Forced Ratings - Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings – Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings Cause More Problems Than They Fix

Recently we were working with senior leaders in a global company who faced a challenging morale problem. They hired talented capable people who were producing good work – but their talent was leaving. Leaders at every level were frustrated at the forced ratings performance management system.

Tracie, the Senior Vice President of Product Management, summarized the problem: “We’re wasting time and energy competing against each other. I’ve got good people on my team and I’d keep every one of them, but I have to rate everyone on a bell curve – so someone gets told they’re not doing a good job even when they are. No wonder they leave.”

It goes by many names: forced rating, stack ranking, and bell curves. You rate people’s performance by comparing them to one another. Those who finish lowest in the ratings are put on performance improvement plans, aren’t recognized for their performance or are even told to leave.

These systems are appealing because it seems like the formula (keep your top performers, replace the low) will ratchet up performance as everyone competes to be at the top of the ratings.

Problems That Prevent Performance

In practice, however, these forced ratings systems run into real-world challenges. There are several problems with stack ranks and bell curve rating systems:

  • You create contradictions as you hire great employees, but then tell a segment of them that they’re not great after all.
  • You create internal competition rather than outward competition.
  • You create strong incentives to game the score rather than play the real game of serving your customer.
  • You’re asking people for their least-best effort (what they have to do to stay alive) rather than their true best.
  • Leaders don’t learn how to lead and manage for sustainable results.
  • Managers aren’t allowed to reward genuine performance when talented performers end up on the low end of the rank.

Forced rating systems are helpful when a leader needs to jumpstart a large organization that’s caught in a morass of sloth, no accountability, and poor execution at every level. A quick ranking to identify truly poor performance and remove it from the organization sends a message that things are changing.

In essence, forced rankings are used to compensate for poor leadership. Successful frontline and middle-level leaders frequently succeed despite, not because of, forced ranking systems. These systems become another barrier they have to overcome on the way to sustained results.

Forced ratings are an attempt to compensate for poor leadership.

For the long-term, however, the answer to sustained transformational results isn’t forced rankings. If the problem is poor leadership, it should be fairly obvious: fix the problem.

Motivate Your Team: The Alternative to Forced Ratings

If you’re struggling to reboot the leadership in your organization, or if you’re a team leader who wants to transform and sustain breakthrough results, start here:

  • Hire fantastic people.  Identify the competencies your top performers share in common and interview for those traits.
  • Cultivate and create systems that help top performers to excel. What is the number one frustration that prevents your team from excelling? What can you do to remove it or lessen its disruptive impact?
  • Align compensation with what you really want. If you need a team to perform at an objective level of excellence, compensate them for that performance. Don’t turn the team against itself with artificial comparisons that don’t benefit the work that’s done for your customers.
  • Invest in your leaders and managers – formally or informally, with budget or without the budget. No excuses. Give your managers and leaders the tools they need to succeed. If you need a place to begin, check out the free Let’s Grow Leaders Facilitator’s Guide that accompanies Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.
  • At a minimum, equip and expect yourself and your managers and leaders to:
    • Set clear, shared, mutually understood expectations that include purpose & meaning and the MIT behaviors that lead to success.
    • Train and equip their people to perform well.
    • Hold themselves and their people accountable.
    • Help team members to grow with training, coaching, encouragement, and challenge for high performers.
    • Celebrate success.
    • Hold leaders accountable for their results and how they achieve them. I often see senior leaders talk about how they expect their team leaders to perform, but they never actually reinforce the behaviors or hold their direct reports accountable.

Your Turn

Remember, you can’t replace the work of a human leader with a formula. Invest in your leaders and hold them accountable for leading.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about forced ranking systems or your #1 tip to make them unnecessary.

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

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?

5 Top Leadership Articles 11-27-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of November 27, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

The 5 Things Mediocre Managers Forget (But Inspirational Leaders Never Do) by Chad Perry

Most of my career has been in leadership roles — and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I mean, a lot of mistakes. More than I can count.

I’ve learned about leadership the hard way. I’ve learned the most about leading by doing it the wrong way.

I can still remember when I first hit the management track. My very first thought? “Finally, I don’t have to be ‘on’ all day!”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So with that in mind, here are some things I once forgot, and I’m sure others have too at some point in their careers.

