Manage Risks of Early Promotion


Staged Promotions – Accelerate role-readiness using focused development with check-ins

Leaders are not always ready the moment you need them to step into a new role. An inexperienced leader can increase risks in continued customer satisfaction, operational / execution risks, and employee satisfaction and retention. Using a a staged promotion could be a way to mitigate risks, while ensuring that leadership development is accelerated and monitored with defined targets on knowledge gained and skills and competencies gained during each period within a specified timeline.

Process and Timeline

The graphic below outlines the process and shows an example of running the process over a 9-month period. The duration of such a process can vary but watch out for making the period too long – longer than 12 months. It can lead to process fatigue and demotivation of the leader. It is important that the process starts with an orientation to ensure the leader understands how the process will work and what is on the other side of the development period. The leader should be clear on what he/she is signing up for.

Defined learning path

During the development period, there needs to be a few concrete check-in points whereby the leader is demonstrating knowledge, skills and insights gathered and learned over the period. Instead of making the check-in points being general discussions, it is useful to select a few key focus areas for a presentation to be delivered at the end of each of the development periods.

Each check-in event needs to result in specific feedback being captured and shared with the developing leader. The feedback helps him/her to further focus and improve on their learning approach for the remaining learning periods.

The final check-in is usually the final decision-point where the executives present are willing to confirm the promotion of the leader – ending the interim nature of the assignment.

The example below shows how a project or facility leader can be assigned specific areas to learn about over the 9-month period. Each of the areas are important for the normal day-to-day activities of the developing leader and the focus simply means nothing is missed in helping the leader perform well in the role in future. It helps to include the strategic and the “why” part of a role since a new role is often mostly or mainly about the “what” to get done.

Notes

  • The orientation step which helps the leader understand the design of the development path, the role he or she has and also how to ensure his/her own success making use of available internal and external development resources. Before the orientation session, a leader has typically already understood from his/her manager that they are offered the development opportunity on an interim basis and the leader has agreed to proceed. The leader also needs to know what happens if he/she does not succeed at the end? Will they get a different assignment and what might that be?
  • Preparing the executives before the check-in events (when check-in events are set up to be a presentation followed by questions and answers). Executives need to understand the design of the development path, the purpose of the focus areas, the development needs of the leader and how they are to capture their feedback to be presented back to the leader after the event.
  • Feedback to the leader should be specific and be a balance of activities that are good to maintain, which ones to develop further and which ones to start or stop going forward. Specific examples of desirable behaviors or results should be highlighted. A discussion on risk identification and management may also be useful to help the developing leader understand how to adjust own focus to best mitigate and manage risks associated with own development as a leader as well as risks associated with the role..
  • This process is very useful to help a leader understand what the new role would include when they are meeting all expectations of stakeholders. A leader who feels uncomfortable meeting all those expectations will typically ask to be taken off the development path before the end having realize it is not for him or her. And this allows for re-assignment and solving the leadership vacancy in a different way.

Listening to a presentation by the leader on the assigned topics goes a long way towards providing executives with a sense of comfort (or alarm!) in terms of what can be expected from this leader in this role going forward. While these check-in points should not be the only determinant of how the leader is performing in the new role or estimating future behavior, it is a great way to understand the reasoning a leader applies in making business determinations and decisions and how the leader approach problem-solving when faced with adverse situations.

Top 10 Reasons Why Communication Fails


We all had times when we were misunderstood or simply did not feel we truly understood what someone else was trying to say. When you have communicators from different national backgrounds, the chances of misunderstandings increase. If you also throw in the fact that only a handful of people in the room have English as a first language, the chances of misunderstandings are magnified even further.

Here are the top 10 reasons why messages may be understood by your intended audience:

What can you do about it?

Wisdom is realizing there is only so much you can impact or control, other factors you may be able to influence, but not change or control. Focus on what you are able to do.

Cultural impact: Whereas you may not be able to impact where someone grew up, you can learn more about the cultures of others on your team to correctly anticipate any possible impediments to your messages being understood or interpreted correctly.

