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The REAL Foundation to a Human Workforce

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I received an email invitation in my In Box recently for a webinar titled, “Recognition as the Foundation for a More Human Workforce.”  I deleted it but then went back to read it in more detail.

One of the reasons I deleted it is that it struck as sending the wrong message.  In fact, it does say “THE” foundation, not just “A” foundation.  All my experience, intuition, and even personal research tells me that this proposition is just plain wrong.

As relating to a “human” workforce, I recalled the piece by Emma Seppal in HBR (“Managers create more wellness than wellness plans do”) that speaks to the power of organizations and leaders characterized by trust, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, generosity, and respect. Is recognition lurking in there? Perhaps, but there is a big difference between recognition that is a daily spontaneous habit and what is viewed as a program.

When I was working with Dana Costar to design an upward feedback instrument for managers, we did a lot of background reading on possible drivers of perceptions of manager effectiveness.  It seemed to us that recognition was fairly far down the list, but recognition did keep popping up. So we somewhat grudgingly did include it as a dimension in our instrument to see how it stacked up when the data came in.

Our results (Costar & Bracken, 2014) on an international sample of 82 leaders showed that Trust is the leading driver of ratings of manager effectiveness, while Recognition fell far down the list. (As an aside, Trust was behind Facilitating Development in ratings of effectiveness as a Coach, but still far ahead of Recognition.)

Lolly Daskal’s blog in Inc. has a list of leadership “beliefs” (characteristics/behaviors) where says “Honoring Trust” is the “first job of a leader.”  But her list includes many other trust builders as well:

  • Leading by Example
  • Accepting Accountability
  • Leading with Integrity
  • Encompassing Humility
  • Manifesting Loyalty
  • Showing Respect
  • Leading with Character

(I see that recognition, “Exhibiting Appreciation” does make the list but is, in my opinion, overwhelmed by these other factors and a cousin to recognition.)

Gallup’s list of critical manager capabilities includes these:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

We don’t see recognition on this list either, but we do see trust.

Vendors are pushing recognition apps. I believe they fall in the category of activities that are relatively harmless but of little value. If there is harm (besides wasted expense) it is that they, by nature, are targeted only at positive feedback. Then there is a lost opportunity to create awareness of other important behavioral/skill deficits.

I have proposed that “Trust” comes in two forms: Trusts and Trusted. Turned into behaviors that can be defined, developed and measured, they look like this:

TrustMCL

Trust is one of those constructs that may be elusive to pin down definitionally, but we all know it and, more importantly, feel it when we experience it. Unfortunately (tongue deeply embedded in cheek) there will never be a “trust” app.  But trust can be “deleted” just as fast as an app with no opportunity to reinstall.

Trust is the real foundation of a human workforce.  Define it, develop it and measure it.  Then your organization has a chance of really being “human.”

 

Costar, D.M., & Bracken, D.W. (2014). The impact of trust and coaching relationship on manager effectiveness ratings.  In D.W. Bracken (Chair) Manager As Coach: Defining, Developing and Measuring Effectiveness. Symposium at the 29th Annual Conference of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Honolulu, HI, May, 2014.

©David W. Bracken 2016

 

Manager, Coach, Leader, SuperBoss?? Stop!

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We are confusing ourselves and those employees who hold authority positions in our organizations with a plethora of role labels, each of which is valid and viable, but poorly defined and almost impossible to fulfill at the same time. I give you the examples of Manager, Coach, Leader, and (most recently) SuperBoss.

GrtLdr

I have recently discovered Tanmay Vora (qaspire.com)and his wonderful pictorial depictions, often of literature he has read and wishes to summarize. Here is one that captures “Leadership” that he himself created in all its complexity.

No wonder our “leaders” are overwhelmed! This is a great list but really are nine different roles with lots of room for discussion, debate and overlap. In the process of having that discussion, we should carve out sub roles and point out that no one can be good at all these things and certainly not do them all at the same time. Even “SuperBosses” are not good at everything, despite the “super” part.

Let’s begin with “SuperBoss”  because it also contains the label “boss,” another label that we can apply to people in positions of authority (formal and informal).  I had the privilege to hear Dr. Sydney Finkelstein speak recently on the topic of “SuperBosses,” coinciding with the recent publication of his book of the same name. Examples of people he uses to describe the profile of Superboss (along with a 360 Feedback behavioral inventory) is quite diverse:  Jazz legend Miles Davis, restaurateur Alice Waters, fashion iconoclast Ralph Lauren, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, producer George Lucas, SNL creator Lorne Michaels, NFL coach Bill Walsh, and hedge fund manager Julian Robertson.  Dr. Finkelstein asserts that a “SuperBoss” can be created (i.e., developed), though I am not sure how many a given business could tolerate.

