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How to make your feedback communications more comfortable for your employees?


GenerationXIn my last blog post, I have provided you with a couple of tips through which you can get an honest feedback from your peers without putting them on the spot. In this blog, I will provide you with some more tips on getting effective feedback, but this time I will concentrate on a few subtle methods, so your peers don’t feel uncomfortable while providing their honest feedback to you.

Listen first, talk later: Too many people ask for feedback, wait only 2 or 3 seconds, before they start talking again. It takes more time than that for most people to organize and verbalize their responses. And hence, once you ask for their feedback, you should be silent for more than 10 – 15 seconds, and give them time to think and organize their thoughts. Once they start speaking, don’t disrupt them in between, even if you don’t agree with some of their comments. If you do that, they might lose their train of thoughts, and you will end up diverting the conversation to something else completely. Thus, I would recommend you to use a pen and paper (or any note taking application) during these kind of conversations. In this way, you can present your counter argument later without interrupting your peers while they are providing you with their valuable feedback.

Paraphrase: Even when you feel sure you understand a person’s feedback, it is important to paraphrase. For example, if your boss says, “This rush job has top priority,” you could paraphrase by saying, “You are telling me that this rush job has higher priority than any other job I’m working on now. Is that right?” By paraphrasing, you are not only making sure that you understood him correctly, but you are also asking for his validation on the spot. Do not assume that you understand the meaning of the feedback that you receive from others. If you even have a slightest doubt in understanding their feedback, then don’t be afraid of asking for clarification. Worst come worst, you will get the same feedback again, but you will ensure that you understand their point of view crystal clear.

Be interactive: Don’t let the feedback be one-sided deal. Even though, you don’t want to disrupt in-between, you want to make sure that you use encouraging statements during this process, so that your peers feel comfortable while giving their feedback. People usually adjust their feedback by monitoring the listener’s verbal and nonverbal reactions. And hence, you want to make sure that you are interactive and positive during this process. If you want a person’s honest opinion, you must encourage it by purposely saying such things as “Really?”, “Interesting”, “So, you feel that. . . .”, etc.

Follow-up with a reward: If you are a manager, you can reward feedback by complimenting the person, preferably in front of colleagues. You can also implement a reward system within your team, where  “Best Idea of the Month” employee gets a public recognition through name calling or a personalized placard or a company pen with their name engraved on it. If you are an individual contributor (employee), you can sincerely thank people for their comments and perhaps write them a note of thanks. In this way, you will not only encourage them to provide their feedback again, but you will also encourage others to provide their feedback to you after looking at this person’s experience with you.

These are some ideas through which you can make the feedback communication slightly easier for your peers. If you have any other ideas through which we can improve our feedback communication, then please share it through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to get honest feedback from your peers without putting them on the spot?


FeedbackManagers who encourage their employees to give honest feedback mostly find themselves improving the accuracy and productivity of their quality of work. I know I have. Feedbacks often increase employee satisfaction with their job by providing them with a voice and valuing their opinions.

In my last blog, I have identified many hurdles due to which people refrain from giving their honest feedback to you. And hence, in this blog, I will provide you with few tips and tricks through which you can get honest feedback from your peers, and eliminate any hurdles that you might encounter.

Ask for it: Tell people you want their feedback. When people feel that their opinions and observations may be used against them or that your feelings may be easily hurt, they withhold their feedback. Thus, let them know that you consider their personal opinions, questions, and disagreements, not only useful but also necessary. If you are hesitant to ask for their direct feedback, try  to use 360-degree feedback with the help of your HR Department. In that process, your peers, superiors, subordinates, customers, suppliers, and sales staff provide their feedbacks anonymously to you. So, you are more likely to get their honest feedback.

Be specific: When you ask for someone’s feedback, they are mostly confused, as they don’t know where to start. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to provide their feedback, its just that they don’t know what you are looking for. Thus, before asking for the feedback, its your job to identify the areas in which you want the feedback. If you want personal feedback, you might say, “I am trying to improve my presentation’s delivery and am interested in knowing how confident I appeared in today’s meeting.” Similarly, if you want only feedback pertaining to the organization of your ideas, then specify that topic.

