The Art of Feedback – Ask For It! Part 2

Yes, giving feedback is key to creating a dialogue with your team; however, it’s equally as important to ask for feedback… All of the time!  The best leaders, most productive teams and savviest individuals beg for feedback.  They want to know where they are, so that they can improve and avoid future mistakes.


I recently had an interaction with a leader, and he provided immediate feedback about a situation.  It was quick, to the point and very positive.  After he mentioned the positives, I said, “I need to know more.  What can I do better next time?”  He had great insight that made me want to improve and utilize my strengths in order to overcome a few barriers.  We now have open communication and regularly provide feedback to one another after one quick conversation.

Feedback truly is this easy, productive and positive. There are several reason why feedback is so important, but the first one should be obvious: most people want to do better.  The only way anyone knows they are lacking is if some one tells them.  We have several filters in our day-to-day lives that hold us back from seeing the full truth or the entire situation, so we have to rely on each other in order to improve.

If you don’t feel extremely comfortable asking for feedback, here’s a few questions you can start with.  Also, make sure your reaction to the feedback (no matter how critical), is calm, cool and collected.  If you ask for feedback, and then reprimand the provider, good luck on ever being able to get feedback from anyone else on your team, especially if you’re the leader.  Equally as important is to make relevant changes based on the information.

Once we feel comfortable giving this level of open, genuine feedback to one another, the better we will get at receiving truly critical, constructive comments about ourselves.  While this is not always easy, if the people on our teams are providing the feedback in an authentic, purpose driven way, teams will reap the benefits.

Make sure to stop back for Part 3 of The Art of Feedback – Do It Right!  Also, let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.  Thanks for reading.



The Art of Feedback – Give it! Part 1

Growth, development, learning, improvement… I find these words on every review, every job description and every candidates response.  They slide easily throughout conversations about goals and outcomes, but they can only be accomplished by providing feedback.

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Feedback is a gift.  I hear this all the time as well; however, there is also a cautious line set between team members, departments and even some leaders where it feels impolite, abrasive or challenging to give honest feedback.  In order to step over this boundary, an organization’s culture has to invite and create opportunities to provide feedback.

A company must focus on the positives of giving feedback and remember that learning is crucial to the success of team members.  An easy place to start is at the top.  If your leader is giving you regular feedback, you will feel more comfortable providing that same advantage to your team members, which can then spread to peer-to-peer communication as well.

Developing one another should come easy and naturally, and that’s all that feedback is!  Most people want to grow and understand their failures, so providing feedback should be the next step in helping one another.  As long as the feedback given comes from a place of genuine interest and consideration for the other person, the conversation should end on a positive note.  In fact, most people actually feel better about themselves and situations once feedback is provided.  Here are a few great stats about feedback in the workplace.

Equally as important to remember, feedback doesn’t only need to be negative.  Leaders and team members should be showering each other with positivity and appreciation any chance they get.

While it may make some uncomfortable, the good thing about giving feedback is that the more the art is practiced, the easier it will come.  Leaders owe it to their team to provide honest, open communication about performance in order to create a successful team, retain top talent and instill a culture of feedback.

Have thoughts about feedback in the workplace?  Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.


Culture Shift

Since culture seems to be quite the buzzword lately, I found myself wondering if it’s actually possible to change a company’s culture. There is such an emphasis put on good company culture, but what does that mean exactly? And if a company has a bad culture can the leaders and employees actually change it?

I think a good culture depends on what the organization is trying to achieve. I tend to believe Patagonia has a good company culture because they take care of their employees, have a strong focus on the environment and are committed to their values. However, this type of company culture isn’t for every organization nor would it be possible to replicate since Patagonia’s culture is really its brand.

While I believe that an employee-centered culture will get a company further than anything else, there are many different focal points an organization can choose. For example, a tech company may offer a culture centered around innovation or a non-profit may focus on giving back not only to its area of expertise, but to the community as well.  Culture works best when an organization is not spread too thin and can focus on creating a purposeful, deliberate culture.

I think that it’s possible to shift a company’s culture, but it’s not an easy feat. Leadership must be dedicated and follow-through with the new plan while employees must be flexible and open to new ideas. Here is a thorough path of suggestions for successfully altering a company’s culture.

