Posts Tagged feedback

What Is The Biggest Mistake Leaders Make When Working with Others?

Blanchard Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Infographic

When The Ken Blanchard Companies asked 1,400 people the question “What is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others?” 41 percent of respondents identified inappropriate communication or poor listening.

When these same respondents were asked to look at a list of common mistakes and choose the five biggest missteps by leaders, two responses stood out.

Not providing appropriate feedback was chosen by 82 percent of respondents. Failing to listen or involve others came in a close second, cited by 81 percent. (Failing to use an appropriate leadership style, failing to set clear goals and objectives, and failing to develop their people rounded out the respondents’ top five of things leaders most often fail to do when working with others.)

A 700-person follow-up study conducted by Blanchard in 2013 with readers of Training magazine found similar results. In that survey:

  • 28 percent of respondents said they rarely or never discussed future goals and tasks with their boss—even though 70 percent wished they did.
  • 36 percent said they never or rarely received performance feedback—even though 67 percent wished they did.

Why are communication and feedback such a challenge in today’s workplaces? The fast pace of work and increased workloads are certainly part of the equation—but another possibility is that new managers are not trained in either of these essential skills. Research conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 47 percent of organizations do not have a formal training program in place for new managers. Research by leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman has found that most managers don’t receive training until they are ten years into their managerial careers.

That’s too late. Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill has found that most managers who survive their first year develop habits—good or bad—that they carry with them for the rest of their careers.

The Ken Blanchard Companies believes it is essential for new managers to develop good communication skills as they step into their first leadership roles. In a new first-time manager curriculum, Blanchard identifies four communication skills new managers need to develop as well as four conversations new managers need to master.

Four Essential Communication Skills

  • Listen to Learn—a deeper type of listening where the goal for the manager is to hear something that might change their mind, not just prompt a response.
  • Inquire for Insight—when the manager uses questions to draw people out and probe for understanding that might not be shared at first.
  • Tell Your Truth—being direct in communication in a way that promotes honest observation without assigning blame.
  • Express Confidence—conveying a positive attitude toward the other person and toward future conversations, regardless of the subject.

Four Performance Management Conversations to Master

  • The Goal Setting Conversation—setting clear objectives: all good performance begins with clear goals.
  • The Praising Conversation—noticing and recognizing progress and good performance: catch people doing things right.
  • The Redirecting Conversation—providing feedback and direction when performance is off-track: seize the opportunity before the problem escalates.
  • The Wrapping Up Conversation—conducting a short, informal review after a task or goal is finished: savor accomplishments and acknowledge learnings

Becoming skilled in each of these areas not only helps new managers get off to a great start but also can help them succeed for years to come. How are your managers doing in these critical areas? You can read more about the Blanchard approach to first-time manager development in the white paper Essential Skills Every First-Time Manager Should Master.

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Take Time to Pause and Reflect: Introducing the “Wrapping Up” Conversation

First-Time Manager A Great Start GraphicIn the just-launched First-time Manager program from The Ken Blanchard Companies, co-creators Scott Blanchard, Ken Blanchard, and coaching expert Linda Miller focus on one aspect of good performance management often overlooked by first-time managers.

“We call it the wrapping up conversation,” explains Scott Blanchard. “It’s not complicated or formal; it’s simply to acknowledge the completion of a project, task, or goal and honorably conclude it before moving on to the next thing.

“The late Warren Bennis often said managers need to balance action with reflection. Typically, managers and teams race toward a goal. But as soon as they attain it, before anyone has the time to honor, celebrate, or even take a deep breath, they jump in to the next one.

“The wrapping up conversation gives managers and direct reports a chance to look back and savor success as well as learn from mistakes. It’s a way to reflect, process the experience, and gain knowledge before starting another project.”

One area that Blanchard believes can be improved through more frequent wrapping up conversations is the annual performance review process—a hot topic in management circles these days.

“Offering feedback only once a year makes it hard to provide people with meaningful or actionable information. But having regular wrapping up conversations creates space for both manager and direct report to discuss what they’ve just learned. It allows them to take action and make changes in real time instead of waiting until the end of the year when it might be too late.

“Feedback needs to happen a lot more than once a year. Our research shows that there is a 30-point gap between how often people want to receive feedback and how often they are currently receiving it.”

Blanchard believes the wrapping up conversation can help both new and experienced managers see the performance review as more of a side-by-side discussion than a top-down evaluation.

“Traditionally, a performance review is a review of the employee’s performance, not a review of the quality of the relationship between the manager and the direct report. The wrapping up conversation creates a more thoughtful situation where both people can reflect on their individual roles and contributions toward the success—or lack of success—of a project or task. It’s a good time to discuss what the manager did or didn’t do to help the person achieve the goal. We believe the job of a manager is to help people get an A, not to mark their paper—a concept made popular in the 2009 book Helping People Win at Work, co-written by my father and Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company.”

For managers interested in exploring the use of wrapping up conversations with their direct reports, Blanchard suggests three ways to get started.

