Goal Setting

Goal setting is a smart practice for all workplace professionals. Setting goals can help provide focus, order, direction and inspiration to your work life.

Start by reviewing the past. Take a look in the rearview mirror during the past year. What are you most proud of accomplishing? What did you learn? Identify any workplace disappointments: What didn’t you accomplish? How did you get in your own way? This is an important exercise because what we are unconscious about can rule us.

As an executive and leadership development coach, I have suggested (and gleaned from clients) many workplace resolutions designed to increase leadership and the health and performance of teams and organizations. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Become an extraordinary listener. Listen more than you speak. Everyone has heard the old saying, we have two ears and one mouth, so use them proportionately, but few heed this advice. I have never heard a leader criticized for listening too much — only too little. It’s difficult to get input (and therefore buy-in and commitment) when you are in “tell” mode.
  2. Put time aside each day for reflection, planning and prioritization. Franklin Covey suggests starting each day with a 15-minute check-in identifying your priority tasks vs. items that would be nice to get done today. Knock out your priority tasks first. This will help you stay focused rather than frantic and in “firefighting” mode each day.
  3. Establish a procedure to capture ongoing learnings, such as a debrief or postmortem following projects, meetings or presentations. Keep asking two questions: What can I (we) learn from this experience? How can I (we) improve this next time?
  4. Keep adding to your skills and workplace tool bag. Learning something new will keep you engaged and interested. Being a lifetime learner will be essential to thriving in this new world economy. Read books, take courses, trainings, etc., that help you further develop your workplace skills. Wise organizations will invest in further training and development of their most valuable asset — their people.
  5. Find a mentor or coach. This should be someone you can confide in, learn from and who will model best practice for you (someone with the necessary time and energy to partner with you). Professional coaches provide a confidential third-party, nonbiased perspective; they can help guide, challenge and support you in becoming the best you can be this year.
  6. Don’t try to do it all. Delegate more. Help those under you grow by giving them opportunity (and lighten your own load for your work/life balance). When delegating, do so with clear parameters of freedom (like budget, time, etc.), specify what success looks like and provide necessary resources. Consider outsourcing if necessary instead of asking you or your people to give up personal lives.
  7. Do a reality check. Find out how you are perceived by others. Inquire and be curious (not defensive) about how your actions and words affect your co-workers. Take a 360-degree feedback survey (a multirater review that gives you feedback from all around you: boss, clients, co-workers and direct reports).
  8. Increase your self-awareness. Not knowing what we don’t know can be a killer. (How many times have we heard, “I never saw that coming!”) Identifying your behavior patterns under conflict, stress or when challenged can be enlightening. Do you point fingers at others or take personal responsibility? Do you give away your personal authority or approach challenges collaboratively, calmly and openly? Dysfunctional emotional intelligence patterns can stall a career. I equate leadership development ultimately to self-development. It’s a worthwhile journey.
  9. Get in touch with your inner authentic voice. Sometimes it’s hard to even hear our own voices due to the “noise” of others, the “shoulds” or outside pressures. Find some quiet time to reflect on what matters to you. Think about the big life questions: what are your values, your purpose, why are you here and what do you want to accomplish?
  10. What is your career vision for the next 5 and ten years? What do you want to create? Write it down, along with your plan. Research demonstrates that the act of writing down goals is powerful.

The challenge for most people, of course, is sticking to their goals. Whatever your goals, keep them to a manageable and a realistic number of goals. To increase the likelihood you will keep yours, find a coach or support person to help you keep focus and accountable for what you want to achieve.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Better Performance Reviews

The annual management task of delivering performance reviews. More than 70 million Americans go through this annual ritual, yet dread both giving and receiving them.

“Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams claims that the annual performance review is “one of the most frightening and degrading experiences in every employee’s life.” The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some “dos”:

  1. Set the stage for a two-way conversation. Relieve tension and facilitate dialogue by communicating upfront your review process agenda. Let employees know they have input.
  2. Start by letting employees assess themselves. What are they most proud of, and what do they consider areas for development?
  3. Seize the opportunity to acknowledge what you like and appreciate about how the employee performs.
  4. Identify what success looks like for the coming year, given company objectives, etc. Create an employee development plan with specific goals and tasks.
  5. Focus on the employee. Be truly present. Listen and make a genuine attempt to understand concerns and any feedback (yes, you should ask).
  6. Talk about their strengths and challenge areas. Deliver the negative (avoid sugarcoating) but make sure the employee knows what he or she can do about it.

