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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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How to provide coaching to your front line managers?


Coaching your line managersIf you are a Director or a Sr. Manager, who is involved in managing the front line managers, then this blog is for you. I agree that senior management’s role is very crucial and busy, and maybe that’s the reason why you can’t allocate enough time to coach your front line managers. But avoiding coaching/mentoring your front line mangers will create disastrous situations in the future. Your front line managers require more coaching than any other employees in the organization, since they define the culture of your company. In this blog, I will provide you with few pointers to coach your frontline managers effectively.

  1. Provide them training: If you are super busy with your day-to-day activities, and if you are unable to provide coaching to your managers, then please take the benefit of some external trainings. Most of the bigger companies (employees 1000+) have these kind training classes established in-house for their front line managers. So, make sure that your managers go through these training opportunities. While internal training is crucial for every company, not every company can afford to have internal training programs. In this case, you can partner up with few consulting companies to provide similar training opportunities to your front line managers. While selecting those external training programs, make sure that those programs match your company’s culture and working style.
  2. Help them build a network: In a senior management role, you should always encourage your front line managers to network with the key people from your company. By doing this, their area of influence will increase and they will become more independent to do their work. Thus, you should always help them to broaden their exposure within the company by visiting different areas of the company with them, or by introducing them to the new people within your organization. Your work doesn’t get done after an introduction, you need to help them to find opportunities to represent their part of the organization to others. In this way, they can be encouraged to discuss strategic issues and share the information with other management personnel.
  3. Reinforce your culture: Line managers are the one, who will define the culture of your organization. After all, they work at the root level. And hence, it becomes very important to ensure that they are embedded in your organizational culture. In order to reinforce your values, you need to teach them to respect and promote diversity in all areas and jobs in the company (if your company is diverse). You might want to have the discussion during your one-on-one session on how their behavior makes a difference in the organization. Sometimes, it is very important for you to provide them with ongoing information about the people, culture, and history of the organization. Reinforcing these values frequently through your one-on-one sessions or your interactions with them will ensure their growth with the company.
  4. Encourage them: I know, this sounds very simple, but this is very crucial part of the coaching. You need to help your line managers to learn how to deal with and manage ambiguity. Being in the senior leadership role, we always expect our line managers to get everything right. But that may not be the case always. And hence, you need to embrace their failure and provide them encouragement during those situations. I am not telling you to agree with their failures all the time, but have the behavior where they can come to you if they failed. You should also encourage them in their efforts to sponsor and develop potential leaders in the organization. After all, it will help your organization to become better. And yeah! When appropriate, offer feedback, support, and “push back”.

I hope, these tips will help you to better coach your front line managers in your team. So, what would you do to coach your front line managers in your team?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to provide coaching to an experienced employee in your team?


Coaching Experienced EmployeesMost of the managers think that their experienced employees, who are in their team from a long time, doesn’t require any coaching. If you are one of those managers, then let me stop you right there. You are completely wrong. In fact….your experienced employee will require more coaching than your new employee, since he is the one who will be defining the normal of your team, and maybe, become a mentor to your new employee. Right? Obviously, you will require a different coaching style to coach your experienced employee as compared to your new employee (as I have indicated in my last blog). Thus, in this blog I will provide you with few pointers to coach your experienced employees.

Before I provide you with any strategies to coach your experienced employee (Mr. Y), let’s define what we expect from our experienced employees………We expect our experienced personnel to work on special projects and expand their circle of influence outside of your team, so that they can resolve few mission critical issues without your intervention. We also expect them to take ownership of few projects, and solve mission critical issues on their own. Some of the other expectations would be……training a new hire, defining new processes to improve efficiency, etc. Am I right?

Since we depend on our experienced employees to get the job done and improve the productivity of our team, their coaching style needs to be very personalized and effective. Following are few strategies that I use with my experienced employees…….

  1. Provide exposure: Since you already depend on Mr. Y; wouldn’t it be nice, if he can communicate directly with the cross functional team members, so that you can get the expected results? In order for Mr. Y to communicate with appropriate members from other teams, you need to provide him with various opportunities to work on cross-functional team. You can also provide company-wide exposure by introducing him to persons and areas beyond his current expertise. Sharing your larger network with him would be even better.
  2. Provide time: Let’s say, you give Mr. Y with the responsibility to lead a project from development to implementation, or provide him with the opportunity to coach others. In both of these cases, you need to be slightly patient to see the outcomes from those efforts. Since, these responsibilities are very new for him, he will take some time to learn and adjust to these responsibilities. Hence, don’t be frustrated, if you don’t see quick results. Provide him with some time to adjust to these new responsibilities, while closely monitoring his progress and providing needed help along the way.
  3. Teach them to delegate: Since Mr. Y is an experienced employee, you might be using him for very special projects, and hence, his knowledge might be very specialized and rare. In order to coach him effectively, you need to teach him how he can delegate his tasks and transfer his knowledge. You need to encourage him to “let go” his activities and expertise to give others the opportunity to be an “expert”.
  4. Provide training: You should involve your experienced employee in the selection, development and planning efforts, so that he can learn your style of decision making, and hopefully, use that knowledge to make future decisions on his own. His involvement in decision making will not only help you to get better informed with the day-to-day issues on the line, but it will also give him the opportunity to learn how mission critical decisions are taken. If your employee is inexperienced in coaching others, co-coach your new employees with him. This will give him the confidence in coaching others, while improving your trust relationship with him.