Not my Language: Knowing how many of your team members do not have English as a first language can help you prepare your messages using simple sentence structures and more common words to avoid confusion.

Distractions (obvious): Ensure that there are no distractions to people being able to pay attention to and maximize their ability to understand you correctly during meetings. In remote settings, having participants on mute where ambient noise causes a distraction on the video call. You can also ask everyone to turn on their cameras to improve engagement during a remote call.

Fake news – Source reliability: Ensure that any data you plan to use is sourced from reliable sources – reputable research companies or institutions. Making the resource material or reports available to team members may further positively impact your ability to avoid your message not being accepted due to doubts about the source of key facts presented during your meeting.

What they know: Ensuring that intended meeting participants have enough pre-reading to help them fully engage with the topics you wish to discuss may avoid spending time filling in knowledge gaps that some may have on the topic. Where your topic may be controversial, do not shy away from mentioning opposing views and why you do not support those perspectives.

What they prefer: If you have a high number of team members who prefer to have material available earlier to study it and form their opinions, consider sending key reports out before the meeting. This will improve chances of having an engaging discussion about the topics you plan to cover in your meeting.  Some intended meeting participants may focus more on the financial data, or operational data etc. Be sure to have relevant information available to address predictable questions in these areas.

Judgement before you said a word: If there is something unusual about your appearance of name, consider mentioning it up front or tell a story about it to neutralize the observation and get their attention. Make sure you dress for the occasion to avoid interfering with your own messages.

The last four categories are not easy to impact since they are closely linked to everyone’s psychological make-up or habits. Based on past experiences, personal beliefs and values, people will naturally be drawn towards or away from agreeing with your perspective on a range of topics. Knowing your team or those who would attend your presentations, might help you avoid the pitfalls. Other than that, you may need to use pre-engagement and post-engagement activities to give your messages a higher chance of being correctly interpreted and understood.

The Checklist

Click below to download an excel checklist to help you do a quick check – where can you be more effective when you communicate? Perhaps the checklist shows areas impacting your communication with a key team member. Talking about specific areas impacting your communication success, you may be able to improve your ability to correctly interpret and understand each other’s messages.

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.

Don’t hit send (yet)


Maybe the truth is that nobody is helping new employees focus their efforts in order to produce better reports or emails. And by better, I mean some of the items that are in this checklist (below). Perhaps, instead, it is the excitement and eagerness to hit the send button too soon.

Let’s walk through 5 things you can do to ensure that your email or your report or slide deck does not suffer from a few preventable ailments and risk being deemed as “not ready yet” for further distribution. Delivering work that is incomplete or incorrect will not lead to being considered for more responsibilities any time soon. Want to move up? Focus on the quality of your work first.

All names spelled correctly

Most people find it annoying to read minutes of meetings or a report which names them but misspells their first or last names. This is completely avoidable these days. With the internet and most people having Linkedin accounts, or in the same company you can look people up on the email system. There is no reason why we should be misspelling people’s names these days. When you do not take the time to double-check, it comes across as callous, lazy, or just not committed to producing quality work.

All dates are correct

Not all countries use the same format for dates. This would be the first point to consider – who will read your email/report? Check (online if needed): how do they write dates in that country? If you have a distribution list including people from multiple countries, consider writing the date out more: 3 Mar 2019 (for example)

The second point is more often a bugbear of mine – dates in the same document contradicting one another. For example: on page 2 of the slide deck it states that the project is completed on 2 Dec of that year, on page 5 it states that the project will run well into the new year and completion is projected to be the end of March of the next year. Which one is correct? If they are both correct – explain the term completion used on slides 2 and 5. Always check the latest version of your reference material or project schedule before you finalize your section on dates. It reflects badly on the creator of a document or slide deck where dates are misaligned and confusing. Check first!

