Smarter after Covid


Finding better ways forward

Before Covid most companies with international interests had several people flying and traveling to other offices and locations to attend meetings, lead initiatives, or train others. While most of us have pretty much remained “grounded” in our countries without the option to travel, company activities continued (as far as it was possible). Something seems more obvious now than perhaps in 2019: We are getting pretty good at training, meeting and mentoring remotely using technology and internet connections. Yet, when we can, will we continue previous practices of sending our leaders and experts to remote locations on a regular basis like we did before? It is said that Ireland lowered carbon emissions by at least 6% during 2020 and some companies have seen business travel costs more than halved over 2020!

Some challenges that companies try to address by flying in leaders and experts from HQ:

  • We do not have people in all locations with the right experience and skills and HQ experts are needed to support local teams on a regular basis.
  • We are not exactly sure what the true status of projects are and we would feel more comfortable having one of our trusted staff regularly visit remote locations.
  • We are not sure that local people understand our strategies and truly commit to realizing performance targets, which means someone needs to visit with them on a regular basis to ensure they do understand our strategies and then review with them how their efforts support these.
  • We are finding it tough to source local people with the right skills and experiences and those we can find are too expensive in terms of compensation expectations.
  • The local people speak a different language and their English language skills are not great, which makes it hard to know for sure what they are trying to convey during our calls. We need to see the project/work to understand more clearly what is really happening there.
  • The local people may not be forthcoming with bad news relating to projects in remote locations and they may possibly favor being cordial over risking our dismay.

The list is not exhaustive, but it does highlight some of the opportunities to find better ways going forward to avoid going back to the level of business travel we previously considered normal.

The term Glocal means to Think Global and Act Local and it is said that Akio Morita of Sony Corporation was the first person to use the term which became popular in the business world in the 1990s. How to think about the big picture and over-arching strategies goals and still be sensitive to local conditions and needs when you implement those big picture ideas? A balance would have to be created and it would be an ever-adjusting type of balance which is not fixed in place. To incorporate (for example) shifts in local legislation or new diversification strategies from HQ. Finding a way to keep this balance in place may lower the need to return to pre-covid business travel levels.

There are at least three ways to address this:
  1. Focus leadership development in a few key areas,
  2. Better teams – adjusting selection and development of staff, and
  3. Better use of technology – making more use of technologies to facilitate remote collaboration.

Better leadership

Having the judgment, problem-solving and decision-making skills to navigate in the space where one has to constantly balance global strategies and goals with local situations and conditions means leaders have to be comfortable with ambiguity, be constantly on the look-out and actively engaged in learning new skills and understanding how others have succeeded or failed in addressing what lies before the leader. Learning how to proactively include all team members including those who are “different” and to do this successfully leaders at HQ and remote locations need to understand their own biases and stereotyping. This will ensure that the skills of the entire team is leveraged in achieving performance goals. Lastly, leaders also need to have the ability to easily shift their perspective from global thinking to local acting and back in order to maintain the balance needed for the decision they need to make at that moment.

Better teams

Working on a diverse team with some team members in remote locations is something we have learned to do successfully over the last year. And this new skill has brought opportunities to get better results through teamwork without having to be present in an office or with the entire team. Will we ask – does this person have to be in the office every day of the week? Or will we consider hiring talent where we find it without feeling he or she needs to be relocated to HQ in order to be an effective member of our team?

To help existing teams be more inclusive and effective some specific or additional training may be needed around diversity. This training can include developing an improved understanding of cultural differences and perspective differences (for example among provinces or states in a country). It often comes down to increasing awareness of own biases and stereotypes that may have settled in our perspectives about groups of people who are very different from our own backgrounds.

Recruiters and hiring managers also have to start including additional skills in requisitions to fill vacancies. Skills like additional language skills – not only English – experience such as having lived and/or worked in a country other than their home countries.

When creating teams to work on performance improvement projects (action teams) – why not include people from different functions, locations and cultures on the team? It is a great way to increase your internal network of employees collaborating and communicating across locations.

All of these aspects can help a team become more global-minded and inclusive while making smarter choices working on local projects which impact broader strategies or targets in the company.

Use technology

In addition to tools for video-conferencing, there are tools which can help monitor progress or quality without having to travel to a location.

1. Hololens2: click this link to see short video of what it can do across various industries – there are ways for clients and HQ personnel to connect with someone using this technology at a remote location.

2. Realwear: click this link to see a short video of how it can be used to get input and advice from a person located remotely.

