Improving and changing your organization takes work and energy. Gratitude is a way to replenish the gas tank so you can keep improving. Our brains are wired to minimize energy usage and have two basic systems for thinking – System 1 and System 2 (Thinking Fast and Slow). System 1 is a quick gut response and system 2 is a more complex thinking through the details process. System one is easy and requires almost no energy to execute while system two is much more in depth and requires more thinking. A classic example of system one thinking is asking a person to spell SILK three times then ask what do cows drink? They drink water but the majority of the time people answer milk. That is system one at work.
When you are trying to get better and improve your teams output that is hard work and requires system two type activities. This takes a lot of energy and you’re also focusing on what you aren’t doing right. This can be very draining and demoralizing to a team if not managed properly. Gratitude can be one way to mitigate the issues you have energy depletion.1 Practicing this is easy as a concept but hard to execute. A simple way to start is to start your day with three items you are grateful for. In addition start off meetings with an item of gratitude from each person there. Gratitude can help with coping with stress and keep your team moving forward. Think of it as a cross country road trip and gratitude is the fuel in the car.
FEHR, R., FULMER, A., AWTREY, E., & MILLER, J. A. (2017). THE GRATEFUL WORKPLACE: A MULTILEVEL MODEL OF GRATITUDE IN ORGANIZATIONS. Academy Of Management Review, 42(2), 361-381.
If you are expecting to hire someone and have them hit the ground running you are in for a rough time. Even if the person seems to know all the technical skills and knows your industry they still have to learn the culture goals, roles, procedures, and interpersonal dynamics at play with the job. This also applies to people who were previous employees who come back to work for you.
Before hiring you’ll want to gauge a few things about the position.
What are the measurable outcomes that determine success for each of the tasks and the job as a whole
What behaviors do you want to see from someone in the position and how do you know if they are living up to those behaviors
Allot time for training the new person to their role.
One of the biggest questions our clients have is how much time do we spend on training. That depends on complexity, risk exposure, and desired outcome for the tasks. If you have a very complex task that is a high risk exposure to the business then you will want to spend longer on that tasks. The general rule of thumb is that if it takes 1 minute of time to execute a task it takes about 6 minutes of training. So for a 5 minute task you will want to spend 30 minutes of training to be sure the person can perform that task at a high level with out supervision. This can be done over time and doesn’t have to be all at once.
To recap you want to determine success criteria for the job, behaviors you want to see, and create a time budget for the amount of time it would take to train the new person to be proficient at their job using the 6:1 ratio.
Fear setting is a great tool to use in conjunction with goal setting. Many people know how to goal set but fear setting is a little different. It’s writing down your fears, creating an action plan to prevent those fears from happening, and coming up with a plan if the fear comes to reality. Here is a Ted Talk with Tim Ferris (author of the 4-hour work week) on fear setting.
Annual performance reviews probably don’t help you achieve your strategy and business goals. Most places I go it seems they are more used to justify end of year bonuses or fire low performers. Reviews should be used as a feedback mechanism for learning and improving. The longer between reviews and feedback the less likely learning happens. A great alternative to the annual performance review is a 2 week performance review. Here is an example of what you would cover:
Open forum for any concerns that the employee might have
These six steps are a guide and can be easily tracked in an excel spreadsheet to get started. Step six is critical because you should see results in their behavior and/or performance improve quickly. If you don’t there may be an issue with the type of actions or the ability of the employee. Either way you get some insight as to what needs to change and you can make changes quicker than 1 year. By moving to a two week cycle you are effectively shortening decision cycles which leads to better outcomes in the long run.
“I can’t get good help!” “If I could just find the right people.” “No one seems to want to work anymore and they keep leaving.” These are common phrases I hear from business owners and executives. I want to talk about how to hire the right person and how to know if you have a good team player working for you. We’ve talked in the past about “Delivering Feedback to Millennials (and everyone else)“, and “Psychological Safety (a critical part of delivering feedback).” Both talked about how to help people improve. Let’s talk about the traits and skills for a good team player. These attributes can all be worked on improved and are not related to skill. The three items you want to look for are :
This list comes from a Book called The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. I would recommend the book for a deeper study. There are many ways you can define the three and here are some that we have done for a service based business (:
Ideal Team Player
Apologizing for mistakes quickly
Praise your teammates
Do “lower level” work for the better of the team
Being confident and knowing your abilities and advocating for your own ideas
Thinking you have all the answers
Taking 100% of the credit for team work
“Not My Job” mentality
Going above and beyond (more than the minimum)
Looking for ways to contribute without being told
Looking for more things to do
Take on challenge and tedious tasks
Ask “Is there anything I can do for you” to teammates
Doing bare minimum
Not doing anything to pitch in after your work is done
Over Delegating work
Asks customers for their preferred name and uses it at least 4 times during each interaction
Introduces themselves formally when they first meet a customer
Give feedback to your teammates when you see them not living up to the values of the company and the ideal teammate characteristics
Dealing with difficult customer/coworker situations with a smile,using empathy and emphatic speech, and trying to solve the problem at hand instead of saying “We can’t do that”
Not giving feedback to your team
Saying all the reasons why something can’t be done
Once you have your list of what each of these three characteristics mean to you then you can start with your existing staff and see which of the three does each posses at a high level. A person can have anywhere from 0 – 3 characteristics you feel they are strong. You can also use this to create interview questions to make sure you find these characteristics in your new employees.
