Mentoring Agreement


Mentoring usually takes place between someone with experience and someone who needs advice and training in specific areas. Starting the process of mentoring duos sometimes skip the step where they talk about how we agree to go through this process together. What is important to you? What is important to me? What can each of us commit to in order for this to work well for both of us?

This free template below helps you to structure a conversation around what the mentor and mentee specifically agree to commit to. How many hours per month/quarter would we like to spend talking through specific topics?

Feel free to add additional items which would be important to discuss during the first meeting when you (mentor and mentee) agree on how to proceed. This kind of discussion may seem unnecessary, but covering these items upfront can save a lot of disappointment and misunderstandings later when items you might have imagined would be obviously included in your mentoring agreement vary from what the other person may have thought. It is not a contractual agreement as much as it is a summary of what you do or don’t want to commit to for the duration of the mentoring relationship.

When it comes to time commitments, it is also advisable to agree for the mentoring process to have a set time period – 12 months or 18 months. And when that time comes, review what has been achieved and learned and whether it makes sense to continue the mentoring relationship or to agree to end it at that time.

Clearly defining the development objectives to be addressed helps to steer the direction of mentoring discussions. What is it that the mentee needs to know, needs to be able to do, and would like to be able to understand? The more detailed this section is, the easier it might be for either the mentor or the mentee to recognize when the mentoring relationship has helped to achieve those outcomes and it may be time to evaluate whether it makes sense to end the mentoring relationship or continue it with new development objectives.
Considering the agreements discussed during the first section, are there any other expectations that each has of the other and which are useful to mention specifically? For example, the mentor may have the expectation that the mentee would devote time to read specific books or articles every week. Are those expectations realistic for the mentee? If he or she has other obligations which may make it difficult to meet that expectation, it is best to discuss them early on to avoid a misalignment later on in the mentoring relationship.

The full template can be downloaded below – it is a *.pdf file and it can be imported into MSWord for edits.

This file can be very useful to ensure that mentors and mentees are aligned early on in their association which gives their mentoring relationship the best chance to be successful!

Rotational Development Assignments – an Example


This post assumes a few starting points. For one, it assumes that you have a few leaders whom you would like to develop using a few specific developmental areas. When you review this example, you will notice that the areas shown here are typically associated with development of first-time or mid-level leaders. This example can help you take your own leadership development ideas a step further by defining specific steps, and processes which would make it easier to communicate your vision to stakeholders at your company – offering a well-considered program that includes all the elements that are important to developing leaders, their managers, executives considering succession planning, and also new recruits with dreams of building a great career at your company.

Defining outcomes

Which observable outcomes – behaviors – are important for successful leaders to display at your company? Can you define this per competency? Understanding what exact outcomes that your program strives to achieve makes it easier to select the right people for the program (those with development needs in these areas), evaluate the progress of developing leaders in your program (learning to lead with desirable behaviors), and also to understand where specific leaders may need more support with their own personal development plans.

Here is an example of defined outcomes and you will notice the columns to the right have spaces to insert names of possible program candidates. This would be a way to consider nominations when they are discussed by the program committee to decide on the next intake of leaders for the rotational assignment program.

Governance & Structure

Before you start to implement your ideas, take a moment to consider who are the key participants and stakeholders in this program? And have you thought of how you need to support each stakeholder’s needs and prepare them for their expected participation?

Basic processes would include:

  • Selection (nominations could be an additional process if you would not pre-select possible candidates using seniority or other criteria) – on what basis will multiple raters who know candidates propose and support nominated candidates?
  • Performance evaluation process – before the program starts and also at key stages during and at the end of each assignment.
  • Promotions and salary increase eview processes for program participants – checking thatyou are at least paying them at or above local market rates to ensure you are not endangering their retention.
  • Mentoring process for the benefit of participants – supporting developmental goals.
  • Performance feedback process to participants and the oversight committee in general.
  • Orientation process for managers whom program participants would report to during their rotational assignments.

Executive Sponsor for the program

It is important to understand who would be the sponsor at the executive level – involved in ensuring that the program meets strategic objectives and delivers on the agreed benefits. These would be the reasons why the program would be approved for funding and resource allocation like for example a program coordinator etc. Build a relationship with this stakeholder and ensure that he/she has all the information needed to feel comfortable with the progress you are making with the implementation or maintenance of the program on an ongoing basis.

