations to Have With Your Team Before Year End

The second half of December is a great time for recognition, celebration, white elephant gifts and other fun. Yes, yes, please do all that, but don’t stop there. The best holiday gift you can give your team is to “own the ugly.” To help your team have the tough conversations they’re longing to have; to stare squarely in the face of what’s not working and clear the decks for a remarkable 2017.

Own the Ugly

The other day I was facilitating a 2-day offsite strategic planning retreat for one of my start-up clients. We’d designed a “speed-generation” problem solving session where groups rotated through stations to identify the ugly issues that needed to be addressed and worked on real solutions.

Within 60 seconds of the first rotation, one group listed every “efficiency” tool their company was using to make “work easier” and then created two columns on their easel sheet–a  “should it stay or should it go” vote.  Everyone who rotated through their station got a vote and indicated what work group they were in. By the end of the session over half of the tools were “voted off the island.” The chairman raised his eyebrows, but took the lead in initiating a curious conversation.

What they found was that the tools they had selected one at a time for good reasons all made sense, but the requirements to keep everything up to date were driving people crazy.

I’m convinced that 40 minute conversation (which everyone gladly stayed beyond our promised closing time to continue– even though beer was being poured in their next agenda item…a holiday happy hour right outside the door) will save them thousands of hours of frustration next year.

“Why didn’t you raise this before?” Well, “No one asked.”

Own the Ugly. Make it safe to talk about what’s not working. It’s getting talked about somewhere. Best to lift it up, stare at it, vent if needed and then figure out what must happen next.

4 Ways to Own the U.G.L.Y.

Here are four ugly conversations worth having with your team. Ask, and then really listen.

U– What are we Underestimating?

Competitive pressures? New technology? The destruction that new manager is doing to our culture? The opportunity that we “don’t have time for?

G– What’s Gotta Go?

What are we doing now that doesn’t make sense anymore? What processes are more habit than value? What meetings are wasting our time? What’s gotta go for us to be remarkable?

L– Where are we Losing?

Where are we still under-performing despite our best efforts? Why? Who’s doing it better? How?

Y– Where are we missing the Yes?

What must we say “Yes” to in 2017? What new opportunities are yearning for our attention? Where must we invest more deeply?

Teams admire managers who “own the ugly.” Winning Well managers have the confidence and humility to go there– to start the conversation, and then listen deeply to the solutions.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

If you Google you, do you like who shows up?

Do you feel like you’ve got a powerful message to share, but without the right positioning, find yourself talking to the metaphorical mute button?

Are you having trouble outgrowing an outdated reputation at work?

Or maybe you’re just looking to get a better seat at the table.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Winning Well Brand

If your brand could use a power boost, take a step back and give your brand a Winning Well refresh using these nine approaches.

Results

1- Rock your Role
If you’re not knocking your current job out of the park, start there–even if you’re looking for something else. There’s nothing better you can do to enhance your brand than having a long track record of success. 

2- Mind the MIT (Most Important Thing)
Pick something extraordinary to accomplish and prioritize getting it right. If there are 27 metrics on your balanced scorecard, trust me, they are not all created equal. Pick one or two that matter most and be known as the guy or gal that cracked the code. 

3- Focus on the Game (Not the Score)
Don’t go around talking about metrics and stack ranks (even if you’re on top). Identify the key behaviors that will change the game, and focus yourself and your team on executing on those consistently. You build a brand by playing the game, not by measurement and commentary. 

Relationships

4- People before Projects
Of course projects are important (see above) but results without relationships leave people burned out, frustrated, and unlikely to give you their best effort. Take the time to establish genuine connection with the people you work with. Yes, you have time, because it will save you time downstream, not to mention building a reputation that will attract “A players” to want to work with you the next time, which of course, makes everything easier.

5- Prioritize Peers
Most managers understand the importance of supporting their team and making their boss look good. But to build a brand that lasts– have your peers backs (see 8 reasons your peers rate you low on your 360 feedback assessment) and go out of your way to make their lives easier. Trust me. I wish I learned this one sooner. Your boss may want you at the top of the stack rank, but your bosses boss wants a team of people working together to accomplish the bigger picture. A high tide rises all boats. Do what you can to be helpful.

Confidence

6- Take a Stand
When I first started writing my blog, the folks at Verizon got a little twitchy. And, I had no intention of leaving my day job at that point. I just wanted to help spread the word that you can get results without losing your soul, and yes, you can blend the bottom line with the human spirit. I loved my work at Verizon (and received the highest performance reviews during this time) AND I had something larger to say. I thank God every day that I had the courage to speak up and was open to next steps.