Begin by endorsing the person and celebrating the achievement. Ask how the person feels about the goal or project.  For example, you might ask what the direct report thinks went well and what they learned from doing the project.

Discuss the results and the impact collaboratively. Focus on the benefit that was derived or the learnings that occurred as a result of the project.

Ask about possible areas for improvement. If something could have been handled differently, be willing to tell your truth. Be sure to listen for wisdom gained and to inquire about personal development. Remember to finish by expressing confidence in the direct report.

Done right, wrapping up conversations create space for managers and team members to celebrate results, acknowledge learning, keep people energized, and promote development by honoring work that’s been done.  Are you taking time to pause and reflect?  A wrapping up conversation can help.

PS: Interested in learning more about how wrapping up conversations help with improving your performance review process?  Join Blanchard for a free webinar on March 23.

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Does Your Team Value Feedback? 4 Areas to Evaluate

Multiethnic Group of People with Feedback ConceptBecause front-line people deliver on the agency mission every day, they inevitably encounter opportunities for improvement. However, if your leadership style does not promote the free exchange of candid feedback, you’re probably doing your agency and the public a disservice by not receiving and acting on potentially valuable information.

Setting the tone for feedback is a leadership skill that deserves attention and practice to ensure you do not miss opportunities for individual, team, and agency improvement. So what gets in the way of a free flow of information? Here are some common pitfalls.

  1. Lack of candor. When a leader establishes a work environment where candor is not valued, people have a tendency to tell the leader what they believe the leader wants to hear.  This creates a “yes boss” mentality where the leader’s perspective and ideas are valued and reinforced above alternative points of view. As a result, there is a loss of diversity of thinking and input.
  2. Fear of retribution. “Why would I risk angering my manager with a potentially controversial observation?” If people feel they will be chastised, bullied, or ridiculed for speaking their mind, they will keep potentially useful ideas to themselves.
  3. Talking instead of listening. Does your team practice good listening habits? Or do people listen just long enough to reinforce their own opinions? If teams are not attentive and don’t explicitly convey a desire to receive feedback, information flow is restricted.
  4. Lack of action. Does your team make changes based on new input and suggestions? Or do team members take more of a “my way or the highway” approach that leads to disagreement?  If you really value honest, candid feedback, you have to demonstrate that it is desired, valued, and acted on.

Open communication is a key to the successful fulfillment of the agency mission. What changes do you need to make in your leadership style and behavior to allow more candid feedback to come your way? These four starting points can serve as a road map as you begin to examine your own agency’s culture.

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Welcome to the Team (Part 2) Helping New Leaders Get Up To Speed

Authorized personnel only sign vector illustration In our last blog we reviewed four key points to ensure successful leadership assimilation, and invited our readers to comment. Today we will highlight additional tips and an insightful suggestion from one our readers.

It is essential for a new leader to fully comprehend the existing agency culture before making changes. This same need applies whether the leader has accepted a position in a new agency or has been promoted within their own agency. In both cases leaders should reflect or refresh their knowledge of the agency’s norms, patterns, and expectations. Here are four important areas that need to be examined before the new leader launches any initiatives.

  • Decision Making Patterns: Understanding how information is processed, acted upon, and ultimately used in decision making can be important to learning about nuances in internal culture and politics. This area of investigation will also help to establish awareness of key stakeholders and build bridges to them. It is critical for the new leader to respect the way in which decisions are made if they want to influence outcomes, corrective actions, and potential new directions.
  • Expectation Management: A new leader should take the time to explore what will be expected of them in the new role. Expectations will exist on three levels: manager, team, and agency. Communication is the key. At a team level, ask the team what they need, what has worked well in the past, and what changes might be necessary. At the manager and agency level, a series of one-on-one meetings with senior leaders and direct reports will help to charter a course with respect to desired outcomes and how to best address issues.
  • Feedback: A new leader needs candid feedback to ensure expectations are met and integration into the operational flow is occurring as desired. New leaders should not hesitate to ask a simple question such as “How is it going?” This is a great way to open a dialogue and receive feedback in a non-threatening way. Further, the lost art of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) is an excellent, non-intrusive way to hear about operational activity, discuss projects, establish a presence, and build a connection to the team.
  • Relationship Building: If others do not trust and respect the new leader, alienation, passive-aggressive resistance, and other undesired behaviors may emerge. One of our readers has an excellent and practical idea to ensure that integrity and openness are part of a new leader’s foundation: the new leader simply shares their calendar with the team and keeps it updated. This is an excellent way to create trust through transparency. In this way the direct report team can understand the new leader’s availability and appreciate priorities.

New initiatives are better received when leaders take the time to thoroughly understand the culture they are operating in. Increase the quality and frequency of communication to set yourself up for success in your new role.

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Feedback, Are You Doing it Right?