Oversight committee

This may be a group of operational leaders, some group support (functional) leaders, and perhaps a mentor or two. The oversight committee may also be involved in the nomination and/or selection of participants and may also be a part of the audience when program participants are asked to conduct presentations about their projects as part of the program, The oversight committee might also at least annually evaluate possible risks to success and may suggest mitigating actions or improvements to avoid or manage risks to successful outcomes of the program.

Mentors

If you have dedicated internal and/or external mentors meeting with program participants on a regular basis it would be important to involve them by giving them an understanding of the strategic and operational expectations of the program. They would also need to be familiar with the measures of success and how they are defined and evaluated. The success of developing leaders would be very reliant on this group of people offering key support to them. For this reason, mentors should also be asked for (at least) annual feedback on their experiences as mentors and be able to share improvement suggestions and possible risks that need further consideration and action. Mentors should also be able to informally meet with the program manager to monitor program outcomes – understanding how the program is progressing in terms of outcomes achieved, number of development goals closed, number of participants being mentored, number of successful placements in higher roles for those coming out of the program, etc.

Managers of participants

There are aspects of a rotational program that differ from someone having a new team member to support departmental or divisional performance objectives. While the expectation is that these managers would invest their time and resources to accelerate the learning of participating leaders, these program participants will be expected to leave the managers’ groups at the end of the assignment. This concept may be challenged on a regular basis and common arguments include program particianpts being instrumental to maintaining successful client relationships (the client asked for him/her to be on the next project) and how their departures may pose risks to current projects (without his/her key knowledge on this project we cannot guarantee successful outcomes). Such issues would need to be resolved and escalated as needed to avoid participants getting stuck on one rotation.

Program participants

Not everyone considered to have the ability to function at higher leadership levels aspires to those outcomes. It is important to understand the drivers, ambition, and engagement of each participant being considered for participation in the rotational development assignment program. This, on top of his/her performance and development needs being identified and documented in a development plan. . Once a program participant has been confirmed the communication process starts including the next steps, the program contents and objectives, the processes, and what would be required from him/her while on the rotational assignment program. Being introduced to those who are involved in the process would also be important – the new manager for the duration of an assignment and the assigned mentor would be two important links to make. Ensure a feedback loop to understand the success and risks of the program seen from the eyes and experience of program participants.

Annual process(es)

In this example, the annual processes are relatively simple and include an annual intake of new participants, formal communications, obtaining feedback from key stakeholders, presentation by participants about projects they worked on, and talent review discussions on the development of each leader in relation to succession planning objectives and strategies.

Developmental Roles

In general, rotational roles fall into these four categories (see graphic below).

Commercial roles could include sales support, marketing, external communications and sometimes includes roles that have direct interfacing with key customers – account roles. A key objective of commercial roles would be to ensure participants understand how money is made, reported, and the levers which could improve profitability, and the processes that are involved in converting operational success to money in the bank. This rotational assignment also provides an understanding of the level of customer satisfaction and where clients would like to see improvements or innovations. For more senior roles in a commercial function, the development objective could include understanding risks and opportunities and establishing a high-level plan to address both with internal initiatives and even external solutions like a merger or acquisition to address challenges and risks to customer satisfaction and the ability to deliver on customer expectations – given observed and expected changes in the marketplace, competitor offerings, etc.

Operational roles usually offer the ability to understand the daily activities and decisions which could lead to meeting or missing operational outcomes. This usually relates to impacts to the Profit and Loss Statements of a company. In these kinds of rotational assignment roles, participants learn to understand the challenges that project teams experience in delivering products or services that are attractive in the marketplace. They also learn how operational delivery can lead to optimal profitability. Concepts like LEAN, Circular economy, and agile are often concepts that are learned during assignments in operational roles.

Strategic roles are often assigned at one of the larger offices or to shadow a senior or executive leader involved in strategic projects and initiatives. During this assignment participants usually learn more about risk management, organizational strategies, and projects. Sometimes they could be involved in supporting due diligence activities for a possible merger or acquisition and may be exposed to considerations regarding organizational structure changes or changes to the legal structure of a company. During these assignments, participants understand how the company evaluates its internal and external strengths and opportunities along with possible organizational weaknesses and risks. In that landscape, the company will set strategies in motion to improve its competitiveness, its financial outcomes (P&L, Cashflow and/or balance sheet), and its ability to outmaneuver the competition in key areas. This could be as a result of acquiring and/or launching new innovative solutions or getting closer to the customers and how customers’ wishes are being met.