7. Expand your Expertise 
If you want to build your brand, get very, very good at something important. When everyone tells you, “You’re the best!”–that’s a great sign… keep learning and work harder. AND work on broadening your knowledge. I started at becoming the best HR expect I could be… and then made a career out of leading teams where I was not the expert in the field. I learned so much. It pays to be a “utility player” with deep knowledge in at least one arena.

Humility

8- Channel Challengers
One of the best ways to improve your brand is to know what people are saying behind your back. Ask for feedback. Say thank you. Work to improve. If you want to be the best possible version of you, surround yourself with people you respect who will tell you the truth.

9- Own the Ugly
Here’s a secret. When you screw up… your team already knows. If you want to foster respect and build a trusted Winning Well brand, admit your mistakes and make it right.

There are no shortcuts to a Winning Well brand. It’s showing up consistently day after day oriented in confident humility with a laser focus on results AND relationships.

Five Ways to Win Well with Your Assistant

He’s in the background responding to emails, setting appointments, or fixing your website. She’s overseeing projects, and clicking off those daily/weekly/monthly tasks that you may forget about while you focus on what YOU do best. He’s the glue that keeps things together, she’s the one who graciously gatekeeps, protecting your time and workload when she can. That’s why it’s vital for you to develop a Winning Well relationship with your assistant(s.) 

Let’s Grow Leaders/Winning Well has a team of several people who assist in the mission. My particular role is Executive Assistant / Winning Well Ambassador, which means I take care of a myriad of things for Karin (and David) including staying in communication and coordination mode with other team members. Karin invited me to write a blog post and I decided to share five of the Winning Well principles that you can apply as you interact with those “rock stars” on your team.

Blend the bottom line with the human spirit. Your assistant is not only your right hand, but also a vital, interesting person with lots to contribute! Make sure to take time to get to know them as a person and learn what energizes them. In our case, Karin and I enjoy being connected on Facebook, and having a regular Zoom meeting. She’s also willing to listen and give input into my journey as a small business owner.

Leaders don’t motivate, they cultivate. I’ve grown in my professional life since being on the LGL/WW team. We’ve seen the business expand, and the day-to-day needs change. We talk honestly about the best place I can fit and areas in which we both can grow in how we communicate, the roles we play, and more. Have regular conversations with your assistant about how they are growing and what areas of responsibility and workflow may need to be looked at again.

Nothing inspires a team more than being willing to admit a mistake. Some time ago, I made what I considered to be a pretty substantial mistake with Karin’s work. I owned up and made a commitment to making sure it didn’t happen again. Instead of hammering me about it, Karin acknowledged it but helped us quickly move on. She could tell that I already had thought through how to avoid it in the future. She also has taken responsibility when she felt responsible for an oversight.

If you’ve communicated once, you haven’t communicated. We’ve found it valuable to revisit the “why” behind why certain tasks are needed. Even recently, Karin reiterated the rationale behind a particular initiative I run with regularly. As an administrative pro, it’s easy to get caught up in the systems and workflow, and neglect to remember the big picture. A good manager will make sure their “behind-the-scenes” staff are up-to-date and on board with the organization’s mission and values.

Make the MIT (Most Important Thing) clear. Karin doesn’t play the MIT card on everything…but when she tells me that a particular task is an MIT, she explains why, and I know that is something to make sure I focus on consistently and make a priority.  

One of my daily MIT’s is to Help Overwhelmed Professionals Excel. It’s a privilege to have Karin as part of my client family and to help her have a smoother day. In fact, I recently released a free 30 minute course to help professionals Unlock the Doors to a Peaceful Work Day: Five Keys to Putting Together a Smoother Day. With her encouragement, I invite you to check it out for a few tips about how you can experience a little more peace in yours.

7 Reasons to Be A Little More Grateful At Work (Reflections and an Exercise)

With all the stress and pressure, sometimes it feels really hard to cultivate a feeling of gratitude at work.  You might feel stuck. Or passed over. Or taken advantage of. Or just wanting someone to say “thank you” for all you’re doing–for goodness sakes.

Or _____________________ (it’s okay, let it out first). Life it tricky. Gratitude is never simple. The situation could always be better.

But this week, I encourage you to consider this question. What are you truly grateful for at work?

7 Reasons I’m Grateful at Work 

First, let me start here (because sometimes people think this looks easy). Starting up a business is tricky, with ups and downs. I’ve got my fair share of the fill-in-the-blank concerns.