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Also, a company should be leery of biting off more than it can handle when changing a very tenured, engrained culture. People have a tendency to be stuck in their ways and may see this as an over-haul of traditions and style even if it may not be the most effective or efficient way.  Companies should focus on the critical aspects of change they want to achieve and be able to create small wins within those aspects.

Culture is based on behaviors, so changing will take time. Companies should look for pieces of the culture that are currently working and celebrate the wins.  Organizations can be successful with a culture shift if it is willing to put in the work and encourage all team members to change for the better.

Has your company tried to improve its culture? Let me know the process in the comment section below.


Profits Begin with Employees

Everyone has worked for a frustrating company or leader.  The only silver lining that awaits the employee is a solid paycheck every two weeks.  Other than that it’s the same irritating job day in and day out.

However, companies that only strive to give their employees a paycheck are missing out on the true value of employees and potentially falling behind their competitors who are giving so much more in order to get more in return.

Employees have the ability to make or break a company. Employees are the people who are creating customer relationships, who are helping guests when they most need it, who are figuring out the answers to complex questions and who are recruiting for the next level of talent to bring to an organization.

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The service profit chain is a great example of why employees matter the most. A lot of companies are overly focused on profits. Being money hungry doesn’t mean a company will make money.

However, by taking care of and impressing employees, it gives businesses a promising advantage of customer loyalty. When an organization treats employees well, whether that’s through culture, benefits, perks, or great leaders, they are more willing to treat customers well, which in turn will create brand loyalty or encourage customers to stay, spend or experience a little longer.  This then allows the company to give back to its employees, which starts the process all over again.

Of course, a company could force or coerce its employees to treat its customers right, but how long can that really be sustained? Organizations need create an employee-focused culture, set high expectations and hold people accountable in order to drive profits.

It could be argued that a company must have customers to be in business, but I believe that it starts with the employees because, realistically, if the company did not have employee expenditures they would not be able to open a door, answer a phone or send an email to find a customer.

While some companies do this very well, a lot of companies are missing out on the best investment they can make. Simply by creating great “internal service” for employees while shifting away from a focus on generating profits, can in fact provide a much more profitable business strategy.

Give to employees, so they can give to customers and customers can give to the bottom line. I really believe it can be this easy for companies, if they are willing to change their culture and mindset and prove to employees everyday that they’re the most important part of the organization.  If employees are engaged, the ROI will be quite rewarding.

Does your company utilize The Service Profit Chain? Let me know in the comment section below.

AI in HR

Everything is slowly gravitating toward becoming automated or processed by robots. Kiosks are replacing clerks, computers are becoming stronger and faster, and humans will soon need to think about how they will work in a world with artificial intelligence.

Technology is currently attacking the industries that are less customer-oriented, but how will HR function when robots take the human out of human resources? Will humans no longer need to work in HR?

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While there are pros and cons for AI in the workplace, Human Resources is people-centered. From training to recruitment to engagement, everything is tied to employees; however, I believe almost all jobs run the danger of being affected, or possibly even eliminated, by technology… Eventually.

Once our culture completely shifts to a technology-based system with less focus on customer service, HR will be required to complete the shift as well in order to use AI. Here’s what I think will happen in the three main areas of HR:

Training:  Robots can have access to an immense amount of information immediately and can actually learn through a variety of systems. Also, there isn’t much difference between an in-person facilitation and a computer based training.

Recruitment: AI can already be used in recruiting in order to screen applications and increase productivity for recruiters. If robots can be taught to pick the right application repeatedly, then there may be only a need for one interview with a hiring manager, if that. Also, in a world with social media, readers could be used to find the right candidates who use networking sites.

Employee Relations: While coaching conversations seem to have to be completed by humans, it could be possible that a robot could facilitate a conversation based on previous situations. If AI is able to piece together past experiences, it could come to a solid conclusion of how to handle the situation. This may even hold up against lawsuits since there would be no tie to emotional or irrational decisions.

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HR is about connecting with employees, but if a robot can provide those types of emotions and relationships then it’s possible that HR positions could be filled with AI.

