Feedback - What To Do & What Not To Do

Asking for feedback is not a simple task – it requires a level of vulnerability and let’s face it, being able to admit that we’re not perfect!  Once you’ve determined your list of trusted colleagues, family and friends to participate, it’s time to get intentional on your approach.

What to do…

  • Explain to others why you are looking for feedback –what you hope to obtain and share your goals
  • Ask them to be specific (what they observed, the reactions of others, and so on)
  • Listen up!  This is important – ask people how it made them feel.  Don’t negate the importance of the heart response – and pay attention to the non-verbal cues
  • Actively listen and then paraphrase what you heard to ensure understanding
  • Ask for alternatives to your approach and/or behavior
  • Respect those that choose not to engage in the process and thank those that do

What not to do…

  • Don’t try and defend your behavior – simply listen and avoid being defensive (theres’ plenty of time to process later)
  • Don’t interrupt – allow the person providing feedback to finish their thoughts.  Then you can ask clarifying questions
  • Don’t allow those awkward moments of silence to hinder the process. Sit with them and allow space to contemplate…some true gems of wisdom just might emerge

Remember that feedback is subjective – so take it all in, process it – but don’t allow it to rock your world.  Fairly evaluate where you see consistency, where you see growth opportunities, and how to apply them in your development.  And finally, make sure to stay connected with these people that took time to invest in you.  Allow moments for follow-up and continually seek out feedback that helps you stay on course to meet your goals.

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Finding Forward Motion in Your Career

Are you struggling to find forward motion in your career?  On cruise control?  It might be time to ask for some feedback that re-primes the motor to move forward again.  Determining whom to incorporate into the discussion is your critical starting point!

  • Begin by determining the right people to ask (emphasis on right) – consider your professional and personal sphere of influence and find those that you trust to tell you the good stuff…along with the stuff that’s a bit muddied (you know…the good, the bad, and the ugly)
  • Motor beyond your comfort zone and consider talking with those that have a different approach than you, maybe even someone you’ve had a disagreement with in the past – this will provide perspectives you won’t receive from your mainstream group
  • Identify those that you’ve known for a good length of time – and most importantly have seen you perform in different settings

Whether you’re moving forward in your career or fine-tuning where you sit now, ongoing and constructive feedback serves as a catalyst for goal development, personal growth, and confidence building!

Written by Shalyn Eyer

How to Sustain a Giving Back Culture

How a company sustains a giving back culture is an important topic to explore. Perhaps, we should explore ‘why’ first.  Why should a company offer or promote a giving back culture?

With the workforce demographic shifting and employee’s increasing desire for a meaningful work, it’s imperative a company creates a purpose culture in order to stay competitive in the talent market.  To some companies, this can appear to be a daunting task. How does a culture of ‘paycheck’ shift to a culture of ‘purpose’?  

First, it’s worth highlighting as Gallup reported, “organizations must also remember that workers view the employer-employee relationship through a different lens than they once did. Employees are less inclined to stay with a job simply because it provides them with a paycheck. They signed up for a certain experience, and if they do not get that experience, they are more than willing to look elsewhere. Employees are consumers of the workplace. They are drawn to brands they can connect with.”

When a company provides an opportunity for its employees to give back to the community, it boosts engagement. The employee experiences a concept of prosocial behavior, or doing something for the benefit of someone else. Prosocial behavior positively affects the individuals participating in it, and in return, their workplaces. The association with a company and the opportunity to give back is an important link to creating a culture of purpose.

From my experience, many companies connect with their workforce and accomplish the feat of launching a sustainable giving back culture by leveraging technology.  With the use of well-designed technology, it can streamline many of the burdensome processes to shift a culture from ‘paycheck’ to ‘purpose’.  For instance, a company can use a customized website to promote and connect employees to charitable giving opportunities. With the use of technology, reporting and measuring KPIs is another benefit. Last, technology can be used by nonprofits to demonstrate transparency and accountability by reporting back in how they use employee donations. Thus, closing the loop which further connects and engages employees to their work. 

Recently, a healthcare company launched Forward It On to its diverse workforce which spreads across a few states.  The company employs billers and coders which is a high demand profession in the healthcare market. As a strategy to retain its workforce, Forward It On was used to shift to a purpose culture.  The result, 37% of the employees participated when the program launched and over 90% have maintained engagement in the company’s focus of giving back.  With limited HR professionals to manage the program, Forward It On offers an efficient way to manage a giving back program.     