I had the temerity to inquire during the Q&A as to why he chose to build on the label of “boss” when it has many negative connotations, including associations with the Mafia (think of The Godfather). Was Vito Corleone a good Superboss? Or Michael, for that matter? Dr. Finkelstein shared that his first working title was indeed “Godfathers” but was dissuaded from that course due to multiple problems, not the least of which was gender-related.

Speaking of boss, this graphic has recently resurfaced on LinkedIn and is incredibly BossLdrrevealing. We obviously were not in the head of whomever created it, but it has some useful messages to reflect upon.  On one hand, the Boss is in a position can’t help but generate negative feelings. But note that a) the team is trying to get over a ditch, and b) the Boss is pointing (not whipping), probably talking or shouting, and c) the platform says “MISSION” to infer that everyone knows what is trying to be accomplished (and evidently of some magnitude).

Despite the negative emotions you may have towards this “Boss,” I propose that the Boss is probably of more use than the Leader below, and should be called “Manager.”  In the movie “Gettysburg,” neither Lee nor Grant are out there leading the charge. Each sets the “mission” and assigns others to carry it out, with many “others” required to do so, literally sitting at the rear of the attack.

The time for being the Leader is also important, and sometimes does require both setting the lead by getting on the ground at the front of the line (think “Steward”) , and getting one’s “hands dirty” in the process. What isn’t shown here is the role of the Leader in interfacing with the rest of the organization on behalf of the group, both vertically (upward) and horizontally (both internal and, if applicable, externally).

No wonder our “leaders” (maybe “boss” is better?) are confused and overwhelmed!

And then there’s the Coach. Being a “coach” while leading a team is a totally different set Coach.pngof skills and behaviors from those of Manager and Leader, let alone SuperBoss.  Here’s another great Tanmay Vora graphic from reading the work of Lisa Haneberg.

There is a time and place for a Boss to be a Coach as well, and, as shown here, not an easy set of skills and behaviors to acquire and hone.  These capabilities should be set aside from those of being Manager, Leader and SuperBoss so that they can be communicated, developed, measured and tracked (i.e.,  create accountability) in a clear message.

One thing all four roles (Manager, Coach, Leader, Superboss) have in common is that they each should “inspire action,” (though that “role” surprisingly is not included in the “Roles for Great Leadership” above). Each role does it in a different manner and, in general, with different emphasis on the individual versus the group.

The Forum Corporation published this study on LinkedIn (4/28/16) regarding LdrCompscompetencies for first-level leaders. I would contend that this list further reinforces the need for differentiation of roles and their associated competencies in support of development and assessment:

Finally, I was pointed to this video (https://goo.gl/XfFQnR) of Joel Trammel who makes the distinction between Manager and Leader (and, for CEO’s, Commander).  He goes on to say that he would prefer an organization full of Managers over having a bunch of Leaders.  Clearly his mental model of “leader” is very specific and has little overlap with that of Manager.

In addition to inspiring action, there are clearly two other common denominators that create the foundation for any kind of positive relationship between Boss and his/her direct reports: Trusted and Trusts.  Being Trusted springs from having integrity, being honest and being consistent. Being Trusting (or Trusts) happens as the boss shows respect and dignity, including empowering the direct reports to demonstrate their own talents. MCL

In a nutshell, we might envision the Manager role as being depicted like this. Here I use the label “manager” deliberately to differentiate it from “leader,” though it does show the overlap with the “coach” aspect of the position. Most importantly, each of the 4 activities and the Trust/Trusted foundation must be described in behavioral terms in order to help all stakeholders understand what they require and how to develop them. “Culture” and “Goals” represent the organizational (contextual) environment that creates alignment for those behaviors.

Here are some basic role definitions:

Role

Description

Manager Ensures that day-to-day work requirements are achieved in alignment with organizational goals and values.
Coach Partners with an employee to define and implement effective solutions for problems and/or ongoing work processes.
Developer Partners with an employee to identify needs for short term and long term (career) development, and implements plans accordingly.
Leader Coordinates across team members, represents the team vertically (upward) and horizontally (work groups, customer) to ensure alignment and motivation.

Both the supporters and attackers of our Performance Management systems know that supervisors universally need to be better at providing feedback and developing their direct reports, all while accomplishing organizationally-driven performance requirements. This is a complex set of skills and behaviors that are best taught and developed on the job. That is done most effectively when sub roles are clearly defined, both for the benefit of the supervisors and the DR’s.  We need to choose our labels carefully and ensure consensus when we describe a “boss.”

