Continuous Coaching on Employees’ Weaknesses Frustrates Everyone


Max, a new supervisor, said to Jamison, a well-trained and experienced employee, “Your work is good but the metrics show that it takes you too long to complete your tasks.”

“I like to be very careful,” replied Jamison.  “I don’t release my work until I know it is right.”

“I appreciate that but I don’t think you need to spend time verifying information that has already been double-checked and approved.”

“I just like to see for myself.  I don’t always trust what I get.”

“Sometimes I see you completely redoing a task that is already in compliance with customer specs.”

“I want to make sure that customers get my best work.”

Becoming irritated, Max said, “You are making it hard for others to complete their tasks on schedule.”

“They should concentrate on their work and not worry about me,” replied Jamison.

The more leaders focus on fixing employees’ weaknesses, the more frustrated everyone becomes.

According to Gallup Surveys, continuous coaching on employees’ weaknesses creates frustration, anger, de-motivation and resentment.   After employees have had sufficient training, if their overall work is acceptable, it may be better to realize that not all will be superstars.

 

Employees and Leaders Benefit From Unequivocal Confirmation


Helena explained to her friend, “I just talked with my boss.  She couldn’t say enough good things about how I handled an unhappy client.  She went on and on.  It makes me worry.”

“Why would that make you worry?”

“I think she may have an ulterior motive.”

“Like what?”

“You know we are opening a new location, and I’ve told her that I do not want to transfer.  She may be thinking about moving me to the new site.”

How is it that we have taken a concept like “sincere appreciation” and turned it into something suspicious?

Maybe it’s because we have introduced practices like balanced feedback—identify what is good and what needs improvement.  Maybe it’s because performance appraisal systems discourage unqualified high appraisals—try turning in an exceptionally-high appraisal with no suggestions for improvement.   Maybe the concept “you can always improve” pervades leader-employee relationships.

Unequivocal confirmation occurs when a leader tells an employee something the employee knows to be true without “if’s,” “and’s,” or “but’s.”  Leaders practice pure confirmation so rarely that employees become suspicious when they hear it.

Employees (people) need to be confirmed.  It is not a psychological need; it is a physiological need.  Unequivocal confirmation releases endorphins (chemicals that create a sense of well-being) in our brains.    Insightful leaders realize that unequivocal confirmation increases both employee engagement and satisfaction.

Can We Just Eliminate Annual Performance Appraisals?


“Over my career,” a manager confided, “I’ve done hundreds of annual performance reviews.  I can’t remember the last time that an employee made significant and lasting behavior changes as a result of one.”

Another manager reported, “We had so many complaints about our appraisals, we appointed a task team to develop a new form.  After many hours of deliberation, followed by training on the new process, we rolled out the program.  Everyone was excited at first; but after a year, complaints whelped up again.”

“I spent hours preparing data to support my ratings,” said another.  “I don’t think it helped at all.  Employees who disagreed still argued and whined about low ratings.”

No one pays attention to annual appraisals until they do.  When managers become unhappy with an employee, the appraisal emerges as documentation to justify termination.  Employees know this.  That is why many get defiantly defensive about low ratings.

For these reasons, Deloitte, Accenture, Gap, Lear, General Electric, and many others have dropped their annual appraisal process.

I think brief, monthly employee reviews are less stressful and much more meaningful than annual appraisal rituals.  Consider questions like, “What were your two most important achievements last month?  What are you planning to focus on next month?”

Confirm what you agree with.  Discuss your disagreements.  This approach is quicker, less stressful and more meaningful.

 

Can We Just Eliminate Performance Improvement Plans (PIP’s)?


“I was put on a performance improvement plan,” an employee reported.  “My manager thought that I should have higher satisfaction ratings from my current accounts.  He gave me a detailed checklist of what I should do, and I had to report my results daily.”

The employee said he became discouraged and the entire team (You cannot keep these things secret.) worried and fretted excessively.  The employee eventually quit and moved to another company where he had a successful career.

