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Archive for the ‘leadership tips’ Category

Good Leaders Use Employee Engagement when Team Needs to Reengage

By Michelle Riklan

Employee Engagement Team Needs to ReengageEmployee engagement has been a hot topic among leadership circles over the last few years. It’s estimated that employee disengagement costs the U.S. more than $450 billion each year according to a Gallup poll. More than just monetary costs, disengaged employees can also negatively affect company culture and can drag otherwise engaged employees down with them. Employees are likely to share a bad experience with ten or more people, but will share a good experience with just three – meaning that disengaged employees who don’t care about your company or their work could be poisoning your company’s reputation.

Employee Engagement when a Team Needs to Reengage

But surprisingly, team disengagement isn’t always easy to spot. Below are four ways you can tell if it’s time to get your team re-engaged through team building events, frank conversations, or other methods of re-engagement.

1. Sometimes, stress in your office can be physically palpable, and is often manifested in teams complaining, putting longer hours in at the office than usual, or expected barriers that arise with clients or products. A healthy amount of stress and urgency about tasks can be good, but its long-term effects can be disastrous.

80 percent of Americans are stressed at work – but just because most teams are stressed out doesn’t mean that this should be the accepted status quo. Stress can disrupt brain cells and actually impair memory. If you’re seeing signs that your team is stressed out, it’s time to take action.

2. A lack of communication is a surefire sign that teams are disengaged. Teams that are collaborative, asking questions, and offering up suggestions for company or process improvement show that they are excited about the work at hand.

Conversely, teams that are glued to their desks, aren’t asking questions, and don’t offer to help or support their fellow team members are showing telltale signs that it’s time to help them re-engage.

3. Consistent cynicism and complaining are other signs of disengaged teams. The occasional complaint, venting session, or tough day is to be expected – and is probably even healthy. Your employees coming to you with a sporadic concern is a sign that they trust you to turn a listening ear.

But when complaints are offered on a more on-going basis about the same situations, and are given without offering any solutions or a drive to want to make something better, this is a more serious issue.

4. Disengaged employees are order-takers instead of proactive. Teams that are usually doing the bare minimum, don’t explore different avenues or ways of doing things, or are showing signs of just plain laziness are good signs that it’s time to get them engaged again.

These employees are detrimental to the rest of your team and the company as a whole. It’s best to act swiftly instead of sitting back and letting the consequences get worse.

Employee engagement is a real issue in the workplace that is better faced head-on than swept under the rug. Conversations about decreased productivity or performance with your team can be uncomfortable, but they are always necessary when these circumstances arise. To ensure your company’s success, look for these telltale signs of disengaged teams, and take action.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

The Minimalist Guide to Improve Leadership Skills

Improve Leadership SkillsYour leadership skills determine if your company achieves its goals, struggles to keep up, or falls into abyss in today’s cut-throat economy. Despite hundreds of publications about leadership skills, many managers are struggling in their role. Why? Sometimes, it’s for lack of trying. Sometimes, it’s poor business leadership, or just the wrong techniques. Whatever the reasons, you shouldn’t give up. Remember that no one is born with good leadership skills, despite what the cliché says. Leadership skills can be learned, practiced, and perfected on the job. So, for those of you who are like me and looking for the easy way… below is The Minimalist Guide to Improve Leadership Skills (even if you don’t know how)!

Improve Leadership Skills — The Easy Way

1. A Successful Leader is Passionate about the Company’s Cause

His interest goes far beyond profit and sales. Employees and even customers are drawn to leaders dedicated to what they do. Your leadership skills won’t be complete without the ability to inspire others with your vision and the courage to charge headfirst into the battlefield. Instead of just telling your people what to do, go out there and do the work. Take off your coat, roll up your sleeves and prepare to get dirty.

2. Give Employees the Chance to Play a Bigger Role

People often ask me, “How do you get so much done in so little time?” Well, I’m not afraid to delegate. I know my team will get bored if they do the same things day in and day out. When that happens, their will to work and performance will deteriorate.