About the author:

Walker Morrow is the founder and CEO of Forward It On.  Our technology platform connects nonprofits with employers interested in facilitating workforce giving and volunteering initiatives. With our technology, it's an easy way for companies to forward on their good will and offer giving opportunities to their employees on a year-round basis with little effort to manage.

Listen up!

Does this sound familiar… “are you really listening to me”?  We’ve been hearing this all our lives.  Seems like we should all be top-notch listeners by now; but the truth is it’s very easy to slide into the mode of just hearing, and failing to actively listen.  And like it or not, this impacts relationships and culture.  Many leaders find themselves shocked when they receive feedback that they’re not really listening, or coming across as impatient or just plain unaware of circumstances surrounding them.  But the outcomes are real, sometimes raw and always significant.

This isn’t a conversation, however, about the practices we’ve all learned to engage in active listening – removing barriers, focusing our attention, reflection and so on…although those are all important things!  As a leader, what I’m curious about, is how much you’ve considered the barriers to active listening that may exist around you.

  • Are you practicing silence?  As leaders, we’re often looked upon for the answers and to manage the conversation…but this doesn’t mean doing all the talking.  Active listening requires the space to peruse differing viewpoints and shared ideas – to hold the silence, even when awkward. 
  • Are you aware of the pressure?  We all feel it, but are you addressing it?  Or is it overwhelming and inhibiting you from stopping, staying focused in the moment, and really listening to what’s happening around you?
  • Are you ok with the emotion?  Interacting with people means you’re interacting with emotion.  Period!  Emotion will always be in the room – and active listening provides a tool to hold that emotion, possibly even temper it, so that a productive conversation can ensue.

Practice makes perfect they say!  Well, it’s a great place to start anyways.  Rather than just attempting to apply those “stop, drop and roll” tactics of active listening – apply a new lens with which to approach a more productive conversation and another resource in which to build your leadership skills.

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Boss or Bossy?

When you hear the word supervisor, what crosses your mind - boss or bossy?  A recent survey of US leaders by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) tells us that that bossy is associated with many negative perspectives around supervisors… including micromanaging, aggressive, rude and controlling behavior, and a tendency to ignore other’s perspectives.  Furthermore, the study reveals that bossiness in the workplace is a big deal – in fact, 25% of the respondents said they’d been called bossy bosses, and 92% said they’ve experienced leaders of this same type[i] – with all reactions pointing to unpleasant experiences that impact the workplace.  

The good news?  This may be shifting…

Over 70% of these same respondents shared that bossiness in the workplace is on its way out – meaning that a bossy demeanor will more than likely squash your chances of promotion, disrupt your career trajectory, and certainly won’t get you labeled as a leader.  In fact, bossiness reflects a lack of interpersonal skills – those required to be an effective leader.  

While our intention may not be to portray a bossy persona, there’s a difference between intention and impact.  The Cure? Be proactive in finding out your impact with your team and within the organization.  Consider how you would describe yourself and your nature toward others – and then find some trusted colleagues and ask them the same questions.  How do they view you?  Is there alignment between the perspectives or might you discover some aha’s to cure that bossiness syndrome?  

Becoming intentional about your impact on others is step-one in developing effective relationships, shifting the culture around you, and becoming a super star leader.  It’s a developed skill set that builds an environment of ownership, promotes a culture of empathy, and creates a space where shared ideas drive organizational effectiveness.

[1] Clerkin, C., Crumbacher, C., Fernando, J., & Gentry, W. (2015). How to be the boss without being the B-word (bossy). Retrieved from http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HowToBeBoss.pdf

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Patient Experience: How are We Doing This?

While a lot of this sounds like great words on paper, we want to share one story about our work with one client to transform the patient experience...  In this situation, we’ve worked on addressing and transforming the patient experience through the holistic lens of the People Dimension™.

The Goal:  To help a healthcare provider organize and structure their efforts around championing and sustaining a customer service focus and vision to positively impact patient satisfaction scores.  

How was this done?

  • The first step was assessing the current state of the culture from a customer service perspective to define what an ideal culture of customer service would look like.
  • The next step involved developing and deploying a customer service training program that aligns to the service vision and outcomes they wanted (increase patient satisfaction scores).  The goal with the education and training was to inspire people to learn and openly demonstrate customer service skills.  A year-long series of engagement activities were mapped out for the organization...  Careful to not overwhelm the staff with changes in expectations, communications, micro-learning moments and customer service tips were developed and deployed with focus on specific themes and behaviors.