Spelling or grammar errors

It is very avoidable these days to produce and send documents or slides to others without spelling errors. Use the built-in spell-check in Microsoft suite or a similar feature in other packages used. Some packages will also pick up grammar errors and flag it for you – if you have that feature turned on! Sometimes a missing word is not picked up by built-in checks. Read your own text back to yourself – aloud. Say each word. And make sure the words are not correctly spelled but actually the wrong word for the context. Examples would include: they’re/their/there or hear/here/hair

Use sane fonts

Some companies have branded templates to use for creating reports or slides. If your company does not have rules around branding which include the font colors, types, and sizes to use in company documents and slides, I would go with common sense. This would include – not using all the colors of the rainbow and multiple types of font in a project progress report and not varying the size of the font in every bullet-point you use. [Of course, if you are in the creative world and these variations are a design part of your project (as would be normal in advertising or other creative endeavors) this message is not for you].

Make it easier

Is there a clear structure to your work? Think about the message you want to communicate. What are the main points, what are the next level of detailed points to support each of the main points? Structuring your reports or emails greatly enhances the readers’ abilities to quickly understand what it is about, what the options are, and what you are proposing.

Use headings for distinct paragraphs and consider a bulleted list to align points that are grouped together under a heading. If the sequence or number of points are relevant, why not use a numbered list instead?

Speed in sending out reports is often not the biggest priority. Sending out something fast while the items listed above are incorrect or incoherent can truly harm your reputation. You would not come across as someone who has self-discipline, pride in the quality of your work, or who is seen as thorough – someone your boss can trust to give more responsibilities to! Pause, check, then hit send!

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!

Competence – getting to the top level


According to competence development, there are four levels that a learner goes through on their journey to being consciously competent at a skill they wish to be good at. Knowing which level you are at for the new skill or competency that you are trying to learn is important, but it is also true that until someone gains awareness almost nobody knows when they are at level 1.

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Level 4 is the goal that any learner wants to achieve, and it is that state of skillfulness that does not require effort to execute. Think for example of how you tie your shoelaces or drive your car. If you have been doing it for a few years you can probably have many other thoughts in your head and while you are doing it. This is possible because you have reached Level 4 in the skills required to tie your shoelaces or drive your car.

Going from Level 1 to Level 4

Level 1 means you are not skilled at something specific, but you do not know it. Until someone provides you with feedback in this area or until you are somehow confronted with the fact that you have no or limited skills in a specific area. We do not even think about that area as something we need to work on and we are often blissfully unaware of the potential development need in an area. The main way to move out of level 1 is to ask for feedback and to look for ways to understand how your behavior, actions, communications and way of working impact others.

From Level 1 to Level 2 – Get input. When was the last time you asked a friend, a co-worker or a family member “Tell me one thing that I would have to get better at if I would be a better friend/co-worker/member of this family or better at my job?”

Going from Level 2 to Level 3 – Learn and practice using new ways of doing or thinking. This is where the heavy-lifting comes into play. To make this transition of learning a new skill takes focus, dedicating time in your busy schedule to actively acquire a new skill. This requires a lot of discipline and you will not only need to schedule the time for this, but you will need to practice what you are learning on a regular basis and keep track of your own progress. It is important also in this stage to get input from others so that you can gauge the progress you are making towards acquiring and demonstrating skilfulness in new areas.

Going from Level 3 to Level 4 – It just happens. There comes a day when someone mentions that you have been demonstrating your skills in a new area without you being aware of making the effort. At that time, you will have acquired an unconsciously skilled state whereby you no longer need to focus or concentrate very hard in order to demonstrate your skill in a particular area.

What is the value of using this model?

If you are a trainer, it is important to know at which stage your training participants are because it would drive the kinds of information you make available, the kinds of practice sessions you build into your training class and the kinds of tests you provide for them to measure their progress. A pre-test or exercise can often help determine the level of awareness and knowledge that training participants have in the skills area(s) that you will be focusing on during the class. For example, a trainer may use more assessments to increase awareness if the class is at level 1 or the trainer may use more practical exercises and instructional sessions if the person is at level 2 or 3.

