The behavior of leaders is a very powerful indicator of how a company truly operates from a people perspective. Which aspects of the business are mostly focused on by leaders? How are decisions made and communicated? Most change initiatives include specific behaviors which leaders need to role model in order to ensure a successful outcome for the initiative.
The typical approach to measure how leaders are behaving is to obtain input from those around each leader – those who interact with the leader on a regular basis. The groups of people asked to provide ratings for each leader could be:
People who report to the leader
People who are colleagues of the leader
People who are more senior than the leader
If appropriate – external parties who interact with the leader on a regular basis.
Process of assessing leaders
The process of assessing leadership behavior typically follows these basic steps: Collecting ratings, consolidating the ratings, providing feedback to leaders and using the results to plan further actions as needed.
The mechanism needed for this exercise needs to be developed, reviewed and agreed and then introduced before the process starts. Once the key behavioral elements are defined, create a way to capture feedback from others about leadership behaviors.
The resource above can be downloaded. It is a set of behavioral statements which can be shared with those who need to provide ratings and comments. The scores or ratings relate to actual behavior observed against desired behaviors for each leader that they interact with on a regular basis. Some people automate their chosen feedback gathering using a free tool like http://www.surveymonkey.com
Behaviors used for ratings have to be very well defined so that they can be observed and does not require someone to guess at the intentions or motivations of the leader. A behavior must be observable or produce visible results.
Ask raters to add comments to help you interpret the scores. This understanding enables the creation of realistic follow-up actions after the results are available.
Ratings should not be requested too often – raters get “survey-fatigue” and your results become less meaningful.
The objective is for the tool to support the leaders by providing helpful and actionable feedback. The tool also helps to understand how the change initiative is progressing towards desired milestones.
You will notice in the shared resource (tool) example that leadership behaviors were defined in 4 categories: Commitment Behaviors, Communication Behaviors, Teamwork/Collaboration Behaviors, and Safety Behaviors. Your categories will be determined by your own change initiative and you will need to also define the specific behaviors that are desirable for leaders given your project. Simply use the downloaded excel sheet and type over the category names and behavior definitions to create your own Leadership Behavior Scorecard.
Be careful when you consolidate the results from various raters. If you had agreed to keep rater identities confidential, summarize the results by subgroup. Provide an average per subgroup for each of the behavioral elements. Do not provide a subgroup score if there were less than 3 raters.
Follow-up actions should also include recognition/appreciation for those leaders who are role modeling the desired behaviors in the organization.
Consider using some examples from the higher ratings to create case studies to the organization. It is easier for leaders and employees to understand how to apply desired behaviors when they receive actual examples that illustrate how decisions were made or implemented using the desired behaviors. An example makes it easier for others to follow.
The tool is relatively simple to use, but it is vital that it is designed well and introduced correctly into the organization. Assessment tools can be seen as a negative element if the objectives and the way results will be used are not communicated appropriately.
After interviews have taken place you will want to take a few more steps before you decide whether to make an offer to one of the job candidates you have for a vacancy. You may want to ask candidates to complete assessments or you may want to get the perspectives of their former colleagues before you make a decision.
Additional steps after initial interviews or between rounds of interviews could include:
Tests or assessments.
Practical exercises like a business case or even a presentation to be made to some senior leaders or experts at your company.
Reference checking with former colleagues, former direct reports or former supervisors of the candidate(s).
The (download) template I am sharing below contains a few questions to help you understand whether one candidate may be preferred compared to another given their experiences and approaches.
Background checks are used in some countries but can be harder to obtain in countries or regions where data and privacy protection laws exist. In most cases, criminal background and/or financial history information can only be obtained if the prospective employer can show a direct link between the requirements of the role and the information it wishes to obtain. Reference checks are typically easier to conduct in most countries, but be mindful of the kinds of information that you would be reasonably able to obtain given local laws.
Be mindful to:
Ensure that you notify any impacted job candidates (i.e. in areas such as Europe) about the data you wish to obtain and how you would process this data to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Job candidates need to know this at the start of the process and they must (actively) agree with your proposal for collecting data before you are able to proceed.