Make it regular: Let’s assume that you are working for a hands-off manager, who gives you work flexibility, and doesn’t meet with you that often. Now, imagine a situation where he suddenly stops by your office and asks for your honest feedback. What would you do in that situation? I don’t know about you, but I would be baffled, if my manager doesn’t have the habit of asking my feedback regularly. Instead of giving him my feedback, I might think that I am in some kind of a trouble. Won’t you? Your employees will have the same mindset. Thus, it is very important for us, as a manager, to set aside some time for regularly scheduled feedback sessions. These sessions will not only help you get your employee’s honest feedback, but it will also show your employees that you value their feedback and care for their opinions.

These are some of few ideas through which you can make it easier for your peers to provide their honest feedback to you. Wait for my next blog, where I will provide you with some more insight on effective feedback taking. In the meanwhile, if you have any other ideas through which we can improve the process of feedback taking, then please share it through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Why do we refrain from taking or giving feedbacks to our peers?


FeedbackAs a manager (or a leader), we should continually be looking for feedback from our peers and employees, and try to improve ourselves. After all, management is more about listening than doing, isn’t it? Even though you would like to improve yourself from these feedbacks, they are hard to come by. So, before we find out a better way to get feedback from our peers, we need to find out basic reasons due to which people feel uncomfortable taking (or giving) their honest feedback.

It emphasizes inferiorities: Honest feedback can sometime make people feel psychologically attacked. Even the most experienced manager or employee can become defensive when feedback seems negative. Take this for an example…Recently, I had to deal with a situation where one of my employee was struggling with time management, so I recommended him to take some time management training. Even though he is a top performer in my team, he was offended by hearing that I was disappointed with his performance. Instead of seeing this feedback as the opportunity to learn something new, he saw it as a personal attack instead.

Don’t know what to ask: Some people misunderstand feedback as the sign of poor communication. To those kind of people, feedback indicates that the message was not communicated very well, and hence, there is a necessity for feedback to get on the same page again. Often people are either so confused that they don’t know what to ask or so confident of their understanding that they ignore the need for any kind of verification. Thus, people refrain to ask for any kind of feedback, after all, no one wants to admit that they didn’t understand anything properly.

It is time consuming: No matter what kind of feedback you are seeking, verbal or written, it is always going to be time consuming task. Then it maybe at the meeting or through an e-mail, you need to make sure that you ask the right question, and get the honest response. Unfortunately, most of the managers won’t take the time to make sure that everyone is on the same page by asking for their feedback; instead, they will prefer to redo their tasks that should have been accomplished correctly the first time. Maybe they are used to this practice of dictatorship, or maybe they are afraid to put in the required time to ask the right question.

People are afraid: If you work in a developed Nation like US, UK, or Canada, you don’t want to admit that you are afraid of your Boss/Manager. But inherently we all respect the authorities of our Boss, and we are kind of afraid of their authorities as well. Even though we are taught to speak up our mind, we sometimes refrain from providing true feedback to our managers by being afraid of the consequences that it might have in the future. Is that not true? There is nothing wrong with this behavior. From our childhood we are taught to respect authority, then it maybe the authority of our parents or our teachers.

Can you find any other reasons due to which people refrain from giving their honest feedback to others? If so, please share it here, I would love to hear your take on this. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to deal with the frustration of your employees?


EmployeeFrustrationWe are all humans, and we all have moments of disappointment when things don’t go our way. And I am sure, as a manager, you must have encountered these situations often, when your employees are feeling down for not accomplishing something that they have set their target on. Although most employees can easily navigate through these small bumps, sometimes you need to jump in when you see these opportunities. Having a quick one-on-one chat with your employees during these tough times would soften the blow, and lead them to a quicker recovery. So, what should you talk about during these times? Following are some of my advice…..