While I’m not extremely thrilled about this idea nor do I think it will happen with any great speed, I think every department should be ready for AI.  I hope that humans will be able to work along side of AI without being complete replaced.

While efficiency, effectiveness and profits are important, what happens when the jobs run out? Let me know in the comments below.

The Best Way to Incentivize Employees

It’s challenging for organizations to get employees to complete tasks and accomplish goals up to set standards. Either there’s a miscommunication or employees don’t feel like the task is worthwhile or important. Businesses have the responsibility of creating solid systems in order to hold their people accountable.

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Incentives are a great way to encourage employees to exceed expectations, but incentives have to be used in the right way. Most organizations have annual reviews that tie performance to budgets or goals, and provide a standardized incentive; however that’s not always the best way.

I’m currently reading Good Profit by Charles Koch, who says that incentives should be tied to value instead of the more traditional route. Koch’s companies even go as far to suggest, “when individual employees create more value than their leaders, they are compensated more than their leaders, no matter their title” (195).

This then encourages every employee to perform beyond the set standard and their potential.  The company also positions its employees to take risks that are inline with the companies values and reward employees as long as due diligence is applied even if the project fails. Koch does not put limits on compensation and bases monetary incentives strictly on value creation.  They encourage employees to work as if they were entrepenuers in order for the employees to be committed to the organization.

In order for incentives to work, leaders have to use them to encourage behaviors that are tied to the values and goals of the organizations. Leaders must provide honest feedback with their employees and show their commitment to success by rewarding those that deserve it and coaching those that don’t.

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Another idea Koch brings up is those employees who are self-actualized. This means that “work becomes part of how [the employees] define themselves. They need to feel they are working for a worthwhile cause” (197). While this is harder (if not impossible) for companies to create, they should try to create a workplace where employees feel important and hire based on personality.

The culture of the company should drive its incentive strategy.  Koch encourages employees to own their performance by incentivizing the value that is created, which is ultimately good for the company as well.  Whatever the company wants to achieve and accomplish is what should be measured and incentivized in order for employees to exceed expectations.

What types of incentives do you have at your company?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Don’t Suffer Through Another Annual Review

No one likes the annual review process. Employees dread receiving feedback on things that they did that they barely remember, and leaders can’t provide realistic feedback because they can’t remember what happened that long ago.

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Employees deserve performance reviews more than just once a year. The annual process really does a disservice to not only the employee, but also the leader, team and entire organization. It’s impossible to expect managers to provide a solid learning experience for employees based on outdated information that is jaded by the most recent occurrences.

Leaders need to create a culture of candid feedback in order to set high expectations that employees feel empowered to achieve. I recommend two options to overcome the pitfalls of the annual review:

  1. Have structured conversations and detailed goals quarterly
  2. Scrap the review process altogether

Let’s start with idea number one. By setting short-term goals for employees to accomplish, leaders will be able to give realistic, just-in-time feedback to each of their employees. Also, the employee will be more productive because they know what is expected of them.

Option one can be completed on a quarterly basis or more frequently, but the organization has to be committed to the process. By implementing a culture of regular feedback, employees will feel supported and will be more willing to take risks.  They may also be more innovative and creative because they will continuously be moving on to the next project that needs to be accomplished in a shorter time frame.

Moving on to option number two. I think by starting out with option one, number two is nearly inevitable. Once companies realize how much time and money is wasted on the formal review process, they will encourage leaders to scrap the annual review program altogether and simply provide genuine feedback on a daily basis.

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If option number two is the goal, leaders need to be successfully trained in providing honest, open and relevant performance information. Also, leaders should encourage employees to provide feedback about all aspects of their job in order to create a culture of candor.  A leader should want employees to give recommendations about the leader’s performance as well in order to lead by example and prove that the culture really is about development.

Completely changing the review process is a possibility for any company. Leaders need to look at the current process to see if it’s working, and if it’s not, do some research to see if there are other options that could be more useful. Here are six examples of companies who have given up on the traditional review approach.

Does your company have annual reviews?  Would you like to have a different system?  Let me know in the comment section below.