©2016 David W. Bracken

 

 

 

 

 

WAINT (Why Am I NOT Talking)

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Welch

In a response to my last post, (https://goo.gl/HW1lzl), Jason Read (@JasonReadPHD) correctly notes, “If only they practiced this ratio…”

It’s easy to blame the leader and then the organization (as creators of ability and culture) for not acting as a “coach” by stopping talking and asking, WAIT (Why Am I Talking).  Well, guess what. There are two parties in that exchange and the “other” person (employee, customer, child) should be thinking, WAINT (Why Am I NOT Talking).

There are a number of plausible reasons why the “other” doesn’t ask WAINT more often.

  • Both managers AND the employee (or “other,” whomever it is) have “always done it this way,” i.e., it has become the accepted MO for management. I talk, you listen. Then you do it. See ya.
  • Some people like being told what to do. They don’t expect to be asked, so they either don’t prepare or want to put in the effort.
  • They don’t have the opportunity to talk. Often not enough time is allotted for the real exchange of ideas, which ties back to the first point of the expectation of how the exchange is expected to occur (if “exchange” is even the right word; maybe more of a lecture).
  • Some people have self-doubts, and it becomes a self-limiting obstacle to personal contribution. This also has lots of reasons, including past experiences and past contributions not being acknowledged, tried, and/or rewarded. This can go WAY back in a person’s upbringing, and can be difficult to change, but it often is an assumption the person is making about outcomes.

I feel myself drifting into clinical psychology (where I don’t want to be and am not qualified to be), so this behaviorist will return to the REAL reason for this post, and that is to propose that WAINT is fixable, regardless of the histoy. The first requisite of change is to increase awareness, and so we need to make people (all the “others” in the world) to first realize they are not talking and that, at times, that needs to change.

When we are the “other,” we have a responsibility to contribute.  And we, as change agents (consultants, HR professionals, trainers, leaders who want change) need to create an environment (culture) that encourages the “others” to get involved and to be supported.

It starts with the awareness creation that the status quo is not working, and both managers and “others” need to change. The organization is losing a major resource in the minds and abilities of its employees when they aren’t heard , supported and recognized.

In a prior blog (https://goo.gl/6w57Fd) I proposed taxonomy of manager/other interactions, four types of discussions that are used in different situations.  I propose that it is insufficient for managers to go off to training and learn this approaching to being a better manager and coach. It is equally important to create the awareness of the “others” that these conversations are all important and each type has its time and place. Part of the message is that Activator exchanges need to be happing more often, and this is where 10:1 ratio of listening to talking comes into play.

I also propose that part of this orientation for both managers and the “others” is to create a language that forms expectations about what kind of exchange is about to happen, as in the manager saying, “Lets have a check-in” so that both parties have a vision of what their roles will be. Or the employee might say, “I’m having a problem and we need to have an Activator chat.”  When they enter that talk, they should be thinking that the 10:1 ratio will be used, versus maybe a 1:10 ratio when the Director discussion is happening. And, if the expectation is that the employee will have the opportunity to talk for 90% of the conversation, he/she had better be prepared to do just that.

Yes, the manager has the WAIT question to wrestle with. But the “other” has a WAINT to be aware of as well. It won’t do any good for the manager to create air time if, as they say on the radio, there is only dead air.

Written by David Bracken

February 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Checking In Is Not Enough

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It has been two years since I last raised the question in this blog about “what is a coach?” (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/what-is-a-coach-redux/).   While I think (and talk) about this topic often, I haven’t been moved to write about it in this forum until now when my friend Jon Low published in his daily Low-Down a piece from Fast Company by Kris Duggan titled, “Why The Annual Performance Review is Going Extinct.”  (http://goo.gl/sH7hVi)

There’s a lot going on in this article.  I disagree with the notion that performance appraisals are going “extinct,” so I want to focus on this question of coaching.  Most of the arguments for dismantling the appraisal call for more interaction between the employee and the manager/supervisor, sometimes as if it’s an “either/or” type of choice, like you can’t do both have an annual appraisal and regular feedback and coaching.

Kris does the same in this article, as in “turning managers into coaches,” which here literally means checking in more frequently on progress toward goals.  Taken to its logical end and the capability to monitor some jobs continuously, the best “coaches” will be those managers who constantly monitor their subordinates.