As a mentor, it is important to understand not only the goals and development needs that a mentee would like to work on but also what his or her current level of competence is in that particular area. This knowledge helps you to provide helpful guidance to help him or her reach the next level of competence.

As a leader of a department or a function, you will likely have people within your group or team that are at different levels of competence. Situational Leadership will be required from you as you assign tasks, delegate or provide feedback to each person focusing on the level of competence that he or she is at for that particular skill set that is needed.

Having a framework and process for moving from unconscious incompetence to being consciously competent helps mentors and learners. It is easier to select the right developmental tool or resource for development when it is clear which level of being skilled the learner is at. And the starting point is most often the results from 360 reports for leaders or communication and collaboration style feedback tools and exercises.


Note 1:
In February 1969, management trainer Martin M. Broadwell called the model “the four levels of teaching”. Paul R. Curtiss and Phillip W. Warren mentioned this model in their 1973 book The Dynamics of Life Skills Coaching. In the late 1970s, this model was used at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch. He called it the “four stages for learning any new skill”. Later the model was frequently (but incorrectly) attributed to Abraham Maslow, although the model does not appear in his major works.

4 Questions to ask about HR metrics


Understand first, then act

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Without the right level of scrutiny, it can be easy to misinterpret a metric (key measurement, KPI) and waste valuable time and resources debating and taking actions to “fix” things that may not be “broken.”

Let’s take an example to illustrate: Employee turnover. Let’s say I show you this number and tell you that this represents Employee turnover at a company:

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I would imagine you would have some questions for me? Let’s go through some questions I expect you to ask me as we clarify what that number means. (Answers in blue from an HR representative at a fictitious company)

  1. How do you define turnover and how did you calculate that?

Answer: The company defined employee turnover as the number of employees who left the company. And they calculate that number this way:

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If you think this number is high or low, hold your horses, we have a few more questions to ask before we can come to a conclusion.

  1. Over what time period was this number calculated?

Answer: It represents the employee turnover over one quarter. 

An unusually high or low number can be an anomaly if it represents, for example, one day or one week out of a year. And that could be for many reasons including possible entry errors or calculation errors. If it is an average over an entire year, an unusually high number may indicate an alarming trend.

  1. What is this metric about?  

Here you would like to understand the reason why they are tracking the metric and how they are using this metric for decision-making.

Answer: “We want to make sure that we retain employees and do not have too many people leaving thereby causing us to have to retrain people on a regular basis. We also want to avoid constantly having to hire and onboard people to replace those who left. We think it is disruptive to the business. We have set a limit of 7% as a reasonable employee turnover maximum.”

Knowing that this is about retention helps to understand the metric more. For example, you could now start to form an idea in your head about the employees that a company would like to retain. To ensure you lose no more than 7% of your employees through resignations, you would want to ensure that internal communication is going well, that employees feel appreciated and that there are development opportunities for them etc. (These would be all the efforts you could make to increase employee engagement and satisfaction).  But it is also immediately obvious that 21.6% is much higher than 7%! So we need to ask more questions.

  1. What is the context of this metric? 

With this question, you are trying to understand if there were any events or special circumstances that may have contributed to this metric being unusually high or low.  It may also highlight how this metric compares to other periods – is it higher or lower than in the past?

Answer: “The metric is much higher than in previous quarters. During this quarter, we had to lay off some people due to losing a large customer. We also let some temporary workers go. And some people have chosen to take early retirement with the incentives that we offered around the reduction in workforce.”

Going back to how they calculated the 21.6% you may now wonder if they did the calculation correctly. If the metric is about making sure that they retain employees then it would be logical to ensure they do not include those who leave involuntarily – due to a lay-off for example. And there was also mention of temporary workers. Workforce planning often includes having a pool of temporary/agency workers who can more easily be let go of in the event of an organizational downturn. From that perspective, it would also not be useful to include those workers in an employee retention metric. It is time to question the number of people who left the company – the 108.  Having obtained more information about the 108 employees, we see that this number represents various groups including retirees, agency workers, redundancies, and resignations.