On the other side, don’t:

  1. Talk too much. Reviews should be interactive. Don’t let whatever “form” you use dictate your process; it’s not about the form. If you are doing all the talking, you’ve probably lost them. (You’ll know when their eyes glaze over!)
  2. Make it personal. Stick to behavior specifics.
  3. Offer challenging feedback using generalizations. Many clients tell me they are told during their reviews that they need to improve areas such as “communication.” Most people have no idea what this means. Identify how you and the employee will know if he or she meets your expectations for improvement.
  4. Make assumptions about how the employee is receiving the feedback. Emotionally charged situations often foster misunderstanding. Probe for understanding and reactions, including confirmation of critical elements of the review.
  5. Avoid the negatives. We all have room for improvement. Even the most talented individuals want to know how they can reach the next level. Refusing to identify issues, challenge for improvement or hold the individual accountable does not foster growth. When you avoid giving tough, direct feedback, you aren’t doing them (or you, or the business) any favors.
  6. Hammer on negatives. Don’t shred personal self-esteem by telling them every negative thing you’ve ever noticed. Reinforce that it is behaviors and actions you want changed, and that you have confidence in the person you are challenging.

As a professional coach, I am often brought into situations requiring review and expertise with “challenging” personnel and difficult workplace relationships. Most leaders who find themselves stuck in these situations want options and practical help with how to review and coach frequently outstanding individuals that will support positive behavioral change.

Here are just a few scenarios that may require special help:

  • Reviewing the individual with great technical skills but who lacks the interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence to do the job effectively. The first challenge is how to acknowledge the value of the employee’s contribution while increasing his or her self-awareness of emotional and interpersonal patterns and their impact. The next challenge is coaching and/or training the employee to develop new behaviors.
  • Leaders from organizations in the midst of major “cultural” change often struggle with how to set and manage expectations around the change. The challenge here is developing expected performance standards with a highly defined process for regular feedback and measurement.

An organization’s most valuable resource is its people. The best leaders understand that personnel require both acknowledgment and challenge — and that skillfully developed and delivered performance reviews can be a highly effective management tool in today’s workplace.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Adaptability for Career and Business Success

DARWIN’S WORDS, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change,” are highly relevant for today’s business climate. Thriving in today’s complex, dynamic and turbulent marketplace will require new adaptive approaches.

Ever wondered why some organizations embrace change, making it through tough times, while others fail? The answer lies in their resiliency.

A resilient organization is one that can effectively innovate, adapt and perform in the face of adversity (not just in good times). Resilient organizations often bounce back even stronger when stressed versus being flattened by their own inability to change.

Adaptive and resilient organizations have several characteristics in common:

  • Clear, unrelenting focus around purpose and goals.
  • Flexibility and openness to new approaches, roles and ways of getting work done.
  • A climate of learning, creativity and a proactive approach to finding opportunities to improve (even when stressed).
  • Trust, cooperation and open communication.
  • Senior leaders open to employees’ input and influence.

In contrast, rigid, bureaucratic organizations with choking politics, “red tape” and a control-oriented leadership mentality will often fail to adapt effectively when faced with hardships. In general, the greater the bureaucracy, the greater the difficulty responding to challenges, like trying to turn the Titanic around to miss the iceberg. Rigid bureaucracy is frequently the biggest impediment to agility. Words like, “It’s always been done this way,” or, “not in my job description” can stop needed responsiveness and innovation in its tracks.

