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Leadership

Three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance

Providing feedback to employees can be one of the most challenging responsibilities of a leader. There seem to be two extremes: 

  1. Some managers completely avoid giving feedback. 
  2. Other managers provide feedback that upsets employees in a way that is counterproductive.
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In my leadership coaching practice, I frequently discuss giving feedback with my clients. The goal of this blog is to provide three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance. 

Providing feedback immediately after something does not goes as well as expected:

In this video, The secret to giving great feedback, cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renniger provides a four step process for delivering difficult feedback:

  1. “The micro-yes” helps the feedback receiver know feedback is coming. The feedback deliverer asks a question such as “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last conversation went?” The micro-yes commits the feedback receiver to the conversation.
  2. A “data point” is a specific description of what was observed. If an employee has missed a deadline, the leader might say “You were supposed to turn in the report by the end of yesterday, and I still haven’t received it.”
  3. A leader should “show impact” by describing the impact of the data point. For example, the leader could say “As a result of not receiving the report, I could not begin the proposal for a customer who expects the proposal today.” 
  4. The leader should “end on a question” such as “How are we going to move forward?” This approach can make it a two way conversation and create buy in. 

This five minute video is a must-watch for anyone who has to deliver difficult feedback. The approach can also be applied to providing positive feedback that is very specific in nature. At the end of the video, Renninger also mentions the importance of leaders asking for feedback from those around them. 

Providing regular, ongoing feedback

Marshall Goldsmith has suggested a six question agenda for meetings with direct reports that includes the following questions:

  1. “Where are we going?”
  2. “Where are you going?”
  3. “What is going well?”
  4. “Where can we improve?”
  5. “How can I help you?”
  6. “How can you help me?”

Goldsmith suggests the manager ask the questions of the direct report and then the manager can provide additional comments. For example, when the manager asks “What is going well?” the direct report may share information that the manager is not aware of. The manager can add areas that he or she has observed are going well. The “Where can we improve?” question allows an opportunity for the direct report to share some ways to improve, and the manager can agree or possibly add another area of improvement. This approach allows the manager to develop an excellent rapport with direct reports and remain informed of efforts throughout the company. 

Providing feedback from multiple sources

There is value in gathering feedback from multiple sources. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. The input is compiled into a single report to provide confidential feedback. This approach allows those providing feedback an opportunity to be open and honest with their comments. Simple questions such as “What is this person doing well?” or “What changes do you suggest this person makes?” can be used. The questions can also be more specific based on the type of position. After providing feedback from a 360 degree process, I recommend developing a growth plan for the employee. Giving the employee an opportunity to select an area of improvement is a great way to develop buy in for the improvement process. Companies might consider utilizing a 360 degree feedback process on a regular basis such as once a year or every other year. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please contact us if you would like to discuss leadership coaching and training options. 

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help develop your leaders?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Uncategorized

The difference an effective leader makes

In May 2020, I wrote a blog titled “A leader’s infinite mindset inspires.” I’ve continued to reflect on the infinite mindset that is needed in organizations, and one of the most powerful quotes from Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game describes one way we can measure the long term success of an organization:

“In the Infinite Game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” (p. 9) 

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Can you imagine how different organizations world be if leaders focused on improving “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (p. 9)

It’s no secret that humans are motivated by short term outcomes. Leaders can choose to focus on short term metrics or focus on the long term. In reality, leaders set the tone and have a tremendous influence on their organizations and the individuals they are surrounded by. 

There are numerous studies that emphasize the importance of quality leadership on organizational and employee performance. In addition, many of us have anecdotally experienced how a manager’s efforts increased or decreased our motivation and job performance. 

Gallup has extensively researched team engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” When things go wrong, do leaders look at themselves 70% of the time or blame other factors?

Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

Clifton and Harter (2019) cite numerous studies related to employee engagement and improved organizational outcomes, including profitability, safety, customer satisfaction, productivity, lower employee turnover, and quality. 

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2017) is considered a classic leadership book by many. Through years of research, the authors have identified “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership”:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart (2017, p. 12-13)

According to Kouzes and Posner (2017), leaders who put these practices into action more often than other leaders:

  1. “Create higher-performing teams
  2. Generate increased sales and customer satisfaction levels
  3. Foster renewed loyalty and greater organizational commitment
  4. Enhance motivation and the willingness to work hard
  5. Facilitate high patient-satisfaction scores and more effectively meet family member needs
  6. Promote high degrees of student and teacher involvement in schools
  7. Enlarge the membership size of their religious congregations
  8. Reduce absenteeism, turnover, and dropout rates
  9. Positively influence recruitment yields” (p. 22)

These studies emphasize the behaviors and practices of leaders. How is your organization intentionally developing leaders who are focused on improving team engagement as described by Gallup, embodying the “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” identified by Posner and Kouzes, or developing “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (Sinek, p. 9)

We help organization’s develop more effective leaders through leadership and executive coaching and training workshops. What would improved leadership do for your organization? If you are looking for ways to build the leadership potential of your employees, please contact us. Virtual and in person options are available. 

