Category Archives: Leadership

3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback To Your C-Suite

Earlier this week, I wrote a post called ‘3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback At Work. There were a few follow up questions posted in the comments that lend themselves to additional posts with further clarification.  Here is a question posed by Jay Goldman from Rypple.com.  Jay asks:

How would you handle a situation in which giving the feedback could be detrimental to your job? Let’s say, for example, that the ‘chatty cathy’ in your office is actually the CEO. You know she’s not interrupting you on purpose and really wants to see your results, but you also know that she’s pretty sensitive about personal feedback. How would you handle letting her know?

Believe it or not, the question of how to give your CEO or others in the C-suite direct feedback comes up more than you think. Many employees would love to give feedback but either the leader makes himself or herself unapproachable or the company culture supports that the decisions or actions of those in the C-suite are untouchable.  This makes the employee feel like there is no use in giving the feedback.

I’ve heard the advice that for leaders, the best feedback is given in an anonymous survey, in the employee engagement survey, or by leaving an anonymous note in the ‘Suggestion Box’ if the company has one.  I know of situations where employees leave anonymous, typed letters on a leader’s desk.

As I said in the earlier post about giving feedback to a colleague, this indirect feedback is not the best approach.  Why not?

  • In a survey, your one comment can get lost in the sea of responses and not stand out to the leader as something that really needs to change.
  • Dropping anonymous notes in a box or on their desk  is also not good because since the leader is human, that leader may focus more on trying to determine who wrote the note than on the validity of the feedback contained in the note.

Real change in behavior, regardless of who is receiving it, is more likely to come from a delivery that is sincere and made in a respectful way.  In other words, be real and say it the way you would personally want to receive that type of message.  So, although you need to finesse them a little differently,  I stick to the same three techniques you would use for a colleague.  They are:

Be Direct-

Frame your feedback in the ‘Compliment- Concern- Question’ format.  Give the leader a sincere compliment on a behavior.  Then, state your concern.  Wrap it up with a question that asks the leader for their help in resolving the situation. The approach might sound like this, “Sir. I would like to talk with you for a moment. I’ve noticed you like to come to my cube each afternoon to talk with me about _________(insert sport, politics, or whatever topic here).   I really enjoy being able to have those conversations with you.  One concern I have though is that I am not going to be timely in meeting deadlines you set if I don’t focus on the project at hand.  Can you help me prioritize being able to meet your expectations, yet still have time for casual interactions?”

By framing your feedback in this way, you are still being direct and communicating that the leader’s behavior is the distraction.  You are also communicating that you want to do a good job and meet the leader’s deadlines and expectations. Finally, you are finessing the situation so that you’re asking the leader to LEAD you and guide you to the solution.  You are not coming on so strong that you are telling the leader what to do.  This is a good strategy to get your point across and still allow the leader to save face.  It can even work for more serious feedback when you disagree with a decision the leader has made.  By framing it with the Compliment- Concern- Question format, you can raise your concern without putting the leader on the defensive.

Don’t bring other people into it-

Don’t feel obligated to be the speaker for the group.  Even if other people have this issue, the second you tell the leader, “Sir, everyone on the team says…..”, you have just shut that leader’s mind down from hearing the rest of the sentence.  They are now in “human” mode and their brain is wondering who is talking about them behind their back.  Keep your feedback direct and speak on your own behalf.

Use your voice/ avoid e-mail-

This goes back to avoiding the indirect approach.  Your message may not have the tone you think it does and the message will not likely have the impact you’re desiring.  You can’t determine when the leader reads that message and it may not be the ideal time for them to receive it.  By saying the feedback out loud, directly to the leader, you are in control of the tone of your message as well as the timing of the delivery.

I once had a leader I respected tell me to give it to him straight when it came to feedback.  He’d tell me, “I’m just a guy.”  As a young woman at the time, it was  a good lesson to learn and since then, I’ve always thought of those in the C-suite in that way. They are human.  They want feedback like the rest of us and want it delivered in a respectful, direct way. I’m not saying it will be an easy conversation, but I guarantee that the leader will respect you more for having the conversation.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples to share?

Blogger Highlight: Seiden, Stelzner, Rosendahl, and Mitton

*From the dusty archives…

It’s been several weeks since I removed my old blog roll and started highlighting bloggers I recommend.  If you missed my post on blowing up my blog roll, the reason is that I think the list of blogs is long and anyone new to my site would not understand what each blog I like is about or why I read them.  Instead, they would just have some random link to a blog.