So far, the best solution I’ve found is to train employees to take on bigger responsibilities little by little. Make no mistake, I don’t delegate make-or-break tasks, just the small ones I need to do but don’t have time for. When an employee proves worthy of my trust, I might assign him bigger tasks or projects.

Delegating is a win-win solution for everyone, employees grow in terms of job responsibility and you’re one step closer to completing your to-do list.

3. Don’t Keep Others in the Dark

Some leaders often assume that they’re subordinates know what they’re doing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Yes, your team knows you’re super busy. But that doesn’t mean they know exactly what you’re up to. Do they know you’re in the midst of closing a new deal? Do they know you’re busy trying to open a new office for them?

For all you know, they might even think that you’re just playing Clash of Clans on your smart phone. Erase all doubts by constantly communicating your goals to the team. Send weekly email updates or hold a general assembly to keep everyone abreast of what’s happening. Don’t forget to tell them about your progress, and how their work contributes to your overall plan.

4. Business ‘Smarts’ aren’t Enough to Lead a Team

Successful leadership isn’t solely reliant on your ability to get more clients or steer the company in the right direction. In fact, it’s more to do with connecting and inspiring the people you work with.

Now that you’ve read these tips to improve leadership skills, you should go out there and flex your leadership skills. Show your team that you’re worthy of their dedication and your job title.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

Four Ways that Poor Leadership Skills Can Ruin Team Morale

Poor Leadership Skills Can Ruin Team MoralePoor leadership skills can ruin team morale. As a manager, you hold more power than you believe. You have the ability to hire and fire your subordinates. You can promote them, or not. You can approve their raises following their annual reviews, during which you can give them a fair review, or not. In essence, your leadership skills and moral compass will have a big impact in their future’s career. Even if you believe you are treating employees fairly, your impact on their lives is unmistakable, which is why having a great boss is the number one wish of many employees, above more vacation time, and a bigger pay check. There are managers that destroy the confidence of their employees. Whether they do it by accident, lack of leadership skills, or neglect, it can have a permanent damage on morale.

Below is a list of four ways that poor leadership skills can ruin team morale.

Are You Guilty of these Behaviors?

1. Bosses Holding Employees Back

Bosses should be investing in their employee’s development. Their leadership skills might need some improvement, but they won’t have the incentive to improve it unless you encourage them to apply for promotions within the company.

Some managers don’t tell employees about professional development opportunities, because they don’t want to lose someone or train someone new. Don’t be that guy.

2. Bosses Threatening their Employee’s Job Stability

Some managers mistakenly think that causing employees to doubt their job’s security will persuade them to work harder.

This is a flawed way of thinking, and a sign of poor leadership skills. Doing this will just make your employees feel betrayed, depressed, and upset. Eventually, they’ll start looking for jobs outside the company.

3. Misattributed Criticisms

Things go wrong in the office all the time. A new campaign can flop, media fails to attend a press conference, and presentations can go horribly awry. Some bosses, perhaps fearing for their own jobs as well, misplace blame and criticism.

But if you had good leadership skills, you’ll know when to take responsibility for your team’s actions, and who exactly is responsible for what went wrong.

4. Calling Employee Errors Out in Public

What if an employee makes a mistake and disciplinary action is required? That matter should be kept among the human resources department, the appropriate manager, and the employee in concern. It should never be office gossip.

Calling out a staff member’s mistake, either to place blame away from you, or to punish them, is never the answer. This can seriously damage employee morale and cause humiliation and even serious psychological and emotional damage.
What does it mean to be a Good Boss?
Being a good boss can mean different things to different people. Whether you’re a strict boss, or a hands-off type of leader, you are responsible for the well-being of your team — and that includes employee morale. Remember, happy employees are productive employees.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

What’s Your Workplace Culture Like?

