Assigning Roles for Meetings


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Have meetings felt unproductive and have not been building your confidence in the value they may have added? Was there insufficient time to consider all the options available or making the best decisions following an open discussion? Perhaps it is time to consider assigning roles to those who attend your meetings.

Productive Meetings

The reason why assigned roles work is that meeting participants are often not fully engaged in asking questions, stimulating discussions, summarizing agreements reached, critically review suggestions or ideas, or ensuring that everyone there has a chance to contribute. Having a specific role to play at a meeting helps participants to focus on helping the team fully explore options, evaluate the options, and make high-quality decisions following the discussion.

The roles are specific and defined and it would require specific individuals to act accordingly for the duration of the meeting. Roles vary from being the one to bring up a lot of questions about the issues on the agenda to being someone who plays devils advocate or being the critical one when it comes to suggestions tabled for consideration. Of course, all meeting participants continue to bring their own skills, opinions, and knowledge to the meeting and are expected to contribute those to the discussions too.

How to assign roles

Roles can be assigned before a meeting, the chairperson can ask meeting participants to volunteer for the various roles before the meeting starts or the chairperson can randomly assign roles at the start of the meeting (often done by means of handout out cards which explain the task of each role on a 2×4 inch card).

Task roles to assign

Initiator/Contributor

Contributes ideas and suggestions or proposes solutions and decisions. Proposes new ideas or reframes existing ideas in a different way.

Information Seeker

Asks for clarification related to comments – are they based on verified data? Asks for information or facts relevant to the problem. Suggests when more information may be needed before making decisions.

Opinion Seeker

Asks for clarification related to comments made by meeting participants.  Find out how people feel about ideas on the table.  Include those who have not yet been able to contribute an opinion during the discussion.

Critic

In a constructive manner, verbalizes ways in which a suggestion or idea could have unforeseen negative consequences for other (internal or external) stakeholders in the implementation of such suggestion/idea.

Process guard

Indicates decision-making errors and biases which may be skewing support towards a particular outcome. Points out departures from agreed-on agenda and discussion goals. Tries to bring the group back to the central issues and raises questions about the direction in which the group is heading

Summarizer

Summarizes what has taken place and what decisions have been made to date. Reminds the group of assumptions made along the way during discussions.

Note-taker and timekeeper

Keeps notes of decisions made, and actions agreed to. Reminds the group of an approaching break/end of the meeting.

Dysfunctional roles at meetings

Sometimes meetings are unproductive because one or more meeting participant is engaging in playing a dysfunctional role during the meeting which stifles discussion, shuts down conversations, and focuses the attention in unhelpful ways. Discussing these before the meeting starts could be another way to create awareness of unproductive meeting behaviors in order to avoid them. Sometimes it can be interesting to review a meeting in hindsight to identify if anyone engaged in any of these dysfunctional roles. This would be useful to help meeting participants develop self-awareness related to their meeting participant behaviors.

dysfunctional roles

It can be an taxing task to keep track of progress, keep an eye on the clock while also making sure that actions and decisions are captured while ensuring that discussions make optimal use of the skills and experience in the meeting room. Assigning task roles to meeting participants can give you a much-improved chance of having a productive meeting which ensures full engagement of all those present.

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.

Linking Performance Reviews and Merit Increases


Employee performance outcomes is one important aspect to be reviewed when it comes to considering merit increases. It is not the only consideration though. Overall merit increase budgets, inflation, changes in external benchmarks for specific roles, current compensation ratios etc. are all additional elements which would impact actual merit increases per department and employee.

The resource I have here ties a specific overall individual performance review score to a specific range of possible merit increases. Some managers require a highly structured and fixed process for determining % changes and this is one way to create one. One should however also be sure to consider the other aspects mentioned above: budget for increases that year, company performance in the last year (overall), the market value of specific roles (roles that are in high demand). Compensation has a powerful influence on employee engagement and retention, but it is not the only one. Employees also care about career growth, flexible benefits and being helped to develop further.

I would caution anyone to consider unintended outcomes when attempting to standardize and establish rigid structures for considering individual performance and linking that in a fixed way to merit increase percentages. While intentions may be good: to reward your best performers for their contributions and to ensure those with lesser performance improve or leave the company, a process that is overly structured could fail to accomplish that intention.

The approach shared above – see download link – indicates one way in which a group has established a direct link tying the performance review process directly to the merit increase process. This example does not take into account some of the considerations highlighted above when it comes to selecting the actual increase percentage and I chose to share this resource anyway, because it does happen that HR is asked for a process like the attached on a regular basis and I want to make an example available to you if you find yourself in that situation.

I do suggest you consider ways to incorporate the other aspects as outlined above when you finalize your proposal to implement a more structured approach to tie performance management to compensation review.

My main advice is to think it through carefully to ensure your good intentions have the best chance of being reinforced by your performance management process and pay-for-performance approach . And I would also add that you should remain flexible in working with your documented process. Be ready and willing to adjust and update it as you gather input about how successful your process is in driving desired outcomes – results and behavior that you and the executives would like to see in your pool of employees.

Performance Management – setting the annual process


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The HR function manages a few processes which take place at various points over a 12-month period. Think of the annual salary reviews, annual training needs analysis, bonus calculations and performance management processes.

It is important to managers to have a clear understanding of each of these processes and when they take place throughout the year. If you set all of these processes on a regular annual schedule it helps managers to correctly anticipate next steps in processes and provide input required in a timely manner.

This generic performance management process schedule I am sharing with you (see download option below) shows the various basic steps that would need to be followed over a 12 month period. There are references to the link with a salary/compensation review process and also the link with identifying and reviewing individual development needs and progress along achieving improvement goals.

Implementing a process like this would need a change management plan if your organization has never done anything like this before. Even if you have had some form of a performance management process in place, but would now like to expand on it to include some of the elements shown in the attachment, a change management plan would be recommended. Before you start you would of course ensure that the manager/director, who is accountable for the performance management process at your organization, is aligned with your ideas and suggestions and strongly supports the direction you would like to take.

The benefits of having a documented process for Performance Management are:

  • It is easy for HR to ensure new employees, current employees, new supervisors and existing managers understand the process and their role in the process.
  • It is a way to help stakeholders understand and then prepare for the input and actions they need to complete in order to support the process.
  • Linked to a balanced score card, the process can make it clear to individuals/departments how they collectively and as individuals support the attainment of larger organizational performance goals.
  • Knowing that there are check-in moments for feedback and discussion moments around performance expectations, progress and development needs and activities can be a strong way to reinforce employee engagement. Many employees tend to consider other employment options when they feel that their development and career progression goals are not being met by their current employer.

This list is not exhaustive. For more information about benefits see links like Benefits of performance management or Importance of Performance Management

Making Difficult Decisions


Making decisions is a key part of any leader or manager’s day. Most new leaders find this somewhat intimidating. There is the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of not having enough time to make the decision, the fear of not having enough information to make the decision and the list goes on.

“Every decision has at least a 50% chance of being the wrong one.”

The decisions that leaders make add up to the value that he or she adds to a team or an organization. And yet there are those who say most of our decisions have a 50% chance of being the right choice between two options. They say this to make the point that you can better make a choice and be active in the process than to avoid making a choice or a decision and being reactive.

Competing Benefit decisions
Classic example of trade-off choices

Trade-offs

When it comes to commercial and operational decisions most of the time the difficulty in decision-making lies in the correct trade-off within the benefits triangle (shown to the left).  If you can get the article/outcome within the time-frame that you would like and with the right quality that you would like to have, there may be a high cost trade-off. Similarly you can find yourself having a low cost at the right quality, but you may have to wait longer to receive the outcome or article. Understanding the trade-off as shown in the graphic above may make it easier to decide which of the three are non-negotiable and where a compromise may be appropriate.

Competing values

Another challenging area for decision-making can be competing values. Imagine you value employee development (as a leader or manager) and you also value productivity. Choosing to develop your employees typically means you have to take them away from their daily activities to attend a development or learning event. This implies they are not able to produce the results you need during that time. This kind of choice often comes at the last minute. Imagine you had planned for Employee A to attend a training course, but at the last moment he or she is sick or otherwise unable to attend and HR asks you to nominate a substitute and thereby presents you with a decision-making dilemma.

Competing Values Decisions

The graphic shown the the left illustrates some competing value trade-off decisions that you may be called upon to consider as a leader or manager.  If you have already completed a review of your own values as a leader you may have the advantage of using that as a framework for decision-making.  You would also need to look at the values that the company represent to make sure your trade-off options also include that perspective.

Finally when you do make a decision, be sure to explain your reasoning and make the values you are honoring clear to the impacted employee(s) or colleagues.

Decision-making styles

Decision Making Styles

Leaders and managers also often fall into the trap of trying to use only one decision-making style and they neglect to consider the other options open to them. There is a time and a place for every type of decision-making style.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to make autocratic decisions – this can be useful when the impact is limited, the need is immediate and the risk low of encountering resistance during implementation. At other times a more collaborative and inclusive decision-making process may be appropriate – such as when there are many stakeholders, people need to change their behaviors or work methods, time is on your side etc. Selecting only one decision-making style as a leader can make decisions difficult since you may find you experience a lot of resistance from others to implement your decisions especially if you favor autocratic decision-making most of the time.

The main job of a leader and a manager is to make decisions and choices in order to move projects and initiatives forward. Decisions also impact dealing with risks, unplanned barriers to success, and how to achieve the goals set for organizations and teams. All this, while respecting approval matrices, client satisfaction and the profitability of a project.

Decision-making is a skill that many leaders need help with and being more mindful about their own process for making decisions and understanding options open to decision-makers, is a good start. Work with a coach or trusted advisor if you want to talk through tough choices you need to make – it is a best practice that most successful executives engage in.

What are your Values -TEMPLATE


Before you can select goals and development objectives for your life and your career, you need to know what you value above all else in your life. Deciding how to spend your time, how to use your energy and where to focus your efforts – all of that starts with knowing what matters to you. Only when you know what you value the most, are you ready to make deliberate choices that reflect what matters to you the most.

Values drive how you spend your time and how you make choices and decisions for activities and events that are important to you. Your values are especially helpful with choosing among options – which events to attend, what to do first, which actions to take next etc. When it comes to decision-making: select options that align best with your values and avoid options that are not aligned with your values or may even be opposites to your values.

This tool (see download option above) an help you define your own values; it contains a list of statements to guide you on your quest. Instructions on how to use the template can be found at the top of the worksheet. First you read through the statements and then put a Y for yes in the first column to indicate those statements which most appeal to you from a gut-feel perspective. (It seems or feels right to you; knowing yourself and what you find important in life). The next step is to look at only the ones you have selected with a Y – put a score between 1 and 10 next to the selected items using the column to the right of each statements to indicate how important that selected statement (representing a value) is to you. The highest scores indicate your highest values. Rephrase or clarify any of the value statements if they do not fit 100% with how you see it.

Tips:

  • Feel free to add more statements or words at the bottom of the list if you think of values that are not shown. I find that these lists are good at helping one start-up the process and then your own ideas and words start to pop into your mind. This then enables you to complete the process without needing to use the listed statements.
  • Once you have your list of top 5 values, check that against how you spend your time and ask yourself if your choices reflect your values or not. If they do, great. If they do not, what will you change to ensure you spend your time in a way that reflects your values better?
  • Look at people you spend time with. Are you surrounded by people who share your values or do they have different values? If their values are aligned with yours, great. If their values are not aligned with yours, what will you do to ensure that you are able to live up to your own values?
  • Your job and the company you work for/the office environment – do you feel that your values are compatible with the environment and how leaders are behaving? Are people (employees and customers) being treated in a way that you feel is aligned with your values? I am not suggesting that you resign tomorrow if there is a disconnect between your values and status quo. Instead I would like to pose a question… what can you do to positively impact how things are being done right now? And what do you think are the best steps to take if you do not see any improvement over time or a better alignment with your values?

It is not easy to hold yourself accountable in this way; knowing what your values are and being honest with yourself about how well your life choices align with your values.  It is possible that some people will get upset with you when you consciously start making different choices with the way you spend your time and the things you are interested in or willing to do. The benefit of making decisions with your values in mind is that you will be able to take a more direct line to accomplishing your goals.  This will impact time management, prioritizing preferences and cutting out those items that distract you from achieving the goals and objectives that you have set for yourself.

Analyze how you use your time


“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (Gandalf)

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

How you choose to spend your time is a good indicator of the activities and people who are most important to you in your life. It shows your priorities clearly. How well do your daily activities reflect your priorities?

Have you faced any of these challenges?

Personal Development. Maybe you have considered taking an evening class to improve your skills or obtain a qualification you need, but you are not sure how you will find time to attend that class because of your busy life.  Taking a closer look at how you spend the time that you do have may help you see opportunities to change your schedule and make more time for career development activities.

Leaders and managers have many priorities to manage and often feel there are not enough hours in every day to accomplish the business objectives they have set for themselves and their teams. Taking a closer look at how you spend every day and every week my give you some interesting insights. You may discover areas where you could refocus yourself or delegate activities to free up more time for those other priorities.

Performance feedback could be indicating that your supervisor/manager feels you are not using your time at the office in productively. This template can also help you discover where he or she may be right and whether you are actually using your time optimally to achieve the performance goals that you and your boss have agreed upon.

The template, which you can download below, helps you to take stock of what you are doing with all of the time that you have available to you. I once discovered that 30% of my time was at my own discretion and I created a mantra for myself “make the 30% count.” Whenever I caught myself involved in an activity that I had labeled as of low value to me given my own goals and values, I would just remind myself of the mantra and shift my focus to a higher value activity.

Should you need more development in how to be more effective at work, I suggest you look for a class on time management tools. These classes typically focus on how to get better at email management, how to better plan your day to do the right type of activities at the right time of the day (energy management) and also how to get better at keeping track of your highest priorities and making sure that you are working on the right items at various check-in moments with yourself during the day. A coach or a buddy can also help you with this by not only sharing tools with you but also helping to keep you accountable for the goals and outcomes you have committed to.

I hope your efforts to take a closer look at how you spend your time has given you the awareness of how much time you have available to spend at your own discretion. Are you using your time wisely? Are you doing things that will get you closer to the goals you have for your life?

I found one has to repeat these quick checks on a regular basis – maybe every 6 months – to make sure you are still on the path you had set for yourself when it comes to being in charge of the time you have.

Planning Effective Meetings Template


One of the most frustrating elements of many managers’ calendars are meetings. If you ask people they mostly believe there are too many participants, that meetings take too long, and that some individuals talk too much and venture off-topic. And most people are unable to remember what was decided or which actions came out of the meeting. The tool I am sharing helps a chairperson to prepare for a meeting and it helps him or her communicate the specific overall objectives for the meeting and also for every agenda item.

Some of the meeting maladies mentioned above can be cured simply by creating and distributing an agenda to participants before having the meeting. This tool goes further though – it also helps to create clarity around each agenda item’s purpose in informing participants or driving decision-making to move a project or initiatives forward.

The template you can download above contains an example to illustrate its use. Just replace the agenda items shown with your own meeting agenda items and then complete each column as demonstrated to clarify who is responsible for each agenda item, the purpose of each item, and the allocated time and desired outcome for each of the agenda items.  Do share the objectives, time available and expected outcomes with those who are assigned to each agenda item – it helps him or her be prepared to guide the conversation and discussion accordingly.

Suggestions

  • Even with an agenda and a well-planned meeting there may be times when things need to change as it becomes clear that a critical issue requires to be solved right-away.  Give yourself the leeway to abandon the agenda for a particular meeting to deal with such a highly critical and important issue or set another meeting right after the planned meeting to address the issue.
  • Some successful chairpersons make use of meeting “agreements” or “ground rules” to further improve the quality of the meeting. Some have items such as “each speaker gets a maximum of 1 minute to make his or her point” and “we debate issues and we respect the opinions of others.”
  • To know if your meetings are getting better – get feedback from your meeting participants. Take a few minutes at the end of the meeting to ask what went well and what could be better in future – exactly how. Reviewing the feedback when you plan the next meeting can help you to be mindful of further improvements that can be included going forward.

I hope this tool helps you plan your next meeting and move closer to having productive meetings which helps you progress your project or initiative as you had hoped.

Delegation Tracking Sheet


Effective managers know how to optimize the value provided by their departments and groups by effectively delegating tasks to their direct reports in a way that continuously increases the skills and competencies of their direct reports.  Tracking who is working on which delegated task at a given moment can be tricky though. The template I am sharing is a great way to keep track of not only who is working on which delegated task, but also what was the overall purpose of the delegated task.

Try to match the task or activity/project you need to delegate to the right person in your team given their current skills and competencies and also matched to current development needs each of them have.  The template is based on a list of categories to consider: (see second tab in template for the definitions shown below)

The delegation tracking sheet helps you keep track of the level of capability the person has – which uses the definitions above to help remind you how much support he or she might need with that task.

Use the drop down list in column B to select the category that applies to that task/project and the person that you are delegating to.  You can create more lines for delegated tasks by just inserting a line between the existing lines.

Reasons why this list can be very useful:

  • Keeping this list up to date and referring to it in a regular basis will help you remember when to check in on someone working on a delegated task or project.
  • You keep track of the reasons why you gave a specific task to someone – from a developmental perspective. This means you know how much support and coaching may be needed while the person is working on this task.
  • Avoid giving the same task to more than one person. There is nothing more demotivating to an employee than finding out another colleague is working on the exact same project as he or she is after having already spent several hours doing research and talking to people about the project in order to deliver a great result.

You can do more and accomplish more as a manager when you don’t have to rely on your memory alone to remember who is working on which tasks and projects for you.

Succession Plan Template


succession

Ambitious leaders are always looking for ways to develop talented direct reports who could possibly take over the baton when the leader gets promoted. Planning ahead to make sure that tomorrow’s leaders are developed today is called Succession planning. People retire, people leave their role and, new roles are created during reorganizations and restructuring efforts. All of these scenarios may create the need for someone else to take over in a leadership role and the question becomes… do you have anyone available internally who is promotion-ready?

This is the reason why it is important to keep a track of the key roles you have in your organization and also keep an eye on those who could potentially fill the role should it unexpectedly become vacant.

Continue reading “Succession Plan Template”