Appreciate their work: When you sit down with your employee to analyze the issue, you must not forget to appreciate their hard work first. Tell your employees that their work is highly valuable and their efforts are highly appreciated. This kind of conversation starter will put your employees at ease before discussing their issues. If I were their manager, I would say something like this – “These kind of issues keep on happening, and despite our best efforts, sometimes things don’t work out our way. But look at what you have accomplished, you tried something new, and got new experience, that’s what is important. After all, you can’t be perfect at everything, right?” This approach will not only let your employees know that you care, but it will also ease their mood before before having the actual conversation.

Walk through the issue: Once you have soothed the attitude of your employee, you can then get back to the business. Now, try to talk to your employee about the issue at hand and walk through it with them. By walking through the entire scenario again, you will get some good insight on the issue, and might be able to provide your valuable feedback to your employee. If he/she was expecting one outcome while other team members were expecting something else, then try to find out where did this disconnect come from? Were there some missing communications or interactions? Don’t interrupt your employee in between or recommend any solutions, just yet. Try to listen to his/her side of the story and take your notes on what might have gone wrong, that’s all.

Help them learn: Once you have completely listened to your employee and her side of the story, now it’s your time to help her think through the ‘do-over’.  Even though you are trying to help her, restrict yourself from coming up with any solution, just yet. Let her come up with her own solution to this problem. Ask her – “How can you handle it differently the next time?” Of course, the setback may have occurred even though she did everything right. So, try to ask her – “What were the factors outside of her control?” Try to help her gain a new perspective on these uncontrollable factors, so that she can handle them well in the future.

If you follow this three-part conversation while dealing with your employee’s frustrations, then you will encourage your employees to take better steps next time, rather than acting on their natural desire to avoid such situations in the future.

Was this blog helpful? Do you have any other ideas that you can share with me here?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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What would you ask your employees, if you were given a chance to be an Undercover Boss?


UndercoverBossRecently, when I was watching this show – Undercover Boss, I got to think,  what would I have done, if I had an opportunity to be an Undercover Boss  on the show. For those folks, who are not familiar with this show, please  look at this link here. In a nutshell, this show is about how company’s CEOs  and executives work undercover in their organization, and how they find  opportunities of improvements through their experiences while working as  a normal employee. If I were given an opportunity like this, then I would  focus my questions on the following areas…

The whole picture: When you are in the field or working as a line  employee, you want to find out two most important things about your  employees and work culture, if you want to improve any kind of efficiency  in your business. First, try to understand the depth of the knowledge  people have about your organization as a whole. Second, try understand  what kind of major misnomers are floating around the company regarding  company’s perception and internal processes. By asking questions related  to these area, you will get a rough idea on how educated is your workforce  regarding your company’s functions, and what are some of the wrong  assumptions that are made in their day-to-day work life.

The money flow: Not all employees need to understand all the details in  the 10K (annual report) of your company. I don’t expect an IT Engineer to  understand each and every financial detail about the company, but at the  same time they should have some rough idea on how the business  functions at its core. At least in the IT field, most people have never been  taught how their business works, and hence, they fail to see importance of  some critical decisions that we need to take to keep the business running.  Thus, it is very crucial to ask your employees about company’s financials,  and gauge their understanding on company’s core businesses, and how the  company makes money.

Value of their work: As an executive/CEO, you should always make sure  that your employees understand the value of their work. Then it maybe the  IT Engineer, Janitor, or the field engineer; they should understand that they  play a crucial part in your organization’s success. Thus, asking questions  like.. “How is this job related to company’s overall success?” or “How is  your job making a difference in this organization?” would be very helpful in  understanding employees behavior towards their job, and how they  perceive their work in the bigger picture.

What would you do here? I mean…. what would you ask, if you were given this opportunity? I would love to hear your perspective on this. So, keep on posting. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Can you win your team’s trust by blaming the upper management?


Blaming managementAs a line-manager, it becomes really tempting to distance yourself from your own superiors. It seems an easy option to win the hearts of your employees by blaming aggressive deadlines, overtime, and new process changes to the upper management’s initiative. Isn’t it? Does this mean that you have discovered a gold mine to develop a trust relationship between you and your team?

