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.



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.

Development and Employee Engagement

Once a team member has been in their role for a while, things can become stagnant. Work is done just because that’s the way it’s always been done and innovative methods can fall from the radar. Success is measured on completion and consistency instead of creativity and conquering challenges.

Leaders need to focus on developing their team members so that they don’t lose the competitive edge of pioneering new methods or procedures. A company must be committed to taking the time and showing interest in the development of their employees in order to encourage job commitment and engagement.

Employees have a tendency to get bored after doing something for too long, so even those team members who are happy with their tenure and their position should still be pushed to achieve more and learn something new within the realm of their current field of expertise.  It will also show that their leader is in invested in their success.

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There are great benefits of employee development. Companies can recruit new talent by offering solid training programs and can ensure their current employees have all of the tools and resources that they need in order to promote in an organization.

Even if a promotion is not currently available, employees will be able to proactively better themselves and be prepared when an opportunity comes up.  Development isn’t always necessarily about promoting as some employees just want the option to learn more.

Development does take time; however, most of the supplies are within the organization.  Leaders can utilize their experience to provide trainings and share their knowledge.  Also, mentorship programs and shadowing opportunities can be made a priority to encourage growth within the organization. Here is a great plan to start a mentoring program.

Training courses can also focus on things outside of the professional realm to encourage team building and personal development. For example, a cooking class, which shows that the organization is not only committed to developing people professionally, but personally as well.

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By utilizing development and training opportunities as benefits for employees, businesses may see an increase in engagement, productivity and retention. This is key because disengagement costs more than $500 billion per year in the U.S. Even more concerning is that 86% of businesses and HR leaders believe they don’t have a good leadership path.  Most concerning is that creating development programs is completely within the control of a company.  Training programs can be as easy as pooling resources or reaching out to experts on certain fields.

By encouraging development at work, a business will be able to grow their talent and possibly reduce turnover rates. Companies must capitalize on internal resources to improve the workplace by ensuring they are able to promote from within and give people the opportunity to exceed potential.  Development and training should be a part of the company cutlure in order for both to become priorities.

What is development and training like in your organization? Let me know in the comment section below.

The Flat Organization… Not Flatter Just Flat

A manager leaves a role and the organization doesn’t fill the position. Responsibilities and tasks are distributed and business continues as normal. Initially, the employees feel the strain of being responsible for more, but eventually, it’s work as usual. Does this sound familiar? Well, this organization is now one level flatter.

Businesses are increasingly adopting or creating a flat organizational structure. The business decides to eliminate management and allow employees to be self-sufficient decisions makers who have access to either a CEO or a few high-level leaders. However, is it possible to completely eliminate leadership at all levels, even the c-suite?

After reading Flat: The New Black? chapter 8 of A World Gone Social by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, I think this could become a reality for many businesses and the norm for new organizations. A flat organization takes pride in establishing a culture so rich and expectations so precise that empowered employees can make well-informed decisions, which increases employee engagement and collaboration.

While new companies can simply make this their culture, existing companies will struggle with the political and operational changes this forces on all employees. It will not be a great fit for all companies; however, if competitors switch to this type of structure, it may not be an option, it may be a requirement.  As Coiné and Babbitt note, “Change happens only as the result of insurmountable market pressure” and we are on the cusp (92).

teamwork3When an organization has absolutely zero bosses, like Morning Star, Valve and even the Israeli Army, it has trusts employees to make the right decisions and hire employees who have the motivation and dedication to self-supervise. A flat organization can also have some great benefits, like cost savings with no outrageous salaries and increased innovation due to increased teamwork. Employees will be more involved because it’s their business too.

While I think flatter organizations are more prepared for the future business world, a completely flat organization does’t seem probable for all. Employees are going to want promotions, and if they can’t get them, it may be a dissatisfying.   Organizations will need to have a plan in place to ensure employees are improving and moving forward in their roles. Also, if an industry gets too big, they may need to “behave like a small firm” like W.L. Gore & Associates does as discussed in A World Gone Social (99).

While flat seems promising, organizations have a tendency for natural leaders to surface. Whether it’s the organization’s creator or a CEO, a leader usually influences how the business is ran.  However, I think organizations can get better at encouraging employees to make decisions. Too often business operations are stagnant, managers are spread too thin and employees are frustrated because easy decisions can’t be made by the line-level.  If organizations want to remain competitive, a flatter organization structure will reduce costs while increasing employee engagement.

Would you want to work for a completely flat organization? Do you think your organization could make the transition? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Succession Planning – Who’s Taking Your Place?

Every department has those few employees who really want to promote and move forward in an organization. If a business doesn’t recognize this drive in its employees, then top talent will eventually leave. That’s why leaders need to make succession planning a priority on a regular basis and not just when a leader leaves an organization.

Leaders need to be fully committed to developing their team members and looking for those employees who want to become and do more. Once a leader decides to move on, it’s critical he or she has molded at least one if not two employees to take that position. Leaders should want to set-up and prepare their employees, so the successor can be successful, but how?

I think a leader needs to plan, share and promote to create a strong succession plan.

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Plan:  Succession planning is not something that happens over night. Leaders really need to get to know their teams in order to figure out who can rightfully and willingly take on more responsibility. They also need to tell that person their plan, in order to figure out if this person is ready for a promotion and wants to take the time to learn the new position and duties. Finally, there should be a written plan that flags high potential employees that will be able to operate a company when managers begin to leave or retire. Here is a well-designed outline of requirements.