Leadership is key to improving any organization’s resiliency. Though creating a resilient organization won’t happen overnight, here are some guidelines:

  • Don’t lose sight of core competencies. Address these questions: What are the business/team “strengths” and strategic advantages? What is working in your favor that you can build on? How can the team leverage the fundamentals that make your team and business strong?
  • Examine work processes and the “big picture” to encourage responsiveness in the face of changing conditions. How and where does communication flow (or not)? Are there bottlenecks? What does it take to get a decision? Is there duplication? Are we burdening people with too much information or checkoffs? Focus on simplifying and “clearing the path.”
  • Empower those on the “front line” to do the right thing for customers (they are a valuable asset in these troubled times) and the business. Experienced, motivated employees can make it happen as long as the business hasn’t burdened them with onerous approval processes or red tape that gets in their way. A responsibility of management is to make sure employees have the information and materials they need (in a timely manner) to do their jobs.
  • Nurture and sustain a workplace culture that supports agility. Being able to seize opportunities and adapt quickly in this uncertain economy may mean the difference between success or failure. Not being able to change course quickly was the end of the Titanic. Reward risk takers, out-of-the-box thinkers and those who “get it done.” Be on the lookout for analysis paralysis.
  • Hire for adaptability so you can redirect roles if necessary. Re-examine work that employees are doing while identifying their strengths and skills. Is it work that still makes sense? This may require employees to cross train, share resources or assume other duties as required.
  • Foster organizational learning. Treat errors as learning opportunities. It’s OK to be wrong and change course as long as we learn from the past to create a preferred future. Don’t expect things to work perfectly when innovating (studies show it often takes a second or third try for the best solution).
  • Nurture and sustain creativity. Poorly managed brainstorming stifles creativity. Leaders often blow it by tainting the well, offering their own ideas first. Make it safe for people to offer ideas in an open, nonjudgmental atmosphere. Encourage wild ideas. Don’t allow the naysayers to stymie or silence those with ideas.
  • Establish outlets for people to process the stress of change. Wise leaders will respond with empathy and listening to understand the challenges and concerns of their people.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Technology and Communication Challenges

In today’s workplace, we face a dizzying array of options to communicate. Which do you choose: e-mail, phone, voice mail tag, text messaging, instant messaging (“IMing”), paper notes, blogs, face to face, conference calls, Skype, Facetime or yelling over the cubicle wall?

There are many things to consider before deciding.

  • Is what I need to communicate critical, requiring immediate attention or an FYI?
  • Who is my audience and who else might potentially hear/read it?
  • Does this need to be documented or tracked?
  • How can I relay the message to lessen the odds of it being misunderstood?

There are also generational preferences to consider. In general, boomers (1946-64) still prefer the phones they grew up with, Gen X (1965-82) is big into e-mail, while the youngest members of today’s work force, the “net generation” or the Millennials (1982-now), strongly prefer real-time communication technologies such as IMing and texting.

Adding to the complexity are project managers preferring to use the latest software tracking devices and internal “techno jargon,” which may be Latin to the rest of us.

My favorite: “Joe — pls frwd kernal with IPSec immediately — system compromise imminent!” which left me wondering if something in the produce department needed a prescription. And we thought the “women are from Venus and men are from Mars” challenge was complex!

Breakdowns are inevitable — boomers leaving endless voice mails to Millennials, who respond by text (to some who still haven’t figured out how to read them), then wonder why they get no response.

The loops seem endless. E-mails, voice mails, texts — what do you respond with this time, and did I or didn’t I already?

Messages get lost, follow-up doesn’t happen and the communication gap widens, leading to missed expectations, confusion and frustration.

Granted, new technologies offer advantages. IMing and text offer immediacy and convenience, making them very popular with the on-the-go, ready, fire, aim (and get it done) worker.

On the con side, deciphering “tone” with an IM is almost impossible (no voice or nonverbal cues), there’s no paper trail or documentation (think follow-up) and the messages often interrupt co-workers trying to get work done.

Boomers complain that IMs interrupt their focus, yet for the youngest members of the work force, this poses no problem. According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of recent college grads did homework while instant messaging (while their incredulous boomer parents wondered how they could focus).

E-mail has its pros and cons. On the pro side, it allows for documentation and a way to look back and check what was communicated (or agreed to).

On the con side, those long strings are irritating and time-consuming to decipher what action is required, and e-mails get lost in the hundreds that pile into people’s inboxes each day.

One of my pet peeves about e-mail is professionals who hide behind it, using it to avoid having an uncomfortable face-to-face conversation while claiming they are “communicating.”