What is your workplace culture like?When you think about your workplace, how would you describe it? Would you call it warm and inviting? Supportive? Encouraging? Does the atmosphere make it easy for your employees to grow their career? Perhaps your workplace is very accommodating to those staff members with families, like children and elderly parents, to work and take care of their loved ones at the same time. What you are describing is your workplace culture. Workplace culture is what your leaders believe in, what their management subscribes to, and the values that permeate throughout the entire staff. When an office’s workplace culture is good – that is, when it matches up with your own values as a leader – it can help your team work together seamlessly. Employees might think the work itself may be ho-hum, but they’d think twice before leaving, because the management and environment is great.

They feel safe and supported there, and they want to do the best for their boss. Because they know they’re working hard for the good of the company. Employees are at their best, and are productive, creative and innovative.
But when the workplace culture is bad – they dread going in to work, because frankly, they find the behavior there disruptive and frankly, tiring. They look for other jobs in their spare time. Whether you accept it or not, they’re not giving their job 100 percent.

How Does a Manager Create a Better Workplace Culture?

As a manager or a leader, your job is to make the workplace culture as positive and as inspiring as possible for your employees. Creating that culture takes time and energy, and it will take even more time for employees to get on board and get used to the new mentality.

But the rewards will be great. With a better workplace culture comes better engagement, better workplace attendance, greater productivity, and at the end, larger profits.

There are five degrees of workplace health. Read on to find out where you and your company rank:

  1. The first degree – and the lowest level – is dysfunction. Here, employees don’t trust each other or the boss, and work rarely gets done. When it does, the job is mediocre. The employees frequently call in sick and there will be high turnover. There is low morale here.
  2. The second degree is tension. There are disagreements between employees and the managers, and people talk about each other behind their backs. Attendance is slightly better than the dysfunctional level, but employees are actively searching for new jobs, and will jump ship at the first opportunity.
  3. The third degree is civility. Employees and managers get along, but they only barely tolerate each other. They treat each other with respect, and act professional, but don’t really like each other. They get by enough to get the job done, but employees would be hard pressed to say that they actually love their jobs.
  4. The fourth degree is acknowledgement. Employees and managers are thankful for each other and acknowledge each other on a job well done. Staff like each other and everyone is comfortable in their roles.
  5. The fifth degree – and this one is the highest – is validation. Leaders and managers acknowledge the hard work of staff, and give them challenges and responsibilities, which they love. There is a great deal of trust here, and employees are genuinely able to say that they love their jobs. There is room for growth and professional development, and rewards are far more than just monetary.

Which level does your workplace culture fall under?

Author Michelle Riklan: Michelle Riklan is an instructor specializing in workplace development. Call us at (800) 872-7830 to set up an appointment to consult with her.

It is Better to Be Alone than to be in Bad Company-George Washington

It is better to be alone, than to be in bad company. - George Washington

It is better to be alone, than to be in bad company.” – George Washington

Although this quote is attributed to George Washington, it is actually one of 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation that George Washington copied by hand at the age of sixteen. (This link will take you to an article with all 110 rules listed.) Although, many people attribute the 110 rules to Washington, because the rules were found written by his hand, Scholars today believe that the rules were likely copied by Washington as a penmanship exercise.

The actual quote is #56 of 110 rules and reads…

Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company.

The 110 rules are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595, and they were first translated into English in 1640.

When Should a Leader Apologize for a Mistake?

We all make mistakes – even leaders. And when that happens, a leader should just apologize, right?

No, not necessarily.

Leader Apologize for MistakeSaying sorry isn’t as simple as all that. As a society, we are sometimes a little too polite. When you miss something that someone said to you, you say sorry. You bump someone in your way, and you say sorry whether or not it’s your fault. You sneeze while someone is talking and you say sorry. Sometimes, our society says it a little too much. So when should a leader apologize for a mistake? When something is genuinely your error, and it has caused someone pain or inconvenience, an apology might be in order. Even if you’re the boss. Remember, finely tuning your social and leadership skills are part of your job.