Quarterly themes with monthly focus behaviors were used to drive the desired customer service culture.  For example, one quarter focused on personal ownership of customer service behaviors, while each of the three months focused on specific behaviors that supported that theme.  

  • Additionally, development opportunities were created for folks at all levels of the organization.  A team of champions was defined, and this team was given the tools they needed to actively engage physicians, management and staff to demonstrate, as a team, the desired customer service behaviors and skills.  This enabled each team to identify how to best change their local culture, and positively impact patient satisfaction scores.
  • To support these efforts, a rewards and recognition program was enhanced to acknowledge the demonstration of customer service skills and behaviors that had been defined early in the process. 
  • Inspired by the changes, the organization even made a commitment to giving some of the facilities a “makeover”.  This willingness to tackle the remodel will only complement all the other efforts made. 

The Outcome:  We were continuously tracking changes in patient satisfaction scores while these activities were taking place.  Over several months, we noticed a consistent up-trending in key areas around patient satisfaction.  We started to see less and less comments about frustration around behaviors that were not conducive to a good “customer experience” – these comments showed a change in behavior for the positive. 

What’s Next:  In the future, they will be looking at clinical workflow processes to drive efficiency and to further positively impact customer service and patient satisfaction. 

If you’re just starting on your patient experience journey and want to check out some good resources, check out some of the following reads:

  • Patients Come Second (Paul Spiegelman & Britt Berrett)
  • If Disney Ran Your Hospital:  9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently (Fred Lee)
  • Hardwiring Excellence (Quint Studer)

Written by Sheila Repeta

Our Relationship with the Beryl Institute

In our previous post, we looked at FutureSense’s commitment to the patient experience with our healthcare clients.  So just how are we partnering with the Beryl Institute?

  • Beryl Institute Membership – The Beryl Institute has not only led the discussion about the patient experience, but has also driven change efforts, legislation, and advanced research about the patient experience.  Their goal is to partner with organizations to elevate the importance of experience across all care settings.  Their commitment is to generate and share ideas and proven practices, all while recognizing the value of the entire healthcare team.  This approach aligns with how we work with our clients.  As members, we are engaged in the patient experience conversation with the industry’s thought leaders, connected to cutting edge research, as well as committing to the patient experience community.
  •  Beryl Institute Marketplace – The Beryl Institute Marketplace functions as the go to resource to identify patient experience products and services to help organizations that are supporting their patient experience issues.  FutureSense stands ready to partner with organizations needing help in professional training/consulting as well as human resource/talent assessment approaches to patient experience through the Marketplace. 
  • Certified Patient Experience Certification (CPXP)  - As a part of our commitment to engaging in the patient experience, we have invested time and resources to ensure that one of our team members is certified as a CPXP through the Patient Experience Institute (a partner organization of the Beryl Institute). 

Overall, partnering with the Beryl Institute allows us to grow our capacity, skills, and partnerships to expand our patient experience offerings to our clients. 

 

Written by Sheila Repeta

Why Patient Experience?

Most of our FutureSense clients know that we spend a lot of time working in the entire continuum of health care.  Whether it’s a hospital or senior living organization, or home health to biomed technical services, we know that the patient has always been at the center of the work of our clients. With this in mind, FutureSense has invested our time, resources, and our minds to develop the “patient experience” area of our practice. 

While the patient has always been at the center of healthcare, the concept of the patient experience has taken a new shape and form as it now plays a role in the bottom line of healthcare organizations.   The patient experience means different things to different people, so we at FutureSense operate using the Beryl Institute’s Definition of “patient experience” which is defined as:

Armed with this definition, FutureSense stands ready to help our clients move the meter by aligning the People Dimension™ practices with the patient experience in your healthcare organization.   We work with organizations to help ensure your environment, culture, development of your people, and the rewards systems drive patient experience results.  

Written by Sheila Repeta

Got Empathy?

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) claims that “empathy is a construct that is fundamental to leadership” – and I couldn’t agree more![1]  This isn’t just a nice sentiment –there’s research to back it!  CCL compiled data from over 6700 managers in 38 countries and found that empathy is indeed positively tied to job performance – leading to greater harmony, social order and role stability across the organization, and strengthening leader-subordinate relationships.  And here’s the even better news…empathy can be learned and will improve leader performance and effectiveness!  Through coaching, training and developmental opportunities, leaders can develop a stronger sense of empathy and enhance the cultural tone around them to encourage others in the same way.