What you can do:

  • Find out what medium your co-workers (and boss!) prefer. Let them know preferences (tell them if you typically turn off your instant messaging option so you can work in the morning or if you don’t check e-mail at night).
  • If the message is critical, relay it by several means. For example, start with a phone call (and/or text), back up critical points in an e-mail and follow it up with a face-to-face visit. If you find yourself in voice mail tag jail, suggest a best time to reach you or moving the communication over to e-mail.
  • Find out if your company has any user policies and/or guidelines.
  • What you say can be used against you. IMs can be copied and saved. Don’t say anything in any form that you wouldn’t say in front of your boss or that can damage your reputation, credibility or that of your company.
  • Learn how to use current technologies and the shortcut language (ask for help from your Millennial co-worker).
  • Avoid using text, IM or e-mail for sensitive or difficult conversations. With no nonverbal cues to help us decipher intent and meaning, there is simply too much left to interpretation.

Maybe I’m old school (I will out myself as a boomer), but I firmly believe that the best way to improve working relationships with co-workers is via human connection.

In my book, face to face is still the preferred method to communicate anything sensitive, of importance or that might be potentially misunderstood.  I like to hear the person’s tone of voice to decipher urgency and importance and look into their eyes to see how they are reacting to my request or challenge.  Most of today’s technology leaves out body language and tone clues.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Retention Challenges

HALF OR MORE of new employees quit a new position within the first seven months. While there can be many reasons people quit, one reason often given is, “The job wasn’t what I expected.” Anyone who has experienced the time and expense required to hire someone, only to have them quit a short time later, knows the frustration and costs involved. If this is a recurring theme, it may be time to re-examine your hiring process.

Unnecessary turnover can be avoided by setting realistic expectations — think full disclosure — from the beginning to the end of the hiring process. Establishing clear, realistic expectations is critical to a successful boss-employee relationship — and retaining talent. In contrast, disgruntled employees and turnover are highly disruptive to workplace performance.

Research shows many applicants know little about the jobs they are applying for or have inaccurate perceptions of the job. In an effort to reduce turnover, some companies are developing “Realistic Job Previews,” or RJPs, in the form of videos such as, “A day in the life of a … caseworker.” Home Depot, for example, has made it easy for potential applicants to preview the realities of sales associate positions via an online video on its Web site. The video features sales associates describing their jobs, including pluses such as career advancement and in-depth knowledge of products to challenges such as heavy lifting and working in a hectic, fast-paced environment on your feet all day. Likewise, PetSmart shows potential job applicants a 10-minute video that it believes screens out about 15 percent of applicants.

Frankly, examples like these are rare. Most managers simply do not invest enough time clarifying expectations upfront.

Here are a few things those hiring can do:

  • Most employees dislike job surprises. During the hiring process, paint a realistic picture of what the person’s average workday would entail. This includes attention to details, including where the workspace is located (having a window or office versus a cubicle can matter a great deal to some), physical demands such as heavy lifting, required travel time and schedule flexibility. It’s also a good idea to discuss weekend/holiday requirements and the amount of autonomy and responsibility people will be given. Identify any pending changes, such as work space or office relocations. Your objective in hiring should be more about finding the right fit for the open position versus trying to sell the job.
  • Address and describe your company culture in the interview process. Cover areas including expected hours of work (including crunch times), policies regarding Internet computer use, expected attendance at after-hour events, schedule flexibility and whether the culture is conservative, laid back or high pressure.
  • Write accurate and complete job descriptions and update them regularly. Ask the person leaving what they would add or delete given their experience in the position.
  • During the interview process specifically explore with the candidate why and how he or she sees the position as a fit. Explore any areas of concern. As the hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to assess if this is the right person for the job.
  • Cover the pros and cons of the job. All jobs have challenges. You won’t be doing the candidate, yourself or your team any favors by sugarcoating reality, particularly around known challenges and unaddressed issues for the person who last held the position. If long hours, tedious, mundane computer work or limited supervision/support is a job reality, inform the candidate upfront (including how he or she will be rewarded). In the end, you want to weed out those who won’t last vs. those who will flourish.
  • Lastly, consider this happiness equation: Happiness = Expectations — Delivery, and yes in the employer/employee relationship this applies both ways! Employees are more likely to respect, trust and be loyal to those bosses who were upfront with them from the get-go.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com