Group Support roles are often either in Human Resources or possibly in Procurement or any other group support (functional leadership) role where that specific participant can learn to more fully understand the challenges of balancing the needs of its shareholders, customers, employees, and supply chain partners.

How to start

Putting together a Rotational Assignment Program can take some time during the early stages and it would be very important to understand the strategic needs and objectives of the company when it comes to succession planning and key skills needed by the leaders of tomorrow. Talk to as many possible stakeholders as you can to build a successful business case and change plan addressing all concerns and needs of key stakeholders in the success of the rotational assignment plan. Talk to experts who have developed a program like this to garner any tips regarding pitfalls that they needed to navigate. Finally, commit to continue learning as you go. Get feedback and act on it and use the data gathered to drive continuous improvement activities. Use the feedback to ensure the program continues to deliver outstanding benefits in a fast-changing world which impacts your ability to attract and retain key talent on a continuous basis.

Useful posts to help with the preparation and communication of stretch/developmental assignments:

Onboarding Plan Template


Onboarding Plan Template

One of the key reasons that companies lose new hires with some experience is that they fail to support these new hires adequately during their first few months. In some companies, it can be quite hard to understand how things work there, how to fit in and be successful, feel valued and included. Having a written onboarding plan from the start is a great way to bring more clarity to the person and also help them understand expectations during the crucial early months in their new roles in the new company.

The onboarding plan can be written as early as during the recruitment process. In one best-case scenario, it was shared with a senior executive right after his interview with the CEO. It was such an unexpected and appreciated action that the executive commented how refreshing he found the transparency and it made him see the hiring company as head-and-shoulders above the competition which led to him accepting the offer and joining the company a few months later.

The Process

While the plan can help clarify the set-up and structure for a new hire, it is important to set up review meetings with the newly hired managers or key hires. In some cases, reviews with an HRBP could be useful to understand for example how performance management is organized and how the process works. Such review moments could also clarify talent development programs and processes, which is useful to know for the new hire regarding his/her own career but also for helping the new hire manage the development actions for those who report to him/her.

Review meetings with the manager that the new hire reports to could help identify priorities and understand where to connect with more people or build additional internal or external relationships. The manager can also answer questions about activities planned to ensure desired outcomes are achieved after 30-days, 60-days, and 90-days as captured in the onboarding plan.

The people side of success

The template captures not only the tasks and activities needed to succeed in a new role but also identifies people with whom to build relationships. These are important relationships and contacts that the new hire would need to establish and maintain to ensure his/her success in the long run. They could be key client contact personnel or contacts from key suppliers or subcontractors. They could also be internal – people who know how things work and who can advise on the best course of action to get something done at that company.

And it is also important to identify people who can be trusted to keep things to themselves and who could advise on who to talk to before moving in specific directions for changes the new hire would like to implement. Either the HR Director/HRBP or the new hire’s manager may be helpful to identify who those contacts may be.

Note that confidants or advisors may also be external people such as professional coaches or consultants.

Accountability

While it is important from a company’s perspective to ensure key new hires are provided with onboarding plans, completing the details and setting priorities to accomplish the outcomes defined in the plan lie with the new hire. The success of the new hire is only partially dependent on helping him/her get up to speed faster by having review meetings and an onboarding plan and giving him or her access to professional helpers and advisors. The new hire remains accountable for his or her own performance and following through on the items recorded in the onboarding plan.

When both the process of onboarding works well and the new hire holds himself/herself accountable for the outcomes produced, the risks of failure due to onboarding gaps are lowered and retention success is more likely in the medium to long term!

Useful posts for new employee/ new manager onboarding and orientations :

https://jo-anngarbutt.org/2015/09/15/new-employee-on-boarding-checklist-template/

https://jo-anngarbutt.org/2016/03/01/starting-right-new-managerleader-and-team/

4 Common Disconnects on Multi-Cultural Teams


Working on multicultural teams you may have had moments of wondering what he or she just meant by that comment? Or why will he or she not make a key decision so an activity can move forward? Cultural perspectives and ways of life may be one of the reasons that could explain those incidents.