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In this case, the only unplanned people that the company “lost” = 32

In that case, the metric calculation would result in 6.4% which is below the 7% limit that was set as a goal.  It is important that the definition of the metric is clear about which groups of people who left should be included or excluded in the calculation.

In summary, we can make some suggestions for this  HR team:
  • Clear name and definition. Perhaps the metric should be redefined and possibly renamed if their intention is to capture how many employees (not temporary workers) resign from the company and to keep that % below 7%.
  • Share definition with stakeholders. Just looking at 21.6% employee turnover can be alarming so it would also be very important that the metric is well understood by the team and its key stakeholders outside of the team.
  • Accuracy. To avoid any possible calculation errors, it could help if somebody audits the metrics before the dashboard is finalized and distributed. The credibility of the HR team can be impacted if an executive team regularly sees errors or inconsistencies on the HR dashboard.

Keeping track of key metrics to monitor the success of specific processes or initiatives is important. That way you would be able to easily identify if a project or an objective is in danger of failing to achieve desired outcomes at the end of a year. Early identification also enables you to take the appropriate actions to correct an alarming trend. The key is to ensure that metrics on a dashboard are accurate and easy to interpret by those who view it. Be intentional and critical when you choose the metrics to track and when you define them to stakeholders.

When reviewing metrics, ensure that you truly understand what they represent before drawing premature conclusions. Planning actions to rectify premature conclusions could be a waste of your valuable time and resources when they are based on erroneous assumptions.

Checklists for Stretch Assignments


Stretch assignments are useful for learning and personal growth and development, because they purposefully contain elements that are challenging in areas where the assignee needs to develop. Designed correctly, a stretch assignment confronts one with the necessity  to get out of your comfort zone in order to succeed.

The starting point for designing such an assignment can be multiple data sources:

  • the person’s own development needs compared to established leadership competencies,
  • key proven areas of mastery that a company requires from their leaders to advance to the next level,
  • a mindset or  mindset shift that is required to move the company and its leaders into a new way of operating; or
  • to build competency in specific important areas that are or will be important to the future of the company.

A stretch is not defined in a general way, but rather it is very specific to a person. While a stretch could mean that one requirement is for the person (plus family, if appropriate) to move to an international location, it inevitably would also include other job-related challenges. Examples include supervising more people, having financial performance targets (for someone who has only had functional roles in the past) or having more complexity such as multiple geographical areas to manage. The key balance to maintain when designing stretch assignments is to ensure that the assignee is put under a certain amount of pressure to learn and grow, but not so much pressure that he or she fails.

Mitigating failure risks

There are a few things you can implement to help monitor how things are going with each assignee and to provide a “safety net” for an assignee to get support from.

  1. Assign subject-matter experts as coaches – depending on the scope of the assignment.
  2. Assign a leadership development coach to help the assignee reflect on experiences, frame up challenges and cognitively choose best solutions and explore new ways of operating to be more successful in the assigned areas of responsibility.
  3. Set up internal-company networking events for the assignees to meet, have opportunities to mingle and share experiences and also include a pre-determined learning event tied to overall leadership development objectives within the company.
  4. Set up a structure of communication moments with the “home” organization supervisor and colleagues – this is especially important if you plan to return the assignee to the same organization at the end of the assignment. Maintaining ties would greatly improve a successful return and reintegration after an assignment. Communication moments like these can also greatly help colleagues NOT on assignment to learn from the experiences and best-in-class solutions their colleague on assignment is mastering.

New and challenging assignments often cause assignees to experience some stress. Supporting assignees to successfully navigate through the new challenges means you should pay attention to a change in behavior or performance which could indicate that he or she is stuck on the learning curve. Signs that things are going wrong are important to notice early-on to maximize chances of turning things around and avoiding an assignment disappointment and/or incurring an assignee retention risk. Pre-departure training should be provided to both assignees and their coaches to understand and recognize signs that things may not be going well and to understand ways to become unstuck in every situation.

