PositivePeople July 3, 2019 No Comments

Managing your Team with Empathy

Managing your Team with Empathy:

Providing real support during traumatic times

 

Life events wash over all of us.

Keeping a team engaged and enthused despite outside personal pressures can be challenging for even the most skilled Manager. No matter how great your culture or team environment, when employees are faced with a major life event how you support them through this period can make or break their commitment to you and your business.

We have all had team members who have children with serious illnesses, overseas bereavements or other traumatic events to deal with. Company policies often don’t provide guidance on how to balance the organisation’s needs and the needs of the individual.

There can be a lot of pressure and stress involved in traumatic personal situations.

In circumstances like these, employees need to deal with the personal situation facing them, ensure they keep earning, as well as making sure they are not letting you and the team down. How you manage this is critical. No amount of future development opportunities offered can ever recover the loss of trust that occurs if their situation isn’t empathetically managed.

Building a business that balances empathy, fairness and overall standards, while allowing flexibility to manage at an individual level is key to making this a success.

 

To do this well we suggest:

  1. Know your team

Encouraging genuine relationships where your team are comfortable to let you know about personal challenges. This helps you to manage these situations for best results for the individual and business. If you have a team member who suddenly starts disappearing at 5pm on the dot this should raise questions – perhaps they just have a gym class to get to but also, could they be getting home quickly to help a sick partner with the kids? Do you know and would they feel comfortable telling you?

 

  1. Encourage the use of EAP or specialist support services

Managers aren’t counsellors and there is no expectation that you can help your team process grief or deal with complex mental health issues. You do however want to make sure expert support is available for these situations, so that your team members are able to return to full health.

 

  1. Allow Management discretion in the application of policies

Having fair guidelines for everyone ensures an even playing field in your organisation. However, there must be room to make exceptions. If you have a team member having important medical treatment do your Managers have the flexibility to change shift patterns to accommodate this? If a team member suffers the loss of a child can extended bereavement leave or AL be taken? We don’t think any of us would expect 3 days leave would be enough to cope with a situation like this. Company policies should not hamstring Managers from making sensible, compassionate decisions.

 

  1. Consider extensions of leave entitlements for special circumstances

You can allow anything that is over and above minimum statutory entitlements. You don’t have to wait until 6 months for bereavement or sick leave and you can give additional leave in special circumstances. You have a range of options available to you should it be needed, so making sure you consider this and have flexibility to support your team members through tragedy or traumatic events can make the world of difference for them.

People have long memories, and even though work is important it quickly takes a back seat when something personally traumatic happens.

Having Company standards but managing individual pressures will help to gain future commitment and engagement from your whole team and is – in the end – the right thing to do.

Positive People have 24 years’ experience helping organisations develop policies that provide clear expectations and help to get the best from your team. Contact us now if you need help.

360 Degree Feedback for Leaders

360 Degree Feedback for Leaders

We all know how important leaders are to a business. Their ability to inspire and motivate their teams is an essential ingredient of business success.

Often in leadership development the focus is on what we want our leaders to improve, what we see as gaps in their knowledge and the results we want them to achieve.

If our leader’s success is achieved through their people, doesn’t it make sense to turn that around and ask what their team want from their leader?

360-degree feedback surveys are a powerful tool for figuring out exactly what a leader’s real development areas are. Every team is different, and every organisation is different, so leadership skills need to be adapted and developed continuously to achieve great results.

Making this a meaningful exercise can be challenging, so here are a few of our top steers:

  1. Let you leader choose the feedback participants alongside you

Typically, you will have 8 to 10 team members complete the 360. Choosing a balanced group is essential. Working together to select this group will ensure that the leader is engaged and receptive to the feedback.

  1. Brief the participants well

Sometimes the feedback in a 360 can be tough to take, so making sure your participants understand how to provide this feedback constructively is important. Phrasing questions so that they feed forward can help, using questions like “What would you like to see your leader do more of?”. Participants should also focus on skills and actions, not personalities. A personal attack in a 360 will never achieve good results.