So the next time you’re engaged with others around the boardroom table or just in the hallways, hone in on those active listening skills, intently listening for the meaning behind the words – pay attention to how it’s said and not just what’s being said.  Hold back judgement, cultivate a culture of compassion and encourage a safe environment for people to express genuine concerns and challenges.  Developing the ability to genuinely understand the perspectives and emotions of others will build your level of effective leadership – and go a long way to contributing to a culture of empathy around you.

[1] Gentry, W., Weber, T., & Sandri, G. (2007, April). Empathy in the workplace: A tool for effective leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Creating a Spark in Your Emotional Culture

Research tells us that 80% of the cultural environment in an organization is emotional – meaning that when push comes to shove, emotions are always going to outplay the cognitive process as it relates to behavior.  As a leader, if you’ve been out of touch with this component I challenge you to spend some time tuning into the emotional space outside your office this week – what’s the pulse of your people?  Are they engaging with each other and the focus of the day – is there energy in the room?  Or are they functioning in silos with little or negative interaction?  And then get prepared to take it to the next level so that your emotional space is helping, and not hindering, the direction you’re headed.

Creating space for emotion allows leaders to develop a purpose-oriented, passionate-driven workforce – one that works from the heart and is intrinsically connected to the roles of the job and goals of the organization.  Talk about sparking energy!   Ask yourself…

  • Are you intentionally building emotional intelligence at all levels of the org chart?  
  • Are your managers trained to identify the emotional tone -  building it and supporting it in a manner that allows individuals and teams to blossom?  
  • Are leaders and managers staying in tune with burn-out and stress – and putting measures in place to snuff it out?

Apply some intentional time to your cultural tone this week and see what sparks!

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Developing Your Internal Dialogue

When pursuing career and other life-endeavors, our internal dialogue goes a long way in shaping our experience.  Aligning the direction we want to go with our internal drivers and dialogue prepares us to show up with confidence and to represent our best self!  It starts with cognitive discipline – paying attention to our thoughts and developing positive self-appraisal.  Actively engaging in this process builds confidence by reframing our points of reference and allows us to speak to who we really are at the core!  

Albert Bandura gave us the concept of self-efficacy and the idea that the level of belief in our capabilities is directly tied to the impact on our lives, our environment and our outcomes.  It’s not about ego – it’s about knowing our own unique gifts and how they can benefit the lives of those around us.   When we understand this perspective, and apply it to our actions, we squash those confidence-killing thoughts (like fear and anxiety) and replace them with a certainty of who we are, why we’re here, and how we bring value.   Think about this perspective when interviewing for a new position, or looking to move up the ladder in your organization.  It’s basic Psych 101, right?  Your self-perception and internal dialogue are going to frame the way in which you “show up”!  

One more thing before you go…don’t ignore the voices of others.  Find your mentors and role-models that will help guide your perceptions – those trusted advisors that provide honest feedback, a supportive stance and a genuine interest in helping you conquer negative self-talk and discover your very best self! 

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Shifting Focus to the Bright Spots

When we consider how we move the meter on change within organizations, human nature often leads us to focus on the things that are broken, right?? Let’s fix the inconsistencies…let’s align the misalignments. Unfortunately, that’s often the least productive model.  

To generate movement quickly, the focus needs to be on our “bright spots”.  Bright spots are places where things are going really well.  However, our instinct (and human nature) is to focus on the “hot spots”- the irritations that feel the most prevalent and painful.

To get a better picture of hot spots, think of our furry friends – our dogs and cats.  When Fido or Fiona has an itty bitty irritation, he or she starts to pick, lick or scratch at it almost obsessively.  They continue to give it attention and only make that small irritation worse, quickly turning it into a festering wound.  Likewise, at work, when we focus on what’s not working it’s very easy to get sucked into scratching at that small irritation, which makes the small to mid-size problems feel so much larger than they really are.  I’m not saying ignore the very real problems; however, creating buy-in to fix the problem because it feels the worst is not the most productive way to make change.

When trying to make changes in the culture it’s imperative to walk through what’s really working!  Identify success, look at which groups are knocking it out of the park - those are the bright spots where we create energy and engagement.  Looking for more ways to do this?  Consider taking some advice from GloboForce:

  • Emphasizing your core values: According to experts: “an organization that reinforces its core values is more likely to reach the kind of growth and success that nearly all businesses seek.” (Gallagher, 2003). Values which are simply imposed will not thrive. Values that are practicable and absorbable lead to impact.
     