Some warning signals:

stretch-assignments-signs-of-failure

Expectations for goal achievement by assignees must be specifically captured in a plan and communicated to an assignee along with available rewards for over-achievement of goals. The specific strategic importance of the assignment should also be highlighted as well as the developmental needs to be addressed during the assignment.

Tips for stretch-assignment coordinators:

  1. Ensure that there is a structure that enables assignees to succeed and always follow-through with the check-in points and feedback activities to ensure all is well.
  2. Ensure that all those involved in assignments are clear on the role of management, role and responsibilities of supporting coaches, the role and responsibilities of assignees and the role and responsibilities of assignment supervisors and “home office” supervisors.
  3. Adequately prepare assignees for their assignments: cultural awareness training (for international assignments), language skills (where needed) and if accompanied by family members – consider a session to discuss the practicalities of moving to a new location with those family members present.
  4. Ensure that the assignees get interim feedback on how their assignments are going -at least 3 times per year, but more often if this can be managed. This provides opportunities to refocus and apply new approaches as needed to ensure the assignment is successful.
  5. Provide assignees and stakeholders in assignments ample notification about the end date of an assignment. This assures minimum surprises and helps everyone to plan actions leading to a well-organized return upon assignment completion.

When assignments are successful in achieving or exceeding on all the objectives, assignees should return from their experiences with increased confidence, leadership skills, and maturity. The personal growth and development they experienced should enhance their ability to make better decisions and build stronger interpersonal relationships with those they lead and follow. Being mindful of how to setup and manage stretch assignments can make all of that a reality.

Change Management – Getting senior management onboard


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Before any organizational change is launched there has to be meetings with executives and senior leaders to ensure alignment around the reason(s) and main principles of the change initiative. Meeting objectives would also typically include getting their support for executing change activities and to help them understand expectations of them as executives and senior leaders during the change period and beyond.

The downloadable slide deck (above) can be used as a basis for creating your messages to senior leaders and executives. The slides helps to explain how change will likely impact the organization and the people plus explaining how leaders can help by being role models and also by actively addressing resistance and other signs of low engagement in those around them.

Use this resource as optional examples to help communicate the specific messages that makes sense for the change management initiative that you may be leading and the meeting participants/audience that you will be facing.

Here are the steps I would suggest you follow:

  1. Be clear on the reasons that your change initiative need to be implemented and how the changes will improve on status quo. (Business case or burning platform)
  2. Did you get executive buy-in from one or more sponsors before your presentation? (Highly recommended – in fact, do not proceed until you have it!)
  3. Consider the presentation you will be doing – who will be there? What do they know and what do you need them to know, understand and do once they leave the presentation?
  4. What impact will the planned changes likely have on the employees at your company and how do you think your targeted audience can help and should act/behave given the change process and desired outcomes?
  5. Review the slides in the resource I am sharing and determine if any of them could help you and support the messages that you would like to communicate to the audience that you will be facing.

Of course these slides are not going to substitute the preparation work you need to do before starting a change initiative, but they may be helpful to use as background or to explain some of the specific change management aspects that may be of particular importance to your audience.

How to Motivate employees and Retain them



What motivates your employees?

Every employee has different reasons for showing up at work and there are different ways to motivate each of the people working with you. Since one size does not fit all, it is best to stop guessing and to find out for sure what it is that makes those reporting to you love their jobs.

Knowing what motivates your direct reports is a great way to ensure you retain your direct reports. Of course having a good professional relationship with each of your direct reports goes a long way to ensuring that issues which may demotivate them are brought up early and resolved in open dialogue and discussion.

The exercise below can be used by you to first establish what you believe would be motivational before you ask your direct reports to complete the exercise below. Understanding that, as their supervisor, you are most likely not going to get it right without their input may further instill the practice in you to always check your assumptions before you engage when it comes to understanding what would motivate others.

The list below contain outcomes that could be motivational to your direct reports in their jobs. This means that these outcomes would keep them interested in continuing to work in this role, for you and in this company.