Ensure that all data obtained during the recruitment process is archived or destroyed after the process has been completed for a specific vacancy. All HR personnel who deal with such data would need to understand that this also includes any data that have been saved to their individual computers during the process.
Make sure the data you wish to obtain is relevant to the hiring decisions you wish to make. And make sure that those who would speak with candidates or possible referees can explain the connection.
Assuming that you have taken all precautions to ensure you are not incurring any risks with your planned reference checking approach, use the questions you have selected (the download template above can help) when you contact the list of referees provided by the job candidate.
You can use the template in a few ways:
Set up a time to talk to each referee via phone or Skype and go through the questions, capturing his or her responses.
Send each referee a form and ask him/her to complete it and return it to you – typically via email. Be aware that this approach does not offer you much opportunity to ask further questions to clarify without creating a few extra emails to the original string.
Set up the questions as an online survey (for example using www.surveymonkey.com) and share the link with referees. Note that data interpretation may be an issue here – not knowing what a referee meant by a specific score or comment. This also means you would have to contact referees again to clarify feedback. One way to improve data interpretation is to build in comment fields to explain scores.
Finally, it is important to understand that a reference check is just one of the data points that could support decision-making related to hiring the best candidate for the vacancy.
Feedback may be incomplete for a number of reasons:
The referee wishes to avoid any unpleasant situation with the former employee and wishes to be cautious in his/her responses.
There may be laws in the country which specifies what referees can or should say and what they cannot comment on.
The previous company may have clear policies about what can be shared by referees, which may be limited to job title and years of employment at the company.
Getting feedback from those who previously worked with a job candidate can still be valuable – understanding how the candidate’s knowledge or work methods would fit in with the job requirements or the company culture. For this reason, it can be good to get more perspectives. Just be aware of possible risks given the changing legal environment as you obtain feedback from referees.
Many managers mistakenly think coaching is about “telling” others what they should be doing. While some very inexperienced people may need you to tell them what to do or how to do it, most others need to learn and explore topics and new skills or behaviors with their coaches instead. The hard part for many coaches is to listen and ask the right questions. And also to refrain from taking up most of the airtime during coaching sessions talking about their own lives and their own stories or just offering advice. While children happily accept new information simply because you tell them how things are, adults prefer to explore and learn by comparing and assimilating what you are sharing with what they already know and have learned in their pasts.
Coaching sessions is about asking open-ended questions which leads to learning and exploring. Asking the right questions is not an easy assignment to have as a coach. Some questions shut others down while limiting them to “yes” or “no” answers which does not allow for a rich conversation of exploration around the topic concerned. Closed questions are those that can be answered by a simple yes or no answer.
More useful questions to ask :
Open-ended questions help others expand on ideas and contribute to the conversation vs staying mostly in listening-mode. These kinds of questions can help you discover the other person’s thought processes, motivations and how they feel about a topic or an option.
Clarifying questions are helpful to ensure you understood your conversation partner correctly. When people get going on topics that they feel quite excited or passionate about they can sometimes lose sight of how familiar you are with that same topic. To ensure you (the coach) are able to follow along, you may need to pause, look back and clarify any comment made which you were unable to place within the context of the topic being discussed.
Paraphrasing. This is a useful technique to summarize what you heard so far and help move the conversation towards a decision or planning a specific path forward (action). It also helps ensure that your impressions of what was said are correct. It can be very validating for someone to hear their own words summarized correctly by another trusted person (in this case you, as the coach).
This list of questions for coaches (which you can download above) can help you to ask the right questions at your next coaching session. I recommend you read through this as you prepare for the session, but do not commit yourself to asking specific pre-determined questions regardless of how the conversation goes. The important part about asking questions at a coaching session is that you (the coach) show up with a mindset of curiosity. That opens up the exploration in the conversation and enables learning to take place which is vital for adults in their learning process.
Use the links to other content which I show below and also the resource I am sharing above as a way to prepare for and get into inquiry mode before the planned coaching session.
I often hear from managers that they don’t know how to approach coaching their direct reports. It appears the word coaching implies to them that they must have some special insights and skills which would qualify them to coach someone else. Most managers do not realize that they actually know a lot about the company, how things work, how things should be working and how it is going generally. Perhaps all they need is a way to get the conversation going?