  • Turn the blame game into the praise game: Help turn the negativity that can accompany change into positivity by encouraging employees to catch each other doing something right.
     
  • Stop the brain drain: One of the leading indicators of a coming failure is the departure of key leaders and managers from the company. This destabilizes the lower ranks and drains confidence—opening the door further for an exodus of your top talent. Make sure you are listening and responding to the concerns of this important bellwether group, and communicating those issues up the chain of command.
     
  • Find your biggest influencers and encourage their buy-in: Learn to identify those employees who are your most influential workers and managers, (Hint: peer-to-peer recognition data is a great way to do this) and spend extra time educating them, increasing their confidence and earning their enthusiasm. Their attitude will cause a ripple effect.
     
  • Facilitate communication across groups and divisions: Encourage the forging of relationships across the boundaries. Make it possible for employees to recognize and appreciate their counterparts in other buildings and countries and watch those bonds begin to strengthen—and with them, your merger.

Written by Sheila Repeta

Team Performance & Engagement: 6 Dimensions to Help Build Engagement and Align Internal Operations

Every team, even within the same organization, has a unique blueprint.  Comprised by the individuals involved, the tasks to accomplish, and the context in which it engages teams must work together to accomplish desired goals.  Several dimensions, as researched by the Center for Creative Leadership, can assist team leaders in both determining and measuring the effectiveness of their teams throughout its life-cycle, particularly as team dynamics shift.  These inevitable changes require a committed process to perform to expectations.  To build engagement and align internal operations with external stakeholder needs, an effective team should consider six dimensions for implementation and measurement:

  1. Establishing a Clear Purpose – When clarity exists motivation increases, even through setbacks and obstacles.  Often a lack of clarity around team goals, and delegation of authority and responsibility, can lead to team breakdown or failure.
  2. Empowered Team Structure – An empowered team model is the key to success -  allowing the team the structure needed to make the most of its resources - including team formation, member roles and team leadership.
  3. Strength from Above – Team failure can direct members to look within the organization for a place to lay blame.  The counter-balance to this behavior includes high-level support to drive effectiveness, and provide the required resources, training and team rewards.
  4. Positive Internal Relationships – Unique personalities, differing opinions and other team difficulties can strain relationships, leading to mistrust and power struggles.  Team leadership is mission critical to identifying unproductive behavior and implementing interventions that shift the dynamics and refocus team collaboration.
  5. Positive External Relationships – No team functions in a vacuum.  Understanding the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders will foster effective relationships required to meet the team goals.
  6. Efficient Information Management – Teams are only as effective as the information they utilize, and the process in which they communicate and make decisions.

Written by Shalyn Eyer

It’s a Process – Not Just a Program

Leadership development requires learning and applying “soft skills” within your organization -  among your team and those you influence – elements like reflecting discernment, applying fair judgement, and bringing a presence that motivates others.  And as you might guess, these areas are indeed impacted by the culture of the organization. What works with one group may not work with another.  So, the question is how can organizations support its leaders in a way that provides ongoing and impactful leadership development that’s directly connected to its unique needs?

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) provides us with a 3 x 3 x 3 model to support participants as they develop their leadership competencies, while creating an ongoing culture of development and a roadmap for the learning transfer of the leadership process.

  1. Think in 3 phases - Prepare the tools you need to involve participants in the process, and then engage in and apply opportunities to practice skill development and support new learning moments.
  2. Use 3 strategies – Identify opportunities for seasoned and developing leaders to apply training to leadership challenges, and create accountability and “at-work learning partners” to support one another through meaningful application.
  3. Create Accountability by applying 3 methods – Leaders have a responsibility to remain active, not passive, participants in the process.  Active and ongoing dialogue will further stimulate the culture in such a way that supports participation in the process; and remember to enlist others when you need help - access those outside the organization that can assist in this ongoing development.