My Comment: This is one of those rare articles that has made two appearances in the Top 5 – and with good reason. I once read a fable that said the “curse of our humanity is that we forget.” Those words stuck with me and they will certainly resonate as you read Perry’s article. I’ve watched so many fantastic team members enter management roles and forget the very things Perry mentions. I know I’ve done it too. How can you prevent yourself from forgetting: What it’s like to follow? That you can be wrong? And more…

The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People by Lewis Howes

“Surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” Edmund Lee

I’ve got another epic custom track from Fearless Motivation for you today. This one is on a topic that I really believe in.

We are so influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. It’s nearly impossible to rise to your own personal greatness if you aren’t surrounding yourself with people who are doing the same.

My Comment: Look back at motivational speakers through the centuries and you will find a common thread: surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do and who are like the person you want to become. This isn’t empty hype. Your brain takes shortcuts to keep you safe and healthy with the minimum amount of effort. One of the big shortcuts it takes is to look at the people around you. What are they doing? If you do that too, you’re likely to be okay. Peer pressure is a real phenomenon that you can use to propel yourself.

13 Amazing Travel Gift Ideas for Entrepreneurs Who Never Stop by Rose Leadem at Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs aren’t known for their fondness for sitting around. We’re always on the go! And while traveling around the country, or world, can be fun and exciting, it’s also exhausting and sometimes even a little stressful. Getting enough sleep, staying healthy, being organized — these are only a small number of the obstacles of constant travel. Luckily, there are tons of products available today to make traveling smooth and stress-free. Here are a few of our faves for you nomadic types.

My Comment: First, I was surprised at how popular this article was. I guess many of you have entrepreneurs in your life and the holidays are approaching. Karin and I totally fit the description of “on-the-go entrepreneur” – I spoke in seven countries last year and had several ten-day stretches that included eight airplanes. That said, #6 is cool and #7 is intriguing.

5 Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement by Saige Driver at Business News Daily

Every employer has heard the words “employee engagement,” but do most executives truly understand what it means? More importantly, do they know how to measure it?

Employee engagement is important because involved employees are typically more productive, have more energy and are more creative.

“Engaged employees are passionate about what they do,” said David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos Incorporated. “Highly engaged employees build better products and take better care of customers because they want to, not because they are told to.”

My Comment: I invite you to approach this article with caution. Measuring employee engagement is useful, but can also be very destructive. The worst thing you can do is survey your people and then either ignore what they said or, as I’ve seen happen, punish them for their answers. Another poor practice I’ve seen: executives don’t realize the extent of Gamer manager behaviors and managers bribe or pressure their people to answer differently than they might.

If you want inspired, energized employees who give discretionary effort, be prepared to do the work. The survey is just a measurement to let you know where you’re starting. Before measuring, commit to the work of fixing your broken systems, of developing your leaders, and addressing cultural issues that undermine trust and collaboration.

Lessons I Learned from Adversity by Shubha Apte

With the hectic pace of today’s world, we easily get caught up in the busyness of life.

We are forever stressed, overwhelmed, and running errands, attending to work, rushing to office, stuck in traffic jams. Our mind is swirling with thoughts, and we have no control over it. We do not even think to press the pause button and listen to the body whispers.

The bones creak, joints are screaming for attention, but we don’t care. There is a lot of work to get done and many mountains to climb. The to-do list never ends and goals remain goals forever.

My Comment: Apte has some important reminders for us in this piece. Your leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself so you’re able to go the full distance. Reflect and know what matters most. Filter the noise. Always pertinent.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

7 Ways To Inspire Hope

He had all the signs and words of stuck. “I can’t” “No one will help.” “No options.” He’d stop trying to improve the situation and was looking to numb it. His “sports ready” stance had withered to hunched and clenched. He still had an occassional “wish” for a miracle. But, wishes without action are another side of hopeless.
And yet, from the outside looking in, I saw huge possibility, talent, and relationships worth leveraging. I yearned to help him adjust his lens to see new beginnings.

Why I Subscribe to Hope

Hope encourages hard work, risks, and meaning. Not the “want without work” kind of dreaming. The feeling deep in your gut that there’s something more.

I’m ridiculously yet pragmatically hopeful. Ridiculous, because I dream big and set goals beyond my reach. Practical because I work like a dog to make wishes come true.
Hope brought me through a divorce and into a loving marriage
Hope led to “impossible” jobs that made a difference
Hope in people transformed careers
Hope inspires my kids
Hope matters
Hope Inspires Others.