Acknowledging that you’re only human goes a long way. When does proper leadership and management dictate it’s appropriate for a manager, a supervisor, or a CEO to humbly admit he made a mistake? And when is it wrong to apologize?

When Should a Leader Apologize: What They Probably Didn’t Teach You in Business School

When You’ve Made a Mistake

OK, so you screwed up. You wrote down the wrong deadline in a calendar, misfiled an email, or gave your staff member the wrong lead, and it’s caused him to make a mistake too. It all snowballed from something that you’ve done.

As the boss, the right thing to do is to own up to your error and take the blame from the higher ups, from peers and publicly acknowledge that it was your fault. The keyword here is publicly. Your employee will commend your leadership skills if you don’t throw him or her under the bus, even if you could’ve just as easily passed the blame to him.

When a Wrong Decision You Made Affects Others

Your prediction about the last quarter, or how a new product would fare, was wrong. As a result, the company took a loss and your whole team suffered. Again, as the CEO, it was your responsibility to make the final call. Own up to your mistake.

When You are Wrong, Don’t Delay the Apology

If it’s your fault, and you know you need to say sorry, don’t stall for time. Delaying the apology will only make you look worse. Say it soon, and say it sincerely. Learn from your mistake and let bygones be bygones.

Don’t Defend Yourself

If that apology is warranted, again, don’t get defensive. It will only make you look insecure and weak, and set a bad example for your staff. Admit that you were wrong, and move on – your employees will admire you more for it.

Look Inside Yourself

Examine your week. Is there anything you should apologize for? If there is, man up and do it now. It’s never too late to demonstrate your strong ethic and leadership skills.

A Situation When Apologizing Will Undermine Your Leadership and Management Position

When You didn’t Meet Unreasonable Expectations

Let’s say for example that you are the head of communications at your company. Your boss wants you to get three new advertising leads – by Friday. It is now Wednesday night. He doesn’t know that these leads take weeks and sometimes months to cultivate. When Friday rolls around, and you don’t have anything to produce, he flips his lid.

If you’ve already communicated that it’s almost impossible to get this done, you don’t owe him an apology. After all, you’re only human, and you can’t work miracles. Apologizing in this case will only make you look worse, because it looks like you’re admitting that you did something wrong, which you didn’t.

When You’re Standing Your Ground for Something You Believe in

Scenario: Your boss asks you to do something slightly unethical. Perhaps he’s asking you to alter some data, or do something risky. You believe it’s wrong. You know doing it will negatively impact the company and your reputation in the long run, so you refuse to do it.

Don’t apologize. You need to explain what your beliefs are and why you stand by them.
Demonstrate Leadership and Management Skills Worthy of Your Position when Apologizing

Ending Office Gossip is a Leader’s Responsibility

Office GossipOffice gossip can ruin careers. Years ago, I worked with a woman named Susan (not her real name). Susan is a lovely lady who kept her nose to the grindstone, and went home straight to her family after work. She did well at the office, and people always thought that she was going places. She was the next to be promoted. One day, a rumor started going around about Susan. She had started wearing nicer clothes around the office, and had lost some weight, which was part of her New Year’s resolution. One of our colleagues said she was having a fling with our boss. In all likelihood, this rumor couldn’t possibly be true – she and the manager worked closely together, yes, but they were happily married to their respective spouses, and each had children.

Susan started calling in sick. The quality of her work was slipping. She kept her head low and her attitude changed. She started dropping the ball on projects, and when she was skipped over for a promotion that should have been hers, she left the company.

Should Preventing and Minimizing Office Gossip be Part of Your Leadership Skills?

Sure, preventing office gossip isn’t as important as coaching employees or personal reviews, but office gossip can ruin careers-especially if it gets out of hand. A small rumor can grow to be a malicious virus. It can ruin lives, as it did Susan’s. It likely hurt the boss’s reputation as well.