  1. Have the leader rate themselves too

It’s always interesting to compare how we think we are doing against how others see us doing. This opens the conversation about why there may be differences in perception. Often leaders will establish an environment which motivates them but may not work for their team. Seeing these differences will help leaders realise that their team may have different needs from them.

  1. Make the feedback session a safe space

Its normal to be nervous receiving 360 feedback, and this can make your leaders defensive. The best way to approach this is to let them work through it in stages. Provide the report for them to consider, meet to help them work through it and discuss their thoughts on it. Then meet again to agree development areas. Having time to process the feedback can make it more meaningful. It can pay to use an external person or your HR Manager for the feedback session, as they can discuss the results dispassionately and the leader can respond honestly.

  1. Agree the development areas together

Just like any goal setting exercise, if your leaders have development areas chosen for them they won’t completely commit to them. This may mean that there are some compromises in their development plan. However, any development that moves them forward and improves their skills will benefit your business.

“If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

John Quincy Adams

 

Positive People have 24 years’ experience helping medium sized business’s develop great leaders. Contact us today to discuss how our 360-degree feedback surveys can work for you.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement – Why managers should prioritise praise

 

“If each of us was to confess our most secret desire, the one that inspires all our plans, all our actions, we would say “I want to be praised”” – Emil Cioran, Philosopher

 

When we see an outstanding leader in action, one of the first things we notice is their ability to recognise achievement and celebrate success in a way that feels genuine. This has an uplifting snow-ball effect on the team.

This is evident in data gathered from global engagement survey providers, which consistently tell us that there is a direct link between enhanced retention, productivity and revenue and employees receiving praise and recognition at work.

But even when we know that praising employees for their work and commitment has a positive effect on our bottom line, it can still be something we struggle with.

 

Practice makes perfect.

Knowing you should give positive reinforcement, and actually doing it are two very different things. Also, saying the same thing on repeat will quickly lose its impact. So not only does it need to become a habit but you also need to mix it up.

 

“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount” – B. F. Skinner, Psychologist

 

  1. Find out what motivates each member of your team and tailor your positive feedback to drive their performance
  2. Use different channels. Some people prefer one-on-one, others in front of the team, or in an email. Most people will respond well to praise, however it is delivered, so use a variety of forums to keep it fresh
  3. Remember your introverts. You may not hear as much about their accomplishments so make the effort to dig a little deeper to find out how they are going. If they’re delivering great results, let them know
  4. Commit yourself to never forgetting to praise a team member who you see going the extra mile. Discretionary effort is the hallmark of engaged employees and these are the people you need to retain.
  5. Remember, it is far easier to spot mistakes than it is to focus on what is right with a piece of work. Keep this in mind when delivering feedback and make sure it’s balanced.
  6. If you have a consistently high performer, don’t forget to consistently praise them for their efforts. Sometimes when a high level of performance becomes the norm from someone, it can be easy to let the positive feedback slip off the radar
  7. Performance reviews are the ideal opportunity to link an employee’s efforts with the bigger picture. Tie their achievements to the strategic goals of the organisation – this reminds them of the ‘why’ and the important part they are playing
  8. If you’re working on an area of development with an employee, take every opportunity to positively reinforce behaviour or actions that show they’re improving in this area

 

Positive People can help you to develop your frontline leader’s ability to recognise their team and elevate performance. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077.

 

Verbal Warnings

Verbal Warnings – Do they have a place today?

 

As the disciplinary process evolves, it is helpful to reflect on your own organisation’s process and make sure it is up to date, current, fair and reasonable.

A key part of a traditional disciplinary process is the verbal warning – a step Managers can take when they believe an employee’s actions are serious enough to warrant more than an outline of expectations or a coaching session, yet not serious enough to warrant a Written Warning. Frequently these warnings are given by Managers without following a full process, and Companies often then mistakenly rely on them as the first step in a progressive warning process for misconduct.