But I choose gratitude. Here are a few of mine.

I encourage you to play along and share your top 7 (or even one or two).

  1. Partnership
    Hands down the magic of 2016 for which I’m most grateful is my expanded partnership with my co-author, David Dye.  Finding the right partner makes all the difference. If you don’t yet have a friend like this in your life, I encourage you to find someone who will challenge you, encourage you, tell you that you are wonderful, and help you work on your flaws. My biggest gratitude of 2016 is for this real deal partnership in work and in life.
  2. Mistakes
    A few times, I’ve rolled the dice big and lost. I trusted the wrong people, bet on the wrong collaboration. And yet, I’m still grateful for playing full out. More bets have gone right than wrong. And now I’m entering the next phase a little more well informed.
  3. Our Team
    This year we couldn’t have scaled the way we did without our amazing team. What I love best is how they work together, even when we’re off speaking or consulting… they’re holding down the fort and passionately working to advance the Winning Well mission. Beth, Vickie, Megan, Amy, Paul, Chris W, Chris H, Doug, Sean et al, and of course, Sebastian and countless others who’ve helped along the way. We are grateful for you.
  4. Collaboration
    We have an army of kindred spirits whom we believe in and who believe in the work we do. I am deeply grateful for the leaders around the world we’ve had a pleasure to work with in their businesses or ours–speakers, consultants, journalists, bloggers, podcasters, family and friends who are doing all taking action to blend the bottom line with the human spirit.
  5. Stretching
    First, I’m so grateful for the many folks who’ve worked to convince their bosses that Winning Well was right for their organizations. They bet on the ROI and it proved out. I’m also so grateful for the stretching you have caused me to do. “Can you do this?” “How can you challenge us in this way?” I continue to grow because of all of you.
  6. Progress
    When David and I were writing Winning Well, this was our theme song. Inch by inch… row by row… it’s a constant reminder for both us (or at least one of us, reminding the other of us when we hit a setback). When we can be truly grateful for the milestones and the progress and enjoy the journey, it makes all the difference.
  7. Learning
    Every time we do a program I have two emotions… How did we serve? And what could I do better? This year has been a tremendous journey of learning and improving. Which stories had the biggest impact? Which tools? Where should I have challenged more? I’m grateful for every single client with us along this journey.

Our recent Frontline Festival gave contributors a chance to give thanks. 

5 Conversations Your Millennial Employees Are Longing To Have

Morgan (a family friend who also happens to be a millennial) was practically screaming in frustration as we began our mentoring session, “Arghhh, Karin, I’m just so frustrated. They want me to do all this crap… none of it seems important, and it’s getting in the way of my real work.”

It would have been tempting to just take Morgan’s word for it– that the “crap” she was being asked to do made no sense.

After all, I suppose I should be on Morgan’s “side,” but as I dug below the “crap,” I could see a logical explanation for almost everything she was being asked to do.

K- “Has your boss explained why these things are important?”

M- “Nope.”

K- “Do you think your boss has your best interest at heart?”

M-“Sometimes.”

K-“Well let me try to explain why I think they’re asking for all this.”

She let out a palpable sigh as I went through the possible explanations. (Keep in mind that I have no idea if these were the real reasons… but just connecting her dots with my experience.)

Imagine how much better that would have been coming from her boss.

I stand by my view that millennials are just human beings doing the best they can, like the rest of us. The more I work with this generation, however, I realize that it’s not that they their needs are that different, it’s that they are more vocal when things don’t make sense.

Thank goodness.

Asking more “whys” can be powerful, positive disruptive force
in our organizations, communities and world.

And of course, the flip side of this conversation is that there often is a very good “why” worth listening to. We need to all get better at explaining and listening, even if we don’t like what we hear.

Five Conversations Your Millennial Employees Are Longing To have

If you’re running into frustration with your millennials questioning everything and not “getting with the program,” consider tackling one of these five conversations.

  1. How can I show up authentically (be true to myself) and still be effective? (Help me navigate the politics.)
  2. Why do we have to do it this way? (Explain the why behind all these policies and processes that seem to be wasting my time)
  3. Why does my work matter? (Help me find the greater meaning in the work I do.)
  4. When you say “I’m not ready” for a promotion, can you be more specific? (And how do I get ready beyond just putting in my time?)
  5. I’ve got some ideas for how we can do this better. (Please listen to me and take me seriously).

The best way to bridge the generational gap is open dialogue. Let’s have more.