Our post on Delivering Feedback to Millennials (and Everyone Else) talked about how feedback is critical to managing an organization. One key element to doing that is the develop a safe space where people feel open enough to give and take feedback. This is called psychological safety and it can mean the difference between learning high performing teams and teams that are average or under performing. Amy Edmondson does an excellent TEDx Talk on Psychological Safety and it’s worth the 11 minutes.
Don’t build the perfect product just build one good and make adjustments are you go. This is a common theme in Silicon Valley and the Lean Startup world. It has a lot of real world testing and validation with companies like Dropbox and Welathfront using it to grow and be very successful. One of the biggest concepts of Lean Startup are to be faster than your competitors to market so you can test your product first and iterate, pivot, and profit first. For Example if the average time for new product development is 1 year in your industry then doing a new product every 11 months is an advantage because after 12 years you have essentially iterated 1 whole extra year. There is a similar concept in the military world called Boyd’s Law. Boyd’s law says that if you can make decisions and changes faster than your opponent you will win a majority of the time. This was first applied to fighter aircraft where inferior aircraft would win dog fights because they had tighter turning radii. Boyd’s Law has what’s called the OODA loop. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The faster you go through this cycle the more of chance you have to beat your opponent. This is similar to the PDSA or PDCA cycles where you plan do study act or plan do check act.
This can also apply to business improvements. If you’re doing more improvements in a year than the competition then you have a higher chance you will be more efficient and a better bottom line. Do you focus more on speed or quality? How do you balance the two?
Learning happens best when you get feedback and it’s done in a safe space.1 The advantages of being a learning organization are:
Maintaining levels of innovation and remaining competitive 2
Being better placed to respond to external pressures 2
Having the knowledge to better link resources to customer needs3
Improving quality of outputs at all levels 3
Improving corporate image by becoming more people oriented 3
Increasing the pace of change within the organization 3
How you deliver feedback is important. Many folks will also say that Millennials don’t handle feedback well however I would suggest that there isn’t much supporting this statement. As a leader you can only control what you do and delivering the way you give feedback is a high leverage point for you. Here are some guidelines to follow when giving feedback:
Think of feedback as a withdrawal from a bank account and a positive comment as a deposit. You need to have more deposits than withdrawals.
The faster you give feedback the quicker the learning cycle 1
Give the feedback and then let the person say their side of the story and express how they feel.
Give suggestions on what can be done to improve
Track specific items that are 100% in their control and find a time to review the progress being made
Following these guidelines is a good place to start with feedback. By doing this you create a psychologically safe space for people to feel comfortable and improving. If you don’t create a safe space people take feedback as a stress response and can shut down and disengage if you are not careful.
If you want to make the biggest impact to the business with the least amount of resources and effort. You need to find your high leverage metrics. These are metrics that drive your business and will give you the biggest impact to the business if you change them. Obviously it’s a bit more complicated than just saying we should measure money and money out of a part of the organization. You want to look for metrics that are leading indicators that you have control over that will help produce a desired goal. There are three criteria you will want to ask if you want to know if your metric is high leverage
Is it 100% in your control and actionable
Will changing the metric yield desired results
Will the desired results be leveraged – meaning you get much more than you might put into improving the metric
Here are example of metrics that are not high leverage: Revenue, Number of defects, or Number of users. These are all outcomes that are not 100% in your goal.
Here are some example of high leverage metrics: Number of client calls made, Number of quality issues found and are currently being resolved. These are all with-in your control and are most likely to yield tangible results.
High leverage metrics are the metrics you want to present first in any kind of meeting. The first set of metric examples can be used to see if the metrics you are using are truly high leverage or not. If you think the number of client calls will increase your number of users and increase your revenue then you can validate that. You don’t want to use metrics like revenue for action but as a verification.