A general rule of thumb for misconduct is that the progressive disciplinary processes should allow for three formal warnings for the employee prior to dismissal being considered. It’s important to consider whether a verbal warning forms part of the progressive disciplinary process for your organisation, and if so, specify this in your Code of Conduct.

For a verbal warning to be part of a progressive disciplinary process:

  1. It must be confirmed in writing, outlining the breach of policy and procedure and future expectations, and ideally have the employee’s signature
  2. You must still conduct an investigation, allowing the employee to respond after having the opportunity to prepare, have a support person present, and have access to all the information you have gathered about the misconduct

To be utilised and considered as part of a progressive process, the process you follow before issuing a verbal warning must be the same as if a written warning is given.

If you do not follow this process, then a verbal warning may be considered as part of the investigation into further misconduct but cannot be relied upon as one of the formal steps. It is instead background information confirming that the employee was aware of the Company rules and the impact of their actions.

If you do not follow this process, details of the verbal warning should not be stored on the employee’s personal file. Instead it would be considered the same as a coaching session, a letter of expectation or a Manager’s diary note.

For many Companies this requirement for a full process has meant that verbal warnings have become a thing of the past.

A more current approach is to streamline the process, doing away with verbal warnings altogether:

  • First instance of the behaviour – Informal discussions reflecting concerns. The Manager would be advised to keep “diary notes”
  • Second instance of the behaviour- Issue a Letter of Expectation alongside conducting a Coaching session driven by a Performance Improvement Plan (if appropriate). This is an informal process which does not require a formal investigation. The Manager outlines the impact of the behaviour and uses a coaching approach to help the employee identify ways they can improve. This is documented by the Manager and kept as part of the Performance Improvement Plan
  • Third instance of the behaviour – An investigation is initiated, which can then set off the formal disciplinary process, inviting the employee to respond. It also includes the other requirements of a full process. A possible outcome could be a first written warning.
  • Continuation of the Disciplinary process

Having a process which is sound, streamlined and allows for the employee to have an opportunity to change their behaviour is critical to minimising the risk of any comebacks on the process.  

This area can be a minefield, and is not easy to get right.

Positive People are experienced in developing performance management frameworks which are legally compliant, understandable and practical for both managers and employees. Contact us today and we can help you review yours.

Change Management

Making Changes Smoothly and Without Drama

Plan a smooth restructure that enhances the business and allows the future to be tackled with confidence.

Sometimes it is essential to make changes in your organisation. Markets shift, customers demand more, technology advances and business practices move along. It is imperative that organisations stay ahead of the game and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

Making changes within your organisation to meet these challenges can often involve difficult decisions that will affect your people’s employment.

It is not just the human side of the changes that can keep you awake at night, but also the legal risks involved. Additionally, a badly handled restructure does your employment brand no favours. A badly handled change initiative can sully how attractive your business is to work for as well as negatively impacting on your current team’s satisfaction, engagement and retention.

Successfully navigating your way through a restructure, relocation or major system or process change requires expert planning and careful implementation. A fair process throughout is essential.

Once the decision is made to explore the possibilities of a change, then a proposal needs to be developed which explains the background, provides the genuine commercial reasons and provides a justification for the proposed changes.

Any changes contemplated must be for a genuine commercial reason.

A key element to be aware of is that from the moment a change idea is conceived until after all relevant feedback has been received is that it is only a proposal. Only after a fair process has been conducted, and all relevant feedback received and carefully considered can a decision on the proposal be taken. Up until that time the change contemplated is simply a proposal, nothing more. This is still the case even if you’re facing a certain change – for example, the lease running out on a premises meaning that some sort of change is inevitable.

The people affected need to be provided with a fair opportunity to provide their response to the proposal. If redundancies are a possibility then all alternatives to redundancy need to be explored to see if any people affected by the changes could be accommodated elsewhere in other roles, or other working arrangements introduced.

Once the decision on the proposal is made, then those affected need to be informed.

Throughout the process everyone affected needs to be treated with the utmost care and consideration. Suitable support in the form of the offer of counselling and CV/career path assistance should be offered to those affected. This will reduce your risk, but also ensure you are acting as a good employer and looking after your employees.