I will highlight several blogs each month and add them to a new page.  I hope the additional detail will help people find some great blogs to read.  Here are my four for today:

  • Seiden Leadership-  This blog, by author, acclaimed speaker, and advisor to SmartBrief Workforce Jason Seiden, is one of my “must reads” every day.  Jason is the author of two highly successful business books; ‘How To Self Destruct‘ and ‘Super Staying Power‘.  Jason’s blog mixes solid leadership advice with humor and a good dose of snark.  He covers everything from business to politics to music.  Best of all, Jason tells you how to LIVE.  I don’t mean like all kumbaya.  I mean, he tells you how not to be a jerk, how to be a better colleague, a better boss, a better friend, a better parent.  That’s pretty damn cool.  Now go, read his stuff.  Oh, and be sure to reach out to him because he’s someone you’ll want to know.
  • Inflexion Point-  Mark Stelzner.  Need I say more?  I don’t think I do, but I will for the sake of this being a blog I just told you I’d tell you about.  Mark is a respected industry leading consultant who guides us on all things related to business strategy and operations as it relates to human resources.  He is an advisor to SmartBrief Workforce and also founded Job Angels, a grass roots movement to help job seekers.  Mark’s writing style is direct and is often in story-telling mode.  When you read his posts, you’ll feel as if you’re on the journey with him, not just reading something where you’re on the outside looking in.  I think that is one thing that makes his blog so special.  You become PART of it with him.
  • Simply Lisa- Don’t let her blog’s title fool you, there is nothing simple about Lisa Rosendahl or her blog.  Lisa is a seasoned HR pro and blogger who has been recognized by more industry experts than I can list here.  Suffice to say, she’s a writer you need to follow.  Lisa brings the practical, “in the trenches” side of HR to you in her blog.  She also brings a unique spin on all aspects of human resources.  Throw in a little on social media and some posts on how Lisa personally deals with challenges and you’ve got a great blog to add to your reader.
  • tHRyving-  Kelly Long authors this GenY blog.  While relatively new to the space, don’ t let that or the fact that she’s early in her career stop you from subscribing.  It’s the main reason I read her posts.  She brings a fresh look to some of the old, tired processes of HR.  Kelly tells us what is on the mind of college students and those recent graduates as they enter the HR arena.  She is basically like a coach for all of us who have been doing this job for a long time.  And, we NEED her.  What a great opportunity to hear from someone like Kelly so that we can understand what motivates our future leaders.  So, take a moment and head over to her blog.  She’s definitely thrYving!

So, if you’re not already subscribed to these four blogs (OR Mine for that matter), why not do it today?  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  And, if you have any feedback on why you like reading Jason, Mark, Lisa, or Kelly, add that to the comments.

Apologies At Work: Do We Need To Make Them?

i-am-sorryIn traveling down the worm hole that is the internet, I landed on a 2010 story in Psychology Today called The Science of Effective Apologies.  It caught my attention  for a couple reasons.  First, I hate to apologize.  I will do it and I think you should too, but I can’t think of a time when it really made me feel better.  Second, I’m intrigued by the science behind why people do, or don’t, apologize and the impact on the recipient.  All this reminded me that there are many situations in the workplace where you or a colleague may feel disrespected, under-valued or even outright wronged.  Have you received an apology?  Did it help?  If you were the person who hurt a colleague, did you apologize?

According to the author, Gary Winch, PhD., beyond the three components most of us expect in an apology (expression of regret, actually saying the words “I’m sorry”, and requesting the person’s forgiveness), “Studies have found that in addition to the three basic ingredients, three additional apology components play an important role in determining whether an apology will be effective:

  1. Expressions of empathy
  2. Offers of compensation
  3. Acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated

These components were found to be most effective when they were matched to the characteristics of the person to whom the apology was being offered.”

I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a lot of thought and work need to go into a sincere and effective apology.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe you should do it.  I wonder though, is it the thought that apologies can be complex that keeps people away from giving them?  As a believer that it’s all about making the recipient feel better, I still wonder if some colleagues do not do this because they perceive it as them giving away their power.

We all have known colleagues or leaders who refuse to apologize, right?  According to a 2013 study in the European Journal of of Social Psychology, “Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. “

So, are leaders less likely to apologize?  

Whether they are or not isn’t as important as the fact that if you are in a leadership role, it is healthier for your team to apologize when you are wrong.  It’s a balance, of course, of knowing when it will be needed and meaningful.  None the less, it’s something to consider if you’re a leader who wants to humanize yourself with your team in order to build and reinforce trust.