Who Leads Next? What Every Employer Needs to Know To Develop Your Millennial Employees

As David Dye and I prepare for our Winning Well Asia Tour this Spring, we continue our dialogue on with Michael Teoh, author of the Potential Matrix and founder of Thriving Talents. To hear more, you can listen to this recorded webinar in which we discuss:

  1. How to Build a Culture that Develops Leaders before they have Titled Responsibility
  2. Ways to Talk with your Younger Talent to keep them Engaged and bought into the Development Process
  3. Key Mistakes to Avoid – Don’t Push Your Leaders Out The Door!
  4. A Process to Identify and Draw Out the Best from Your Emerging Leaders

 

The Morning After: 6 Sure-Fire Ways to Ensure Your Training Sticks

“John” glanced excitedly at the conference room walls filled with easel sheets, plans and ideas. And then sighed deeply as he shuffled though his deep pile of notes and action items.

“Karin, I guarantee you, I’ll be a better leader tomorrow morning as a result of your Winning Well bootcamp. And I’m almost certain I’ll still be a better leader the following week, and maybe even the week after that.

It’s week three that worries me. How can I be sure to maintain the ROI and that I keep applying these Winning Well techniques when real life hits the fan?” 

John’s question is real. If you’re like most managers, you’ve left more than one training program with good intentions, only to fall back into old behaviors. So how do you make the training stick? 

6 Sure-Fire Ways to Ensure Your Training Sticks

  1. Focus on one behavior change at a time.
    When you learn game-changing leadership techniques, it’s tempting to try everything all at once. After all, if these techniques produce results, you owe it to your team to use them. Right? Perhaps. But not all at the same time. Pick one specific behavior or approach you know will make the impact and integrate it into your leadership approach. Practice it consistently. Tweak it. Make it your own. Ask for feedback. Once you feel confident and competent in that behavior, the timing might be right to add in another technique. Too much change all at once will overwhelm both you and your team.
  2. Find an accountability partner.
    Change is hard, and it can be lonely. It’s much easier to give up when no one’s looking. Find someone you trust who understands what you’ve just learned (someone else in your training class is a great choice). Share the behavior you’re working on and make a commitment to check in with one another once a week to see how things are going and discuss challenges and brainstorm next steps.
  3. Invite your team on the journey.
    Tell your team what you’ve learned and what you’ve chosen to work on and why. Invite them to notice when it’s working and offer suggestions as to what you can do better. Your team already knows you’re not perfect, and they’ll be delighted to know you’re working on becoming a more effective manager.
  4. Teach what you’ve learned.
    One of the best ways to become a rock star at a skill is to teach it. Consider sharing some of the tools you’ve learned and teach them to others.
  5. Ask for feedback.
    Make it a point to ask for feedback on the impact your new approach is having on the people you’re leading. Ask open-ended questions about what you can do to improve.
  6. ww-winning-well-sidebar-impact-live-dec2016-370x370taglineWhen you screw up, apologize and try again.
    New habits don’t come easy. If you slip back into old behaviors, apologize and try again. Your team knows you’re not perfect. They just want to know you’re trying. 

    Training is important, but what matters most is what you do when you get back to your team. With just a bit of focus, you can ensure the strongest ROI for you and your team.

Give yourself (and your team) the gift of a fast start to the new year. Join our Winning Well event in MD this December. Click on the image to the left for more information.

 

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-One Meetings More Impactful

“Nicole” called me looking for help on employee engagement. “Karin, I’m looking at our employee engagement survey and 80% of the respondents said they haven’t had a one-on-one meeting with their boss in the last year. How is that possible? And what do we do now?”

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve run into such a situation. If you’re not having one-on-one meetings regularly (ideally once a week) with your direct reports, just start. Show up and listen. Ask where they need help. Recognize effort and accomplishment. Say thank you. Connect.

Don’t over-think, just start.

On the other hand if you’re doing one-on-one meetings, and they feel like a waste of time on either side, read on to discover a few tips to make them more impactful.

I learned the value of a great one-on-one meeting from my boss, Mel, when I took over a new division at Verizon Wireless. She had her assistant schedule a “pull-up,” on my calendar,  so I thought we were in for a casual chat. She jumped  in eagerly and inquired, “So, what’s on your list?”

My list? I didn’t have a list, and asked her for hers to get a sense of the “pull-up” scene. 

Mel’s list was scratched in various colored ink and pencil … clearly she’d been keeping it all week. Apparently, she’d saved interrupting me on IM, phone calls and email by keeping a list of important, but less urgent topics and highlighting the decisions that required dialogue.  I could have leaned over the desk and kissed her. 

From that moment on, I replicated the process with my direct report team, saving all of us from needless interruptions and ensuring we had quality-time for focused conversation.

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-Ones Meetings More Impactful

  1. Build a Two-Way Agenda 
    Mel taught me the power of a two-way, one-on-one agenda. Come with an agenda and ask your direct report to do the same. Develop a cadence of keeping a list throughout the week.  As both a leader and follower, after I learned the fine art of a great one-on-one, I would keep a growing list for each direct report (and my boss)  each week of the important/less urgent things we needed to discuss. This saved us a lot of interruptions and emails along the way. 
  2. Reinforce the MIT (Most Important Thing) and link to the Bigger MIT
    In Winning Well, we talk about identifying the MIT or Most Important Thing you can do each day, each week, and each quarter to make the biggest strategic impact. Meaningful one-on-one sessions link clearly back to that. If you’re finding yourselves stuck in continuous conversation that has nothing to do with what matters most, that’s an important indicator that it’s time for a prioritization conversation. 
  3. Notice Something Great
    The most impactful recognition is often what you notice along the way — it’s the small behaviors and efforts that you reinforce that lead to breakthrough outcomes. If you’re preparing for a one-on-one and can’t think of a single thing going right, here’s the lay-up question, “What are you most proud of this week?” 
  4. Ask Great Questions
    Terrific one-on-ones are a conversation. Come prepared with a few great questions and build from there. 
    -What was the MIT (most important thing you accomplished last week– and why was this so impactful?)
    -What’s your MIT for this week?
    -Where are you stuck?
    -Who else can we engage to help?
    -What do you need from me?
  5. Say Thank You
    Mean it. Be specific. 

It’s seriously hard to have a bad one-on-one if you’re coming from a balanced perspective of strengthening results and relationships. The hardest part is carving out the time and preserving it for your team. 

7 Things Your High-Performing Employees Long To Hear You Say

These are all real statements I’ve heard in the last few weeks:

“Oh we don’t worry about observing our high-performing call center reps. We just focus on the ones who are struggling.”

“John doesn’t really need a training and development plan like everyone else, he’s got his job nailed.”

“Well, he’s a bit a rough around the edges, but we don’t say anything. He’s so good at his job, we’re afraid to tick him off.”

“Oh Sally’s good. She loves what she does. Thank God for her. She just likes to be left alone to do her thing.”

I get it. Your high-performing employees never seem like the MIT. (Most Important Thing). They’ve got it. You can count on them. They don’t appear to want your help. They don’t complain. You’ve got other fish to fry.

But the truth is, when I meet with such high-performers and ask what they need, here’s what they tell me they long for from their boss.

What Your High Performing Employees Long to Hear You Say

  1. Wow! Thank you.
    “Wow” is a highly under-used word in corporate America. It’s okay to be impressed. No one’s going to slack off because you were wowed.  A big “Wow” followed by a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” from someone a high-performer respects will trump almost any token of appreciation you can offer.
  2. I know what you’re doing isn’t easy. I’d love to hear more.
    No matter how easy they make it look, it’s not. Your high-performing employees are dealing with all kinds of crap that they’re not bothering you with (and may even think you don’t understand). They would love to tell you some stories. And the stories are worth hearing. Pull up a chair and listen.
  3. Can you show me how you did that?
    Think about the last time you figured something out that you were wildly proud of. What did you long for most? For me, I know it’s someone to share it with. Ask for details and if you’re amazed, show that. Side benefit: this is a remarkable way to uncover best practices. Some of the biggest turnarounds I’ve been a part of began by asking a few high-performers what they were up to.
  4. What could we be doing to better serve our customers?
    They know. If you truly care about the customer experience ask this question, listen and do what you can to take action on the response. 
  5. What’s getting in your way?
    Just because they’re low maintenance, doesn’t mean they don’t have a list. Every time I’ve asked this question I’ve been surprised about some of the easy asks. No, you can’t fix everything. But if you can fix a few small things getting in the way of your highest performers, can you imagine the ROI?
  6. What do you want to do next?
    High-performers want to know you care about them as much (or more than) the work. Make that clear.
  7. I want to help you do even better.
    Challenge them. Help them grow. Even when they think they’re done… ask deeper questions. True high-performers almost always want to achieve more. Inspire them to get past the tired.

Not every high-performer is looking to be promoted. And that’s fine. You need rock stars in every role. But every high-performer is human and longs for appreciation, connection, and wants to be heard. It’s so easy to direct our attention to the folks who need our help the most. Be sure to pay attention to your top 20% as well.