Because the discussions that are held are confidential, it can be difficult to maintain the engagement and morale of the rest of the team in the organisation as they naturally want to know what is going on. However, there is little choice but to wait until the whole process is completed before information like a new organisation chart and role descriptions can be shared.

If your Company is committed to creating a work environment where open dialogue, honest discussions, trust and fair processes are nurtured and promoted as part of the organisational culture, you and your team are most likely to come out of a restructuring process with a sense of optimism.

Following these guidelines should help you emerge from any change program with minimum risk and ready to take on the future with confidence. Positive People are well experienced in guiding, assisting and providing support to companies who need to make changes. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss the details.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving

One of the biggest challenges new leaders face is the sudden pressure of being the main port of call for workplace problems. They no longer have the back-up of passing issues up the chain to be solved by someone more senior. The responsibility suddenly falls on them to find effective solutions and make decisions quickly.

If they do this well it builds confidence and improves your organisation, but, if they procrastinate or do this badly it damages confidence, undermines reputations and can have a significant impact on business results.

 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

Albert Einstein

 

So, how do we build our future leaders to effectively solve workplace problems?

We suggest you:

  • Empower your leaders
  • Have a defined, commonly understood problem-solving framework
  • Encourage root cause analysis
  • Develop support networks
  • Support learning from mistakes

Empower your leaders

Sometimes problems come up for your leaders, which you know how to solve. Resist the urge. Even though they may still be growing in confidence, stepping in to solve their problems will undermine their leadership role and hinder their growth as a leader. Take a step back, take a coaching approach and encourage your leaders to come to you with solutions, not problems.

Use a defined, commonly understood problem-solving framework

Making decisions when problems arise can be stressful for new leaders. Introducing a problem-solving framework into your organisation encourages your leaders to feel confident that they will solve problems effectively and reach the right solution. Having a framework which the whole business understands encourages the practice, allows for a common understanding when solving cross functional problems, and gives you a better chance of reaching the right solution.

Encourage root cause analysis

Sometimes you need to do a quick fix – and that’s fine. Business must continue, products must go out and time is money! But…..if your leaders don’t double back, establish root cause and put a solution in place which stops the problem re-occurring they will end up in continuous firefighting mode. Not good for your business, and not good for them.

Develop support networks

Usually when one of your leaders is solving a problem they need the help and support of other teams within the business. If this doesn’t come willingly it can undermine their effectiveness, confidence and how positive they feel about their role. Developing a culture and network of supportive teams is essential to good problem solving. Your leaders need to know who they can call on when they need expert input and feel confident they can trust the advice they receive.

Support learning from mistakes

Despite the best, most robust problem-solving process in place, mistakes do still happen. Using these as learning opportunities helps your leaders to accept their mistakes, look forward and become better at what they do.

Problem solving is an often overlooked, but essential leadership skill. The ability to do this well can transform your organization and keep it continuously moving forward.

We can help to ensure your Leaders have the skill and confidence to be expert problem solvers. To find out more you can check out our website here or contact us at 09-455-1077.

Following these guidelines will help you and your team members smooth over and resolve any differences of opinion. Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Problem Solving & Decision Making module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today atinfo@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.

Motivation

Motivation:

Making sure you and your team are goal focused, driven and successful.

Pretty much anyone can issue instructions and somehow get the job done.

But what is the quality like? How quickly is the job done? Does the team work together? How innovative is the team? How focused on the customer are they? Is the job delivered on time? What is the service like?

What good leaders are looking for is their team actually WANTING to do the job. And this is the mantra that stands at the core of motivation – WANTING TO rather than having to. It is about commitment, not compliance. Take a look at the individuals in your team. Who is committed? Who is just going through the motions?

“You cannot motivate anyone. You can only provide the environment where your team members motivate themselves.”

When people want to do something they can overcome the biggest of hurdles to achieve their goals.

Often people with loads of experience, knowledge and talent just fall by the wayside because they don’t have the passion to achieve things – they lack that critical WANT TO factor.