What do you think?  Do you apologize?  Has someone at work apologized to you?  Share in the comments…

Business Impact of The Five Love Languages

I’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time-  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts-  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

Self-Awareness Powers Great Leadership

I’ve been thinking lately about why some leaders fail.  There are many theories about the causes and what can be done to improve the leadership abilities a person has.  There are also theories that focus on the idea that leadership abilities are something that individuals are born with, that they are innate.  Either way, companies promote people into leadership roles who either do not have the skills they need or the skills they have are not strong enough to be successful.

In my career I’ve had the same conversation many times.  It goes like this:

Manager- “Jane Doe is not leading her team effectively.  She is not respected, she alienates her staff, she’s too hard (or too soft) on her staff, she does not understand business metrics and how to meet them, and on and on.  What training do we offer that I can send her to?  I think she needs leadership training.  I think she needs training on how not to alienate her staff.”

HR- “Well, we offer Leadership 101, How to Give Constructive Feedback, yadda yadda yadda.”

Manager- “Great.  Let’s send her to XYZ training.”

End of story?  No.  Six months later, her boss is back and says she has not improved.  She is still having the same issues. So, what went wrong?  We talked about it and wrote in her plan that she needed training and,  she attended training.  She should have been a success story, right?

Sound familiar?

Companies today tend to put all their eggs in one basket and focus predominantly on training.  But is that the best strategy?  Isn’t on-the-job learning the best way to teach someone how to lead?

So, I’ve been thinking and researching why this is not working.  My theory is that the real problem is not any of the leadership skills the employee lacks.  The root problem is that the employee lacks self-awareness and without THAT, this employee can attend training ever day and still never improve. If this manager does not perceive that she has issues dealing with her staff, then sending her to training to work on that will just not sink in.  So, how do we break this cycle?

We need to take it back to square one.  Self-awareness training.  Make employees go through training that will show them where the deficiencies lie.  Make them talk about it.  Make them discuss whether they realize these are deficiencies.  Do they agree?  Disagree?  Without that piece, you may never break through, so that later, when they understand what they need to work on and they have buy in that it is holding them back in their performance.  Then, the company needs to:

Tie it to accolades

Tie it to responsibility

Tie it to money

Then, and only then will the leadership training begin to stick.  Otherwise, you may be throwing away your company’s training dollars for no reason.  Think about it.

Where HR and Innovation Meet

I recently read Elements of Successful Organizations, a compilation of articles from many of today’s thought leaders in the human resources and leadership space.  The book, put together by Kronos, was one I offered to review because when I saw the list of authors I knew I would find some valuable ideas to put into play at work.  Authors like Sue Meisinger, SPHR, JD, and former President adn CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management; Ruth N. Bramson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts; and Karen Brennan-Holton, Senior Executive at Accenture HR Transformation and Talent Management.

The chapter that stood out to me the most was written by Sue Meisinger, SPHR, JD.  Her ideas about HR and innovation are worth sharing and I’m thrilled that Kronos is allowing me to share that chapter with you today.  Please enjoy the guest post below from Sue and be sure to click through the link at the end to download her chapter from the book.

_________________________

With the economy beginning its rebound, more companies are refocusing their efforts.  For the first time in years, they’re able to shift their attention from doing whatever they could to just survive towards new growth opportunities.    And for many, growth will require innovation.
It’s a great opportunity for HR professionals to add value to the business.

But the results of a survey last year by HRExecutive Online suggest that HR professionals may not be ready.  More than two thirds didn’t use screening tools designed to bring in creative candidates, and half didn’t tie performance management systems to driving innovation.   Truly surprising was that more than a third said that HR leaders in their organization didn’t participate in brainstorming sessions related to business and product development.    It is probably no surprise, then, that a large majority also reported that the performance evaluation for HR leaders wasn’t based, in any way, on the ability to foster innovation.  In other words, HR doesn’t want to hold itself accountable for helping to drive innovation.

There’s a lot that HR can be doing.  There are the obvious human resource management tools of sourcing creative talent and using rewards and recognitions to reward and highlight innovation.  But in addition to these HR tools, HR should help to design an organization where information flows easily across the organization, allowing for a greater cross-pollination of ideas.
Lynda Gratton, of the London School of Economics, found in her research that three factors promote the creation of “hot spots,” or places where people came together and created new, innovative advances.  These factors were:

  1. A cooperative mindset –creating a culture where the emphasis is on “we” and not “I”;
  2. The ability for information to be shared across boundaries – outside of the typical silos that exist in all organizations; and
  3. A pressing business need or challenge, or “igniting purpose.”

