Posts Tagged performance management

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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Performance Appraisal—An Opportunity for Engagement?

Performance evaluation formThe time has come to think about performance appraisal as more than just a dreaded, required, annual exercise.  No one would argue that performance appraisal needs to include “accountability, fairness, and alignment with the function and strategy of the agency” (U.S. Office of Personnel Management). But what is missing from this purpose statement is how these elements—and others—can contribute to better employee engagement.

Blanchard research into the factors that create a passionate work environment include performance expectations, feedback, and fairness as recommended leadership focus areas. What would happen if leaders were trained to consider and use performance appraisal as a tool to “peel the onion back” to determine how engagement levels relate to performance outcomes?

For example, the performance appraisal process might include conversations in these four areas:

  1. Barriers to high performance. Discuss the environmental factors that may be inhibiting maximum performance. This gets team members thinking about work processes that might be underdeveloped or inefficient.
  1. Opportunities for improvement and change. This element is useful for seeking continuous improvement input. It also could identify growth and autonomy opportunities for direct reports.
  1. Support for both meeting and exceeding expectations. In addition to measuring past performance against agreed-to expectations, be sure to include discussion on ways to improve performance outcomes going forward.
  1. Commitment and passion. Have an open conversation about the importance of maximum engagement and the things that may be either limiting or supporting it. This is the perfect opportunity to check for work commitment and the factors that can lead to improved engagement. 

Incorporating a broader view and talking about engagement can help agencies improve the performance management process. With guidance and training, leaders can identify and remove barriers, seek ideas for continuous improvement, and establish ways to maximize work passion.

To learn more about the Blanchard approach to engagement, visit the company’s online research archive.  All white papers are available for free immediate download.

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Is a Disengaged Government Employee a Loyal Employee?

The answer may be yes! Studies show that while most government employees are satisfied with their jobs, many are not actively engaged in the performance and quality of their work. Yet, a hearty 63% of those public sector workers say that they intend to stay in their positions long-term. Factors such as leadership effectiveness, performance management, employee involvement, and pay and benefits have a significant impact on how government employees feel about their jobs. Why would someone stay in a job where they’re not satisfied? Have we become so immune to the fact that we should actually enjoy (gasp!) what we do or are we just going through the motions to collect a paycheck? Perhaps our lives have become so fast paced, that we are simply showing up and are satisfied getting by with “good enough.”

I recently sent an email correspondence out to a colleague asking several questions about a project we are working on together. Less than two minutes later, my phone rings. It was my colleague calling to talk about the email I sent. The funny thing about this scenario is that it completely caught me off-guard! It was so odd to me that instead of responding to my inquiry via email, he chose to actually pick up the phone and talk about the project. Sensing my initial “shock,” we discussed how we, as a society, have grown so accustomed to the “speed of light” work environment, the “just get it done” mentality, and the impersonal form of communication that has become the norm. After I hung-up the phone, I not only got the answer to my questions that allowed me to move forward on the project, I also felt a connection with my colleague that gave me a sense of satisfaction and engagement that felt pretty darn good. Since that brief conversation, I’ve continued to think about the message that I took from that telephone call and how I can become more engaged and motivated, not just with the quality of my performance, but in the quality of my interactions with individuals both on and off the job.

Motivation experts, Drea Zigarmi, Susan Fowler, and David Facer, believe that motivation is a skill that can be taught, learned, developed, and nurtured. Motivated employees, at all levels of the agency, experience higher levels of energy, vitality, and well-being by leveraging their natural tendency to:

  • Attain and sustain peak performance.
  • Craft innovative solutions to persistent problems.
  • Continually build their competence and creativity for identifying opportunities to accomplish their goals, contribute to the agency’s mission, and discover new ways of motivating others.
  • Build and continually enrich the organizational culture and community.

Employees are looking for leaders that can instill motivation, work passion, and creativity that inspires them to work hard and make a significant contribution to their agency.

Do you have a story about a situation that motivated you and created a work passion you never thought was possible? Share it here and let’s motivate each other.

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Analyzing performance management: Is your leadership style effective?

To bring out the best in others, leadership must match the development level of the person being led.

In order to improve performance management and efficiency, several federal agencies are using analytics to identify problems, identify progress, and share information and results. The Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government reviewed four agencies that are using data analysis to save money, improve services and more effectively achieve their goals. The agencies that were reviewed include Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Each of these agencies is actively using analytical tools to determine the success of specific programs they have implemented. The agencies highlighted in the study shared certain practices that they all used to gather data and turn the information into knowledge that improved their program results:

  • Leaders focused on transparency, accountability and results.
  • Staff had a clear line of sight from where they stood to the desired goals and outcomes.
  • Agencies invested in technology, tools and talent.
  • Agencies cultivated and leveraged partnerships across the agency and with partners who deliver services.

Equally as important as the analytical tools used to improve performance management is the leadership style and direction managers use with their direct reports.

Leaders play a critical role in communicating a clear vision, setting expectations and calling for accountability for results.

Oversupervising or undersupervising has a negative impact on people’s development. That’s why it’s so important to match leadership style to development level. This matching strategy is the essence of Situational Leadership II®, a leadership model that delivers an effective approach to managing and motivating people. It opens communication and fosters a partnership between the leaders and the people the leader supports and depends on. SLII is based on the beliefs that people can and want to develop and there is no best leadership style to encourage that development. You should tailor leadership style to the situation.

Check out this fun video, narrated by Ken Blanchard, about how the right leadership can make a world of difference in your agency’s success.

You can also access the study on how agencies are using analytics to measure performance management and improve program success.

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