It is fun to meet people from other cultures and learn about their lives and experiences. And at first it may be interesting to learn how their cultures vary from your own, but once you work on a project together and it is remote working, including long hours and tight deadlines those differences can start to cause friction on the team. This can slow down progress and impact team morale. Being aware of the most common inter-cultural disconnects can prevent team members from blaming it on a person and instead enter into a discussion to unpack the root cause of a lack of action, lack of decision-making or the exact opposite – too many fast actions without thinking or making decisions without considering consequences.

4 Areas of misunderstanding that can impact inter-cultural teams

Some things are smart to do in order to ensure the team understands required project outcomes and approaches to use. Aspects would include clarifying the definition of done, outlining project phases and deadlines, assigning roles and responsibilities and having regular meetings to monitor and understand progress and resolve issues that are hindering progress or pose a risk.

Some aspects may need additional attention if your team consists of a few members from very different cultures.

1. Managing to deadlines

This relates to how important team members believe deadlines are. Some may see them as a guideline while others will suffer anxiety and will work longer hours to make sure the are met. In some cultures, there is a strong emphasis on being for example exactly on time for an appointment while in other cultures it may be okay to be a few minutes late for business meetings and perhaps even a few hours late for a social engagement.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Make sure all team members understand the consequences, knock-on effects and penalties which may be triggered if the team missed deadlines. Monitor progress and have follow-up conversations if team members are falling behind to ensure they understand the importance of their activities being completed on-time.
  • Ensure team members understand the priorities they should place on various aspects of the work that needs to be done by the deadline. Ensure it is also clear exactly what “done” means. Do you expect quality checks to be done too or just a first draft of the outcome to be available? Should it be print-ready or just ready for an internal review or further discussions?

2. Clear Role Expectations

There are differences in cultures around the meaning of “in charge” or the Subject Matter Expert (SME). In some cultures, it is customary to take the word of such a person as a mandate to perform a specific task or action exactly according to what he/she said. In other cultures, SMEs and leaders are considered more “accessible”, and dialogue is welcomed when one does not agree with a requirement or task assigned by the one “in charge.” This difference can cause confusion on teams including many different cultures. To what degree can and should instructions be discussed and challenged vs accepted? Are those in expert roles or roles with authority prepared to deal with challenging discussions and comments – if the project team will operate in a culture of open discussions?

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Have a role discussion at the start of the project and include what would be great questions to ask each role and how interaction is expected to take place on the project to maximize positive team outcomes.
  • Be sure to have further discussions highlighting best-practices during the project and as new team members join, who may have missed the original discussions around the different project roles and how to best interact with them.

3. Conflict resolution

Conflict shows up differently in each person – some people speak up and go to the “max ” to be heard and understood while others take their thoughts, feelings and especially resentment underground and do not speak out. This means that conflict can be hard to resolve and to feel comfortable that all thoughts and concerns are on the table and discussed before decisions are made. Some cultures are more likely to speak up and make sure their opinions are voiced while others might patiently and politely wait to be asked for an opinion and speaking out of turn (from their perspective) may be seen as impolite or disrespectful. In some cultures open disagreements are best avoided to maintain a cordial/good relationship with others on the project.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Use more than one channel to check in with team members and get feedback – ask in meetings, but also check in with individual team members between meetings to understand if there is any part of the path forward chosen which concerns them.
  • If any team members are especially aggressive in voicing opinions, perhaps a quiet word might help that person to still voice opinions, but possibly in a less forceful way to avoid antagonizing anyone from a culture where a forceful (overly enthusiastic ) communication style might cause discomfort.
  • Provide training in non-violent communication and voicing messages with a healthy balance between listening and advocating. Help team members to constantly improve in understanding each other’s styles to help communication and collaboration efforts on the project.
  • When a conflict does occur, address it in a culturally-sensitive way if the disconnect could be related to a cultural difference in perspective. The objective should be to solve and address project issues in a helpful way without causing negative impacts to collaboration on the project.

4. Navigating with many languages

We all know of situations where people from the same country with the same language find it hard to communicate successfully with understanding and openness. When a team consists of many different cultures, this can be so much more confusing and frustrating.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Agree from the start of the project to follow a few guidelines such as: For the chosen project language, native speakers are to slow down and use simple ways to bring their points across. And native speakers of the main project language will be patient with non-native speakers trying to get their thoughts across. If there is a large language ability gap between the native-speakers and other team members consider some language classes to bridge the gap.
  • Consider asking presenters/speakers at planned meetings to send out specific agenda items and a summary paragraph of the issues to be raised and discussed at least a day before the meeting. That would help non-native speakers to prepare ensuring they understand the issues and are able to fully participate in the conversation at the meeting.
  • When there are significant differences in levels of language abilities on the team, meetings may take longer, and collaboration may also be a little harder especially in a virtual/remote environment. Be sure to take this into account when planning project timelines and deadlines.