From my observations, more than eighty percent of employees on PIP’s earn a termination notice or they quit.  Less than one in ten improve performance.

Here is the dirty little secret about PIP’s.  Managers use PIP’s almost exclusively for sub-par performers.   The intent is to create a lawsuit-proof paper trail to justify termination.  I understand this need; but you can document bad performance without creating paper-stacked, time-eating PIP’s.

If you are disappointed with an employee’s performance, tell the person what disappoints you and what you expect.  Suggest ways to improve. Root for the employee’s success.  Make a note with time, date and items discussed.  Copy your boss and the employee.  In less than five minutes, you have begun your paper trail.

What Young Leaders Can Learn from Wild Horses


horse-herd-17Leaders should focus on executing current processes (Make the trains run on time.); and, at the same time, strive for improvements.  (Build a better mousetrap.)

Executing current processes—most leaders do well; making things better—not so much.

A new manager said, “I’ve offered a suggestion here and there.  Usually, I get the response, ‘We’ve already tried that.’  Eventually, I quit trying.”

Horses in the wild, like humans in organizations, exist in groups and both establish rules for membership.  Among horse herds and human groups, the more experienced, smarter, and established members are reluctant to allow lessors to modify the current order.

Occasionally, however, a young ambitious colt will persistently challenge herd order and achieve greater influence.

I recall a CEO of a food franchise saying, “One of our new managers wanted to add a salad bar in his restaurant.  I said ‘Our customers won’t pay for salads.’  The new manager kept pestering me but I wouldn’t relent.”

Eventually, the store manager, acting like an ambitious and persistent young colt, took a risk and installed a salad bar.  Customers flocked to the salad bar—eventually the CEO required all stores to have salad bars.

The take-a-way for young leaders is, “Don’t underestimate the power of persistence!”

How to Use the Amygdala to Motivate


amygdala“I see myself as a collaborative leader,” a manager said to me.  “I respect all opinions.  I want employees to be able to disagree with each other and with me.  Fear inhibits creativity.”

I think this leader is correct—to a point.  Excessive fear no doubt suppresses differing opinions and likely leads to leadership failure.

Scientists tell us that the amygdala–the part of the brain that processes fear—collects data and influences behaviors.  While leaders may not be aware of the amygdala, many do know that proper use of fear can encourage desired behaviors.  Recall the common parental admonishment, “Don’t make me have to stop this car!”

The following are examples of how fear motivates employees.   “Look, there will be hell to pay if we don’t get this right.”  “I can’t go to lunch today.  I’ve got to finish this or the boss will have a fit.”  “My performance review is coming up.  I’ll get a low rating if this is not right.”  “If I’m late again, I’ll get reprimand.”

Effective leaders use fear sparingly and surround it with overall support, as in: “Sam, I need for you to be here but if this continues I’ll write a reprimand.  I don’t want to do that.  If I can help you, let me know.  You can do it.  I’m rooting for you.”

Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions


Feedback with Colourful Comments Symbol“Do you know exactly where you stand in the organization?”  Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, says that about two-thirds of the people that he asks are not sure.

When I ask workshop participants this question, I get similar results.  Unfortunately, the major form of tangible feedback for most employees is the annual performance appraisal.

Can you imagine going an entire year not knowing for sure how well you are doing?  That would be like playing a round of golf each weekend and waiting until December to get your scores.

Managers say they give daily feedback to their employees, but most employees do not agree.  Or at least, they do not recognize what the manager did as meaningful feedback.  Managers should, I think, tell employees daily exactly what they like and, if necessary, coach on things to do differently.

Further, I suggest that managers meet monthly with each direct report. The discussions should include specific performance metrics such as number of tasks completed, errors, feedback from customers, and the like—the more specific the better.

And, although it may be uncomfortable, employees would better understand where they stood if managers gave them a monthly grade.  The grade might be something like:  top 10%, or middle 70%, or bottom 10%.

As author and consultant, Ken Blanchard stated, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions!”