Thursday, 30 August 2012

Giving Difficult Feedback Effectively

Giving feedback is a tough thing to do correctly and effectively. It is tough because giving feedback can generate a range of emotions in the other person and if not handled correctly it can cause angst, bad feelings and mistrust. I have given feedback to many people over the years, sometimes effectively and many less so! Certainly in the past I have been very confrontational telling people “how it was” thinking that it was important that they knew but showed little concern for their feelings. Over the years I have learned to adopt a more balanced approach. If there is an issue I follow the following approach. 1. Start with the facts. I tell the other person what I saw and heard, the details and specifics. I start with the facts as these are the least confrontational part of the feedback and are the least likely to generate an emotive response. 2. Talk about consequences. I discuss with them the consequences of their behaviour and approach. For example, if they didn’t turn up to a meeting on time, I discuss the impact and consequence of this on them, (e.g. the meeting went on longer than planned) and on the business (e.g. ineffective use of management time). In my view this is the most powerful part of the feedback as it explains the consequences on them and their colleagues and provides the rationale for change. 3. Agree actions. I will then discuss with them the options they have and what they propose to do. Depending on whom I am giving feedback to, sometimes “telling them straight” what I want them to do works best. Others may respond more positively to a questioning style, so I may for example ask them what they think they could do differently as a result of my feedback. 4. Clarify results. Finally to complete the feedback I agree the results or outcomes of their proposed actions. For example, if the feedback was about their presentation skills and style, one of the outcomes of changing their approach may be a more influential and persuasive sales presentation leading to a new customer for the business. As I mentioned earlier, giving feedback is tough because it can generate a range of emotions in the other person and if not handled effectively can do more damage to the relationship than good. Hopefully these tips I have showed here will act as a useful guide and prevent you making the same mistakes as I did!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Helping Employees Meet Their Targets

A number of years ago when I worked for a manufacturing company I introduced performance targets into the area of the business I was responsible for. While most of my managers responded well to this approach I had one person who felt his work deadlines had been tightened and as a consequence didn’t meet his targets. The purpose behind me setting performance targets in the first place was to ensure that my managers were clear about what was expected of them. I felt I was being fair to all of my managers as they all had similar targets to achieve and I hadn’t set this person anything more challenging than anyone else. I knew that I had to understand why he had failed to meet his targets so far. I therefore sat down with them and explained to him my concerns and asked him why he was failing to meet his targets. He explained that he was struggling with his workload and felt that on reflection he occasionally became distracted by other work. Together we agreed an action plan to address this. We broke down two of his targets into smaller short term steps so that he had a clear plan of how to achieve them. I also suggested that he cleared his diary and dedicate two half days per week working on these particular targets which he agreed to. Over the following few months we sat down on a regular basis to review progress and discuss further actions to help him improve his time and priority management skills. His confidence to manage his work effectively improved dramatically and over a period of 3-4 months he started to more consistently meet deadlines and time scales. While he never became a ‘top performer’ on my team, he improved dramatically and was much more reliable. The lesson I learned from this was that if someone isn’t delivering the targets set there must be an underlying reason for it and the sooner that you deal with the issue the better.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Leading a Speech

Being a leader requires us from time to time to stand up in front of others and give speeches, presentations or team briefs. While some of the above can be fairly routine (e.g. a team brief), some speeches and presentations can be a vitally important part of a leader’s toolkit to gain support and commitment from their team to pursue a new direction or make a major change. I myself have had to do this on a number of occasions (with varying degrees of success) and wish I had read Phillip Collin’s book, The Art of Speeches and presentations: The secrets of making people remember what you say first! In his book, Collins describes the importance of getting the basics right and talks about the importance of the following: 1. Delivery. A speech or presentation is written to be spoken and therefore it is important to make your delivery as effective as possible. Interesting this is something I learned early in my career – don’t write a speech, dictate it, as the written and spoken word are different. 2. Expectations. What will your audience expect from your speeches and probably more importantly what as a leader will you want your team to do once they have heard it? Personally, I try to think “about what’s in it for them?” In this way I can get people to more readily buy in to what I am asking of them. 3. Topic. What is your speech or presentation about? Can you explain the outline in a simple sentence? This is an interesting point which is often overlooked, after all if I want someone to remember what I’m going to say the essence of it needs to be able to be condensed into a single sentence. 4. Audience. Who are you trying to reach? Who are they and what do they think about the topic? Are they likely to be resistant or even hostile to your approach? I remember once having to give a speech to a frustrated and hostile group of workers who had demanded answers to a potential health and safety issue that they believed had not been addressed. This required a good deal of preparation! 5. Individual. A speech should be delivered by you and should therefore present the best version of you. This required careful though and preparation to ensure you come across in the best possible light. 6. Language. Use simple terms and don’t say anything that an intelligent lay person won’t understand. It’s not clever to use jargon and it simply serves to confuse. If you are trying to influence others about a particular course of action, how will you achieve this is they don’t understand? As stated earlier a key role of a leader is to stand up in front of others and confidently deliver a speech, presentation or team brief and Collins offers some sensible advice to anyone who wishes to be more effective.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Evaluating the impact of Leadership Training and Development

If I wish to invest in a new product or service for my business, I want to understand the return I will get from my investment, and in its simplest form I can measure this in terms of ‘payback’, i.e. how long the investment takes to pay for itself. Making an investment in leadership development and training is not different and I have been asked many times how they can measure their return on investment or measure the impact it will have. After all, the “acid test” of any investment whether in leadership development or new product or service, is the results it produces. As any training and development professional will know, this is not an easy thing to measure, and often it is not a precise science. However, there are some guidelines I use that can help you to be clearer. In my view, the key to the evaluation of the impact of a leadership development programme is to be clear at the design stage what the business is expecting to achieve as a result of its investment. For example, is the programme supporting the business to:  Grow?  Increase sales or market share?  Increase profits?  Improve productivity and organisational effectiveness?  Reduce staff turnover? By setting out the outcomes expected form the leadership development programme different ‘levels’ of impact evaluation can subsequently be made. 1) Business – My view is that the highest level of evaluation can be assessed via the organisation’s own metrics (e.g. profitability, sales growth, market share etc). However, there needs to be a clear line of sight between these measures and others that link to them (see below). 2) Team. The first link from the business’ measures needs to be to the team or departmental measures. What impact will the programme need to have on team performance or departmental performance and their targets to deliver the business targets? These maybe for example, improved levels of customer satisfaction (which can increase sales), improved product margins through better negotiation (which can increase profitability), reduced absence rates and staff turnover (which can reduce costs). 3) Individual. The final link in the evaluation is individual performance and behaviour. How do leaders need to behave and what skills do they need in order to increase motivation and engagement to provide better customer service (for example)? This can be measured through achievement of personal objectives as well as observations on behaviour via 360 feedback appraisals. While I accept that assessing the business or organisational impact of an investment in training and development is never easy, it can be achieved by providing a ‘clear line of sight’ linking individual behaviour, through team behaviour and on to organisational/business outcomes, and in this way you can demonstrate the return on investment you have made.