Rewire your brain for 2016

January 10, 2016

Q: Each year I’m quite successful without a professional plan. I’d like to create one this year to see if I can improve my results. But making resolutions doesn’t work for me. What do you suggest?

A: You’re not alone. One-third of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first month, and the majority within six months. For a greater success follow these five simple steps.

Take stock of 2015. Record your successes, accomplishments and breakthroughs, as well as your failures, disappointments and misses. This focuses your attention on what is rewarding and lessons learned for the coming year.

Now write out three to five themes, intentions or categories to focus on for the year. Some examples: professional development/education, developing others/mentoring or strategic planning/systems thinking.

Next, reflect on who you need to “be” throughout the year to be come successful in your themes. Write the characteristics or qualities of that type of individual. For example: proactive, visionary, empowering others.

Create a list of goals you want to achieve by the end of 2016 and that you would expect of the person above. For example: delegating 80 per cent of the work below your role, spending 60 per cent of your day planning strategically rather than being a hands-on leader, coaching team members to find their own solutions 75 per cent of the time.

Finally, break the goals down into specific manageable activities with measurable targets such as: take a coaching course by March 31, bite tongue at meetings so team members contribute first.

Resolutions typically fail when you try to achieve too much too fast. This year, focus on rewiring your brain and implementing new habits to achieve ongoing success.

Reprinted from The Province, January 10, 2016

Coaching helps employees achieve their goals

April 8, 2015

Q: One of my managers is alienating his team with his harsh approach and is in jeopardy of being moved out of his role. To bring his style in line with expectations, is making coaching mandatory the best option?

A:  Executive coaching is an excellent method for developing valued high-potential employees and high performers — to grow their leadership skills, create constructive behavioural change and enhance performance. It focuses on leveraging capabilities and inspiring the coachee to maximize their professional and personal potential.

Frame the coaching as a value-add to support the manager’s success in their current role, rather than a punitive process. When an under-performing employee is sent to coaching to ‘fix’ them, they often resent and resist the intervention.

The employee must perceive a positive benefit for them to fully engage in the process. Ensure the employee knows that even though they and their supervisor create leadership goals linked to the employee’s performance plan, the coaching is confidential. Coaching is never a replacement for a supervisor’s responsibility to set clear, specific and descriptive performance expectations, provide detailed ongoing feedback and conduct regular quality appraisals.

It is the supervisor’s role to identify and reinforce strong performance and redirect where improvement is needed so the employee has the framework to achieve their goals.

Augmenting the supervisor’s role with professional coaching increases the employee’s ownership of their performance, improves their capabilities, meets their current goals and develops them for the future.

Reprinted from The Province, March 15, 2015


Make new employees feel welcome, part of the team

August 10, 2014

Q : We’re in the midst of a huge project and I am hiring some new team members. What’s the quickest way to get them up to speed?

A Research shows that the success of new hires is set as early as the first two weeks. The degree to which you can make them feel welcomed and prepared for their new jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the organization. Proper onboarding is different from an administrative orientation – which outlines rules, policies, pay and benefits. Onboarding acclimatizes new hires in four key areas:

Socialization with team members and other employees to learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to succeed within an organization. Create immediate inclusion and investment by arranging a social event with members and a oneon- one with the team leader on the first day.

Assimilation to the company’s culture – such as history, vision, mission and values, work style, customs and power structure – helps the employee function effectively. Assigning a peer mentor aids navigating the organization.

Understanding business strategies jargon and acronyms, market position and competition, systems and processes, recent accomplishments and challenges provides clarity and rationale.

Role and responsibilities and how they contribute to the company’s mission. Explicit expectations for performance and productivity prioritizes and focuses. Outlining career paths and development opportunities inspires hope and investment.

Almost one third of new hires last less than one year, costing 50-150 per cent of their annual salary in lost productivity and replacement costs.

Onboarding takes place over 30 to 120 days and on the first anniversary. On Day 1, implement only the basics, provide necessary work equipment, security badge and take them to lunch to connect on a personal level. Following a formal structured onboarding process creates assimilation, accelerates productivity and increases retention.

Originally published in The Province, August 10, 2014. 

How to give feedback to under-performers

April 9, 2012

Q: One of my managers cannot address his poor performers. We talk about it, he agrees to do it, then returns with reasons why he didn’t have the conversation. Any tips?

A: Even seasoned managers can cringe at that thought of confronting their loyal staff with bad news. It can be so anxiety provoking they procrastinate, deny, turn a blind eye, excuse, give in or give up. Unfortunately, poor performance doesn’t heal itself.

Shift your manager’s attitude. Remind him that since most people want to do well, they welcome feedback intended to support their development. Leadership’s commitment to preserving an employee’s job rather than setting him up for termination can deepen their relationship.