7 Ways to Inspire Possible

Leaders are ambassadors of possibility. When tired eyes look your way, engage them in gentle challenges. Help them realize more.

  1. Start with your own heart – Connect with possible. Remember feelings of turnaround and triumph. Export passion in your connection.
  2. Ask possibility questions – Sit with them in the silence of consideration before narrowing to questions of feasible.
  3. Discover stories of past success – First excavate positive feelings then connect to potential actions.
  4. Identify folks to crew the lifeboat – Who do they (and you) know who could help? Encourage the fortitude to ask for it.
  5. Open doors – Sure, they need to do the heavy lifting. But when your hands are full, it’s helpful when someone opens a door.
  6. Commit to continued support – Ensure that this is more than a one time “pep talk”
  7. Your turn – What would you add?

*Photo source: http://seattletimes.com/special/mlk/

3 Lessons Of The Expectant Leader

“Expectations” is one of my favorite topics. Today, please enjoy the lessons of expectant leaders, from leader and guest blogger Dave Bratcher.

Ever wonder why performance is not at the level you expected?

We often look through the rear view mirror to analyze our performance. Just as the mirror suggests, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” They are closer because the one who is responsible for setting them is the same person looking into the mirror.

Have you ever been perplexed as to why some team members are not performing at the level you expect? What about your own level of performance? Do you know what your boss or clients expect from you?

3 Lessons of the Expectant Leader

  1. People will rise to your level of expectationThere is something magical about people performing to the level of your expectation. As a former School Board member, this is seen in classrooms around the globe on a daily basis. When test scores are low, it is often the desire of school administration to lower standards in an attempt to close the gap between performance and expectations. This has been proven to be the absolute wrong approach to take. Raising expectations will raise performance. This is also true within a family, as Karin recently reflected about her Dad
  2. Expectations must be communicated early and often – I am reminded of an assignment in college in which I spent hours completing the project, only to find out the grading metrics were not in line with what I produced. The expectations were not disclosed at the beginning; rather they were only used to judge performance. Have you ever thought, “How am I doing?” At some point in our careers we have all wondered this. Guess what? Your team members are normal and they may be asking themselves the same questions. In Dave Ramsey’s book, Entreleadership, he talks about the importance of developing a Key Results Area document for each position on your team. It is a short document, including 4-5 bullet points, describing the expectations for any given position. This document is then used to monitor and assess performance throughout the year. Our team should ALWAYS know where they stand, and it’s our responsibility to tell them.
  3. Inspect what you expect – I don’t like clichés, but this phrase is memorable. Just because it is easy to remember doesn’t mean it is easy to implement. I am talking to myself on this one. This has been the area that I struggle with the most. What I have to do is put a reminder in my calendar, marked “Follow Up” as a way to make sure the inspection follows the expectation.

About Dave Bratcher

dave bratcher Dave Bratcher (@davebratcher on Twitter) is the founder of DaveBratcher.com devoted to leadership development. Subscribe for updates at www.DaveBratcher.com and receive Dave’s FREE ebook, A Picture Book Manifesto on Leadership.  He is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach. Dave is also a writer and currently serves as the Vice President of Financial Services for his community foundation. He and his wife, of 8 years, have two children, ages 5 and 2.

Motivation And Transparency: The Conversation Continues

Today’s post is a follow-up to our June 21st discussion: What Motives You: 360 degree Perceptions. I challenged you to explore your motivation through introspection and conversation.

  1. Write down 3 or 4 sentences that you believe truly describe what motivates you.
    e.g. “To challenge people to grow toward their full potential”
  2. Identify 5 or so people you trust to give you candid feedback. Ask them to tell you the complete truth. Then ask, “What do you think motivates me?
  3. Listen and consider. Jot down your reactions. And your reactions to their comments.
  4. Join back on July 1st to share whatever feels comfortable. This “was cool. I learned a lot” works, no need for massive self-disclosure. Of course, we’re interested in all you’re willing to share.

Now for fun part, let’s discuss. If you didn’t play, it’s not too late.

My Motivation

I wrestled with how much to share of all this, I don’t want my blog to be about me, but about helping you. Then again, I thought if I shared more deeply, you might too. Please forgive me if this is too much. What motivation makes me wrestle with that dilemma for 3 days?

