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Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Performance Development Tool for Servant Leaders

Last week,  I talked about Servant Leadership and emphasized how servant leaders focus on developing more leaders by seeking to have conversations, even if they are difficult, with all employees.   One thing that all leaders may find difficult is developing poor performers. Whether you are dealing with great or poor performers, you should establish development plans with each of your people at least once a year (I advocate for every six months).

Beginning a performance development conversation may be difficult, especially with poor performers, so here is tool to use to start the conversation:

Sample Employee Development Questionnaire

Note that this is a completely separate process than one tied to employee evaluation and any compensation decisions that may be tied to an employee's "official" evaluation.  This make the process much less intimidating for both you and the employee and helps you both focus on growth and development, not deficiencies that prohibit pay increases.

Here's how you use it:

1. At a regularly scheduled interval that you choose (semi-annually, annually),  hand this questionnaire out to all of your direct reports.  

2. Ask them to evaluate themselves and fill out the questionnaire and give them a specific date to return to you.

3.  Fill out the questionnaire yourself on each of your subordinates.

4. Collect the the responses from your direct reports and compare your responses to the self-evaulation the employee completed.  Make sure you have completed your responses for them BEFORE gathering their responses so your responses will not be influenced.

5. Schedule a time to meet with each of your direct reports (1 hour each) to discuss the development questionnaire.

6. In planning for and implementing your one-on-one development meetings, focus on areas where your evaluation of the employee and the employee's self-evalation differ.  For example, if the employee gives himself or herself a 5 in productivity and you gave them a 2,  this a good time to discuss how you define productivity and discuss behavioral based changes they can make to improve their performance in that area.  At the same time if, for example, your employee gives himself or herself a 1 in technical skills and you gave them a 5, this is time to discuss to brag on the employee, and discuss why they feel deficient in this area.
In addition, another key area to focus on is the question related to charting goals for the employee.  If their professional goals are completely different than those you wish the employee to develop, synthesizing your impressions and direction forward is critical.

Here are some other tips for giving feedback.

7.  Use the questionnaire and meeting as a time to put a development plan in place with timelines associated with each development goal.    This should be put on paper and shared between you and the employee for updating.

8.  Don't complete the meeting without scheduling a sit-down time to check progress on the development plan.  Depending on the development needs of the direct report, this could be as often as once a week or a infrequent as quarterly.

I think you'll find that if you have a process in place and a template to follow to facilitate a development conversation, it makes it less intimidating to do.  

How have you made employee development conversations easy and effective?

Like this post and tool?  You may also like the Employee Evaluation Sample as well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Servant Leadership

In a meeting this week,  I heard someone speak of their passion for the concept of servant leadership.   The image of a servant leader is obviously someone who puts others above themselves.  It completely aligns with my definition of true leadership in that real leaders make more leaders.   True leaders are focused on the growth and development of others, not themselves.

Because of this reminder of the power of servant leadership, I revisited a book about the topic, The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader, by James Hunter.

I think some people struggle with the concept of servant leadership because let's face it, we are all driven by self interest. If you think you aren't, then you're lying to yourself.  I think others struggle with the concept because it conveys an image of almost a "softy", of a benevolent person that puts others above self and because of this, doesn't have a backbone.  

In Hunter's book, I was struck by a quote by Colin Powell that speaks the second difficulty with the concept.

"Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally 'nicely' regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization."  

Servant leaders don't strive to treat everyone the same.  They strive to serve others by helping people capitalize on their true strengths and talents. Sometimes this means distinguishing between great performance and poor performance which means making difficult choices to respond appropriately to poor performance.  

Next week I'll talk about how poor performance can be addressed, by emphasizing that by seeking to improve performance you are acting as a servant leader to all your people. 

What other difficult choices do you see servant leaders having to make?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Feeling Overwhelmed? Find time to think.

After coming back from a long weekend out of town, Monday morning hit with overwhelming thoughts of "I have so much to do and I do not know where to start!"  I stared at my computer wondering, "What first?" and dreading it all.

What did I do?  I pulled out my running shoes and took off.  Yes, I went into avoidance mode.

But what was a designed to be a cop-out, ended up being a way for me to think through my work, generate ideas, and focus attention.  My quiet run gave me the time to brainstorm questions and go through pros and cons of question wording for a client's organizational survey I needed to complete,  think through not one, but three blog posts (including this one that came to me while on the run!),  contemplate how to grab people's attention with a presentation I am giving in Biloxi next month, and take some time to actually enjoy an utterly gorgeous hint-of-fall morning.

When I got back,  I got all of these things done, and actually enjoyed doing all of them.

