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Archive for the ‘! Kristy’ Category

Grownups at Work

In ! Kristy, Culture, Employee Tips, Leaders, Uncategorized on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm

It is my sincere belief that if we would talk to each other at work like grownups, plenty of problems would be solved. Here are just a few:

We’d spend a lot less time, money and angst on 360-degree feedback assessments. The assessment companies make a killing off of our inability to tell each other the truth about performance, reputation and whether or not we’re jerks.

We’d save even more time by streamlining performance management systems and processes. If you knew at any given time how you were measuring up to your manager’s expectations, a bunch of forms and a complex rating scale would be unnecessary.

Speaking of managers… They’d get a great deal of time back in their workday if people were talking to each other about their issues instead of playing the telephone game. That’s the game of telling on their colleague to their boss, who tells the other person’s boss, who tells the other person, vaguely, that “there’s been some feedback about you.” And that extra time could be spent growing and developing people! Cool!

The benefits are apparent, so why don’t we talk to each other candidly? Could be that we see it as the manager’s job… And the manager could be inadvertently reinforcing this notion per the previous paragraph. Could also be that we fear the other person’s potentially defensive reaction or their retaliation. Could be that we just don’t care enough about the success of the company, the team or the colleague to make the effort. Maybe we just plain don’t know how.

You can find some fabulous skill building on how to have a constructive conversation, so if that’s what you need, go for it. But at the end of the day it’s about taking a deep breath, finding a private moment, and saying what needs to be said in service of the success of all involved. Et voila, grownups at work!

Surviving Performance Reviews

In ! Kristy, Employee Tips on Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Ah, the performance review. As well-intentioned as the best organizations are about encouraging frequent informal feedback, stressing the “no-surprise” review, and creating a simple process, performance reviews can be stressful and awkward for even the most awesome employees and great managers. A few tips for the journey:

Remember that your performance review is not what people are going to read at your funeral. A review is one limited, admittedly subjective perspective on how you performed in one area of your life during a limited timeframe. It’s not a judgment of your entire career or your entire person. Put it in perspective and don’t let it rule your self-concept.

Gather a broad perspective on your performance. If your company has a formal system for gathering stakeholder feedback, offer your manager a diverse list of people who’ve had direct contact with your work over the past year. Focus on internal customers but don’t forget other managers, peers who’ve collaborated with you, and direct reports who can comment on your leadership competencies. If you don’t have a formal process, you can still offer stakeholder feedback to your manager in the form of emails and work products that will give evidence of the value you added through the eyes of others.

Get explicit. When writing your self review, include as many specific descriptions of great performance as you can. Quantify the impact of your work on specific business outcomes. If your system includes a review of core competencies, cite examples of your behavior that show how you exemplify each competency.

Listen to feedback. Listening to feedback and accepting feedback as valid are two different activities that we often assume have to happen at the same point in time. When you are receiving a tough bit of feedback, 1) Remain neutral. 2) If the giver of the feedback is making generalizations, ask “Can you give me some specific examples that will help me understand how I might have given that impression?” 3) Thank the person for the feedback. 4) Take some time to process the feedback and decide what you will do about it. Sometimes we ignore feedback because it wasn’t delivered in the exact right way by someone we respect… but I still believe we should mine even the most abrasively delivered feedback for the kernel of truth that might be hiding. 5) It’s always your choice whether to accept feedback as valid and act on it.

If you’re a people manager: PLEASE be courageous. If you’ve never heard the “no surprises” rule of reviewing performance, here it is: There’s a reason it’s called a performance review and not a performance surprise. Your employees should not be hearing any feedback for the first time in a review. It’s unfair for so many obvious reasons, I can’t bring myself to list them here. If you don’t have the courage to bring it up when it happens, shame on you. Turn in your office door and your pay increase because you probably aren’t courageous enough to manage other people.

Move on. Your performance review may very well suck. You may become a victim of the “meets expectations” bell curve because your manager is afraid to rock the boat. You might get hit with a piece of surprise feedback because your manager was too chicken to bring it up to you when it happened. You might get a tiny, tiny piece of the tiny, tiny merit increase pie. Decide how much control you will give your review and don’t let it overtake your self esteem.

So if we all hate the review process so much, how could it look different in the organization of the future… what are your thoughts? Stay tuned for mine…

What Matters Now Riff-Off: Reality

In ! Kristy, Change, Leaders on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 9:53 am

REALITY

 …There’s no such thing as “steady state” anymore… change is the new black.

 … If you wait until things calm down to launch your project, charter a team, talk to people about their careers, or otherwise get work done, it’ll never happen.

 …Coming to terms personally with constant change, and then leading your team through constant change, is the most important thing you can do as a leader in the current reality.

 … It’s also the most difficult thing to do as a leader… it’s one of those management “perks” they forget to tell you about in the interview.

 … It can be done… with transparency, authenticity, humility/servant leadership, and a keen sense of:

  • Where you are in the change process and what you are doing to help yourself navigate successfully
  • How each individual team member is reacting to the change at any given moment, and how you need to flex your approach to help each of them succeed

 … It’s tempting to gloss over the difficulty of change and take the easy way out.