Plan ahead to succeed

Knowing you may be starting up a project with a multi-cultural team, schedule team-building activities for team members early on. This will help them get to know each other as humans/people. Establishing trust early on, can avoid frustration turning into conflict and delays in reaching project team deadlines.

Create team opportunities to get to know more about each other’s cultures. This could bridge the gap in understanding each other’s perspectives and avoid labeling, misunderstandings, and internal team misalignments..

Set continuous learning as one of the core values of the team and live it, encourage it and keep bringing the team back to what can be learned from successes and failure as the project progresses. Having a curious and learning mindset is a great way to avoid major disconnects between team members as they will engage in inquiry and advocacy vs judgment and labelling as a default behavior.

How to get your next job through your network!


Knowing what kind of opportunity you would like to pursue next, you can wait for the perfect role to show up online or… you could actively work through your network to get further!

Think about this:

  • The high level of competition for the role if you apply for a role online! Your experience and education and the design of your CV/Resume would have to be better than all other applicants to get through to the end of the recruitment process!
  • They estimate that 70% of roles are not advertised, but instead are sourced through networks! This means you could be invited for a discussion or interview just based on the fact that someone recommended you or introduced you to a decision-maker!
  • Every person you know from past roles, from school or college days, people you met and talked to at conferences, family, friends – could possibly know someone who is connected to a role that would be great for you!

Getting more contacts and making a positive impression on those you meet is important. It is not about pretending or lying, it is more about showing respect and genuine interest in those you meet. When people like the encounters they have with you, they want good things to happen for you and they might be keen to ask people they know to meet you or have a discussion with you. And this is all you need in many cases to get to the next step – a consulting project or a new job!

What does your network look like?

If you take a blank sheet of paper and you try to draw out this graphic below, perhaps you will be able to jot down people’s names for each of the circles and be able to create your starter list. This means the list of people whom you will start with – making contact with them.

The groups of people you know the best are most likely:

Friends, Family members, Classmates (now or from years before), ex-colleagues or trusted current colleagues, neighbors (now or from an earlier address where you lived at one point).

The next level of people you may want to contact include:

People you have met or interacted with on a sports team, or a social organization you joined, or a hobby class you took at some point, people you met and spoke to at a conference.

Priorities:

Looking through the names of people you listed in the worksheet (download available below), who might know people at the companies you are hoping to work for? Who knows about the kind of work you are good at and want to do? Who has the knowledge or experience to help you in your search? Who am I most comfortable talking to? (start there!)

How can your network help you?

What do you tell them ?

  1. When you talk to someone who already knows you, you do not need to introduce yourself. When talking to a contact of someone you know, introduce yourself.
  2. Make sure your message is complete: why are you talking to him/her? What exactly do you hope to get out of the conversation?
  3. Be specific about what you are looking for – i.e. role in sales, working on electric installation projects, etc.
  4. What are your training, certifications, experience, and skills to explain how you plan to successfully deliver in the role mentioned above? (the short version – only mention the most important ones!)
  5. Have your questions ready and be ready to rephrase any questions that are not easily understood by the person you are talking to.
  6. Give the other person time to think about their answers by being quiet after you asked.
  7. Show genuine interest in their advice or suggestions.

Questions to ask

The questions below can be used as a guide as you create your own list of questions to ask your contacts. Do consider how strong your history and relationship is with each person you talk to before you ask any of the questions. Rephrase any questions to allow for cultural differences and preferences and also to match the formality required for your conversation.

Depending on the role of the person or his or her expertise/experience, you may choose different questions for each conversation. Note the specific questions you want to ask each person before you contact him/her. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of questions – something you can fit into a 30-minute call would be best when you talk to someone whom you have not met yet and who is giving you some of his/her precious time for this conversation.