What I think motives me:
  • Growth, mine and others (that’s what gives me a rush)
  • Exciting challenges (I love to climb big mountains)
  • Accomplishment (and fear of not accomplishing)
  • Competition (I do hate to lose)
  • Doing the right thing (and changing bad guys)Continue reading

5 Ways To Unblock Leadership Energy

I felt my energy drain as I drove toward the call center. The center’s results were stagnant– it was time to dig deeper. I was there to help, but also to deliver some tough messages. Necessary, not fun.

“Joe,” one of the managers, ran enthusiastically across the parking lot. Joe’s energy ignited mine. The day was looking up. As we walked toward the center together, Joe high-fived and encouraged each arriving rep. They responded in kind. More positive vibes.

We entered the building and the rest of the managers sat quietly at the conference room table nervously awaiting my (and now Joe’s) arrival. The difference in energy–palpable.

Joe’s results blew away the rest of the struggling center. While the other managers shared action plans, Joe excitedly articulated his leadership vision and robust examples of personal connection, challenges and growth.

When I met with the executive team offline I questioned, “How do we get more Joes?” They squirmed, “We can’t expect everyone to have that level of energy.”

Energetic Leaders are Born, Made, and Destroyed

Energy is union, with yourself, the vision, and the team. Energy isn’t extraversion. Don’t waste your time looking for “Joes.” Unblock the stuck energy on your team. It’s not that hard. Release their inner “Joe.”

Empowering low energy destroys potential.

5 Energy Pressure Points

Your leaders have innate energy yearning for release. Get them unstuck. Their energy will cascade, and pretty soon you’ll have an entire organization high on Qi (9 out of 10 studies show well running Qi beats energy drinks without that awful crash ;-).

  1. Missing Connection – Connection fuels fire. Teach the power of connecting, with you, peers, and their team. Model the way. 360 feedback and coaching helps. So can a good talk. Explore insecurities and fear preventing valuable connections.
  2. Faking it – Pretending exhausts. Leaders pretend to look the part, fit in, mask insecurities, hide secrets. Help your leaders uncover and use their mutant powers by using unique skills that stretch them beyond their current job.
  3. Blurry Vision – Fuzzy vision confuses. When leaders lack energy, it’s often that they don’t understand (or buy-into) the vision. It’s hard to act jazzed, when you don’t get it. Go slow. Help them understand the bigger picture. Encourage closed-door dissent and questions. “Ah ha” moments radiate energy. Then help craft and practice messages.
  4. No Options – Choices ignite. Challenge your team with exciting possibilities. Leaders lose energy when they’re stuck. Stuck in their career, in a role, in a project. Help them discover options and new challenges.
  5. Stress – Stress sabotages . When leaders are stressed from competing priorities or home concerns they lose the necessary energy to lead well. Help them balance their goals and energetic pursuits.

10 Ways To Zap Energy And Squash Enthusiasm

Bad leaders suck life-force from their teams. They don’t mean to. And yet, contagious yawns permeate the workplace. Low energy abounds. Why?

I’ve been asking this question everywhere this week (my organization, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). Here’s the top 10. I’ll leave it to you for #11.

10 Energy Zappers

  1. Blurry vision – Working frantically without a clear purpose is dumb. With pressure, dumb morphs into exhausting. Leaders must clearly communicate the vision and engage the team.
  2. Lack of connection – If everyone around you is gung-ho, and you don’t get it look within. It’s not them, it’s you. That’s great data. If you have one person on your team who you just can get there perhaps it’s time for a tough conversation. Learn what they really want to do.
  3. Missing information – Without information we make stuff up; make-believe is always worse than the truth. Filling in blanks is exhausting.
  4. Inauthenticity – Folks want the truth about the dynamics and safety of their organization, the market forces and challenges, competitive moves and yes, where they stand. Not knowing dims life-force.
  5. Feeling stuck – Lack of career growth or forward progress. Help your team grow.
  6. Personal ick – One follower wrote,
    “What gets me down or out of my regular mode of existence cold weather and not having a lover.”
    Honest feedback. We’ve all got our stuff. Leaders must lead humans, even in the winter. He added:
    “Nothing or no one can demotivate me. I’m the ony person who can motivate myself.”
    Yes! Tap into, and encourage, the personal elements in your leadership. Your team may need a listening ear and an understanding heart more than a pep rally.
  7. Too many priorities – Overwhelmed confuses energy. Refine focus to streamline energy.
  8. Unattended conflict – Healthy conflict energizes. Buried conflict exhausts.
  9. Boring – Monotony leads to sleepy.Mix it up. Create challenges. Find fun in repetitive tasks.
  10. Festering negativity – Even one whiner makes people crazy. Take Mr. Negative aside and get underneath. When others complain to you encourage straight talk. Don’t underestimate the impact of a loud negative minority.