Rather than wait for a “hot spot” to occur randomly, HR professionals should look for opportunities – through a focus on the culture, how work is designed, how work groups and teams are formed, and how the flow of information is designed, to create “hot spots.”   This will enable people with different ideas, backgrounds, and areas of expertise to interact with each other, increasing the likelihood of innovative advances.

This doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with a new org chart with more dotted lines.   It means paying attention to how information is shared – or not shared – across the organization, and looking for ways to encourage a culture of easy information sharing.  Look for information hoarders – each organization has at least one—where the individual believes hoarding information gives them greater power in the organization.  Undertake an intervention to focus their attention on the fact that hoarding actually reduces their power because it reduces employee engagement, thereby reducing productivity.

HR has much to offer to help drive innovation within organizations.  But it requires HR to focus on the end objective – a more innovative culture – while leveraging the tools of talent management and organizational design.

For more on HR’s role in driving innovation, see “Where HR and Innovation Meet; Embracing Invention, Continuous Improvement, and Business Objective” in Elements of Successful Organizations, published by Kronos Incorporated.

Job Secrets: 6 Steps To Prevent Your Job Title From Defining You

I recently had a conversation with one of my colleagues from India and we were sharing stories about how in our careers, we have both been known as people who can do more than what our specific job title would indicate.  We weren’t talking about being able to take on more responsibility in order to receive a promotion, we were talking about learning and using skills from another industry to help further our careers.

Breaking out of YOUR mold

I spent many years learning human resources and honing my skills related to compensation, benefits and employee relations.  It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I realized that I was compelled to learn more about technology, finance, marketing and communications, and ultimately social.  Spending my free time educating myself was some of the best time I’ve ever spent in terms of the return on my investment.  The best compliments I get now are when someone tells me I’m a good writer, a marketer, or an expert for them in social media.

What are you known for?

When I think of the most successful people I know, these are the people who continuously increase their knowledge.  Here 6 steps you can take to update what you are known for and be more than the definition of your job title:

  • Identify industries you want to learn more about-  Before you invest your time, make sure you have carved out a path that is not only going to be interesting for yourself, but one that will actually provide you improved business opportunities in the end.
  • Read as much as you can online about the topic-  The internet brings the best education to us at our fingertips.  It’s easy to find written works from experts in your chosen field as well as video to teach you what they know.
  • Interview “experts” already in that field and ask for recommendations to get up to speed in that industry- This is the time you really need to break out of your comfort zone.  You will be reaching out to people you may not know and asking for them to help you learn.  Keep in mind that many people like to
  • Listen to podcasts on the subject while driving or working out
  • Register for a course online or at a local university
  • Ask to job shadow someone already working in the industry

With a bit of time, a plan, and a desire to learn and expand, you will be able to position yourself to no longer be defined by your job title.  What have you done to change this in your career?  Share with us in the comments.

 

When Leaders Don’t Feel Strong

I had a scare yesterday when one of my kids was hurt in a sports accident.  It was serious enough that I stopped in my tracks, advised my team of the situation, and sped to take care of my son.  As I was driving to him, not knowing exactly how badly he was hurt, my mind was racing. My internal dialog was jumping from telling myself to remain calm and think positive thoughts to just trying to focus on getting to him quickly and in one piece.

Sure, I was scared, but I know it’s important to try to be strong in situations that are unexpected so that I can make the best decisions possible.  When I first saw him, all I wanted to do was cry and fall apart.  But, I held it in and gave him reassurance that he would be fine and that this situation was not as bad as it appeared.  Several hours later he was taken care of and on the road to recovery.

I spent most of the night awake, worried about him and it gave me time to reflect on the entire situation and how I wanted to react vs. how I reacted.  It was a choice.  It also made me aware that leaders go through these moments all the time, myself included.  The misconception is that all leaders are strong.  The truth is that leaders have moments of weakness and doubt like everyone else, they just dig deep and find a way to step up to the risk or challenge and set the tone to keep everyone else calm and on target.

So today, if you reflect on leaders you have admired in your career, I think you’ll see that they were not always strong.  They had moments of doubt and times where there was not a clear path to follow.  The were able to overcome those fears though and be someone other people could look to for guidance and stability.

If you’re a leader, whether at work, in your home, in your community, give yourself a little break.  Even the toughest leaders have moments of fear.  It’s what you do with those that make the difference.