3. Some locations use drones to get an understanding of general progress on large construction projects and provide overall updates to managers at HQ. Drones can also be used to inspect hard-to-reach places safely.

4. Use a centralized electronic storage solution for files meaning all local files can easily be viewed from remote locations without needing to travel to a site.


While working smarter in these ways is also a way to lower pre-covid GHG and carbon emissions, many employees appreciate the flexibility of remote working options and combined with lower business travel needs it adds to having a better work-life balance. The amount of quality time spent with families and friends has also increased for most. All of which adds greatly to employee well-being. Looking for ways to leverage what we have learned by having to work remotely during 2020 can benefit companies and employees in greater ways than we may be able to realize now.

Stir up your Review Meetings


Have your review meetings for a process or a policy document turned into a low-value event where tons of slides are being shown and no real discussion takes place? Do you feel confident about the outcomes from your review meetings? What if you had a way to make the review meetings more structured and action-oriented, making sure everyone is engaged?

This activity will help you do that!

When your review meetings succeed they…

  • Result in improvements and updates that ensure your plan/policy is fit-for-purpose and comply with most recent business and legal requirements,
  • Make sure your plan/policy, in addition to fully complying with most recent legal and government requirements, also align with your company’s strategies,
  • Engage all stakeholders making sure every one of them has an opportunity to suggest ways to improve the policy/plan to better meet business needs and concerns, and
  • Enable you to get through internal and external audits with confidence.

The process

Divide your meeting participants into two groups and give each group a preparation assignment – Team Blue and Team Red. They are to arrive at the meeting, prepared to either defend or criticize the existing plan or policy and underpin their points with solid arguments based on research (doing homework before the meeting).

The blue team has the assignment to identify fact-based reasons why the existing plan or policy is fit-for-purpose, compliant, and good enough as it is today. While the red team has the assignment to research and come prepared to point out specific areas or aspects where the current plan or policy fails to address specific issues or factors.

Preparation

Each of the teams prepare before attending the meeting. The blue team will prepare in this way:

And preparation by the red time includes:

Members from each team bring their notes to the review meeting – prepared to substantiate their claims based on their pre-meeting homework assignments.

Meeting Agenda

After the meeting has been opened, objectives shared and the process discussed, the review process follows these steps:

  1. The Blue team summarizes the high-level benefits and explains how the current version of the document/policy is fit-for-purpose vs over-the-top in terms of mitigating, avoiding or managing risks associated with why the document/policy was originally created. (10 mins)
  2. The Red team then gets 10 minutes to summarize risks or changes to laws, which means that the current policy or document is not currently fit-for-purpose. They may comment on some aspects raised by the Blue Team too.
  3. The Blue team gets 10 – 15 mins to make their final statements: responding to anything specific that was mentioned by the Red team and also adding to any additional points related to key items they had mentioned during their opening summary. They would make specific mention of aspects that are strongly beneficial and need to remain in the policy/document.
  4. The Red team then makes their final statements in 10 – 15 mins. They would especially summarize key gaps between the current policy/document and aspects that would need to be addressed in the next version.

Path forward

The final part of the meeting consists of all meeting participants discussing and summarizing improvements that would be needed to the next version of the policy/document. In the process, they may assign various meeting participants to do additional research, align with stakeholders not present at the meeting, and/or write the updates or additional segments to add to the current policy/document.

An additional meeting may be needed to check-in on progress and finalize the updates that have been agreed upon.

Tips:

  • Do not run this with groups larger than 15 people. It would lead to a longer meeting and some people feeling less involved and engaged.
  • Be sure to state that the meeting is to take no more than 1 hour. If the process is followed for too long a period, it waters down the intent – focus – and gets more into minute details which are often best dealt with in post-meeting assignments.
  • Be sure to assign someone to be the time-keeper to keep an eye on the process – ensuring the meeting stays focused on the agreed approach and time-commitment. And be sure to note the path forward actions to help the designated coordinator with follow-up actions and close-out activities.

In general, this interactive approach to review meetings leaves participants much more energized and positive about meeting outcomes.

From Strategy to Performance Goals


Employees and Company Boards want the same thing – they want clarity around what you expect from employees, want feedback on how it is going from an outcomes perspective and want to know the steps you will take to fix it, in case outcomes are less than expected.

Most companies use a Balanced Scorecard approach whereby specific performance metrics in key performance or result areas from company strategies are used to set and monitor performance expectations into the company from the most senior roles to the most junior roles.