When people are busy, and lets face it, who's not, finding time to think seems to be last on the priority list.  But when we take the time to get in a place where we can put our thinking caps on, we end up conserving our time because we are more focused when we get down to the business of getting stuff done.

Here are some ideas for thinking time:
1. GET OUTSIDE alone and walk or run your way to thinking.
2. CHANGE YOUR SCENERY.  Go to a library, or coffee house, book store and sit.
3. SCHEDULE THINKING CAP SESSIONS.  Schedule a regular lunch or coffee time with someone who stimulates your thinking.  Bounce ideas off them.
4. UNPLUG. If you don't have the chance to get outside or out of the office, at least shut your email program and phone down for at least half a day at a time.
5. CHUNK YOUR TIME. Try to schedule meetings in a way that they don't chop up your day.  Schedule time back to back at the beginning or end of the day so you have the full morning or the afternoon to think and focus your attention.

You may also like to read about Mindfulness at Work.

What other ideas do you have for focusing your attention?

Monday, September 10, 2012

m&ms or timeout?

Our toddler is the biter at school.  Surrounded by nine girls as the lone boy in his classroom, he has decided that his teeth are his weapon of choice when a toy is taken from him, or he is pushed, or well, just because he feels like biting for no reason at all.

Our first line of defense, after talking and agreeing with the school staff, was the timeout chair.  When he bites, he would be told, "No, teeth are not for biting!" and would be put in timeout.  After coming out of timeout, he would have to apologize (as well as a 20 month old can) and would be asked,  "Do we bite?" to which he would quickly respond "No" with a shake of his head.   And every time he shook his head "No" we were dumb enough to think he wouldn't do it again.   But bite and bite he did.

So we had to corral the horse again to figure out a plan B.  Along with the staff, we decided we would reward him when he didn't bite instead of punishing for biting.  So if he made it until lunch without biting he would get two m&ms as a treat.  Go all day without biting and he would get two more m&ms when mommy and daddy came to pick him up.

He has not unleashed his teeth on any of his classmates since the implementation of the m&ms.  In fact, when my husband or I walk in the room to pick him up and he hasn't bitten,  he says, "Treat!" and walks straight down the hall to the drawer in the Director's desk where his treats are kept for his reward.

Although it didn't seem so simple, this example illustrates the simple idea of shaping behavior through the carrot or the stick.   When you reward the behavior you want to see, you less frequently see the behavior you don't want.  Unfortunately, we oftentimes neglect to reward "good" behavior and instead, only give people attention when there has been a negative occurrence.

In reading Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Blanchard, Zigarmi and Zigarmi,  the authors advocate for praising to shape behavior and self-direction instead of "reprimands".   In their model of Sitautional Leadership,  reprimands should only be used "with competent subordinates who have lost interest in a task....Reprimands do not teach skills, but are only effective in getting good performers back in line when they've developed a poor attitude toward their work."

So, its almost always better to "provide support and encouragement, and if necessary, direction" instead of whipping out that stick.

When you have pulled out your stick when you should have used the carrot?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Personality Assessment for Selection?

Last week, I talked about the need to balance assessing Skill vs. Will in making selection decisions.  One way people assess will is through personality assessment.  There a tons of instruments out there, and if you want a high level overview of personality assessment for selection and want to be put to sleep all at once, you can read one of my papers from graduate school on the topic or view the presentation.

If you need to stay awake and want the to-the-point version about using personality tests in selection, particularly for leadership selection here it is:

1. Don't use personality assessments alone in making selection decisions.
2. See if the personality traits the assessment tests for are job related, and not only job related, but valid predictors of successful job performance.  For example, it has been shown that extraversion is linked to success in sales positions, particularly those that are commission based.
3.  Personality assessments can help you determine cultural fit and compatibility with other team members in selecting individuals for the right position.  

For leadership here is the skinny on the research out there:
            "Selecting leaders has been examined using personality predictors to predict leadership emergence and effectiveness.  Judge and colleagues (2002), found that extraversion (correlation of .31), neuroticism (-.24), openness (.24) and conscientiousness (.28) are valid predictors of leadership performance.  In addition, considering all of the Big Five personality traits in one model has been shown to add predictive validity when examining leadership, with a multiple correlation of .48 being reported (Judge et al, 2002)" *

If that sounds like blah, blah, blah to you, then the bottom line is leaders are usually outgoing, not crazy, open to new experiences, and hard working.  If selection instruments assess for these things, they may be helpful in picking leaders. 

Oh, and don't use the Inkblot for selection.  Research shows it doesn't help you select the right people. 

*Judge, T.A., Bono, J.E., Ilies, T., & Gerhardt, M.W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 765-780