Institute an Open Policy about Communication

Gossip starts when there’s misinformation, or change. When there’s trouble in the finance department, people who don’t know what’s happening might start spreading speculations about the company’s stability. A game of ‘telephone’ starts, the message changes slightly with every whisper, and soon enough, one of the executives in the leadership and management team hears a funny rumor about a layoff.

Gossip prevention is easy, if you keep an open door policy about what’s happening in the office.

Nip Gossiping in the Bud

Refuse to be a part of the office gossiping. Next time Nosy Nancy asks you if you’ve heard something about ‘that girl from marketing’, change the subject.

Your reaction might disappoint some people, but they’ll get the message soon enough. But if they keep talking, look at them and say, “I don’t think that’s any of our business.” And immediately direct the conversation into neutral grounds.

Replace False Information with Truths

In most cases, entry and non-management level employees don’t have the guts to talk directly to anyone from the leadership and management team. So your best bet for getting a feel of the office gossip are the supervisors — their team members talk to them, and you in turn can find out what they’re talking about. You’re not going to do this to gossip, but just to find out what people are saying, so you can then quell bad rumors about the company and policy changes, among other things.

Ask Other Leaders to Play Mediator When Personal Gossip Runs Amok

Business-related gossip is easier to stop, compared to gossips of a more personal nature. What can you do in case a gossip like Susan’s infects your team? Are your leadership skills and communication know-how enough to stop the gossip from ruining someone’s career and personal life? Is it even your responsibility?

In cases like Susan’s, the best possible thing you can do is to give the victim a chance to air their voice. Talk to the employee in concern, tell him or her about the rumors going around, and offer a chance to clear his or her name.

Crush Office Gossip

Office gossip seems petty and harmless on the surface. But I’m sure that’s not the case for the rumor’s subjects. Rumors can affect people’s productivity and teamwork, so you have to act before it gets worse and someone resigns. Put your leadership skills to use.

Provide a Map-How Effective Leaders Direct their Teams

Effective Leaders Direct TeamsYou’ve got your company goals set on paper, in digital formats, and on signature lines of internal communication. Your team knows there is a destination but do they also know how to get there? Are you all moving toward a common direction or tugging on opposite sides? Sometimes, an effective leader has to provide a map (or at least a compass) in order to effectively direct their teams. Here are ways of merging objectives and directing individuals to arrive at your destination of living the goal. Effective leaders color a vivid end-scenario, connect each role to the goal, establish clear landmarks, and check-in regularly and re-collaborate.

How Effective Leaders Direct Their Teams

Color a Vivid End-Scenario

If your goal is to be among the top 3 consulting agencies in the city, your team needs to recognize what that will look like when achieved. Describe the scene.

The consultants are all well-trained, certified, and prompt in responding to client concerns. Your reception and admin is operating like a well-oiled machine, so that follow-ups aren’t really necessary.
The consultants are buzzing with ideas for clients, and they know how to execute these ideas.

Target figures should always form part of the measure. But painting vivid, relatable imagery provides a clear indication and powerful visualization target.

Connect each Role to the Goal

The Sales and Marketing Department knows it’s responsible for tapping new markets and optimizing existing accounts to fill consulting slots. But other back-of-the-house sections may not be aware of how their tasks keep clients returning. Demonstrate “If this, then that” situations with pre-recorded or actual role-playing to show how their actions influence client behavior.

If a researcher in your team doesn’t promptly release the required information, then that will slow down the team, delay the deadline, and spill over to other projects set up for the next months.

A single misstep results in multiple complaints from two clients.

Establish Clear Landmarks

Are we there yet? Excitement is the reason children repeatedly ask that question. But if your direct reports are wondering or are indifferent about their progress, then you, as leader, may have failed to provide milestones.

Creating a clear signal shows when they’ve passed a landmark, which is both an accomplishment and proof that they’re on the right track. Monthly revenue, new business, and sales figures are objective milestones. Client comments and industry awards are subjective pats on the back. Announce milestone accomplishments in a big way and acknowledge or connect individual contributions toward reaching those landmarks.