 

How do you ignite their passion?

There are two elements to this.

  1. Developing an understanding of each person in your team. This means there is a need to establish which buttons you need to push for each person. And each person’s motivational buttons are different, so it takes time and insight to work out what makes a person tick. This understanding allows you to temper and fine-tune your natural approach so your communication resonates with each person. People instinctively understand, appreciate and “get” that you “get” them. This individual awareness allows you to develop and grow a special relationship with each of your different team members. This means that you connect to each person and this is a strong contributor to their commitment.
  2. Creating a workplace environment that allows everyone to be their best. This requires the development of an organisational culture that is conducive to people pushing forward for both individual and organisational success because it feels good to do so.

This kind of environment is usually principled, supportive, challenging, exciting, and collaborative.

Add to these two key motivational factors an appreciation of what the organisation is trying to achieve, coupled with a clear understanding of the expectations attached to their role, and you will have motivated team members committed to succeed.

While the motivation of each individual is in their own hands, the set-up for this motivation is very much in the hands of the management.

Following these guidelines should help you and your team members ride the crest of a wave with enthusiasm and success. To find out more you can check out our website here or contact us at 09-455-1077.

Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Motivation module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.

Managing Conflict at Work

Conflict Management:

Everyone experiences conflict – in life and at work.

Why? Because different people are always going to have different points of view and different needs, wants and values.

Differences of opinion are natural and usually need to be openly addressed to avoid tension.

So, what should we do when conflict or differences of opinion arise?

  • Deal with the issue before the situation escalates
  • Talk directly to person(s) concerned
  • Work with people to try and resolve the issue
  • If someone approaches you with an issue, be prepared to confront and work on it
  • Where appropriate, if someone complains to you about another person, encourage them to talk directly to the person involved. Give them the tools to do this through a coaching discussion.

Before you meet with the person

  • Identify the real issue, not just the symptoms/emotions
  • Be prepared to work toward agreeable solutions, not just towards “winning” (or one party winning)
  • Remember that it is not unusual to disagree and that people are quite entitled to do so. You can still find a solution and resolve the conflict.

During the discussion

  • Look at the issue through another ‘lens’ or point of view
  •  Be willing to “own” part of the problem
  • Establish a common goal (a solution) and stay focused on it
  • Define the problem and establish solid facts (yours and theirs)
  • Identify common ground
  • Agree on a common goal
  • Explore all possible solutions and select the solutions that will best meet the needs of both parties
  • Decide on a course of action
  • Summarise the agreed course of action back to ensure that the needs have been met

It is also important to manage the post-conflict situation. Don’t leave it and pretend that it didn’t happen. Follow-up is essential. This may involve checking in to see how the person is feeling and monitoring the situation to ensure agreed actions have actually happened. Then when the matter is truly resolved, it’s time to put it to rest and move on.

We can help to equip your leaders to manage conflict effectively. To find out more you can check out our website at here or contact us at 09-455-1077.

Following these guidelines will help you and your team members smooth over and resolve any differences of opinion. Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Conflict Management module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.

Performance Management

How to have that difficult conversation

 

Preparing for performance reviews with your team should generally be a straight-forward process.

Typically, the steps include:

  1. Requesting the employee’s feedback on their own performance
  2. Gathering evidence, including things like sales figures, other KPIs/measurements, customer feedback, attendance records, etc.
  3. Completing your manager review
  4. Meeting with your employee to discuss the above, along with their personal development plan
  5. Finalising actions for the next review period

However, where you have a poorly performing employee, additional preparation is required. Here are our recommendations for approaching difficult conversations at performance reviews.

 

Be solution driven.

Any performance difficulties discussed need to conclude with an agreed way of moving forward so that every issue has a solution attached to it at the end of the discussion.

Use the phrase: “So, now that we have discussed this challenge, lets agree how to change this in the future…”

 

Keep the meeting on an equal footing.