Your manager may be feeling responsible or guilty that this represents his own failure to support his staff. Consider having the employee’s performance review be reflected in his overall performance rating to hold him accountable. Without consequences, what motivates the manager to keep his team on track?

Enlist a coach or HR consultant to role-play the conversation, anticipate reactions and ways to address them. Have the manager follow these simple steps:

  • Write down the concern with specific examples.
  • List the consequences and implication of the employee’s actions.
  • Identify possible solutions and/or resources for the employee: i.e. coach, mentor, course
  • Set uninterrupted time aside to meet with the employee. Have a clear desired outcome. Prepare mentally.
  • During the meeting, be matter of fact, respectful and direct.
  • Ask the employee for their perspective. Listen openly, offer support.
  • Document next steps in a work plan. Hold employee accountable. Give specific feedback.

Your manager is also under performing. In the bigger picture, what might this reveal about your organization’s culture?

Originally printed in The Province, April 8, 2012.

Be honest with career coach

April 6, 2010

Q: I am finally warming to my boss’s recommendation to get coaching. Now how do I choose the best coach for me and get the most value from the experience?

A: You’re already on the road to getting more value by your shift in attitude. An open and willing coachee achieves far greater results than a closed and resistant one.

Request a complimentary coaching session with a few coaches so you can test drive the different ‘models.’ Select a coach who is qualified, has strengths that match your needs, and a style that you can comfortably trust. Follow your gut when making your choice.

Your coach is your ally, be straight with them. Provide your new coach with relevant background about yourself.

I mean the good, the bad and the ugly. The good — your strengths and desired outcomes; the bad — where you get in your own way, your shortcomings; and the ugly — the self-defeating behaviours and habits.

You are responsible for getting value from the coaching. Your coach is your ally and wants you to be successful.

You know what makes you tick. Tell your coach what motivates you. Do you excel when you are pushed hard? Or do you thrive with gentle prodding? Growth in coaching can happen in fits and starts. Be patient, realistic and enjoy the process.

The results from coaching are directly proportionate to what you invest in it. Create three to five significant goals that would make a considerable difference to you at work or in your life by achieving them. Bring a relevant topic to every session. Expect to be amazed by yourself.

Originally printed in The Province April 4, 2010.

Be very clear in assigning tasks

October 12, 2009

Q: Even when I give my staff member a simple task to do, such as creating a news release, and explain how I want it done, she solicits her co-workers’ suggestions and the job ends up getting done differently than I wanted. How can I change this?

A: It sounds like your direct report may need some additional time or reassurance from you before she is set loose. Here’s an approach that may generate more productive results.

She may be feeling micro-managed when you tell her how to accomplish the task. If she doesn’t feel she has the freedom to incorporate her own great ideas, she may be rallying support to defy “your way.”

Rather than telling her how you want it done, inform her of the end result you’re looking for. Explain why this task is important and relevant. It is more meaningful when she understands how it ties into a larger picture.

Let her know what key elements need to be included in the project and the deadline, then give her free reign to make it happen.

Before she leaves, check to see if she needs any further clarification. To ensure you are both on the same page, ask what she views is the value of this task and what support she thinks she might need for her to successfully complete it according to your requirements.

Boost her confidence by acknowledging one of her shining qualities or characteristics.

For example, “You are creative and organized. You’ll produce a great news release.” Assure her that you are available for further assistance.

When she returns with the finished product, find something positive to acknowledge. That will encourage more of the same behaviour next time. Finally, re-evaluate if the tasks are appropriate for her skill or interest level.

Originally published in The Province, October 11, 2009.

Time to air your strong points

June 7, 2009

Q: In a job interview, how do I respond to the question: “What are your weaknesses?” without jeopardizing my chances? I’ve heard the best way is to turn a negative into a positive such as, “I’ve been told that I am a perfectionist.”

A: Many organizations scout candidates with key strengths they can leverage instead of well-rounded generalists. Areas that require development come with the territory.

Your best defence is a good offence. Go into an interview knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Show you’re handling your shortcomings by identifying circumstances where they appear and how you manage them. Make a strong case for how effective your strengths are.

For example, you can reframe your perfectionism as a positive — a keen attention to detail. Combined with one of your key strengths — efficiency, perhaps — may mean you can be counted on to produce superior results, and in much less time than others.

If your perfectionism surfaces when you are unsure of what’s expected, explain how you ask enough questions to get the clarity and context you need to successfully tackle the job.

Finally, you might show you’re striving to improve by completing lower-priority tasks at the 90-per-cent mark, rather than driving for 150 per cent on everything. Describe how you draw on your thoroughness for projects that demand high accuracy and precision.