I hope, these tips will help you to better coach your experienced employee in your team. Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will provide you with some pointers on how to coach your managers. In the meanwhile, if you have any other ideas through which you can provide effective coaching to your experienced employees, then please feel free to share it here.

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to provide coaching to a rookie in your team?


Coaching a Rookie in your teamOne of the most important duties of a Manager/Leader is to coach their employees to get the desired business results. Like….one management style doesn’t work for everyone, one coaching style doesn’t function for everyone. Depending on your employee’s experience and historical background, you have to customize your coaching style to get the best out of themselves. Right? In this blog post, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can effectively coach your new hire.

Before I provide you with any strategies to coach your new employee, let’s find out few challenges that they would face as a new hire………As a new hire, your employee (Mrs. X) would require clear direction on what she is supposed to do, right? She will also need some clearly defined work assignments, where she can get herself acquainted to your company and its processes, am I not right? Obviously, she is new to the company, so she will also need your help to expand her circle of influence to get the work done.

Since, we are clear on what challenges she would face as a new employee in your team, now we can go ahead and define some coaching strategies. Following are few strategies that I use with my new hire…….

  1. Frequent feedback: As a new employee, she would not know if she is doing the assigned task appropriately and up to your expectations. And hence, providing frequent reviews and feedback is a must.
  2. Set clear expectations: In order to make sure that she can be productive quickly, you need to provide clear and detailed instructions for every basic tasks that you assign to her. It would be better for you, if you can provide her with smaller projects with clearly defined start and end times. This will make sure that you educate herself with your team’s processes while meeting your productivity targets at the same time.
  3. Ask questions:  In order to make sure that you are strengthening your relationships with your new employee and she is getting all the information that she needs, you need to regularly ask her questions. Questions like……. “How are you doing?”, “Do you have time for lunch?”, and “How do you like our team?” will help you to strengthen your relationship with her and to build your initial trust. On the other hand, questions like…….”Are you getting the information you need?”, “Are you meeting the right people?”, and “Let me know, if you need anything” will help her to make sure that she gets the work done.
  4. Assign a coach: Obviously, you would be introducing her to your team and encouraging her to increase her circle of influence within and outside of your team. But sometimes that is not enough. You need to explicitly assign a member of your team, who is willing to coach her. This strategy will not only help her to get herself acquainted with your team’s processes, but it will also give your experienced employee an opportunity to showcase his talents to you. With an explicit coach assigned to her, she can now learn your processes, languages, and acronyms used in your area without your explicit time given to her.

I hope, these tips will help you to better coach your new hire in the team. So, what would you do differently to coach your new employee? Do you have any other ideas to effectively coach your rookie?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on January 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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Become the best leader by being funny and being humiliated


Over the years, I have learned a lot about leadership and management. And when I was analyzing my knowledge, I realized that there are only two very important characteristics of a good leader, which separates him/her from the crowd. In this blog, I will focus on these two characteristics, which can make you the best leader.

Be funny:

By being funny, I don’t mean that you need to be a superstar at the break room discussions. What I mean is……..you need to have a humorous side of you to laugh on your mistakes.

One of the best leader in the world, who implemented this strategy was – Mahatma Gandhi. It must have taken tremendous amount of courage for a person like him to confess that he messed up, but he confessed his mistakes on various occasions. He not only acknowledged his mistakes but admitted them publically. And this was one of his characteristics, which was admired by his peers.

We are all humans, and we all make mistakes. But a true leader is the one, who not only admits his mistakes but learns from it. Take Johnson & Johnson for example. Their Tylenol incident is not a secret to anyone, but majority of people remember that incident by praising Johnson & Johnson’s effort of recalling all of its medicine from the counter and apologizing publicly for this huge mistake.

Thus, it is very critical for you as a leader to be able to laugh on your mistakes. It’s not enough to just publicly admit your mistakes. Make sure to take some notes. In this way, you will be able to implement your learning from this incident to the future projects, and maybe, not repeat these mistakes again.

Be humiliated:

If you want to become the best leader in the world, then you need to surround yourself with genius employees. Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. They have always surrounded themselves with cream employees.

Let’s say, you somehow get successful in attracting best-of-the-best employees in your team. Now, instead of learning from them and taking benefit of their knowledge, if you direct them specifically to do certain tasks then they are never going to add any value to your organization.

Unfortunately, 40% of today’s leaders would use tell-and-direct approach, since they fear of humiliation from their employees. While this approach might lead you to the desired results, you are suppressing ideas of improvements that your employees might have. Wasn’t this the exact reason why you hired intelligent workforce? So, how come we are unable to use their talents? Answer is very simple……most of the leaders are afraid of being humiliated by their employees.

Thus, to become the best leader, we should be open to new ideas of our employees, even if, that means we will look foolish in front of them when we ask questions. By developing this kind of an environment, you would be encouraging your employees to share knowledge freely, and hence, improving the overall health of your company.

I hope these tips will help you to become the best leader in today’s world. Do you have any other ideas through which a person can become the best leader?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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