Share:  In order for succession planning to work, leaders have to be willing to share as much information as possible with their high performing employee. This takes a lot of trust, dedication and communication, but the more an employee gets to see into the world of a leader, the more prepared they’ll be to promote one day. Also, cross training allows the potential successor the opportunity to have a more diverse understanding of a business and may increase their level of success in a leadership role.

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Promote:  Even if a leader isn’t planning on leaving their position, talented employees must be given the opportunity to grow and promote. If a person is on the succession planning list and has learned an immense amount about the business, then they need to be considered for the next available position. Of course, there are many talented people outside of an organization that can bring value, but if an employee is ready and has committed their time, then they deserve it or they may not be on the team much longer.

Businesses can’t wait until a leader leaves to think about filling a position. While the investment in succession plan may take time, filling the position with a trusted, well-informed employee will take away a great deal of stress and save a lot of time and money.  Being committed to a plan filled with development and communication will make the transition easier and will ensure the best talent doesn’t walk out the door.

Does your company have a succession plan? Let me know how it works in the comment section below.

Introvert or Extrovert – The Workplace Needs Both

Quite frequently I hear the question, “Are you an extrovert or an introvert?”.  While I think this is an important question to know the answer to, I don’t think it should force a person to be a certain way.  Being a person who can easily switch from one descriptor to the other, I find myself slightly cringe when one is seen as more positive than the other because, quite simply, the workplace needs both.

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Let’s start with introverts, only because I was ranked as an introvert based on the MBTI (just barely) and it’s what I consider myself more often than not.  Based on this article, introverts choose words more carefully, are extremely focused and can process a lot of information.  On the other hand, they may make bad first impressions, have limited networking skills and lack verbal communication.

Extroverts obviously bring the opposite and that’s a great thing… Even for introverts.  A few pros of being an extrovert include increased individual growth, being socially active and having the ability to be expressive.  The downside includes being unknowingly annoying, having a lack of self-awareness and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Both types of personalities can be great leaders, excel in teams and be creative thinkers, which is why the workplace needs both. When these labels are used to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do or be, I think that’s when we let them do more harm than good. If businesses used only these two attributes during recruiting or promoting, the outcome would be a nightmare because these two descriptors only tell us so much about a person.

Introvert Extrovert
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Being a trainer, most people think I am a natural extrovert, but this is where assumptions can lead us in the wrong direction and can cause friction on teams. Introversion simply means you get your energy from being alone where as extroverts recharge by being with people. When someone’s personality is assumed based on a few interactions, the whole story is shortened to a few limiting descriptors that can dramatically limit a team and department.

With the increase in personality tests, employers and employees need to be increasingly cautious when using labels. While some jobs may fit certain personalities better, it’s important that we look at and listen to the whole person because most people can be successful and comfortable in all sorts of roles.

While it’s nice to have information about personalities, let’s not jump to conclusions and let something as small as introvert or extrovert dictate our roles, our relationships or our successes. We are always more than the labels that define us especially when it comes to a personality profile.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?  How does that impact you in the workplace? Let me know in the comment section below.

Five Tips for Onboarding – No Training Required

As a trainer, I fully understand the importance of a successful training program for new team members. Employees have to have the tools and resources to move forward from rookie to pro; however, there is so much more to a thorough onboarding process than training.

f78b45f8581c076c453ed01377c3d616Here are the top five things that I think make or break an employee’s first 90 days:

  • Truly Welcome Them to The Team:  Taking the time to celebrate the new team member’s job will create a great first impression for the new employee. By having a special lunch, recognizing them at a weekly meeting or possibly starting the day with a much-needed Starbucks, each small gesture will resonate and show the true culture of the organization.
  • Assign A Mentor:  A mentor can help a team member fully understand the new position and feel as if they are already part of the team. Not only is a mentor program FREE, but it’s also a great way to create a caring culture by eliminating the typical frustrations for new and current employees.
  • Reinforce The WHY:  As discussed in an earlier blog, the WHY is so much more important than the how and the what of a role for any employee, but especially a new employee. Once they understand WHY they are doing something, the how and the what will come much more naturally and passionately. Seeing as how only 25% of employees worldwide feel connected to their company’s mission and half of employees don’t even find significance in their work, employers have a lot to do in order to create a genuine connection to their organizations.
  • Set Goals and Clear Expectations:  Amazingly 60% of companies do not set any milestones for new employees. Once new team members understand why their role is important, they need to know what success looks like or else they will feel like they are floundering, or worse failing, in their new position. Goal-setting is a double benefit since leader satisfaction increases by 20% when employees have a formal, successful onboarding and employees will actually know what they need to accomplish and when to have it finished.
  • Give Feedback Openly and Regularly:  Feedback is KEY! How else will your new team member know where they stand? If a leader is open and honest with a team member, then the employee will feel comfortable giving their opinion and sharing their ideas as well. Feedback only works if clear goals were set initially, so make sure that expectations are a priority and then provide an immense amount of positive and corrective feedback accordingly.

Since up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, it’s key that we don’t let good talent walk out the door because we didn’t do enough to keep them. Set the foundation for progress and development, and new employees will be more likely to stick around.

What’s your onboarding process?  Let me know in the comment section below.

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