The benefits of this approach are numerous… for one you can get a good understanding of how well things are going with implementing your strategies in the company, you can make sure that all the initiatives being worked on relate to the strategy, identify organizational units or individual where things are going well or not so well – which mean you can provide support in the form of training for example. A balanced scorecard also helps to ensure you have organizational alignment where it is clear to every employee how he/she impacts the overall results of the company. And when an employee sees his or her own goals, it is easy for him/her to understand what exactly the company strategy and desired outcomes are about in a practical way.

Strategic Performance Areas

Having a cheat-sheet to get started may be useful…Performance Indicators can be set in many different areas. This list shows a few examples which may be handy as you read your own strategy and select the top performance areas that need to be impacted in your upcoming performance period.

In most cases 5 key performance areas would be chosen to balance current operations, growth goals, keeping current stakeholders satisfied and continuing to improve and innovate. e.g: 1) Financial outcome(s), 2) Quality outcome(s), 3) Customer satisfaction outcome(s), 4) Improving upon performance and efficiencies of previous years, and 5) Employee (leaders/specialists?) development and or retention outcomes.

Example

Let’s look at some specific KPIs and how they may translate into performance expectations into the organization. From high organizational levels deeper into the organization the goals become more specific to an individuals’ tasks and activities. In contrast, the goals of managers are typically focused on their ability to influence and lead the outcomes of teams or groups reporting into him or her. Managers ensure that things happen while in most cases the deeper you go into the organization, the more you see performance goals are based on the individual’s efforts to achieve an outcome.

Performance goals typically come in various types of outcomes based on how your KPI would require the right response to meet the company strategy.

Setting Expectations

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Cascading goals

Starting with the company’s strategy (at the highest level) the CEO or executive team can easily identify the top 4 to 7 Performance Areas where focus is needed to drive outcomes needed in the coming year. From there the heads of functions or organizational units can identify what that means for each of their organizations. Then performance goals for each organizational unit manager can be determined . And the same process cascades down until performance goals have been set for everyone at the company. All of the goals finally relate to a big-picture framework of KPIs at the top level of the organization.

Most performance expectations are set as SMART goals and each employee would typically end up with between 3 and 7 (max) performance goals for the year.

The graphic below shows how at individual level the goal may be a specific part of the overall KPI but when it is all “rolled-up” organizationally the full organizational KPI can be achieved in full by all employees contributing to the desired outcome. Not every organization group or unit might support every high-level KPI. Think for example of an organizational unit responsible for the upkeep of facilities, there may not be direct goals that relate to revenue growth for that group.

Note Goal E: It does not relegate to a KPI at the broader organizational level. This happens often – for example that a functional organization has a specific focus which may not directly relate to the KPIs that were set on a company-wide basis. That could be something like finalize implementation of a digital tool which enables better efficiency the following year. If there are no high-level KPIs related to improving on existing performance/efficiency, Goal E would not have a direct link to the overall high-level KPIs set. For this reason, it is important to set the high-level KPIs in a broad and balanced way to ensure that most goals that would be important at a level deeper into the organization to maintain or improve a specific level of efficiency or service delivery can be matched with the high-level need for renewal or continuous improvement. Some companies do not think broader than revenue or growth goals.

Interim feedback

It is important for managers to monitor outcomes along the way – do not wait until the end of the year to discover that outcomes were not trending in the right direction. Spotting issues or delays early means you can rectify or influence rectification of the situation. Give employees feedback throughout the year – make them aware of outcomes that deviate from desired outcomes, train and coach them to improve outcomes that they are responsible for and give them on-the-job coaching and support when they are inexperienced in specific areas. Every outcome matters and contributes to the overall outcome.

Learning

Evaluating outcomes and discussing those with employees is the next step. This step also includes looking at relative performance outcomes among various organizational units and overall outcomes. This can lead to an improved understanding of where further improvements may be needed. Improvements can range from awareness training, making more information available, helping to upskill or cross-skill employees in various areas. It may also lead to understand misalignment with what suppliers can or are delivering or misalignment between customer expectations and what operations is able to deliver right now.

Use what you learn from discussing performance outcomes to influence future performance outcomes and support that might be needed for the next year.

In the final outcome of the performance period you will have individual scores that relate to individual performance. When you look one level higher you see the contributions of various employees in the same organizational unit and how each of them did on their own performance goals. If the goals were created to be an exact match – between goals set for the manager and those set for those reporting to the manager – the aggregate outcome of the team would determine the manager’s score.