Make certain that the meeting allows for the employee to feel that they are completely free to say what they want to – allow time and space for them to talk. If the meeting is not conducted on an equal footing, then half the communication (and much of the benefit) will be lost.

 

Discuss the differences.

Major differences between your manager review and the employee’s self-review highlight a gap in perception and understanding. The discussion will centre on why the perceptions are different and also what can be done to move the assessments up the scale.

 

Is it a problem of motivation or ability?

Ask questions to diagnose the root cause of the issue. Listen for whether it is a case of ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do’? Tailor the solution accordingly.

 

Discuss your role in improving the performance.

Are you helping or standing in the way of performance? Are you controlling too much or being too hands-off? Does the employee need more training? How can you can best support them to make positive changes?

 

Make a plan and follow up.

Agree and document the plan – what, who, and by when? Then don’t forget to follow-up. Too often a performance plan languishes unopened until the next review. Regular follow-up is essential to effect real change.

 

Following these guidelines should lead to a constructive conversation and the development of a quality action plan. Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Performance Management module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training and development solutions.

Time Management

Making sure you are personally well organised, relaxed and successful. 

 

Time Management is such a misnomer!

No one can manage time. Time proceeds independently of us, and will tick on regardless of what we do.  What we can do is manage ourselves so that we make the best possible use of the time we have at our disposal. And the key to that is ensuring that we are well organised.

 

What simple action can we take?

To be well organised and successful, means you:

  1. Know exactly what you need to be doing every day
  2. Identify and balance the different priorities that keep coming at you
  3. Understand the difference between the Urgent and the Important
  4. Use tools and systems, and get rid of time wasters
  5. Manage pressure so that it does not become stressful.

 

Know exactly what you need to be doing.

It is important to always have a very clear focus for the day ahead. It can never be “just another day”. Every day has to dawn with a set of challenges and goals that you have clearly identified and that you are ready to accomplish. You need to know exactly what you are going to be doing to be successful for the day

 

Identify and balance the different priorities that keep coming at you.

The single most important element of being organised and successful at work is, within the rush and hurly-burly of life, to cultivate the ability to identify, understand and rank your priorities. Choose what to do first, then second, then third – every day. Sometimes there is a practical need to fine-tune these priorities during the day. At the end of the day reset your priorities ready for tomorrow, knowing exactly what you are going to tackle first.

 

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least”  Goethe. 

 

Understand the difference between the Urgent and the Important.

It is easy to end up chasing your tail every day. There is no success or satisfaction in it. Often the Urgent matters are those that create a whirlpool of busyness – things like some emails, some deadlines, some meetings, interruptions. This single minded dedication to busyness can mean that the Important matters – things like relationship building, planning, prevention strategies –  are sacrificed and put on the back burner, only to emerge as a crisis at a later date.

If you don’t get your car serviced, at some point that lack of action will jump up and bite you – probably at midnight on the motorway.  Make time for the Important.

 

Use tools and systems, and get rid of time wasters. 

Actively choose to move away from a life of crisis management by simply using some effective tools that take the pressure off you.

Make use of your Calendar and To Do lists – they will drive your self-discipline. Also, consciously and deliberately reduce time wasters like some emails, some conversations, some meetings.

 

Manage pressure so that it does not become stressful.

The bonus with good time management is that you do not feel unduly pressurised or stressed.

Too often pressure is internalised as stress, and this then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pressure in a modern job goes with the territory. The key barriers to preventing pressure feeling like stress is to:

  1. Acknowledge that there is pressure in your job and that this is normal
  2. Don’t be afraid to take pressure and use it to challenge yourself to be better organised
  3. Foster a calm demeanour and put in place practical personal relaxation strategies that help you keep pressure as pressure, no more than that. These may simply be ensuring a regular personal regime of basic health & wellness practices. They may also involve a mind element like meditation
  4. Apply self-discipline and keep on working hard at keeping pressure where it should stay – as an external element of your job that doesn’t get to you

 

It is all about working smarter not harder.

Following these guidelines should help you and your team members to be better organised and ultimately more relaxed and successful. Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Time Management module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.