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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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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 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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How to clearly define the scope of your project?


ProjectScopeHave you ever wondered about …… What exactly does the ‘scope of a project’ mean? …..I have…. I kept on hearing this term from the time when I started my career. Though I have learned its meaning over the years; people around me still describe the term vaguely. Thus, I am  going to provide you with some simple tips, which can help you to clearly define the scope for your project.

The deliverables: Let’s say, you are one of those project managers whose projects are very complex, and you don’t know where exactly to start for defining the scope of your project. If you are not sure about how to move forward with this process then you should at least try to define the deliverables of the project. Don’t stress yourself too much. Ask your customers to provide you with tangible (I mean tangible) deliverables that they would like to see at the end of the project. Once, you figure out the final deliverables of the project, you can then go ahead and try to define the interim project deliverables. These defined deliverables will tremendously help you to better understand the project.

Project boundaries: Once you got some handle on how the project should look like through its deliverables, you should now define how it shouldn’t be looking. For example: Chris is going to look for a software third-party provider within the US. In this case, third-party software providers from China are out of scope. If Chris was considering the needs of the entire global company, this would not have been a good boundary statement since he could not have stated a good out-of-scope statement.

Project Features: Once you have described the deliverables and the boundaries, you have completed high-level scope. Now, it’s time to describe the physical characteristics of the deliverables, called features. If you were building a software framework, for instance, most of the functionalities would count as features. These might include the number of GUIs (graphical user interface), number of APIs (application interface), etc. So, follow the top-down approach and start defining project’s features from its well defined deliverables.

Project Functions: Once you finished describing project’s features, now you need to describe how people interact with a deliverable and how a deliverable interacts with other deliverables. For example, if you need to change invoicing and billing transactions, most of the requirements could end up being process oriented. This would include how billing transactions move from orders to invoicing to accounts receivable. Basically you are defining the information flow in this phase. Thus, make sure to involve all the stakeholders, who will be affected by this information.

I hope these simple tips will help you to better define the scope of your project. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can make this process simpler. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
 

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