Sometimes interviewers are less interested in the weakness than in what your response reveals about your character and attitude. Being truthful will demonstrate your integrity and ability to accurately assess yourself.

The employer may be willing to buy your strengths to round out a team. Your weaknesses may be another member’s strong point, making you a perfect fit to fill the gap.

Originally printed in The Province on June 7, 2009.

Build on your own success

December 28, 2008

Q: I’m reflecting on the rocky road my company has been following this year. How do I increase my job performance and security in 2009?

A: To continually enhance your performance, it’s always a good practice at year-end to reflect on where you excelled, where you could have been more effective, and to set new targets for the coming year.

Start by acknowledging what you did well to generate momentum and a solid foundation for future successes. Go ahead, brag to yourself. What wins am I celebrating? What did I do to achieve them?

How can I build on these strengths in 2009? What accomplishments were most meaningful for me this year and why? What will I do to create more success next year?

While it’s most rewarding to review the wins, it’s the learning from the year’s deficits that often produces the biggest payoff next year. Plus, employees who demonstrate significant improvement on their shortfalls get the manager’s attention.

Be brutally honest. What disappointments did I have this year? What important lessons did I learn from them? What will I do differently? What do I need to complete or rectify to move forward with a clean slate in 2009?

Finally, create clear realistic targets to focus your energy and attention for the new year. What goals do I want to attain next year? How will I accomplish them? What action steps will support my goals? Where do I want to end the year? What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to be celebrating a year from now?

Refer to your answers to these questions regularly throughout the year to monitor your progress and keep you on track. Displaying focused direction, proactive initiative, and the ability to adapt and grow in a turbulent economy can distinguish you as invaluable talent well worth retaining.

Originally printed in The Province on December 28, 2008.

Stay in touch with your boss

November 16, 2008

Q: With the dramatic economic downturn, I am noticing my colleagues are increasingly territorial and protective of their jobs. They are even claiming my results as their own. In spite of my best efforts to resist, I am being drawn into the fray. How do I insulate myself?

A: Understand that the threat on their job security is likely motivating their actions. Fear and stress reveal a person’s true character. While such tactics may be designed to protect their turf, they can actually cause their demise.

So why not play a different game with considerably better odds? Differentiate yourself by taking a completely different tack — the best defence is a good offence.

First, be crystal clear about how success is being measured in this new economic reality. Clarify with your supervisor what outcomes you are expected to achieve, their deadlines and what specific criteria you’re being measured against.

Don’t stop there. Stay in regular communication with the key leaders in your company. In a fluctuating economy, strategies and measures can shift quickly. Understanding where the brass is heading enables you to correct your course at a moment’s notice.

Focus on doing the best you can in your role by being productive and generating positive results.

Your boss will have firsthand knowledge of your efforts — and no rumour mill can snatch that away from you. By making it your mission to meet the organization’s goals, you’ll be demonstrating beyond words that you are a proactive, dedicated and dependable leader — a valuable asset who’s worth hanging on to! 

Distance yourself from the unhealthy head games. The economic climate won’t last forever. Find unmet needs or gaps in your organization that you can easily fill. While others worry about hanging on to their jobs, you could find yourself up for promotion.

Originally printed in The Province on November 16, 2008.

Is time right to take the leap?

July 13, 2008

Q: I’m ready to leave my job to launch my own business, but I’m worried about the U.S. recession and the impact it might have on the Canadian economy and my business. Would you recommend I wait until the economy improves?

A: New businesses start and succeed at every point in the economic cycle. The advantage to starting up during a weaker economy is there are probably fewer competitors entering the market at this time and what better way to create a recession-proof enterprise than to launch a lean business machine?

For now, keep your expenses minimal and set up simple stream-lined systems. Resist the need to invest up front on glossy marketing materials, elaborate business cards or lavish office equipment to make your business “official.”

Focus your efforts on the work itself — and doing the kind of outstanding job you want to become known for. Start small by giving clients a low-risk experience of working with you. Your goal is to leave them wanting more.

Develop your reputation and build on their confidence and trust in you. Trust that word-of-mouth referrals will follow when you’re professional, deliver excellence and ask for more business.

Grow your market slowly and steadily, ironing out the kinks in your early days. A start-up business has the flexibility to respond quickly to consumer needs — an advantage in a constricted market when buyers are more value conscious.

However, if worries are getting in your way, it’s not unusual to hold a day job as a fledgling business is ramping up. Being hungry for the business can drive you; being desperate for the sale can drive clients away. Playing your cards right when consumers are belt-tightening could mean hitting the jackpot when spending confidence resumes.

Originally printed in The Province on July 13, 2008.

Next Page »