  • Are you aware of any job vacancies which would fit my skills/experience?
  • Would you help me by looking out for opportunities you might become aware of and which might be useful to me?
  • Do you know anyone who might be planning to change jobs where I might be a possible role replacement candidate?
  • Do you know any companies where my skills and experience may be sought-after?
  • Are you aware of any new companies moving into the area and/or whom I might be able to contact about a role there?
  • Would you be willing to help me get an appointment for a discussion with a recruiter at your company?
  • May I ask for your help in preparing for an interview (given your contacts/knowledge etc)?
  • Would you be able to help me with more information about a company I would like to target for an unsolicited application?
  • How would you advise me to proceed with my interest in THIS role or getting a role at Company X?
  • Would you be willing to be a reference for me?
  • Would you be willing to review my resume/CV and give me any tips or improvement suggestions?

How do you plan your approach?

Using the attached workbook below, start filling in the names on a sheet

Note contact details you might have or if you are connected with any of them through social media

Start with the people you know the best and explain what kind of opportunity you are looking for and listen to their advice or ideas of who they might know and would connect you with.

After the discussion, capture their suggestions in the worksheet in the “Advice/Next step?” column.

Follow-up on these, contact the person they suggested or introduced you to and ask for a meeting to discuss your interest in the company, work they do, etc.

DOWNLOAD file for this exercise:

Each of the tabs in this worksheet (see file above) contains a table for you to capture the names of people you thought of while looking at the groups of people you are connected to. Complete the table for each of the groups you have considered as far as you can. (see example below for someone who identified 3 friends, but has not yet contacted them).

Follow-up

To keep your momentum, monitor your follow-up actions which could range from contacting a suggested person or calling someone another time as agreed during the previous conversation you had with him or her. Set targets for yourself per day and per week to avoid procrastination or letting a contact “go cold”. This could happen if you call too long after the initial call and the person you are contacting may have forgotten that your mutual contact had introduced you to each other.!

Tips:

Networks of contacts and human connections can be a fragile environment and it is important that though your need for them to act on your behalf is high, you need to also maintain a good relationship throughout and continue to be someone whom they would like to help. Very few people HAVE to help you, they will because they want to. Your attitude and way of talking to them will determine how much they will be willing to help you.

  • Be firm and confident, but not pushy. Sometimes there is a very thin line between those two. And the difference is often the strength of the history of your relationship with that person. If you know him or her for a long time and you have spent a lot of time together, you may be able to be a little pushier to get him or her to introduce you to someone else. When you have had only one or two conversations with someone at a conference, you would not likely have a strong enough relationship to be overly familiar or strong in your approach.
  • Always be thankful. Even if you have known someone for a long time, if they introduce you to someone or give you a handy tip that leads to a conversation, do let them know how thankful you are for their help.. Also thank people for taking the time to talk to you regardless of the outcome.
  • Only contact people from a conference or a class you took in the past if you actually spoke to them. It would be quite unusual to simply use a conference or class attendance list and email or contact each person on it regardless of whether you actually spoke to them at the time. Most people might disregard requests for calls or discussions in such cases.
  • Do not expect your contacts to call you back when they have more information for you. Ask if it would be alright for you to call back within a week or two.
  • When you had a great conversation with someone, why not add him or her to your list of future contacts? You never know when you may be able to introduce them to a new client or opportunity that fits into their business model!

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.

Guide for Structured Job Interviews


Ever left a job interview frustrated? Because the interviewer seemed unprepared and asked seemingly random questions making it hard to discuss your achievements, interest in the role and how you planned to contribute to the success of the company. Or maybe you have been the recruiter who could not get ratings or post-interview notes from a manager because they did not jot anything down and could not give you any feedback after an interview they had conducted?

Getting the most out of the time you have to interview a candidate takes a lot of planning, focus and clarity on what exactly you want to establish. And yes, it also takes time management. An hour can fly past so fast without a plan!

To make interviews work well, the recruiter needs to do 3 things diligently:
  • Prepare an interview guide for each interviewer and provide them with that and any additional items such as the CV/Resume of the candidate, completed application forms and any other documents which have been provided by the candidate before the interview. Also include relevant notes from a screening call.
  • Prepare all interviewers with interview training so they can use the interview guide correctly and understand how to phrase questions and follow-up questions. Include the use of behavioral questions in the training, which are powerful in establishing what a candidate had done in previous situations given key competencies required for the role. [Providing interviewers with training on natural biases, will improve fairness of interview outcomes]
  • Follow up after the interview to collect notes and scores from interviewers. It is your summary of results that helps those making decisions about next steps in the recruitment process.