 … Signs you’re taking the easy way out include:

  •  “I sent a very thorough email about the change… what’s the problem?”
  • (or worse), “Corporate Communications sent a very thorough email about the change… what’s the problem?”
  • “Our external consultant is handling change management; they’ll figure all that stuff out for us.”
  • “The change is long over; time to suck it up and move on.”

 … Constant change requires that we find our grounding, stability and clarity in a place outside of work. And this is not a bad thing at all.

 … Change is exhilarating, challenging, and it can fuel your fears and your cynicism… or your joy and your passion. The cool part is, you get to choose. Choose wisely, peeps!

(Bring it, JLO.)

What Matters Now

In ! Kristy, Leaders, Learn, Play on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 3:22 am

I’m being challenged, inspired and humbled by the new collaborative e-book from Seth Godin, What Matters Now. Seth has assembled a group of 70 thought leaders to, as he puts it, riff on important ideas.

I killed some trees and printed a few pages to post in my cube on a rotating basis for a daily dose of fresh thinking. Seth has also challenged his readers to create their own riffs on words that matter to them… so I’m challenging my co-blogger Jen to a riff-off! Last one to post is a rotten egg!

Download the book here. Post your own riff somewhere. I’d love to hear your reactions.

We Are All Self Employed

In ! Kristy, Branding, Careers, Development, Employee Tips, Leaders, Learn, Listen on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:09 am
This quote floated by me recently and stuck with me. I’ve been re-quoting it to people, but I’ve completely forgotten who said it to me originally. (If it was you, please take credit!) While moodling over the concept for this post, I googled the phrase and found that it’s the title of a book by Cliff Hakim, who coined this phrase back in 1994. I’m going to read the book to see how Cliff defines this phrase, but in the meantime here’s how I’ve been thinking about this concept of self-employment and what it means in 2009.
 
Loyalty is dead
The era of lifetime employment has been over for years, but our thinking about careers and jobs still reflects this outdated mindset. We still worry about being seen as a job-hopper, and we still hang on for as long as we can in a terrible job because we’re waiting to be vested in the retirement plan. Here’s a hard question to ponder: Your organization does not have YOU as its top priority; why would you have the organization as YOUR top priority?  Fitness center and holiday luncheon aside, your organization would lay you off if it made financial sense, and many of us have now experienced the effects of that decision first-hand.
 
I’m not proposing that we all slack off and surf Monster at work. Integrity demands that we earn our paycheck and give our employer our best efforts. I’m also not saying that we should treat the organization as The Man who is out to get us at every turn. It’s great to work for a thriving company that values its employees and treats them well, and it’s great to feel that you are having a “great run,” as a good colleague of mine puts it.  I will go Zen for a moment and remind you that the bad times don’t last forever… and neither do the good times.
 
Being self-employed means proactively shaping the environment at your current employer, and not being afraid to move on if you’re not getting what you need.
 
Branding is Imperative
“And what do YOU do?” The quintessential cocktail party question reveals a great deal about a person’s professional self-concept.  Inevitably, a certain percentage of partygoers will respond to this question with the statement, “I work for Company X” — especially if Company X has a well-known, respected, sexy brand. 
 
A primary identification with an employer can work against you in two ways. First, when managing your career within the organization, it doesn’t differentiate you. Everyone around you can use the exact same line. You’ve got to be able to clearly articulate how you add value in order to market yourself for current and future opportunities. Second, when managing your career over the course of your working life, it limits your thinking about your career to a list of employers and positions.
 
Branding, on the other hand, is about what you decided to be when you grew up. It’s about your personal niche, your calling, your strengths, and how what you do brings measurable, differentiated value to your customers. Being self-employed involves growing your brand. It means being engaged in a constant process of evolving your unique skillset and applying it to a variety of customers, one of whom happens to be your current employer.
   
What this means for you as a professional
If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, take some time to figure that out. If you don’t want to decide that right now, at least decide what you want to give back to the world in the next 3-5 years. Create a statement of professional value that helps others understand what it is you bring to the table. 
 
Mine is in process, and it’s way too conceptual, but here it is in draft form: I am passionate about blowing up outdated notions about working and leading, and creating new ways to get good work done by good people. My next step is to take Judy Murdoch’s advice and articulate what this means in very practical, concrete terms. I welcome your feedback and I’ll post revisions as they happen.
 
What this means for you if you manage people or lead a function or business 
Become OK with being your employees’ current customer. Odds are they won’t retire from your company and they’ll have a long and satisfying career with several employers. So relax a little and do everything you can to help them have a “great run” at your company for as long as it’s mutually beneficial. Don’t throw the Loyalty Card if they decide to move on; instead, add them to your professional network and create a new post-employment relationship where you can support each others’ long-term success.
 
Branding resources & articles
Brett L. Simmons has created a set of videos that I’m currently working my way through
 
How about you?  Have you articulated your brand?  How has your professional identity changed over the past 1o years? 
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