Sometimes employees have questions, which are easy to address and other times you need time to get back to them with answers.
Coaching may seem a little less daunting if you had this checklist ( see download button above) of topics to discuss with employees as a group or as individuals. There is a lot to be said for group coaching sessions! They can also be very effective in developing a group of people who may roughly all have the similar development needs and questions for you.
As their manager, you can open a conversation covering one of the questions on the sheet and just state “I can imagine you may have some questions or would like to know more about….” (use one of the questions shown on the sheet). Once the conversation is kicked-off it often happens that the employee will start to bring up more specific questions that he or she may have.
This graphic shows the basic 4 steps that can be used to start and keep a good coaching relationship going. Trust is a key component and building trust is important – honesty, integrity and showing employees that you care about their work, their careers and their well-being all help to build trust.
Coaching can be a highly structured program requiring a lot of specialized communication and coaching skills and training. It can also be simply helping employees understand the basics around their roles, the company and how things work in their environment. It is your role as their manager to coach them and develop their knowledge, skills and competencies on an on-going basis. If you need more training and support with regards to coaching, do talk to your HR or L&D representative. In the interim, this conversation-starting summary sheet may be helpful to you!
In the same way that companies would approach external customers to gather their views on what is going well and what needs improvement (customer satisfaction), the HR function should reach out to its internal customers to find out how satisfied they are with the services and support that they receive. It is true that there are more than one model for HR service delivery, but that does not change the fact that it is wise to gather feedback on the services and support that you do provide given the structure and focus for HR in your company.
The HR function is often guilty of focusing its developmental and improvement efforts exclusively on helping other departments and neglects using those same skills and expertise to improve the HR function as a whole and developing the people who deliver the HR services to others.
HR Function – Feedback Survey
This survey can help you gather the information you need from your internal customers to help you identify specific areas of excellence in HR and also those areas where improvement may be needed. When improvement is needed it will often imply additional training and development of some HR representatives (HRBPs or Generalists) and may also include communicating the HR vision and goals more clearly within the HR function. Remember to recognize and reward those who were part of delivering excellent services when you review the survey results.
Add comment fields next to scores if you want to be certain to capture specific comments about the scores.
Do be sure to provide survey participants with feedback on the outcome of the survey and the actions that you plan to take as a result of the survey. This motivates participants to continue providing you with valuable feedback in the future.
Create an action plan and communicate that clearly within the HR function so that everyone understands which areas you plan to address and how you plan to do that. It may help to set specific metrics around your planned improvements to make it easier to report progress.
Regularly update stakeholders – internal to the HR function and those who are internal customers in your company – on the progress of improvement efforts as you implement the post-survey action plan.
Remember to celebrate successes (milestones and outcomes achieved) and be prepared to add additional actions to your plan in cases where your improvement efforts are not reaping the results you had planned for.
Having a standard survey which you use ever year gives the opportunity to track the progress in specific questions over time and helps with trend analysis and showing % improvements over time.
Giving and receiving feedback especially around undesired behavior can be a daunting task. Not only is it typically hard for employees to hear corrective feedback, but it is also typically hard for managers and supervisors to give that kind of feedback. It nevertheless remains an important part of ensuring that performance expectations are set and met.
This template helps a manager or supervisor think through the important aspects of giving feedback to an employee and helps to plan and prepare for the actual feedback meeting.
The template and approach also helps plan positive feedback to employees. This aspect is often neglected, but equally valuable in helping employees understand what specific actions and communications are valued and should be continued.
Never give important feedback via an email or sending this worksheet to the employee. It should always be done in person or at least through a phone or video call. – if an in-person meeting is not possible.
The feedback should be given as soon as possible after the event to minimize surprises at the structured annual performance feedback meetings and to ensure the employee still has a good recollection of the situation or event that took place.
Do allow the employee to respond once you have shared the feedback to ensure that your message is understood by the employee and to allow you to understand any nuances to the situation which you may not have been aware of.
It is always a good idea to agree on a check-in moment at some time in the future. This is an opportunity to see if the employee may have further questions or comments at that time or perhaps he or she has been working on improving a particular skill related to the feedback you had shared and perhaps he or she could have some successes to share with you!