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein

What Motivates You? 360 Degree Perceptions

What motivates you? What would your friends say motives you? How about your mom? Your boss? Your kids?

It’s been a while since we did some real work together at Let’s Grow Leaders. Today I challenge you to a short-term experiment that I picked up reading What Keeps Leaders Up at Night. More to come on that book. It’s fantastic. I’m meeting with the author soon…

Join in the “What Motivates You” Fun

Read the activity below and follow the easy steps to participate. Join back on July 1st to share your experiences (I’ll be sharing mine).

What Motives You: An Experiment

The “what motivates you” methodology is simple

1. Write down 3 or 4 sentences that you believe truly describe what motivates you.
i.e. “To challenge people to grow toward their full potential”

2. Identify 5 or so people you trust to give you candid feedback. Ask them to tell you the complete truth. Then ask, “What do you think motivates me?

3. Listen and consider. Jot down your reactions. And your reactions to their comments.

4. Join back on July 1st to share whatever feels comfortable. This “was cool. I learned a lot ” works, no need for massive self-disclosure. Of course, we’re interested in all you’re willing to share.

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night author, Nicole Lipkin shares her advice on this experiment.

“Make sure your crew of respondents understands that you need complete candor. As you record their answers, note the context. Your mother will see you differently than will your long time colleague at work. But this is also true: People will color their answers with their own self-protective biases, distortions, and rationalizations. Still whether you like what you hear or not, perceptions can influence people as much as pure reality. If someone perceives you as a control freak, you must deal with that perception, even if you know it does not usually describe the way you operate. The appearance of impropriety is as bad as the impropriety itself. Resist your natural urge to defend yourself.”

Who’s in. Game on Come on it’ll be fun! Please comment and let me know you’re gonna play.

Namaste. Let’s grow together.

7 Weird and Wacky Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team

The first time I suggested we lower quotas to drive performance, my boss thought I was crazy. Until we did. Results sky rocketed. Why?

7 Ways To Motivate

  1. Lower Quotas – Out of reach quotas demoralize. Let them taste success. Most good comp plans include multipliers. When solid reps get a multiplied paycheck they understand possibility.
  2. Sell it For Them – “If my out-of-touch boss can do this, it can’t be that hard.” In my case, “if this HR chick now running our sales organization can do this, it must REALLY be easy.” Not my typical “wind beneath the wings” advice. Ensure you understand the obstacles first hand, and lead from there.
  3. Go Bird Watching – This week I stopped by the office of one of the most successful, results-driven sales leaders I know. His assistant told me he’d taken his entire team on a “bird watching” lunch. Perspective clears the creative thought process. Motivate with a surprise break and time to strategize.
  4. Stop Talking Money – “To motivate a sales person bring money.” True. But that’s not the only thing. Determine what else matters. Career growth? Prestige? Relationships? Have deeper conversations.
  5. Shave your head – I’ll admit, this is not my personal go-to, but I’ve seen it do wonders to motivate both sales and customer service teams across several companies. For some reason, teams can’t wait to see their boss’ bald head. You get bonus motivation if the team does the shaving.
  6. Make It A Team Sport – “Sales people are out to be #1.” Some sales folks also love being part of a winning team. It may mean more than the paycheck. Don’t underestimate the value of old-fashioned team rivalry. Cultivated well, they will help one another grow.
  7. What would you add?

The Secret to Employee Engagement

“How do I get my team to care?” Employee engagement is the number one requested topic from my readers. If you’re struggling with employee engagement, you’re not alone. Gallup says:

“Seventy-one percent of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive.”

The disengagement increases with education. Americans with a college degree are “significantly less likely to be engaged in their jobs than are those with a high school diploma or less.” We hire for knowledge and then discourage contribution.