Actually, goal setting and monitoring are often set outside the definitions of “coaching” and reserved more for “managing” performance.  Coaching requires some sort of situational diagnosis, but only as a starting point.

My reflex reaction is to say that “checking in” in not “coaching,” any more than “showing up” is 80% of success (according to Woody Allen).   But maybe “checking in” is an activity (behavior) that is the transition from managing into coaching, the opportunity to clarify goals, check for understanding and identify possible barriers (e.g., resources). That also assumes that “checking in” is more than just saying, “Hey, how ya doin’?”

Here I may be falling into my own trap of making assumptions about what “checking In” means and is intended to mean. Kris and BetterWorks coworkers  may have some particular methodology around training managers on how to “check in” to determine progress against goals. Yet “checking in” has a very casual feel to it in our vernacular, and has the very real risk of being misused as some sort of type of “coaching.”

What IS important is that manager/leaders/supervisors aren’t somehow led to believe that “checking in” is synonymous with “coaching,” and that they are “coaching” when they check-in and that’s the total requirement for being a manager-coach.

Building on a simple model of coaching that I started in the “Redux” blog mentioned above, let me propose a taxonomy of basic manager-as-coach that can create shared expectations for the manager and his/her team members. When there is a clear understanding of what various types of “coaching” can be used to approach a given situational need, and the understanding is shared by both parties (coach and coachee), then the event is expedited.

In an effort to be open-minded, I propose four basic types of coaching style that includes the “check in”:

  • Checker: Ensures understanding of goals and resources.
  • Director: Identifies problems and provides a recommended solution(s). Tells what action to take.
  • Activator: Guides coachee through identification of options and optimal approach, aligned with team/org goals.
  • Developer: Engages coachee in regular, formal discussions regarding current, short term and long term (e.g., career) goals and development implications/steps.

Imagine that the organization requires that every team (defined as a group with a manager/supervisor) has training on these four types of manager/employee interactions, when and how often each type is optimally used, how the conversation is best accomplished, and some role modeling.

Using elements of the ALAMO model (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/alamo-a-new-performance-model-webinar/) (across the top), we can provide examples of how the various interactions might go when initiated by the manager/supervisor.  This table is provided to show the hopefully stark differences in the coaching styles available to a manager, each of which is appropriate under certain circumstances, though typically overused (Director) or underused (Activator).

Alignment Ability Motivation Opportunity
Checker “Are you clear on your assignment?” “Is there anything you need to know?” “Are you making progress?” “Do you have what you need?”
Director “I know what is best. Go do it.” “Here’s how to do it. It has worked for me before.” “Success or failure will affect your PA rating.” “Here’s your time frame and budget. Make it work.”
Activator “What do you think is the best way to achieve this goal?” “Yes, that approach is a good match for your skills.” “It seems like you are most excited by this approach.” “Are there any barriers that might hinder your progress?”
Developer What are your career goals?  What does the organization need? What abilities will you need to develop to get there? Why do you want to go that direction? Why haven’t you already started?

This can create a “language” for the team and for the organization, for that matter. Whether initiated by the manager or the employee, any formal or informal conversation might begin by saying, “Here’s the situation, and let’s have a quick Directive discussion”, or “Let’s have an Activation discussion on how to approach this,” and then dive in. Each person knows they are having a “coaching” session, whether informal or formal, and the basic objective. Or “I’m just checking in. Everything going OK?”

Performance management systems can be set up to allow managers to keep track of the very basics of when  these types of sessions occur.  This can help them track their own progress on using different styles of coaching, and also see when it is time to do career coaching, for example, if that has slipped through the cracks.

I heard, via a webinar, of one organization that gives employees cards with different types of interactions printed on them, and they can “redeem” them with their manager to initiate informal or formal discussions at their discretion.  The manager, on the other side of the equation, can be challenged to collect the cards from each employee over the course of a quarter and/or year. So the employee will have cards that say, using my model,  Checker, Director, Activator, or Developer.  There will be a lot of Checker cards, but only a few (2-4) Developer cards. Each card might have some verbiage with guidance on how and when to best use them.

Finally, let me loop back around to a question Jon Low raises, namely “who should be judging who?”  There is no question that employees should have the opportunity to provide feedback regarding their manager’s performance as a coach. Instruments such as The ManagerCoach© help define the desired behaviors and outcomes (e.g., trust) that will only occur if managers are measured and held accountable to, and hopefully developed, trained and selected as well.

We can’t create effective manager-coaches if we aren’t clear as to what they look like, and then select, train and reward accordingly.  “Checking in” isn’t enough to be a manager coach, any more than just showing up leads to success.