The Interview Guide

  1. Helping the interviewers plan to succeed

It is tough for interviewers to follow someone else’s plan verbatim and such an interview can come across as forced or staged. The preparation gives the interviewer a chance to consider rewording questions and possibly add their own questions. They may also want to change the sequence of questions. All of this will lead to a better and more natural interview experience for the job candidate.

2. Starting in a structured way

Setting expectations and clarity about the structure of the interview upfront is helpful for a candidate to understand the approach you plan to follow. Most candidates feel more relaxed understanding the structure that you will follow.

3. Behavioral QuestionsSTAR style

Note that it is not advised to ask more than 3 behavioral questions during a 60 minute interview. To explore answers and ask follow-up questions can take time and you do want to leave time to answer the candidate’s questions too. If doing a panel interview, divide the 3 behavioral questions among members of the interview panel.

4. Candidate questions and closing the interview

Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions to help him or her have a clear understanding of the role and how things work at your company. Then it is time to either ask any follow-up questions you may have left to the end (checking if you have enough time left to do so). One approach that is often used to give you time to check your notes is to ask the candidate a question and giving him or her some time to think about their answer (while you check your notes).

Remember to share the next steps with the candidate i.e. when the interview phase will end and decisions will be made for the next phase in the recruitment process. Or if you do not know, let the candidate know that the recruiter will be able to answer next step answers.

Next steps

Follow through with interviewers to ensure results and scores are collected in a timely fashion to support data-based decision-making regarding next steps.

Make sure you provide interviewers with a summary scoring sheet in the Interview Guide to select scores for answers obtained based on a pre-determined rating scale. This will avoid the need to go back and forth to interviewers while trying to understand their own way of scoring candidates.

Comments

Not everyone enjoys a highly structured interview and in some company cultures or for roles in creative functions, this may be seen as an unproductive way to test the creativity of candidates or showcase the unpredictable nature of the industry or the environment. Let common sense prevail to ensure you have an interview protocol that meets the need to fairly evaluate all job candidates in a consistent manner.

When your interview guides are online and so are your scoring sheets – this greatly improves your ability to quickly access post-interview notes and scores after interviews are completed.

Do not under-estimate the training needed for interviewers to understand the recruitment process or the importance of being able to demonstrate that a fair and consistent approach was used to evaluate candidates before selecting the final candidate.

Link to another post on this blog about using a Score Sheet for scoring job candidates after interviews

Link to a post on this blog about creating a Job Candidate Summary using all scores obtained after interviews

Researching New Office Locations – checklist


What if a valued customer wants you to do a project or support them from a new location where you do not currently have an office? Yes, research will be needed! But there are so many things that may be important, where would you start? This resource I am sharing is a handy starter-list for the research that HR is often expected to do.

The topics covered in the attached checklist include the following areas:

And in each case, the checklist contains the aspect to the left and leaves you some space to jot down notes pertaining to your company and your plans. (See example below) That way you can quickly create your next-step plans following your research.

Some points to ponder:

  • Trying to answer the question about how much to pay employees you plan to relocate to the new office – calculate their entire package before you start. Add in all benefits they are getting which may not be cash in their hands i.e. health insurance, pension contributions by the company etc. Considering the full package is the starting point, not the annual salary only.
  • Look for local tax breaks that may be available to those you plan to relocate. In some countries they may be able to pay lower personal taxes.
  • If the local language is neither English nor the language spoken at the office your planned expats work now – how can you help them learn the new language? Even if all business is conducted in one language, the planned expats would need to set up their lives locally including trips to the supermarket, making local friends, and finding local information online. Being able to understand some basic words or say some basic phrases in the local language could be very valuable as they get settled there.
  • How can you minimize the carbon footprint of that new location? Limiting flights in and out of that new office and only placing expats there when the work cannot be done remotely or using modern tools and platforms to accomplish business objectives and outcomes.

The shared resource above is a starter-list and may not include all the aspects you need to look at before mobilizing. It is a great tool for doing a high-level review of a location under consideration for a new office or site.

While you can find a lot of the information you need online, I strongly recommend engaging with recognized experts in establishing operations abroad. Laws change, new trends emerge which have not yet made it into laws and websites are not always updated in a timeous fashion. So do your own research (using the checklist above) to understand the “lay of the land”. If you want to go further, engage with experts who may be able to advise on additional aspects and possible solutions which you may have missed in your own first-pass research efforts.

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.