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Leadership Development is Not a One-Time Deal: 4 Facts to Consider as You Manage Leadership Development

Leadership development and training has increased exponentially over the last 5 years.  Across all industries and in organizations of every size – companies get it!  Successful organizations recognize the pay-off of investing in their people. But many may not be focused in the right direction, placing their seasoned and emerging leaders in off-the-shelf leadership courses…and then that’s simply where it ends.  While courses can be valuable, it’s not the end-all, be-all.  Fact is – leadership development is not just a one-time deal!  Consider these facts as you manage leadership development in your organization…

  1. Identify your leaders at all levels - As organizations become flatter, less hierarchical, it’s important to identify both your current and emerging leaders – your champions and influencers across the organization.  Utilize the strength of assessment and conversation to find your rising stars.
  2. Start in the middle – here you’ll find members of your team that are feeling the pressure to align staff needs with the organizational direction of senior management. Investing in this group – developing their emotional strength, ability to influence and maintain resiliency – is where you’ll reap your greatest return.  
  3. Extend your training beyond the classroom – here’s where the rubber meets the road!  Investing in one-time leadership training, while a great place to start, is not where it ends.  This is in fact where it’s just getting started. Continued coaching, ongoing dialogue and measuring effectiveness are all elements of successful and ongoing transformation.
  4. Think outside the box (or just toss it out the window altogether) - According to a study by the Association for Talent Development, 72% of training is limited to an individual’s role.  This won’t cut the mustard for developing those impactful leaders – those that really need to understand the organization at large – and how their unique leadership profile meshes with the needs of the organization.  Ensure your leadership training and development is personalized to the individual, yet has a competency-based training roadmap aligned to the organization’s business strategy and culture.  This will allow your rising stars to implement training and tools that create immediate impact!

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Where Does Your Leadership Focus Lie?

In the words of leadership guru John Maxwell, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It is about influencing others.”  These ‘leaders’ are found across the organizational lines, and possibly in places you never thought to look. According to a UNC Leadership Survey, 85% of respondents agreed that there’s an urgent need to develop their leaders, while only 40% stated that their “high potentials” are prepared to meet future business needs.[1]  It’s time to get intentional about seeking leaders out and providing opportunity for development!

- The more seasoned leaders are easier to spot – and are often referred to as “leaders of managers”.  But just because they’ve been knighted with a leadership title doesn’t mean they’ve honed those critical leadership skills…and this group can often go neglected. Busy schedules and conflicting priorities can hinder time for continued leadership development. This critical mass is subject to competing business priorities, pressure from leaders above and the everyday struggles from those below.  Managing organizational complexity involves strength in self-awareness, learning agility and the ability to think systemically.

- Here’s your sweet spot – your champions across the board!  Emerging leaders and individual contributors are critical members in shaping company culture and contributing to the strategic direction of an organization.  This group often needs assistance in developing their confidence, communication skills, influence and project leadership.  Investment in focused conversations, learning activities and development goals for these individuals equips them to show up as collaborative producers and leaders within the organization.

In summary – find your shining stars and seasoned leader - and support them in their continued success.  Your company, the culture, and the bottom line will thank you!

[1] https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/Learning-Executive-Blog/2015/07/Measuring-the-Success-of-Leadership-Development

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Project Management: The Power of Three

Project work is busy work, especially for the project manager who labors tirelessly at overseeing the project and supporting its’ team members. With so much going on, it’s critical for project managers to focus on those actions that are vital to success.

If your organization has just launched a new project, consider these top three areas of focus that your project management resources can target to keep any project running smoothly.

Utilize standard project management methodology throughout the duration of the project

It’s common for projects to have multiple work streams that experience some point of integration or overlap. For example, when developing new business processes, multiple work streams may need to be involved due to down-stream impacts. Therefore, project managers should help point out areas of integration between project work streams, and provide integration tools to support the tracking and resolution of related areas of work.

Projects are typically broken into phases; Analyze, Design, Develop, Deploy. It’s important for the project manager to align project activities to these stages, as this will help guide the development of a thorough project plan and ensure that activities are done at the appropriate time.

Manage project scope! The scope of a project should never change unless it goes through the proper escalation and approval paths. Unruly scope changes can throw off work defined in a project plan and cause the team to miss milestones, and can negatively impact project performance.  And remember that project status meetings are needed to monitor status and performance of the project, and provide a vehicle to keep all team members on the same page. 

Focus on working effectively with the project team

Because projects can create significant change, they typically include a change management work stream, which is primarily focused on activities that support building adoption to change. Throughout the lifecycle of a project, it’s important to engage and communicate with all levels of impacted stakeholders; and therefore, project managers should look for opportunities to partner with this work stream in order to provide guidance on how they can align stakeholder expectations and communications with the activities of the project timeline.

Look for opportunities to support and even help facilitate project work streams with activities such as workshops for developing business processes, technical testing approach and tools, and go-live readiness planning. Project managers can offer a critical eye on these important activities, and afford the guidance needed to ensure teams consider all work required.

Focus on creating an effective partnership with project sponsors

In order to effectively present information and facilitate interaction, problem solving and decision making, it’s important for project managers to understand how key decision making bodies and project sponsors work together. Proactively anticipate decision maker and project sponsor needs in order to promote engagement and drive project progress.

Remember: The project manager is not the decision maker, but rather an influential partner with decision makers and project sponsors in resolving project issues or in finalizing key project decisions. Decision makers and project sponsors are very busy, so it’s important for the project manager to escalate issues on a timely basis. Timely escalation supports timely resolution and drives the project forward.

Focusing on these three elements helps project managers to strike a balance between the use of methods and effective people interactions, and ultimately keeps the project moving in its’ intended direction.

Written by Corinne Sinnigen

 

What Melts Your Employees' Butter? Understanding Their UMPs (Unique Motivational Profiles)

No law says you must like your job, but what is it that motivates people to get up everyday and go to work? If your employee population all won the lottery tomorrow and were all financially set for life, how many would show up the next day? Surveys have suggested that 95 percent to 98 percent would bail out immediately. Can you afford to not understand what melts their butter, floats their boat, and fills their sails? 

An Inspired Environment

Maybe it has to do something with the rewards, recognition and incentives that go along with people showing up and staying for years on end. Some will argue that the bona fide way to a committed and loyal employee's heart is solely through monetary earnings, not to mention the gratification of a steady income. 

Or maybe, it has to do with working in an inspired environment, where mutual appreciation and respect for fellow co-workers and the employer not only exists but is also the norm. People want to feel wanted and appreciated. It's only human nature. My sister, Judy, a highly decorated first responder (she has won Paramedic of the Year in her county twice) commented the other day that the handwritten personal note from her Chief complimenting her on a particular "save" was so motivational - even more inspiring to her than her awards. It is that simple. 

Preventing the Butter from Hardening

First, lets figure out what turns off employees. Performance appraisals are often top of the list. They are the quintessential "CYA" activity. But, why do people shun appraisals like the plague? Because it is highly likely that it is highly reminiscent of their worst nightmare - the continuous assessment of grades in school and ongoing parental haranguing. 

Do they have any redeeming qualities? The focus on monitoring and assessing performance should undoubtedly be placed on setting attainable and collaborative goals, making collective decisions, and being able to tackle and solve problems within one's own relative sphere of responsibility and authority along with one's colleagues. 

Performance appraisals shouldn't be feared. In fact, they should be welcomed with open arms. In an ideal world, employers wouldn't manage people like two-year olds. Rather, they would encourage skill development and offer training, mentoring and coaching to make that happen. This way, there would be much more empowerment instead of nitty-gritty micro-management. And, many of the performance appraisal systems, while claiming the importance of "robustness" make a highly valued conversation too complex. Rather than scrutinizing every little minute detail or skill involved with an employee's work style or work ethic or way of going about daily tasks, it's certainly more encouraging to ground oneself in the ethos of valuing, motivating and rewarding people. In this way, the focus of appraisals will be on the positives and be a catalyst to cooperation and communications. The butter will start to soften. 

Understanding UMPs

Increasing the value of people, and truly understanding why people show up to work and why they stay, is just as important as why they leave. 

The tricky part, however, is that not everyone is motivated by the same things. Motivation is an incredibly individual expression. Figuring it our might prove challenging in larger organizations, but probing and prodding for what melts your employee's butter -- their unique motivational profile ("UMP") -- is an expense that is certainly worth spending. 

People are inclined to leave their job because they: dislike their boss or co-workers, lack the tools to be productive and move forward or work in a toxic environment, for example. People can be motivated by a myriad of things:

• Excitement that one's work brings them
• Engaging projects
• Interesting environments in which people work
• Captivating people with whom they work
• Work-life balance that the job allows them to have
• Ongoing search for meaning and purpose within their life
• Passion for their work
• Compensation and benefits
• Rewards and bonuses
• Job security
• Opportunity to learn new skills

Do you really understand your employees?

Melting the Butter

Money is notoriously viewed as a motivator, but it is not the only thing that gets people (who have not won the lottery) to come into this thing we call "work." The anticipation that rests in such satisfaction through rewards processes (paychecks, raises and bonuses) is enough to coax employees to tackle mundane tasks and other things that they really could care less about. These are extrinsic (aka external) motivators -- or de-motivators when they are more punitive than rewarding in nature. 