Looking at the organization, it is easy to pinpoint where contributions by individuals, teams, managers may not have reached expected results in the outcomes.
Understanding why this occurred would help learning from the past and improving going forward. Answering questions like:
  • Knowing what we know now, were these realistic expectations or do we need to first solve some key issues before we can make more progress in this area?
  • Do people need more training to make sure they are able to perform in new areas or with new outcomes (such as new markets or types of customers)?
  • Is this area so specialized that we need to hire some people with the specialized knowledge or experience that this team needs?

Most companies are on a learning path when it comes to their own performance management process and approach. If you are just starting, do expect it to be a journey and make sure you allow space for reviewing, reflecting and learning as you go. It may lead you to make adjustments to your strategy or the way the organization is structured, to name but a few ways that on-going organizational learning can benefit the greater organization.

Ultimately the goal of your performance management approach is to measure how much the efforts of those in the organization are helping you achieve your goals as a company, where are hidden barriers to succeeding with your organizational strategies and where are opportunities to accelerate results if you leverage great ideas and tools developed in any part of the organization. This makes your company sustainable into the future. Viable today and into the future by continuously evolving, learning and innovating without losing focus of the basic outcomes needed to drive profitability on an on-going basis.

Stakeholders – How to keep them happy


Stakeholders

Not shareholders – they are the ones who own shares in the company. Stakeholders are those groups of people who have a keen interest in the initiative or process that you are working on. It could be because your success or your failure will impact their groups or processes in their groups. It could also be because your initiative could generate risks which they would like to keep an eye on. For some reason, these people or groups care more than the average person or employee about the initiative that you are working on.

It is therefore smart to understand who they are and secondly to understand why they care so much about this initiative. And as a result of what you learn, you can plan to keep them happy and informed. If you don’t, you risk them blocking or stalling progress on your initiative, or (if in executive levels) they may put another person in place to supervise you to make sure their interests are well-managed and protected.

For your success as a project manager of an initiative – find out who the stakeholders are, find out what they need and make sure you meet their needs!

Find out who they are

Which groups have processes that overlap or connect to processes you are managing? Who are the receivers or end-users of what you are creating? Answers to these questions could help you start your list of stakeholders.

Tips:

  • Start outside your organizations – are there any authorities, special interest groups, communities, clients, suppliers who are somehow connected to the product or service that you are providing? They may be stakeholders!
  • Look at the high-level organization chart of your company. Do any of the groups you see contribute to, receive outcomes, or participate in key processes you are managing? If so, add them to your stakeholder list.
  • Look for individuals at management levels who may need to give others updates on your project or processes you manage. They may also be stakeholders.

What do they care about?

Once you have your list of stakeholders with their titles and even down to name level. It is time to validate their interest in your project or process.

What they need:

Why would they care about the outcomes of your process or the way you run the project? Do they need information for their role or group? Or do they use the outcomes from your project somehow?

What they want to avoid:

What outcomes or messages would each of the identified stakeholders want to avoid? Think of anything that would cause them to have to do extra work or have to explain unsatisfactory results.

Make a plan

Use the template below to document a plan that you follow throughout the year to ensure each of your stakeholder groups receive required data, updates or opportunities to provide input or suggestions to your project on a regular basis.

Templates to download

Check-in on a regular basis with your stakeholders whether it is a quarterly survey or a personal call from you. Make sure that you have not missed anything they need to know or be informed about and make sure that they are not dealing with rising frustration due to a lack of updates or output from your team!

Learning how to manage the expectations of stakeholders on an initiative is a great way to learn new skills which will become important as you get promoted to take on more responsibilities. People at higher levels in any organization succeed by keeping aligned with a lot of different personalities and groups and they do this by understanding the needs and concerns of these other parties and then managing that (in a similar way as managing stakeholder expectations) on an ongoing basis.

3 Templates to start your employee development program


Upgrading skills in specific employee groups could be achieved by introducing a new development program. Goals for the program could range from cross-training in key functional knowledge areas to accelerating development of specific groups. Development programs often run over several weeks or months and are attached to pre-defined outcomes to address specific identified learning needs.

Structuring your employee development plan, you will need to pay attention to at least 3 important aspects:

  1. Setting up the curriculum
  2. Preparing managers to be supportive
  3. Preparing attendees to succeed

The overall program

Setting up the curriculum over the development period means you decide how the various learning solutions are scheduled and planned to strengthen and support key messages throughout the time period that your program runs. Each aspect strengthens what had already been covered while adding additional knowledge. Including various learning methodologies (blended learning) enhances the learning experience and keeps it interesting.

