Archive for March, 2010
Something very strange happened to me this week. A supervisor came to me and asked for feedback on her performance. Imagine my surprise!
It’s been said in oh, so many ways that a critical component of effective performance planning is establishing expectations and discussing meaningful outcomes. If we keep in mind that organizations fail or succeed as a team, it becomes obvious that everyone in that unit—individual contributors and supervisors—must do their jobs well. So performance planning should not be a one-way, downward-directed activity; no, it should be bi-directional. Most bosses do a great job of discussing expectations and desired outcomes with their subordinates. But how many subordinates have a performance discussion with their boss?
Bosses have a responsibility to their subordinates to do the things that are expected of them as supervisors. That’s their job. If they do that poorly, the unit will flounder. Therefore, individual contributors should be demanding performance planning sessions of their bosses. But this doesn’t happen. Why? One word: “fear.” The superior is afraid that she might appear unqualified to be in her position, and the subordinate is afraid that the feedback she delivers will be used against her.
To move beyond this potential stalemate, only the supervisor is in a position to take action. Make performance planning discussions two-way conversations. And you can do so by asking a few simple questions of your subordinates:
“To better help you get done what I’ve asked you to do,
- What should I continue to do, but perhaps do better?
- What am I doing that you’d like me to stop?
- What am I not doing that you’d like me to start?”
You want to be an effective boss. You want your subordinates to respect you. You want to meet the goals you’ve laid out for your organization. If all these statements are true, then ask your subordinates for feedback! Doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.
I’d love to hear your experiences in asking for the opportunity to give feedback to your boss.
Fellow Baby Boomers, I am embarrassed…dare I say, appalled?
As a facilitator for leadership classes, I have the privilege of hearing, first-hand, concerns from supervisors of all levels. One overwhelming complaint is that they are tired of the newest workforce generation–the millennials–continually asking “why?”
Have we forgotten our roots? We were the generation that questioned everything; indeed, the Boomer mantra was “question authority!” We implored compatriots to not trust anyone over 30.
The problem is that we soon turned 31 and older. And when we did, we found that some of the establishment’s perspectives actually were reasonable and valuable. Somehow, we slowly devolved into the very same cynical, unreflective, unyielding leaders as our traditionalist forebears. So now, as supervisors, we get frustrated when our subordinates don’t just march off and execute the orders we bark out. We’ve taken on a new mantra borrowed from a well-known sports advertising campaign: “Just do it!”
Answering “the why” is how we avoid complacency—how great change occurs. New generations are sent to us for a reason: to keep us thinking and moving forward.
So, fellow Boomers, embrace “the why,” encourage “the why,” enjoy “the why.” But if you really want to reach back to your past, preempt “the why” by not only thinking and executing great thoughts yourselves, but by extroverting those thoughts so subsequent generations can understand and learn to think great thoughts too.
In years of teaching presentation skills – and observing many presentations in and out of
classes – I have concluded there is one method that is virtually guaranteed to gain or
regain audience attention.
But before explaining that technique, let me tell you a story.
I once was working with a group of people on presentation skills at a remote military
base in west Texas. The class had gone fine so far, but on the third day I walked in and
immediately sensed something was very wrong. In fact, I had never seen anything like
what I was about to experience . . .
End of story
You see, the fact is, I don’t actually have a story. I just started one, and really just have
Did it get your interest?
Try it yourself. In your next presentation, at an appropriate point (usually after a lot of
facts or data have been shared is a good time), say the following words: “Let me tell you
a story to illustrate what I’m talking about.” Or, you can just launch in with no warning:
“Last week, I was sitting at my desk when Rachael walked in . . .”
Next, I want you to really pay attention to people’s eyes. There is something like a 100%
chance they will look at you, waiting to hear what you have to say. This is not a bad
dynamic in a presentation.
Of course, your story has to be on-topic, ideally contain a little bit of a build up, have
some specifics and a resolution. But this is actually easy to do. The harder part is to
convince presenters they should tell stories. Once you decide to do so, you will increase
the attention to what you are saying.
There are interesting reasons for this, including the fact that human beings are story-
telling and meaning-making machines. The narrative is a timeless, genetically encoded
form we use to communicate. Listen to the after-work conversation in a bar, gym or
coffee shop. I’ll bet you’re going to hear stories.
So why not use them in your next presentation?