It is necessary to meet with the team when they are drifting away from the goal but conduct the meeting in atmosphere of exploring solutions together. There’s no room here for fault-finding or reprimands.

Check In Regularly and Re-calibrate

Shouldn’t we be there by now? That’s a very good question. Set a time-frame to forecast the time you expect to pass landmarks and arrive at destination so everyone can pace themselves.

Time-frames facilitate your leadership role of checking in regularly to direct the process. Scheduled pit stops are opportunities for celebration or for re-calibration. Like Waze, you can shift paths when unforeseen obstacles show up and use these audits like effective leaders do, to save their teams from aimlessly moving in an opposite direction from the goal. They also serve as criteria for individual performance appraisals.

Any traveler knows a smooth journey is the exception rather than the rule. Reaching your departmental goals are exactly the same. Expect surprises, accept changes, and understand there’s a whole lot more to learn from the journey. The destination is a bonus.

Avoid Placing the Burden of Your Problems onto Other People-Leadership Tip

Daily Leadership Tip #5

For Day #5 of our daily Leadership Challenge, this is the fifth leadership principle in the Building Trust and Rapport Series, “Avoid Placing the Burden of Your Problems onto Other People“. We encourage you to apply each of the 28 daily leadership principles in this series by focusing on just a single principle every single day of the four-week challenge. This is the fifth leadership tip in the series and is one of the foundation principles in building trust and rapport with others. This series will also help you build more of a team culture within your workplace.

Avoid placing the burden of your problems on other people.

“A prudent man will think more important what fate has conceded to him, than what it has denied him.” –Baltasar Gracian

Have you ever known someone who, after any setback, had an excuse and typically laid the blame elsewhere? I’m ashamed to say that at one point in my life, I was one of those people. The economy is down. My sales manger is not distributing the “good” leads. Joe was responsible for that. I had one for any occasion. Luckily, at one point in my career, I had a good friend that sat me down and said, “You can continue to come up with more excuses, or you can solve the problem.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t the economy, it wasn’t my sales manager, and it wasn’t Joe who was causing me to fail. I realized that every mistake or problem that had ever occurred in my life had one common variable. ME!

At that point, I took a really good look at myself. I looked at some of the mistakes I had made and asked myself, how can I avoid making the same mistake again? I used every obstacle as a learning experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still make excuses on occasion, but they are few and far between, and they no longer define me. Since I made that conscious decision, my career has really taken off.

There are actually some people out there who make themselves feel better by bringing other people down. They revel in their ability to know who had a heart attack, who is getting divorced, who is stealing office supplies, and more. The more they can bring other people down, the better that they feel.

Unfortunately, when the gossip starts, it’s easy to get caught up in it. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lofton used to say, “Misery loves company.” So just one person in your office with this type of mentality can cause the morale and team atmosphere in your office to drop like a stone.

Good leaders are the ones who stop this type of behavior in its tracks by just refusing to participate and standing up for coworkers who aren’t their to defend themselves. If you want to be a great leader, avoid placing the burden of your problems onto other people.

Principle #5: Avoid placing the burden of your problems on other people.

Week #1: Seven Ways to Build Trust and Rapport

Help Your Team Perform at their Peak by Helping Your Team Set Goals

Helping Your Team Set GoalsIf you want to help your team perform at their peak by helping your team set goals, take some advice from Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson, the Olympic champion sprinter, had a goal to win the 200 and 400 meter sprints at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The problem was that the 200 and the 400 races were always held on the same day. Under those circumstances, it was impossible for anyone to recover enough between races to win the second race. To reach his goal Johnson did two things: first, he and his coach developed a workout plan that emphasized quick recovery. Second, every day Johnson petitioned the Olympic Committee to move the 200 and the 400-meter races to different days! His petition succeeded, and he became the first person ever to win gold medals for both races, at the same Olympics.

Having great goals can motivate performance. We can use a three-stage process to create winning goals for our teams.