Snapshot of a learning program for graduates

Note:

  1. Always start by understanding what you are trying to address before you start designing your development program. What is the learning need? What is the business value of employees having this knowledge and experience?
  2. When does the business need employees with these new skills, understanding and experiences? Is it short-term (within the next year), medium-term (between 1 and 2 years) or is it longer term (more than 2 years)? Knowing the timeframe also helps you decide what to develop internally vs outsourcing the entire program or parts of it.
  3. Who needs to learn these new skills/behaviors? Be very clear who is your target population for this development program (How many years of experience do they have right now? What kind of experience do they already have – functional, geographic etc.).

Preparing managers to support learners

Employees are more motivated and do better when their managers are onboard with their participation in the development program. Be sure to engage with managers before participants are told about the program. Managers need to understand the business context of the development program, why someone on his/her team is included in the program (if they were not nominated by the manager) and how to support the employee throughout the program. Some manages may need training or coaching in this regard.

Snapshot of a manager checklist

Employees participating in these kinds of development programs are often still working in their current roles. Supportive managers not only expect good results in their departments or projects, but also hold employees accountable for completing program assignments. This gives employees the best chance of completing the program successfully.

Preparing attendees to succeed

Development program attendees need to understand more than just the program contents and overview of dates. An orientation session for intended program attendees could help with that. The session gives them an opportunity to understand the business context and benefits to their own careers plus they can ask clarifying questions before committing to invest the time and effort needed to successfully complete the program.

Snapshot of Program Attendee checklist

And orientation session with development program attendees should include at least these topics:

  • A welcome message from an executive, usually the sponsoring executive, explaining the business value of the development program and also career benefits for attendees.
  • A message from Talent Development explaining program expectations, the blended learning approach, deadlines, the team assignment and any other relevant details of the program that attendees should know about at the start.
  • If the program existed before and there was a redesign or some changes were applied, explain how the current programs differs from previous versions some attendees may have heard about in the past.
  • Provide the opportunity for some Q&A

Keeping learners motivated when a development program runs over many months can be a challenge. Helping to keep attendees focused on assignments and deadlines can be easier when you build in challenges which generate leader boards (friendly competition) or where individuals can earn points or badges by completing specific tasks. Adding recognition by the manager/group/department can also be helpful. Recognition can include anything from a small token offered to attendees after completing a specific portion of the program to being mentioned in the company newsletter.

Hopefully these three templates (see download links above) are useful as you review your own planned development program. Do download the 3 files above if you need to see the templates in detail.

7 ways to fix your team


If you shine a light on any team you will notice some areas where processes, communication or collaboration can be better. In many cases a team can function well enough even with a few improvement opportunities. Want to do a snapshot checkup on your team? The downloadable tool below can help you identify any specific areas to focus on if you feel your team performance can use a nudge in the right direction.

When teams fail it is usually recognized as a combination of the team not reaching desired outcomes, team members feeling a high level of dissatisfaction and frustration with team processes and other team members and team leaders failing to accomplish their own goals for the team and for their own career growth.

The 7 aspects of teams shown below are classic areas where low performance could lead to team failures.

7 troubles with teams

Taking a closer look

Step 1

The first column to complete is the scoring column. The question would be – how do I know that my team may be experiencing this trouble? The audit list gives you a possible symptom of observable behavior on either side of the scale: desirable (give this a score of 5 if your team shows this behavior) and undesirable (give this a score of 1 if your team shows this behavior). Should your team display behavior that is somewhere between those two opposites select a score between 1 and 5 that you feel is most accurate to describe how far they may be from either end. Perhaps a score of 3 would be appropriate if you see desirable behavior only 50% of the time.

Step 2

Look at the column called impact. When you look at the behaviors defined as undesired and also the other column containing desired behaviors, how much does it impact the outcomes produced by your team when those behaviors are present or not present? Maybe the impact is “high” if you consider how many hours are wasted when that behavior is present? Maybe it is only “medium” which means some time or effort is wasted, but not too much. And it could also be a “low” impact if that particular behavior does not contribute highly to the inefficiencies you experience as a team experiencing a particular aspect from the audit list.

Step 3

Evaluate your results by looking at both the scores column and the impact column. The graphic below shows the way to identify which of the aspects to focus on when it comes to prioritizing an area to address:

The download file above gives you an audit sheet to use in order to capture results for step 1 and 2.

How to fix any of those?

Once you have the priorities from step 3, it is time to take action.

For each of the area that can be addressed, there are some ideas of how to address that area for the team.

The download file above has suggestions for each of the 7 areas that can be addressed.

Remember

Every team has good times and bad times. Just because your team just did very well, it does not mean it will necessarily continue to go well. And just because your team failed last week, it does not mean there is no way to make it a high-performing team!

Use the tool above to take a closer look at your team and I wish you success in mapping out your next steps; helping your team be even better than it was before!

5 things to consider before launching your own surveys


It is easy to think “I will just create a quick survey for that” and then go off and email a link out to a group of people to collect responses. Looking at the big picture perspective, firstly be clear on your overall survey objectives and how you will use the input you receive.

Once you have defined that, take a few more minutes to think through 5 key aspects of launching a survey before you proceed:

  1. What exactly is the message?
  2. The platform you plan to use
  3. CHECK the text
  4. The intro matters
  5. The thank you

The message

Launching a survey is a message too

(It says: I want to know, I value your opinion, I am listening, Tell me what you think)

Take the time to write down all the messages about the survey that intended participants need to know. What do other stakeholders need to know – think of managers who may need to help you communicate to their groups about the survey. What do you need to make sure they know about it before your launch date?

People need to know what the survey is for and why it is important. What is this survey linked to and how do you hope to use the input to drive decision-making?

When can they expect the survey to be open and how will they access it? Link via email or QR codes around the building/email or will it be an app on their mobile devices?

Will you be emailing out the announcement of the survey or is there a communication plan that is much broader than the survey? Perhaps some messages will be on social media or notice boards? If you need to make a communication plan, this template can help:

Be sure to share this information with intended survey participants when you map out your communication messages:

  • This survey is coming on (date)
  • The reason we do this is (….)
  • What we hope to review/change/update/introduce as a result of this survey is (…)
  • Why we are asking for your input is (…..)
  • It will only take (…..) minutes of your time to complete
  • We will let you know about the results (time) and (how/where)
  • How will you protect their privacy and if the survey contains sensitive information – who will see it and how long will you maintain the data before destroying it?
  • Can they participate anonymously?

The platform

There are various survey platforms available these days – some are free, and others are not. In general, those with paying options come with additional features such as help to analyse your data, automatic graphic creations for communicating your survey results, text analysis options etc.

Whichever platform you choose to use, test it first. Create a quick survey and send out the link to some trusted colleagues or to yourself to see how it displays. Can you access the survey using the link without any firewalls or other error screens interfering with ease of access? Is it easy to complete the survey online? Is there a phone app for it? How well does the phone app work?

Also look at the reports you can get from the platform. To what degree does the platform offer you some level of analysis as a download? Can you download a spreadsheet which you then need to analyse yourself to create a presentation or a report? Knowing what remains for you to do is an important consideration in choosing the right platform for the survey.

Check the text

Make sure you have read each sentence out aloud. Missing words or repeated words can be overlooked when you just glance through your survey. Reading it out loud – word for word – often highlights areas that may need to be reworded or corrected. Answer these questions about your survey wording:

  • Do the instructions make sense? If I ask other people how they would interpret the instructions you plan to use, would they know what to do next?
  • Is each question or statement to be rated constructed in a simple way to avoid confused answers? i.e. do not ask about more than one thing at the same time such as “do you think it was easy to do and did you like the fun tests we handed out at cafeteria last week?” In this case your results could be hard to interpret. If the final scores are low, was it because people thought it was NOT easy or was it because they did NOT like it? Or was it both?
  • If the platform has a spell check function, use it. If it does not, copy and paste the text into a document where you are able to check spelling before you proceed to launch the survey

The intro matters

Even if you did a great job at communicating about the survey in your communication plan activities and presentation messages, people may not have seen or heard all of your early messages. Tell them the highlights in the introduction section of the survey: (after the survey title and before you start with your questions or statements to rate etc).

Intro points:

  • What it is FOR?
  • Why are THEY asked for input?
  • What will you DO with the information obtained?
  • Is it anonymous or will you be telling others what they said in the survey?
  • By WHEN do you expect their response to have been completed after which you will close the survey?
  • HOW LONG is it likely to take participants to complete the survey?

Say thank you

When people answer your surveys, they are prioritizing your request given other tasks that lie before them. They are making time out of often busy days to provide you with feedback. A simple thank you message can go a long way to ensure people are open to respond to future survey participation requests.

And while you are saying thank you, it may be an idea to provide a link to a website to visit if they want to find out more, volunteer or whatever other actions you would like them to take after completing the survey.