Instructions:

Rank the list below in terms of 1 to 14 where 1 means “motivates me the most” to 14 which means “this does not motivate me much.” The ranking is not to say that this is how it is RIGHT NOW, but in the perfect environment, what would be the most vs least motivational to the person doing the ranking.

A. Rank these from 1 to 14 – what motivates me most at the top

  • Receiving market-aligned compensation for the job I am doing
  • Recognition for my efforts by my supervisor
  • My work is interesting and challenges me in a positive way
  • The company/job comes with excellent benefits (separate from my annual salary)
  • Pleasant working environment (ambiance, set-up)
  • My supervisor is fair in making decisions and communicating them i.e. promotion, recognition, expectations.
  • The knowledge of my colleagues which is shared with me
  • I have all the information I need to have in order to understand what my priorities are and why I am performing the tasks that I am assigned
  • I understand exactly what my supervisor expects from me
  • I have a great feeling of accomplishment in this role/job
  • This role/job provides me with a lot of learning options, which can lead to promotions in the future
  • I have a chance to contribute to discussions and decisions that impact me
  • The people I work with are great people who make me feel included and valued
  • My opinion is often asked for and is valued by my supervisor

B. Level of current motivation

The next step would be to ask the same employees to rate how much they are currently motivated by the same items from above.  Comparing these answers with the answers in A. can help you identify possible ways in which you can improve the motivation of each employee reporting to you. For example, if someone had a high ranking motivator in A. and that same item gets a low score in B. that means you should look for ways to impact that area to motivate and retain that particular employee.

motivation-ranking

Results – what to do next?

Once you have captured the feedback from those who report to you, have individual discussions with each one of them to determine how you can better impact the areas that they scored as the highest importance in terms of motivation and where potentially their scores for current experience were the lowest.

  • How can I, as your supervisor, help you to have a better experience of this item (high ranking items from A. the list above – especially if that same item has a low score in B.)? _____________________________________________________
  • Are there ways in which you feel that I can remove obstacles or improve your experience in this regard? (see highest ranking items with low scores in exercise B.) ______________________
  • Is there anything that you and I need to discuss or resolve to remove any bad feelings or negativity from the past to move forward on a positive note? _________________________
  • Is there anything that I, as your supervisor, can do better to improve your enjoyment of your job/role at the company?

Be sure to mention (as appropriate – be truthful and honest):

  • I want you to know that I value your contribution and you are an important team member to this project/department.
  • I believe we can achieve great accomplishments in this department/team if we work together and communicate openly about what needs to be done and how to support each other in order to have a better overall outcome for the team/department.
  • I hope you will take the time to let me know of any obstacle that you see which may hinder us in achieving our goals. And I hope you will see any feedback from me in the same light – I want you as an individual to enjoy what you are doing (realizing that not all of our jobs are highly enjoyable – some parts are typically repetitive and maybe mainly administrative) and I want your contribution to the team/department to be clear to you in terms of expectations and how things are going.
  • Is there anything else you would like to bring my attention or which you think we should discuss before we end our meeting?

After the meeting you may want to consider reviewing your notes. Some items may be easy to action, simply by you emailing or calling someone in order to set something up. Other items may not be so straight-forward. For example, someone with a performance that does not meet expectations may ask for an increase. Set up a meeting with your HR Business Partner or representative to talk through the items and set priorities. Always make sure you are able to provide direct individual feedback to each employee on the items you discussed in your individual meetings with them.

Employees are motivated by different aspects of their roles/jobs at the company and there are many ways in which you are able to influence these aspects. The professional relationship you have with your direct employees also greatly impacts whether someone chooses to stay or leave the company/their role.

In the end some employees will leave and you will need to fill those roles by promoting existing employees or hiring new employees. Ultimately, the sign of a good leader is the number of great leaders he or she creates. When they feel the need to leave to move up, applaud them, keep contact with them and congratulate yourself when you see them succeed regardless of where they end up as a result of your great coaching and support.