The three steps to helping your team set goals are:

  1. Find the goal
  2. Refine the goal
  3. Follow up

Find the Goal

The best way to figure out what an individual’s goal should be is to look at the bigger picture – the organization as a whole. An organization’s vision and goals are ultimately achieved by each individual in the company. When we set a team member’s goal we need to make sure that it is aligned with the goals of the organization. Sound obvious? Too bad this tip isn’t always followed.

First we ask: What is our company’s vision?” One example might be “To develop a new product line every year.” Next we ask, “What does our department need to do to achieve this vision?” To help develop a new product line a sales manager’s goal may be to “survey industry leaders for their needs.” Next, the manager may give one of his team members the goal of “contacting five customers a day to interview them.” Once we work down this pyramid, the goals and their rationale become clearer. When goals align this way, team members can see how their efforts help the overall success of the company. A famous story about John F. Kennedy illustrates this mindset. JFK was doing a tour of NASA and saw a man cleaning the corridor. The president stopped him to say hello and asked him what he did at NASA. The man answered ‘I’m putting a man on the moon.” The cleaner could clearly see how his work linked to NASA’s overall mission.

Refine the Goal

The first stage gave us an initial goal. Now we will take that goal and tweak it so it has the right level of challenge for each individual. Providing the right amount of challenge is important. University of Chicago professor Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi spent thirty
years conducting research into the “flow” experience. What Dr. C found is that being challenged creates powerful engagement that leads to peak performance. Of course there must also be a balance of skills vs. challenges. This is why premier athletes compete against each other – they provide each other with the right level of challenge. Finding the right level of challenge means we are engrossed in a difficult task but not overwhelmed by it.

This can be a tricky process. It can be tempting to set goals too high or too low for the individual or the team. Poorly set goals can be worse than having no goals at all. For example, in the 1970s, Ford Motor Company set the goal of creating the Pinto for under $2000 – or about $11,000 in today’s money. This goal was too straining, it led employees to overlook safety testing. The result? Fifty-three deaths caused by a gas tank that exploded after a rear end collision. Or consider a mayor’s office that set a goal for their staff to not let any calls go to voicemail. Their goal was to answer 98% of their calls. Because staff members were in a hurry to end one call and answer the next, call quality went down. The office soon changed the goal to include customer satisfaction.

There are many ways to create goals that are more challenging. We can ask for a faster pace, better quality, fewer errors, or better customer service scores. We will choose the appropriate “stretch” based on what fits the individual. One employee might work more independently. But if the individual is new to their role, this might not be the best way to challenge them.

If we find the right balance our team member will look interested when they say, “This is a real challenge!” If the individual uses a monotone voice to say, “This is
manageable,” the goal may be too easy. This employee may not be motivated to perform at their peak. If our employee looks overwhelmed and says, “This is impossible!” we may have to modify the goal so it won’t create problems.

Following Up

Managers will need to decide on milestones that the individual should aim to meet. This will give individuals guidance and keep them on track to success. We also want team members to know about resources that are available. We will want to review goals at least quarterly. If a team member is having trouble, we can break down the goal into smaller steps.

Here are four questions you can ask to help determine if a goal needs tweaking.

  1. Have any new company or team priorities emerged?
  2. Have existing priorities changed?
  3. Is the level of stretch still appropriate for the team member?
  4. Has it become too easy or difficult due to changing circumstances?

We want to measure our goals but not all measurements need to be quantitative;
feedback from customers, coworkers, or senior managers can be an alternative way to gauge performance.

Helping your team set goals is an ongoing process. Both the manager and employee should be involved when finding, refining, and following up on goals. Setting great goals will not just help a company’s performance; it can also make a task much more interesting and help individuals grow in their roles. Research says that employees value growth at work as much as they do a pay raise. Providing great goals can allow a manager to delegate some of their own work to help develop high performing team members. Then the manager too can work to achieve his or her own new goals.

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