Surveys are so easy to create these days and the need to collect recent data and employee feedback is becoming more mainstream in companies than in previous decades. The annual employee survey is no longer the only way that change managers and management obtain feedback. Surveys can be a powerful feedback tool and yet, they can also create confusion and frustration if they are not communicated and launched with some forethought and planning.

Avoid Leader Derailment


The Center for Creative leadership’s (CCL) research on executive success and failure identified the significance of “derailers”, and how they differ from just mere weaknesses. They studied leaders who made it to at least the General Manager level, but then their careers had involuntarily stalled, or they had been demoted, dismissed, or asked to take early retirement.

A derailer is not just a weakness. We all have many weaknesses that we may never choose to improve, and some weaknesses do not impact our career success in a major way. A derailer is a weakness that requires improvement if employees wish to realize their full potential in their careers and especially as leaders.

Why do leaders fail?

Leaders most often fail due to unaddressed weaknesses, derailers, and if left unaddressed for long enough these become habits that start to shape a leader’s style of interacting with others. The steady number of reported incidents involving significant leadership behavior issues in companies of all sizes and across industries is a strong reminder not to think that it cannot happen in your company.

Most leadership derailers will not cause the fall of an entire organization. But they can certainly lead to a failed career. The question you need to ask yourself is: “What type of derailers would cause a leader in my organization to fail?” Or, as a leader, “Which derailers am I prone to and how can I address them?”

How do successful leaders avoid derailment?

  1. They seek feedback throughout their careers from people at various leadership levels and from various functions both within the organization and external to the organization (as appropriate).
  2. He or she seeks developmental opportunities that can help overcome flaws and ask for developmental advice from other trusted leaders, coaches, or confidants.
  3. They seek extra support and coaching during transitions and especially when a possible “trigger” event occurs, which they do not cope well with.
  4. They remain aware that new jobs require new approaches and behaviors and successful leaders not only recognize this but reach out to ensure they have the right support and advice to successfully navigate through a transition into a new role.

How can the organization help to avoid a leader from derailing?

Organizations can take actions to ensure that leaders are aware of weaknesses which could derail them in the future and the following cautions can help with that:

  • Consider career paths that include time spent in various different groups, business units, or functions instead of a career path that simply moves in a straight vertical line within the organization.
  • Encourage and promote feedback to employees that focuses on “how you did it” instead of “what you did” only.
  • Beware to not consider one failure by a leader as a sign that he or she is completely “off the track” and using it as a critical development need to address instead.
  • Avoid moving managers to new roles too fast and instead allow them to remain in a role long enough to experience the consequence of business decisions and learn from it. A strong culture of learning and “failing forward” is a great environment for leaders to address high-risk weaknesses at an early stage of their careers.

Identify possible derailers – Self Assessment for leaders

This self assessment can be done between a leader and his or her coach to open up conversations about “what can stop me from reaching my leadership goals and ambitions?”

An honest look at the listed factors can help a leader identify perhaps the one or two behavioral traits that could possibly derail him or her in the future. Working with a coach, a leader can explore different ways to handle some of the situations which they had not handled well in the past.

Both organizations and leaders within the organization need to take responsibility for identifying signs of weaknesses that could derail a leader in future and then commit to addressing the issue before it becomes a derailer. The costs of failure in this area is not only public humiliation for the leader and a public relations challenge for companies, but also has tangible costs when one considers for example costs associated with a high staff turnover, which often accompanies groups where the derailed leader has worked over the years.  

Learning Book


A learning book is a great tool to use for learners who are keen to capture the key points of learning moments. It is also useful for coaches or trainers who may want to make them available to coachees or class participants to help them along on their learning journey. A pdf version of a learning book is available for free download below – letter size, A4 size an A5 size.

To really learn something new, one must chew on it – write it down, read what you wrote and then consider how it changes your perspective or increases your awareness or understanding. The learning book helps learners to capture ideas and thoughts. It gives them a chance to go back and review what they had written before to remind learners of what they had thought at the time and planned to do about their own continued learning.

“Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.”

– George Iles –

There are many ways that someone can learn something. Classroom sessions are not the only option. See the list of opportunities to learn below: (and this list is not exhaustive)

The learning book is a place to capture all new thoughts, ideas, and areas that a learner wants to learn more about in one place.

Feel free to add additional pages that would help guide the learner along a developmental path.

The book is broken down into 3 parts: Prepare to learn, Learning, and Follow-up. In the preparation to learn section, there is space to capture the topics that the learner would like to know more about.