Sharing feedback with an employee, when it is not positive, can be tough to execute even with a tool like this. It depends a lot on your own style for managing conflict and whether you prefer to avoid conflict or situations where people may be upset with you. Take some time to learn more about your own conflict management style if giving feedback to employees remains a challenge for you even when you have used the template to prepare for the conversation.
Conducting presentations at the end of developmental assignments is a common way for employees to share knowledge and demonstrate the value of his/her contribution to solving a situation or creating a new solution.
Presentations is also a great way to evaluate how much an employee has learned from an assignment, if you are the manager, mentor or L&D Partner supporting that function or project. Just telling someone that he or she did a “good job” at the end is not a substitute for specific and actionable feedback which a structured template can offer those attending the end-of-assignment presentation.
The structure of the end-of-assignment presentation typically would include these topics:
About the presenter – brief bio including background experience up to the assignment, role during the assignment and career ambitions and goals.
An executive summary of the solution provided or improvement implemented.
Brief overview of the Situation that had to be addressed, specific objectives identified and met and the team that were involved in addressing the situation.
Outcome achieved including metrics and recognition for support from other people and groups.
Summary of key learning points that the employee takes away from the assignment and will use in future
Questions and Answers session
The templates I am sharing include the Presentation Feedback Form which can help those attending the presentation to structure their feedback to the presenter (the assignee) in a consistent way. An HR or Training/Learning/ Development representative can collect all the feedback forms afterwards and collate those into one feedback document for the benefit of the assignee.
The second template is for the HR or L&D person who will combine all of the feedback received onto one Summary sheet which can be shared with the presenter. The feedback can offer helpful developmental suggestions and also recognize the successes and achievements that the presenter was able to demonstrate during the presenttion.
Customize the first column to include specific details around developmental objectives that were set as a part of the assignment. That way the presenter gets very specific feedback on how well he or she met those expectations through the presentation and handling questions during the session.
Be sure to prepare those who would provide feedback so they understand how feedback is to be captured on the form – sometimes they are confused about the columns and you may even prefer to just have one column with a score. Specifically ask them to add comments to help enrich the feedback and make it easier for the presenter to understand how to improve on his or her performance in future.
Deliver the feedback in person (vs by email) once the combined Feedback form is completed. Presenters may have further questions on how to interpret the feedback or how to improve on their own performance and should have the opportunity to get guidance and coaching on that during the feedback meeting to optimize the learning opportunity.
You just looked through the results from your employee satisfaction or engagement survey. What is the most important action you need to take now? Develop a realistic action plan to address the highest priority areas of concern and then communicate that.
The first template I am sharing helps you to describe and be clear on which specific feedback you plan to address. Then capture planned actions and make sure they are measurable and include a definition of done. How will you know that this action have been completed?
Understanding what kind of training you should plan to provide to employees depends on a number of factors such as:
Company strategies for growth and developing into new markets or expanding in existing markets – what skills would be needed?
Based on current performance – which skills need to be introduced and which skills should be improved upon?
Looking at employee career goals, which skills do you need to focus on in order to help move employees to being promotion-ready?
Which skills do managers believe would help their teams succeed better given performance targets and customer demands?
Here are three tools that can help you with conducting a training needs analysis. The first tool highlights individual training needs per employee and is based on employee self assessments. The second tool is a training needs view from a manager’s perspective focusing on the top 3 highest training needs for each employee in his/her group/team/department. The last tool helps you budget for the planned training.
Self-rated individual training needs. The quality of the results you obtain from this tool depends on whether you have a good career development tool/framework in place, motivated employees who maintain and work on their own development plans on an on-going basis and whether your managers/supervisors provide quality performance feedback to employees on a regular basis.
The topic of evaluating training events is quite a tricky one. There are several evaluation models out there and articles delving deeper and deeper into what should we exactly try to measure?
The least useful way to measure whether learning has taken place would be to ask mainly about the basics: the event arrangements, logistics, catering, invitations and how people felt about attending the class (including materials and trainer experience). This kind of feedback would merely help improve how you go about setting up future classes, inviting people and which trainers are better than others in conducting a particular course.
To delve deeper you may want to consider questions like: