Competence – getting to the top level


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

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

Going from Level 1 to Level 4

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

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

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

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

What is the value of using this model?

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

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

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

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


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

Structured Knowledge Sharing


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Very few companies are planning ahead when it comes to knowledgeable people leaving the company and retiring. The knowledge that is lost to the company when Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) leave can have direct impacts to the top and bottom-line and yet, there appears to be room for improvement in this process.

The need for implementing a structured process for knowledge transfer or sharing can naturally come from any of the following process and review discussions involving HR representatives and Managers:

  • Succession Planning
  • Workforce planning
  • Recognition and Reward reviews
  • Training needs assessment
  • Organizational capability discussions (now and future)

The question is: how are you ensuring that those with recognized expertise in a specific area contribute to the learning of others?

In many cases such a recognized SME needs to be assigned to mentor a more junior employee delivering promising results early in his/her career with the company. However, the time commitment associated with mentoring one to three people individually plus ensuring that the interactions meet content coverage expectations can soon become a concern.  So how do you optimize the knowledge transfer or sharing process, while not taking up too much of the SMEs time doing so?

The solution is to structure the knowledge transfer or knowledge sharing process and to include multiple participants. Ideally participants with an SME should range between 3 and a maximum of 8 people. Structuring sessions where those present interact improves learning as it facilitates discussions leading to deeper understanding and the ability to get into more detail on some topics.

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Preparing the managers

It is helpful to ensure managers (of those attending knowledge-transfer sessions) are prepared and understand the process. When they know the topics that would be covered, they can plan post-session assignments for employees to benefit from the new knowledge and help them retain what they have learned. New knowledge is much easier remembered when it can be applied on-the-job soon after the learning session. This greatly improves the amount of newly acquired knowledge integrated in decision-making and execution of daily work activities at the company.

Measuring learning

  • Adding a pre- and post- survey with questions related to the topic can help you measure the increase in employee knowledge from sessions.
  • You can also use a 360 feedback survey and get feedback from those working with, for and managing the employees before they start attending sessions. It would give you a snapshot of their current strengths and improvement points. Structure the 360 feedback survey to include competencies in the areas that will be covered by the series of sessions to come.

Preparing the Subject Matter Expert

Structuring the discussions that will take place between an SME and assigned participants can be a daunting task for an SME. They often do not realize how much they know about various topics.

The first task would be to unpack the area of knowledge the person has – look at processes, clients, products, technology, developments outside your company, projects that the SMEs are particularly proud of. You can also survey the intended participants to find out what they would like to learn more about. That is the first task – focusing on the highest priority topics over a 6 months trajectory of sessions. As a starting point that would give you a good start and the opportunity to do a process check 6-months later to see what can be better.

Once you have the topics settled for each session, the SME would need some helpful structure to disseminate his or her knowledge in a helpful way as opposed to telling several war stories from the past which leaves session participants confused.

The questions below can be used by the SME to prepare for each session and it could be helpful for him or her to even present the information to the group in this structured way.

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Capturing knowledge in a database would be one approach to knowledge sharing, but helping adults learn and know how to apply new knowledge requires that you build in room for questions and discussions in the process. This can be accomplished using face-to-face meetings, video conferencing, and webinars.

The best way to ensure that knowledge is retained and expanding within the company is to apply discipline and structure to knowledge sharing and transfer. This is especially important to do when you consider those who plan to retire in the next two to three years. Involving recognized experts (SMEs) within your company to share their knowledge with others is important for the sustainability of your competitive advantage in the market place. Its is about the things you know about your marketplace, the things you know how to do better and faster than your competition etc. Using the process and approach shared above will help you plan ahead and improve organizational capability over time.

How to Motivate employees and Retain them



What motivates your employees?

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

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

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

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

B. Level of current motivation

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

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Results – what to do next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting along better with others


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One area that often causes misunderstandings and frustrations in the workplace is when two employees have different interpersonal styles and ways of communicating and they do not get along. Being different from each other mostly means that they do not understand why the other party is doing and saying things in the manner that they do. Most of us do have the ability to make small changes to how we do or say things in order to improve collaboration and interfacing with others and this resource can help by creating awareness, which is the first step towards improvement.

The downloadable document I am sharing can be used for reviewing relationships with customers, other employees, work-related contacts, and even friends or loved ones. It helps you reflect on the interpersonal style that the other person displays in his or her behaviors. Building on this awareness this resource enables you to be more mindful of the best ways to interact with that specific person to have a better relationship with him or her.

Once you have awareness of how you can improve interpersonal relationships with specific people it may still be difficult to make changes to your own behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Should you get stuck once you have done the first part of the exercise, consider asking others for ideas on how you can best approach improvement in the key aspects you came up with. Depending on the current relationship you have with the person you focused on, you may be able to ask him or her directly. For example: “I noticed that you are very detail-oriented. Can you help me understand how I can better provide you with what you need in order for you to feel comfortable with my contribution on the projects that we are working on together?”

Uses for this resource include:

  • Own reflection and then taking action to improve on some of your interpersonal relationships.
  • Discussions with your coach on how to deal with some difficult individuals that you often work with.
  • Team-building – ask each team member to rate themselves on the items shown and then share with each other as a way to get to know each other better and improve interpersonal relationships on the team. (advocating).
  • Team feedback – Depending on the time you have available and the size of the team you may also ask each team member to map out each other team member using this resource. This means each person gets feedback from the entire team on how each team member sees them. The outcome could magnify self-awareness in the team and drive interpersonal relationship improvements across the entire team.

Misunderstandings can lead to a lot of misalignments between team members and can result in rework, which is a waste every project should avoid. Better interactions with others make the workday more fun and go a long way towards employees feeling more productive and effective at work.

Evaluating Leaders – a template


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The ability to reflect and learn from experiences and observations is one I most commonly associate with and admire in the best leaders that I have met over the years. This resource can be used to help leaders reflect on their own behaviors to identify development and improvement needs.

The leadership rating worksheet shared contains a sheet for self rating and also a sheet which can be shared with others for feedback purposes.

The resource (see downloadable file above) is not only helpful for leaders in rating themselves and uncovering possible developmental needs, but can also be used as a 360-type feedback tool. In that case the leader rates himself or herself and then requests feedback from others – in more senior roles, same level peers or in lower hierarchical roles – interacting with the leader on a regular basis. The 360 view can help eliminate any blind-spots that a leader may have concerning his or her own leadership behaviors as the perspectives are from others who often interface with the leader.  

The leadership aspects covered in this resource are:

  • Commitment
  • Risk taking
  • Motivational style
  • Open-mindedness
  • Diversity conscious
  • Trustworthiness
  • Continuous learning
  • Self-adjustment
  • Steadiness

Each of the aspects come with a brief description to ensure ratings are comparable after you have obtained feedback from others.

Uses for this resource include:

  1. Updating your own development plan and setting new goals and priorities for your own development activities
  2. Discussing the results with a coach or mentor to get guidance on what to focus on and how to plan next steps to improve on key leadership aspects.
  3. If a manager rates all of the leaders working in his or her department using this tool you can compare the leaders to each other in terms of strengths and development needs. This would be useful information to help select the best development programs for the team over the next year (for example).

Developing leadership skills is a lifelong journey. We can all learn to do better in some aspects over time and tools like this one can be a very useful check-in for reflection even for those who have been leaders for a long time. It is also true that we expect more from leaders in a globalized business world and concepts like “diversity conscious” and “cross cultural” skills are becoming very important for leaders to be effective on a global scale.

Leadership and Trust : Training slides


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Trustworthiness is the undisputed main characteristic that we look for in a leader and frankly also in any other person we encounter on a daily basis.  Trust is a topic that is often discussed in a business context after employee satisfaction or engagement survey results are known in organizations. The topic also often comes up when leadership training or development is considered.

The resource I am sharing consists of some slides highlighting the nature and importance of trust in teams and then it has an exercise which you can do with a group of leaders.

You can use this (download above) file in a few ways:

  • As a quick exercise (about 20 to 30 minutes) with meeting participants where Trust and Leadership is the topic of conversation or discussion. For example: in a meeting to discuss a recent employee survey where trust came up as an area to be addressed.
  • As a sub-section within a leadership training course where Trust and Leadership is an aspect of the course.
  • As a coaching discussion topic where it is important for someone to learn more about actions and behaviors that can contribute to being viewed as more trustworthy.

These slides won’t teach someone all of the aspects of trust and leadership, but they do provide a context for you to explore the topic. You may always choose to follow-up with more exercises or conversations about the topic in future.

(Note that the last “Slide” in the resource is not for display purposes, but for you to print out so that the small groups in the exercise have a way to capture their thoughts while going through the exercise.)

Evaluate balance in life TEMPLATE


Some coaches like to use a tool to help someone they coach look at his or her own life and how things are going from a big picture perspective as opposed to just focusing on one specific aspect of someone’s life like their career success. The goal is to see how much balance there is across various areas in someone’s life. The template helps identify life values and then it helps as a check-up to do maybe once a year to see how things are going in terms of maintaining a balanced life.

People dealing with signs of burn-out may also benefit from using this kind of tool with their coach to see where their lives may not be balanced or may not be a good reflection of their values. Meaning that the choices they make in how they spend their time (for example) do not line up with the things that they care about the most.

Imagine your life looked like a pizza

The starting point is to imagine your life has segments or aspects that matter to you. Imagine there is a segment called Financial health which is important to you because you like to have nice new clothes and a nice car. So you would have to make sure you pay attention to being able to earn money so that you are able to buy those things that matter to you. Another segment may be friends – and it would be important to spend time with your friends or you may find they are less engaged with you. This is how one starts to identify what each of those “pizza slices” of your life may be.

Once you have answered the questions and determined the total score for each segment in your life you can color it in to see a result like this example above. In this case the “friends” segment has a very high score in the result but another aspect like career has a very low score.

This template can be the basis for evaluating your “life set-up” and then you can work with your coach to discuss how balanced this is for you given your priorities in life. If you want to increase the outcomes in a specific area, simply start setting some goals in that area and then plan to follow through with actions to help achieve it.

Interpreting the results from this kind of tool is best done with someone who has experience in this area – like a coach. It is also easier to set goals and create a plan to meet them when you have someone to help you think it through. Holding yourself accountable to make sure you actually work on the actions you have planned can also be supported best by a trusted buddy or coach who can remind you what you had committed to take action on and highlight to you when you seem to be off-track.

Preparing for a Coaching Session


Coaching sessions and programs are more successful when there are clear coaching goals and actions planned are documented. These developmental actions and activities should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It helps both the coach and the person being coached to maintain focus on desired outcomes..

Many employees who are new to coaching have misguided expectations about the coaching process and their own role in it. They expect the coach would show up at each session ready to provide them with useful information and advice and all they needed to do was to show up. In reality the coaching process works much better when both parties actively participate and prepare for each session.

Coaching process JAG

This process graphic shows that each party in the coaching process provides input and participates in the process. The results are written down and shared to ensure a common understanding of the goals and that progress towards goal achievement is maintained.

Preparation worksheet for Coaching

Tips:

  • For those being coached: make sure you get your completed preparation sheet to your coach at least a few days before the session so that the coach can take your feedback into account. This helps him or her prepare to answer your questions and obtain any additional information and resources that may be useful to you at this time and bring it to the session.
  • For coaches: take note of the questions and struggles that may be noted in the preparation sheet. Consider how you can best help address those issues and which resources can you provide to help in the process? What is the best way to approach the coaching session – given those questions, issues and of course the overall goals that had been set for the coaching process?
  • Do remember to look back at previous preparation sheets and also the updated development plan on occasion (maybe once every 6 months) to recognize and appreciate progress made to date and to help motivate those being coached to take the next steps that may be required towards ultimate goal achievement.

Coaching is a shared responsibility between the coach and the person being coached. Only then, does the process yield the best results. And preparation is a key part of this shared responsibility.

Questions for Coaching


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.

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Closed Questions

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.

These are great questions to consider asking when you coach: Life Coaching Questions    Coaching questions for managers

Use a reality-check worksheet for a Positive Mindset


The success of a leader, a manager or an ambitious employee depends largely on the mindset that he or she operates on. When we are in a positive state of mind we can focus on our goals and collaborate and communicate in positive ways which inspire and motivate others to help us succeed in our goals.

It is unfortunately also possible for us to get pulled away from the positive state of mind when we are in high stress situations for a long period of time and when we allow ourselves to go down a spiral of negative thinking. Successful leaders and managers have learned how to quickly realize when this happens and to start implementing corrective actions and adjustments to their way of thinking. This self-awareness and regulating their own emotions help them rapidly get back to a focused mind and closer to the outcomes that they are planning for.

Expectations and Reality Curves

This model shows the blue path which I call the Expectation Trap or summarized as the kind of thinking that believes “things should not be this way”. This kind of thinking very easily moves us out of a positive mindset and it is aligned with going against reality. We wish that reality was different and we build this on our expectations of how good things should be and how badly others are acting or behaving as if others are actually causing the negative outcomes which we do not want to see.  The green curve is the way out of the negative thinking. It is a different mindset which aligns with 1) doing a reality check and using that as the basis for moving towards a better way of thinking, 2) learning from the past, 3) changing or improving the plans we had before something happened to interrupt our progress and then 4) moving into the new direction with a positive focus and determination.

The first step, doing a reality check – is often the toughest and once a person is already in a negative state of mind it is really hard for him or her to realize that it is necessary to do this.

Use the outcomes from this worksheet for further discussions with your mentor/coach or adviser. It may be that you need some coaching or just someone to be a sounding board for you as you talk through the situation and how to resolve it in the best way.

Some tips:

  • Be sure to really connect with the negative feelings when you complete the worksheet. Some people are really good at being able to temporarily switch off their emotions to focus on business – but for this form, do make sure you are connecting with how it feels inside of you when you think about that situation or event that had caused you to feel pulled away from your positive mindset and down the Expectation Trap.
  • Do take the steps necessary to resolve any upsetting situation/event. There is nothing worse than unfinished business behind you. It slows you down and drains you of positive mental energy that you need to accomplish the goal(s) that you have set for yourself. Your coach/mentor or adviser can help you with that if you are not sure how to resolve the upset so you can leave it behind you.