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Tag Archives: Change Management

How to reinforce performance expectations with your team?


Performance ExpectationAfter a recent company reorganization, which resulted in the team losing a few veteran employees and acquiring few new employees, the team started missing important deadlines, and morale had declined. Seeing that situation, the manager of that team (one of my good friend, let’s call him Bob) came to me for some advice. On asking specifics about the situation, Bob told me that his veteran team members have complained to him about the new team members slacking in their work. There could have been various reasons for this situation such as….lack of training, lack of established goals, strained team dynamics, etc. After doing further research, I figured out that the problem was in the fundamentals of how that team was operating. The team had very precise performance standards, but they were poorly reinforced after the reorganization of the company. Thus, in this blog I would like to share my experience on how I fixed that issue, and hence, giving you some insights on how you can reinforce your performance expectations with your team.

Go back to basics: In my example above, Bob had all the information that he needed, but he never gave attention to those. I can understand that. Sometimes, we are so much occupied in the details of the task at hand that we lose the big picture. Thus, I would recommend you to revisit your team’s mission before you take any action. Review any reliable documentation that you have which can confirm the team’s directives. If that document is not clearly stated, then please update that document to make sure that you are clear about what your team must accomplish before you meet with them in-person. It wouldn’t hurt to consult with your manager regarding these priorities, so that you have another person in authority who can confirm your redefined mission, and make sure that you are headed in the right direction. 

Meet with your team: Once you have ironed out your team’s mission, goals and specific objectives, now it’s the time to meet with your team. But yeah! DON’T conduct a one-way meeting with your PowerPoint slides. Consider asking the team to give you their ideas about the team’s goals, as it stands right now. In this way, you will be able to understand their point of view, and maybe, find out the reason for team’s deteriorating performance. After the team has shared their understanding of your team’s mission and goals, present them with your version of the goals in a document that everyone can view simultaneously, such as a slide presentation or a paper handout. Compare the team’s version of the goals with your version, and point out any gaps between the two versions. If the team’s version of these goals is reasonably close to your version, consider complimenting them. If they have added a goal or task that you think should be included, but was missing from your version, praise them. While closing, make sure that you reiterate individual team member’s roles and responsibilities, and get their agreement. 

Re-establish your goals: Just to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of all the goals and objectives of the team, you need to send a follow-up e-mail after the meeting. Make sure to summarize your meeting with the mission, goals, accomplishments, and responsibilities that the team is expected to deliver. If possible, deliver your message, or messages, in multiple formats, so that everyone receives the content, even if multiple message modes cause some redundancy. Use whatever mode of communication you know will be received by individual team members. Meet with them in person, send them email messages, or place paper documents in their mail boxes. Don’t forget to obtain feedback from individual team members, so that you can verify that everyone on your team has received your message and understands the team’s mission.

Follow-up with everyone: Even after re-establishing your goals, you can’t be sure that all of your team members will be committed to helping the team meet goals and produce the required results. Thus, I would recommend you to meet with team members one-on-one and identify whether they are committed to helping the team meet its goals. During the meeting, you should ask for direct feedback about each team member’s level of commitment. I know, it would sound silly, but I would recommend you to observe the body language and emotional tone of each team members. Try to find out, if he/she seem sincere and enthusiastic about the prospect of helping the team move forward. Ask each team member about their role in helping the team meet its goals, and ask them how they see themselves as adequately filling that role. Consider keeping notes about your findings. If you are uncomfortable taking notes during the one-on-one meetings, then jot down a few notes after each meeting, so that you are clear about where each team member stands, and then, you can take any corrective actions, if necessary.

Have you ever been in a situation like Bob? If so, what have you done to resolve it?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Manager’s guide for a new manager: How to quickly learn the workings of your new team?


classic-booksOne of my friend headed the quality function at a medium-sized durable goods company. And once he got a job offer as a general manager in one of its largest plant, he jumped on the opportunity. After briefly examining the new plant, he declared it outdated and went on to rebuild it from ground up. But while doing this, he neglected the importance of understanding the current processes, and interpreted employee’s silence as agreement. No wonder, his idea was not accepted positively. And soon after the new plan was put in place, productivity plummeted and quality suffered.

In order for you to not repeat this mistake, you need to first try to learn the existing operations of the team, strengthen your relationships with the team members, and then try to make changes to the process. In this blog, I will provide you with few tips through which you can accelerate your learning process about the current processes/procedure of your team.

Ask your people: The simplest method to learn the workings of your new team is to ask your people. You would be surprised by knowing how much of the knowledge your new team has to share. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish, while asking very basic questions to your team. I would recommend you to ask these questions during your one-on-one session with your employees. In this way, you will still get the information that you need, without getting embarrassed in front of many people (if you ask any foolish questions).

Train yourself: Another method to quickly familiarize yourself with the existing processes of your new team is to treat yourself like a new employee. I would recommend you to have few days allocated solely to train yourself. During these days, you should work with your team as if you were a new employee joining the team, and tell them to run the show. By doing this, you will not only learn the existing processes of your team but you will also earn the trust of your team by showing them you care about them. Worst come worst, you will be in the position to define the training guide for the new employee joining your team.