Due to the constraints of our economy today, most motivators are intrinsic (aka internal) -- driven by pure enjoyment and interest in the work being performed. The rise in intrinsic motivators is due, in large part, to both the addition of the Millennials -- the youngsters with high ideals -- as well as the fatigued experience of the Boomers -- the older folks who were supposed to be gone by now who now feel stuck in their jobs. Money, while important, is just not what it used to be. 

For every 10 articles you read on motivation, five will say that money is key and five will say that lifestyle is key. Today, people expect both. And there are no best practices that apply across the board to all organizations in a world of diverse cultures, values and opinions. People want it all and are tuned into radio station WII-FM ("what's in it for me"). Thus, if you can tap into and listened to the music they enjoy, determine their UMP, and use the myriad of tools that are available, you can put together the right combination of incentives, rewards and motivation to melt their butter. 

It is not a trivial task. And, one size does not fit all. Your job is to find the right mix for your people. Let the melting begin!

Written by Jim Finkelstein

Addressing Sensitive Issues in Your Team

Addressing sensitive issues on your team can be a scary thing – and unfortunately many choose to navigate around or simply avoid them all together.  But doing so will continue to negatively impact the culture, break down trust among the team, and ultimately impede on forward growth and reaching your desired goals.  Intervention early on is key – building awareness and creating a safe harbor within the organization that amplifies it’s not only ok to have these conversations - but it’s encouraged and supported in a judgement free environment.  It sends a strong message the people, their ideas and feelings, are valued.

  • Start with Awareness – Are you noticing poor teamwork? Continually having to redirect the conversation?  Are there team dynamics, such as missing deadlines, that indicate stress among the group?  Identifying these areas can sometimes be more of an art than a science, but measuring your experience against your expectations is a good place to start identifying potential conflict.
  • It Takes a Village – While team leadership bares the initial responsibility of setting a tone to address conflict, team members are also responsible for engaging in the tough conversations.  Each person has a responsibility to address concerns and engage in active listening.  Often times issues arise through miscommunication or other unintentional breakdown; regardless though, feelings should always be validated and addressed to promote healing through the change process.  Leaders that establish an atmosphere of paying attention to what’s transpiring in the group and provide an exploratory environment to engage in honest dialogue, will shape a culture that supports team engagement and development.
  • Establish the Game Rules – As you develop a sense of awareness and openness, be intentional of the process.  Require that dialogue remains respectful – avoid inflammatory language and stay aware of the level of intensity.  Take a break, step back and then re-engage when necessary.  And don’t forget to address the impact – how the specific issue is effecting individuals and the team as a whole. 

Addressing team issues can feel daunting, but continually promoting an environment to do so will transform your culture to address issues early and promote a feeling of safety, mutual respect, and team collaboration.

Written by Shalyn Eyer

Your Leadership Approach

Question for you…are you intentional about developing your leadership image?  Maybe that question feels a bit daunting as you begin to ponder, “Where do I start and what’s that even supposed to look like?”  This is not the spot where you “insert here” with the name of a personality you want to become – and it’s certainly not about crafting a false image that looks good on paper…

Discovering your leadership image is about identifying those very real aspects of yourself and developing them to become an authentic leader – regardless of where you fall on the org chart.  You see, real leadership isn’t simply about what you do…it’s about who you are, how you show up, and how you inspire others to do the same.  And discovering these things, developing them further, doesn’t have to be an incredibly complicated process.  Consider these steps as you engage in the process, and remember to enlist others to help you in the journey:

  1. Consider what you want to convey – Being self-aware of your strengths, weaknesses and overall personality is mission critical to building your leadership image.  Talk to others, work with a coach, utilize assessments…whatever it takes to understand how you show up – and then identify the gaps to where you need to be.
  2. Pay attention to others – We all know individuals that stand out as authentic and effective leaders.  Pay attention to the way they show up – how do they communicate and connect with others, what is their approach to working through complex or difficult situations – and then apply those learning moments to develop your leadership competencies.  Learn from others – what’s working and what’s not working – to further develop our own approach.
  3. Focus on the group – Effective leaders are just as focused on the team as they are on themselves.  They are genuinely interested in the development and motivation of their team members so that everyone is showing up at their best to achieve collective goals.
  4. Practice, practice, practice – Be specific!  Once you’ve identified a leadership development issue, consider ways to improve and set specific steps and timeframes to reach your goals.  Finally, hold yourself accountable to your own growth – accountability is after all, a critical aspect to authentic leadership!

Written by Shalyn Eyer