ListenFeedback is not easy for most people. Learning to give it constructively and receive it gracefully are two skills that can make difficult situations much less so. Getting in the habit of asking for feedback is also important. You should be soliciting feedback from your direct reports, or letting them know that you are interested in hearing what they have to say.

Giving constructive feedback takes some thought. You must consider the impact to the person. It seems simple but the words used, the venue and time chosen, and event the topic of feedback will all make a difference in how it is received.

  1. Know your audience –Some people would be happier to have you praise them privately. If you are giving good feedback be aware of the person’s preference for being praised publically.
  2. Give notice – For negative feedback try to give the person time to get ready to talk about it. If you have regular meetings tell them you want to talk about the issue or project during the meeting, if not set something up specific to the topic.
  3. Plan your words – Remember to separate the tasks, actions, or project from the person. Be sure you will hit all the essential points and be specific. Give examples of what a good job looks like or what has been done well.

Receiving negative feedback gracefully can be even more difficult. No one likes being told their efforts have been for not, or that their work must be redone.  There is a lot to learn from how others see us and welcoming feedback can help you redirect your efforts and be more successful.

  1. Listen for the meaning – Not everyone is good at communicating directly. Difficult conversations sometimes inspire people to tap dance around an issue. Listen for the problem, try to be task specific, and ask for suggestions on how to make a correction.
  2. Ask questions –General feedback is usually only a mask for the problem, you need to learn the specifics so you can make a change.
  3. Agree on expectations – It is easier for many people to be indirect. They get to leave the conversation feeling like they gave you the necessary feedback but you might be left wondering what it is they want. Ask what the person needs or expects from you.

Cultivating truth tellers among your team and being willing to play the role for others is a useful way to actively gauge how effective a leader you are. Learning to give and receive useful feedback takes trust and practice. The benefits of knowing where you stand with your team, being able to make meaningful changes mid-project, and building understanding are so valuable. Much more so than the temporary comfort of avoiding an awkward conversation.

Do you have truth tellers on your team? Do you have any tips for giving good feedback?

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Are You Listening To Me?

I recently posted a link to an article on my Twitter page about “leadership deficit” at government agencies. The article featured commentary by Ron Sanders, senior executive advisor and fellow at Booz Allen Hamilton. Sanders noted several reasons for this deficit in the public sector that include the GS classification system, the value of technical skills over the ability to inspire and engage, and the shortage of budget to allocate to federal management’s leadership development. What about listening skills?

People need to feel heard. In any relationship, effective listening may be the most important skill for building trust and creating a strong connection. Many managers believe that they are good listeners, while their employees feel otherwise. In his new book, Power Listening, chairman and founder of Ferrari Consultancy, Bernard Ferrari lists several behaviors great listeners demonstrate.

  • Show respect – seek input and involve all levels of your staff
  • Keep quiet – allow others to speak 80% of the time, while you speak only 20%.
  • Challenge assumptions – seek to understand and challenge the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation

Listen to Blanchard Senior Consulting Partner and author Dr. Vicki Halsey give a brief overview of how managers can improve their listening and feedback skills in a way that leaves direct reports feeling heard and that helps them to focus on improving performance.

You can also listen to the entire webinar on how to develop an organization-wide understanding of how providing effective feedback, combined with good listening skills improves trust and respect between leaders and the people they lead.

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“My Performance Sucked”: Leadership at the NFL Playoffs

Empowerment is what leaders give to their people.

Today’s blog post was written by guest blogger, Doug Trainor, Consulting Associate with The Ken Blanchard Companies and Co-founder of Leadership Vanguard.

I know that many of you reading this might be Baltimore Ravens fans.  For those folks, I’m sorry about the playoff loss on Sunday.  I hope you will bear with me despite the fact that the leadership I am writing about comes from Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots.  After the Patriots win in the AFC Championship game Sunday, Brady was being interviewed and the reporter  mentioned how great Brady played, leading his team to a fifth Superbowl while he was quarterback—and tying a record doing so.  To which Brady responded, “I sucked today—fortunately the team did better than I did.”

Is that leadership? Yes! I think we need more of that type of leading in organizations across America—both public and private sector.  So please tell someone you were a poor performer today! It may sound a bit funny but there is something to it. A lot to it, actually. The first thing is candor.  We need candor to make our agencies and departments better.  Leaders address reality—even when it is tough to do and with upcoming budget pressures and the sometimes extreme political dialogues we hear on TV—candor will serve you well with those you lead.

The next quality Brady displayed with his comment was accountability. He took personal accountability for his performance and he did it publicly.  When leaders do this it builds credibility with those they lead and with the customers they serve.  It can be a powerful way to increase the trust in your organization. A side benefit is that makes it easier to give difficult feedback to people around you when you admit your own failings. Something that makes feedback easier?  Who couldn’t use some of that?

Last, but not least… it promotes humility.  Humility is a leadership quality that will serve you well in every way. Not thinking poorly of yourself; but realistically. And realizing our teams are the reason we succeed in our leadership roles and giving credit where it is due.

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