Learn from documents: If I were you, I would invest some good amount of time going through all the documentation of the team before I ask someone. In this way, you can learn about the workings of your team without looking foolish in front of someone. This will also give you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the document standards of your new team, so that you can follow these standards while changing the documentation, if you choose to change the existing process.

I hope, this blog helps you to accelerate your learning process while understanding the workings of your newly acquired team. If you were in the similar situation like my friend, what would you have done?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Did you get promoted to a management position for the first time? Then stop doing what you know. Find out why.


After seven years in software development at a San Francisco based e-commerce company, my friend (let’s call him Mr. X) was promoted to his first manager’s position as an Engineering Manager. Up to that point, his track record had been stellar. His intelligence, focus, and determination had won him recognition and various promotions in his organization.

When his company assigned him to be the engineering manager for one of the company’s hottest new products, he ran into trouble early on. Mr. X’s past successes were due to his extraordinary technical leadership and programming capabilities. Accustomed to programming, he was a control freak and had the tendency to micromanage. His efforts to micromanage the engineering team alienated them. And within few months, Mr. X was back as being a technical leader (sr. programmer) and someone else was leading the team.

Mr. X failed as an engineering manager because he was unable to make the transition from being a strong individual programmer to an engineering manager. He failed to grasp that the strengths which had made him successful during his sr. programmer role could be liabilities in a role that required him to lead an engineering team by trusting their programming skills instead of doing it yourself.

What might Mr. X have done differently? He should have focused on mentally promoting himself into the new position, a fundamental challenge for new leaders. The one thing to remember is…………..you can’t become successful in your new job as a manager by continuing to do what you did in your previous position as an individual contributor.

Since you might have been promoted due to your skills and accomplishments, it is only human to think that your senior management wants you to do what you were good at. Maybe that’s the only reason why you might live in the denial, and believe that you are being productive and efficient, if you continue your old behavior. But instead of continuing your responsibilities as an individual contributor, you need to prepare yourself mentally to move into your new role by letting go of the past and embracing the imperatives of the new situation to give yourself a running start. This can be hard work, but it is essential that you do it.

I hope, this blog comes to you as a reminder to forget what you knew, and try adapting yourself to the new management role that you have inherited. What would you do in this situation, if you were to be promoted to your first ever management job?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to communicate tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders?


Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to layoff someone? Or imagine yourself in a situation like Yahoo!, when their CEO resigned and no one knew where the company was going. How would you have handled that situation as a leader? No matter how hard you try to keep your employees safe from the corporate decisions at the top, sometimes those decisions will affect your employees regardless of your efforts. So, how will you handle those situations? In this blog, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can communicate these tough decisions to your employees very easily.

Announcement meeting: After a decision has been made, the communication to the outside world and the larger community of workers has to be handled with firmness, transparency and candor. Let’s say, your CEO resigned, and you only communicated the news through an e-mail. Chances are……….your employees will have lot of questions about the company’s future, and there is no interactive way to address those concerns. Thus, I would recommend you to have a conference call (or a meeting) with your line managers, before various rumors start churning. And yeah! While doing this, provide them the opportunity to ask their questions. Answers to their questions will make your strategy clear in their minds, and hence, they would be able to communicate that to their employees very easily. Encourage all of your line managers to have a quick sync-up meeting with their employees to communicate this decision with their employees. If possible, have a company-wide hands-on meeting 2-3 days afterwards.

Communicate with media: Imagine, if your company had a big layoff, and you heard about this news from the media. How will you feel in that situation? In the similar manner, your employees will feel cheated, if they heard this kind of a news from the media, instead from their supervisor. And hence, it is very important to communicate these decisions within your organization, before you go public. News conferences and news releases should be given only after talking with the staff . The staff should not read about it first in the media. You need to also make sure that the media doesn’t hear about this news from the grapevine. Thus, you should keep a very small time difference between notifying this news to your employees and the media.

Notify other stakeholders: If you are laying off few people, then you might want to talk with relevant governmental agencies to notify them about the decision. If your company buys any kind of an unemployment insurance, then you definitely want to make calls to those insurance providers for notifying them about the situation. If your decision is affecting any of your commitments to your customers, you might want to talk to them immediately. Obviously, you need to notify your customers, suppliers and the community leaders through an e-mail and/or a conference call. And yeah! Don’t forget to define your future plans in your communication. I have seen many notification e-mails with the description of the problem without any clear path for the future. So, do yourself a favor, and define your future path before you go ahead with any of these communications.

I hope, these tips will help you to communicate any tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders. If you have any other ideas through which we can communicate these kind of news through transparency and sensitivity, then please feel to share it with me here.

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Why should you listen to your employees while taking tough decisions?


It is never easy to deliver the bad news to your employees, but bad things can happen to any companies. Sometimes, few external factors like economy or exchange rate can affect your company’s bottom line. And at that time, company’s very survival might be at stake. And hence, you might be put in to the situation, where you have to take those tough decisions as a company’s executive. The primary challenge during these situations is – Communication. If handled incorrectly, you might risk of losing your employee’s trust and tumbling their morale. In this blog, I would like to share one of the success story, where listening to employee’s input while taking these tough decisions have helped the company.