It’s not quite that easy. If you want to create bonding with your employees then there are other avenues to do so instead of creating this bonding over being a victim of the upper management together. By blaming all the unfavoring decisions to your upper management, you are eventually damaging the confidence of your team. Some of the side effects may be…..

1. High turnover: Your team will feel that they can’t trust the organization anymore, and hence, they will start looking for their next career move.

2. Team stagnation: Due to the negative perception of the upper management, your team will think that their inputs are not valuable in the organization. Thus, they will stop providing their valuable inputs to you, and hence, they won’t be able to provide any value to the organization.

3. Loss of respect: Even though you started blaming the upper management for all the negative decisions to build the trust between you and your team, you won’t be able to help yourself from losing the respect of your team. Due to your negative publicity of the upper management, your own team members will think that you are weak and powerless in the organization. And hence, their respect for you will decrease over time.

Thus, when you think that the easiest escape from your team’s negativity is to blame the upper management, then think twice. Don’t ever use phrases like…..“I don’t know why we’re doing this”, “no one ever consults with me on these new initiatives”, “I disagree with this upper management’s decision as well” etc.

A true leader should have the courage to represent the upper management and their views. If you disagree with their decisions, then instead of blaming them in front of your team members, confront them, try to understand the reasons behind those decisions. And remember……by blaming your superiors, you are not going to build any relationships, you will only lose respect of your team.

 
 

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How can you cultivate a team of innovative employees by modifying your behavior?


Lead Your Team For InnovationIn order to change your employee’s behavior, your behavior should change as the manager. I am a strong believer of “Lead by example”. And hence, in this blog post, I will provide you with few tips on modifying your behavior to encourage innovation in your team.

Listen to your employees: Listening intently to your people is sometimes the most sincere compliment you can give to them. By listening to them, you are signaling them that their feedback is very important to you, and you are willing to experiment with their ideas. This behavior will not only accelerate innovation in your team, but it will also give you some insights that you might otherwise miss. I know, it is very difficult to listen to someone, when you don’t agree with them. I would suggest you to note down those disagreements in your notepad or OneNote, while having these conversations. By doing this, you can clearly understand their viewpoint, and still be able to address your disagreements after they are done talking.

Withhold judgment: You can’t cultivate a team of innovators without cultivating your trust relationship with them. Your employees will stop coming to you with their ideas, if you hold their poor performance in their past projects against this new idea. Listening with an open mind will encourage your people to generate and evaluate their own solutions. So, next time when you hear a new idea from a poor performer, keep an open mind. First listen to his/her idea before neglecting it. Even if you don’t agree with their idea, disagree respectfully by clearly laying out your concerns. In this way, they can understand the clear reasoning behind your decision, instead of making up some story of their own regarding this rejection.

Ask questions: While listening to your employee’s ideas, make sure to ask lot of questions. Asking appropriate and effective questions will typically result in less defensiveness and resistance from them. These questions will not only give you an opportunity to understand their idea better, but it will also provide them an opportunity to reassess their idea from a different perspective. And make sure to take longer pause, while asking this questions. This behavior will provide your employee with some time to respond, and it will help you to show them you are listening to their input.

Embrace failures: Obviously, with highly innovative projects, your frequency of failures will increase. After all, not every innovation will work out, and give you positive results. Right? During these situations, you need to embrace your failures. I would recommend you to have a post project meeting to address these concerns for the future projects. During this meeting, you need to ask your employees some questions like……”What have you tried?”, “What worked?”, “What have you learned so far?”, “What would they do differently next time?”, etc. These questions will not only give you the perspective for the failure, but it will force your employees to rethink their strategies for the future innovations. I am sure, this self-realization will help them in the future. And hopefully, they won’t come to you with their ideas, unless they find out a way to deal with these concerns in their future projects.

By encompassing above changes in your behavior, you won’t be just improving the trust relationship with your employees, but you will be encouraging them to think on their own to become better innovators. So……..what else would you modify in your behavior to encourage innovation in your team?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 

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