The Secret to Employee Engagement

I recently met with 2 new hire training classes. One was alive, actively interested, asked great questions, and shared their optimism for their careers. The other class looked at me skeptically. Didn’t say much. Yawns were involved.

My colleage looked at me after my meetings, “Wow, what a difference in engagement between those two groups.” What was the difference? The hiring demographics? The trainer? Frontline leadership? Nope.

Look Within First

It was me. I approached the first class as I normally do. I walked around the room and asked each person to introduce themselves– to tell me something about them personally. I heard of new babies, graduations, hobbies. I also asked them to share “why they will be a rock star in this position.” As they shared, I linked their ideas to key messages I wanted to reinforce. Then, I shared a bit about me both at work and at home. After all that, we started the Q &A.

It was time consuming and we were short on time. As I entered the next classroom, I was warned “you took too long with the last class, we’re behind on the agenda, and we have a plane to catch.” I skipped the one-on-one intro stuff, and moved right to Q and A. Sure I was energetic and perky, but there was no trust. It wasn’t personal. I felt scary, and the yawns began. In hindsight, I should have skipped that class.

If you can’t engage well, don’t show up.

As leaders we set the tone for employee engagement.

  • Make it personal
  • Ask questions
  • Share yourself
  • Create connection
  • Inspire confidence
  • Assure them they matter
  • Insire a compelling vision
  • Link unique skills to the vision
  • Be fully engaged yourself
  • ?

In Defense of Wow: It’s Okay to Be Impressed

Leaders who are afraid to acknowledge success lack confidence in their vision. Being impressed doesn’t incent laziness. Leaders gloss over great, looking for greater. They could have said, wow!

  • “This idea is amazing! But, I’d better not act impressed, or they won’t strive for more.”
  • “Sure the sales of this strategic product are great, BUT they are falling short in other areas.”
  • “Their year-over-year results are unprecedented, but there’s another team ahead. I’d better focus them on chasing that rabbit.”

Leaders think, “if I act impressed employees will stop trying.”

Worthy of “Wow”

When was the last time you let out a heartfelt “Wow!”? Not at a sunset. Or at a baby’s first steps. Or after a bite of chocolate cheesecake, all of which are certainly “wow” worthy. But when did you last “wow” at work?

“Wow has a reverberation – wowowowowow – and this pulse can soften us, like the electrical massage an acupuncturist directs to your spine or cramped muscle, which feels like a staple gun, but good.”
― Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers

Your team is accomplishing small miracles. Someone just trumped their personal best. Or, they worked all night to meet the deadline. Or, finally, the team is helping each other with no hidden agendas.

Look them right in the eye, pause and exclaim “Wow!”
But…
Resist the urge to “wow but” them..

In a post submitted for tomorrow’s LGL Frontine Festival, Tanveer Naseer, explains “feedback should make you hungry to achieve more.”

“I advised the students to savour this moment and to remember that it was thanks to their hard work, their persistence to overcome the obstacles in their path, and their drive to succeed that they were able to achieve this rare accomplishment. I followed this with a word of encouragement that they wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of hunger to once again push themselves to excel and move forward; to meet the new challenges they’ll face with the same drive and persistence that got them here.”

A good “wow” incents achievement. “Wowed” feels fantastic. It influences how you “wake up.”

Everyone needs feedback and tips to improve. Coach, respond, inspire. And every now and then, stop at “wow.”

Wow-a-Thons

My team holds regular, “wow-a-thons.” If I promise not to be too disruptive, they let me play along. A cross-functional group of leaders spends the entire day listening to customer interactions. If they hear a rep delighting a customer, they note what they heard and what makes it fantastic. They parade onto the floor to celebrate the fantastic “wow.” No coaching. No buts just celebration, with specifics. “When you said______” it really changed the customer experience. Wow. Thank you.”

If something was mildly wrong, they still celebrate, but make a note and find another example to address the concern. later. Wow doesn’t have to be perfect. The celebrating goes all day. Employees are uplifted. Team leaders practice watching for the good. It’s a party. Results sky rocket. No apathy is encouraged in these “wows.”

Tips for a Good “Wow”

  • Pick something amazing
  • Mean it.
  • Explain why
  • Be specific
  • Say it loud so others can hear
  • Vary the recipients (don’t always chose John)
  • ?