While taking tough decisions such as layoffs, restructuring, outsourcing, etc.; you should involve your stakeholders in the planning and implementation stages. You might not be able to involve all of your employees while taking these tough decisions, but you should at least engage your senior management and department heads in the consultation process. Depending on the situation, you might want to keep employees/employee representatives apprised of the situation to avoid any surprises. On various occasions, this strategy might prove to be helpful.

Take this company for an example (company X), where I recently consulted them for downsizing. Company X had really bad financials. It was clear that they had to cut down two of their product lines, which were not performing at all. And hence, they had to layoff few of their employees due to tumbling financial situation of the company. So, instead of announcing few layoffs, the CEO announced voluntary retirement program and some pay cuts. Surprisingly, I was able to collaborate with majority of their employees and get them to agree upon a pay cut and retraining program. As a result, we didn’t need to layoff anyone. Though this was a success story, it might not work for everyone. But one thing is clear. If you are willing to share information with your employees, they will not only value your decision but they might also come up with a plan to handle the situation better.

I hope, this example can inspire you to consider your employee’s input while taking these critical decisions. Have you ever encountered similar situation like this? Are you aware of any workplace/organization that considers their employee’s input before taking tough decisions?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to keep your team motivated in the crunch time?


I am sure, as a manager, you must have encountered a situation where your team has been working very hard for past few months to get that next product out of the door. And due to this situation, everyone in your team feels under-appreciated and overworked. And you don’t know how to keep your team motivated. Does this sound familiar?……..Through this blog, I would try to give you some tips through which you can keep your employees motivated during this crunch time.

Provide feedback: As far as feeling under-appreciated goes, this has to be the #1 killer of team’s motivation. During the crunch time, our focus is so much on the end result that we forget to provide feedback to our team. Sometimes it is very crucial to provide constant feedback to your team on how they are doing. This behavior not only conveys the message that you care for your team, but it also gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in your current process.

Communicate purpose: The second biggest killer of self-motivation is negativity. When we set personal expectations at a level that are unattainable, we start to invent reasons for why we are not achieving our goals. We start thinking about past failures that have not gone our way and weak points in our character or at least in our working style. This causes us to come up with all the reasons that we can’t succeed. Hence, to keep your team motivated, you not only need to accept that the timeline given for the project was too aggressive, but you need to also provide them with the reason of ‘why we are doing, what we are doing’. This will provide your team with some background on why you are having these aggressive deadlines, and how it will impact the business, if you don’t meet those deadlines. Also, (if possible) you need to provide them with some blueprint of the plan, so that this doesn’t happen again.

Positive reinforcement: During these tough times, I would recommend you to remember old success stories, and recognize it for what it was. The power of this kind of positive reinforcement and positive feedback can’t be underestimated. Make sure that your team is getting the positive feedback from you that they need. Always make sure to restate your team’s and individual achievements during your team meetings and one-on-one meetings with your team members. This will encourage your team to keep going.

I hope these tips will help you to keep your team motivated in the crunch time. What would you do in this situation? How will you keep your team motivated?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to sell your online MBA degree to future employers?


OnlineMBAHave you finished your MBA through an online program? Are you unable to experience any benefits from your degree? Well…..you are not alone. More than 50% of the employers still prefer an MBA candidate with the traditional classroom experience as compared to an online MBA student. Despite of this stereo types of an online MBA candidate, you can still succeed with your degree. You just need to know, how to sell it. With this blog, I am going to provide you with some pointers through which you can get the same benefit out of your online MBA program as compared to any other in-class MBA program.

Capitalize on cultural awareness:

If you are doing an online MBA from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 level school, then chances are…….you must be working in a diverse team with people from different countries. You should use this experience as your strength during your job search. Mention those specific projects on your resume to portray your knowledge of cross cultural understanding. With most of the major companies going global, this experience will definitely work in your advantage, if presented correctly.

I would also recommend you to provide some specific examples on your resume on how you had solved some of the cross cultural conflicts. These kinds of smaller examples can help you bring up this topic during your in-person interviews. And you can then elaborate on that in further details. It goes without saying…..try to connect your experience with the company’s current needs of working with cross cultural teams.

Be the leader of your virtual teams:

If you think of it, all the project teams in an online MBA program are nothing but a virtual team. In your program, you must have worked with different people from different time zones to finish certain projects. And hence, you should also capitalize on your experience in working with remote/virtual teams. Don’t just say…..”I have worked in a virtual team”. Try to be more specific on your resume. Provide examples on how you resolved issues due to time and language barriers during your project. It wouldn’t hurt, if you can talk about those experiences in your in-person interviews, and maybe summarize with lessons learned during your experience.

In today’s world, lot of companies operate in different locations. Thus, most of their meetings, projects and day-to-day activities are virtual. Thus, if you can prove that you have not only worked in that environment, but you have also learned how to improve those communications in that environment; then you would definitely standout from the crowd.

I hope these tips will help to sell your online MBA degree to your future employer. Do you have any other ideas through which you can show the importance of your online MBA degree to your future employer?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 

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