Prepare to learn

Learning

The learning section has a few pages to prompt learners about aspects that may be important for them to remember later. It covers aspects such as areas to research further after the learning event. Or maybe they want to capture the highlights of their learning journey a particular week. Maybe there were a few statements of quotes that they really want to remember – the learning book has a page for that. There is also a page to capture any favorite speakers or writers that they came across and want to know more about.

Follow up

After a learning event or conference, we often have great plans for new initiatives to implement or people to contact – topics to research. And unfortunately, many of those great ideas dissipate when our normal lives resume. The Follow-up section is about capturing the actions you plan to take and it gives you a section to capture dates or months when you plan to work on it.

It’s a great way to help you check back on how you are doing with follow-up activities.

Reviewing your own learning notes from the last few months can help you pick-up again on an interesting point you still wanted to follow up on. Perhaps you had planned to call someone or to do an internet search, but somehow you forgot about it. Having it written down in your learning book and being able to review it, you can pick up on those points and ensure that you do complete the task that you had planned to do.

The download file links below contain *.pdf versions of a learning book for 3 different printed sizes: letter size, A4 size and A5 size (which is half the size of an A4).

Steps to creating a life you love


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When someone wants to change something about his or her life or create new outcomes in key areas, they often need more than just someone telling them to create goals and then implement it. Most people seem to need the steps more clearly spelled out and a workbook or playbook is something they really appreciate.

The steps can be broken down in the steps shown below. The downloadable worksheets link is right here:

Step 1:

Understand the process:

Step 2:

What matters to you?

Being clear on what matters to you makes it easier to understand WHY you would want more of some things in your life and less of others things in your life. While most people think they know the answers to these questions, you will notice how much clearer it gets when you have to write it down and then read it back to yourself.

Step 3:

Do I have time for this?

Most of us would have more time to work on projects that matter to us if we simply started eliminating activities that do not add value to our lives – based on what is important to us. The next two sheets first of all help to highlight how you spend your weeks (typically) and then help you identify how much time you could potentially free up for working on meaningful activities to get you closer to the life that you want for yourself.

Step 4:

What would I like to achieve?

This sheet starts with jotting down new outcomes that one would like to see in some key areas and then it moves to the right planning needed – which activities would do you plan to do in each month? The overall objective is to avoid having competing priorities within the same time of the year. Spacing activities out over a year period helps to ensure you keep focused while making progress in the most important areas over a 12-month period. Note that is is almost always a good idea to pick only maybe two or three projects to work on every month to avoid feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. Those two can lead to feeling demotivated and abandoning all of your plans to create a life you can love.

Step 5:

How will I move forward?

This step gets into more detail regarding your plan. There is an area to select what the next step may be for each of the projects you want to work on. It could be that you may need to gather more information or maybe you need to reach out to more people to learn from them or get advice from them- but who? Perhaps you need to build a prototype or get others to give you feedback on your idea? Maybe you need to try to see how it works for you – trying a new way of doing something? The page continues on with identifying whom you know who could help you with advice or maybe introduce you to someone who could help you. And then finally identifying where (place or area of interest) you need to do some research to find out more about what you could explore next and which organizations in your area may be able to help you move forward.

Step 6:

What is my plan for the next few months?

Looking at what needs to be investigated or one over the next few months, this sheet provides a space to keep rack of the top 2 or 3 things you would like to achieve this month to move forward on the projects you have picked for the next few months. There is also a handy check-box which helps you keep track of completed activities versus ones that are still open.

Step 7:

How am I doing?

Sometimes we start on the path of working on life improvement projects and then we get stuck or we get so distracted that we lose our focus. There are many reasons why we might get stuck but getting unstuck is not always easy. This sheet helps you do that.

Taking you from your original objectives, this sheet helps you acknowledge how far you got and what you have completed. Then it helps you think through what the next steps would be. You may need to continue making progress and maybe you need to stop and ask for advice or get more information in order to move forward.

Step 8:

Go back to Step 2 and renew your plans

When you have worked through the sheets and some months have passed it is a good idea to go back and review the reasons you are working on the projects – which are captured in Step 2. Then follow through each of your completed sheets to consider what you might like to change or add to your planning to renew your approach. Some projects end up unfinished because they seem less important once yo have taken more time to do research and talk to people with more knowledge in a specific area. It is okay to decide to abandon these project if they do not matter to you anymore.

Other new projects may be started while a few may continue from your earlier efforts and enter new phases – maybe you are ready to finalize a website or start selling something you have been meaning to put on the market.

I hope these workbook/playbook pages have given you new enthusiasm to plan out and move forward on creating more outcomes in your life that matter to you resulting in having a life that you love!