References: 

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (6th Ed.). Wiley. 

Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game. Portfolio/Penguin.

Are you ready to learn how to improve leadership within your organization?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Strategy

Strategic planning during uncertainty

Most organizations recognize the importance of long term planning. However, some organizations get caught up in what the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling describe as the “whirlwind” which is “made up of urgencies that consume your time and energy” (p. 7). As I have discussed strategic planning with current and prospective clients in recent months, many are struggling to plan when there is so much uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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When I first became involved with strategic planning processes, I was introduced to the classic Jim Collins and Jerry Porras article “Building Your Company’s Vision” which was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996. This article remains a classic strategy article and is included in HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. The authors discuss how successful organizations set a 10-30 year “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” I don’t know about you, but setting a 10-30 year goal during this time of uncertainty seems daunting and perhaps a bit unrealistic. 

Unfortunately, the current uncertainty has led many organizations to maintain the status quo and get caught up in the “whirlwind” instead of strategically planning for the future. For those organizations struggling with strategic thinking, I encourage them to consider the following approaches as variations to traditional strategic planning processes:

  1. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) identifies four disciplines that help organizations develop strategy and improve execution of strategy. To avoid having too broad of a focus, 4DX encourages organizations to focus on a single “Wildly Important Goal” or “WIG.” All individuals and teams within the organization align their efforts with the WIG by “acting on lead measures.” Lead measures are behaviors that are directly tied to the WIG. A “compelling scoreboard” is created to track success. “A cadence of accountability” is established through brief weekly “WIG sessions” that review progress and make commitments for the upcoming week. This intense focus can really help an organization set a vision for the future, and implement it, and regularly review progress. 
  1. A strategy screen helps organizations identify criteria for making decisions. In his book The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution, David LaPiana writes: “The Strategy Screen is not a rigid framework. Its value is in making your decision-making criteria explicit” (p. 66). Organizations can spend time developing a strategy screen by reflecting on why the organization exists, what it values, and what is feasible. LaPiana (2018) suggests all strategy screens have criteria related to how well the strategy is consistent with the organization’s mission and will “build on or reinforce our competitive advantage” (p. 64). Other examples might include: Will this strategy become profitable within one year? Is this strategy consistent with our organization’s values? A strategy screen can be created now, and developing this criteria in advance of strategic decisions can be beneficial for all organizations. 
  1. Scenario planning helps organize plan for uncertainty, and this process can be particularly valuable while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Belinda Lyons-Newman (2020) identifies four steps for scenario planning: (1) “Identify external uncertainties,” (2) “Identify internal uncertainties,” (3) “Explore multiple, alternative futures,” and (4) “Assess the scenarios using a strategy screen.” This process helps identify “what if” scenarios, develops a plan for responding to them, and clarifies criteria for making decisions. Scenario planning can be particularly valuable for industries that are experiencing significant disruption and uncertainty. 

There are numerous approaches to strategic planning, and this article is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of approaches. If you are interested in learning more about strategy, I encourage you to spend some time reading the articles and books that I have written about. One thing is certain: we can’t afford to wait around until things become “normal” again to think strategically and plan for long term success. 

We facilitate planning processes with a wide range of organizations and customize processes to meet their organizational needs. Planning processes can be facilitated in person or virtually. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you plan for future success, please contact us

References:

Collins, J., & Porras, J.I. (1996, September-October). “Building Your Company’s Vision.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/1996/09/building-your-companys-vision#:~:text=Vision%20provides%20guidance%20about%20what,core%20ideology%20and%20envisioned%20future.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. (2011). Harvard Business Review. 

LaPiana, D., & Campos, M.M. (2018). The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution (2nd Ed.). Turner. 

McChesney, C., Huling, J., & Covey, S. (2015). The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Simon & Schuster. 

Lyons-Newman, B. (2020, May 8). “Scenario Planning: Rapid Planning in a Time of Rapid Change.” Retrieved from: https://blog.boardsource.org/blog/scenario-planning-rapid-planning-in-a-time-of-rapid-change?_ga=2.216094229.241316251.1595867701-1637645238.1574390002

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help you plan for future organizational success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Strategy

A simple tool for strategic growth

I was recently working with a group of religious leaders who are trying to decide how their congregations should move forward in light of the challenges caused by COVID-19. They are used to in person services, educational programs, and community building events. Unfortunately, opportunities to bring people together in person will be limited for an extended period of time. 

Ansoff Matrix - Wikipedia
(From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansoff_Matrix)

I introduced them to the Ansoff Matrix which is a tool developed by Igor Ansoff that can be used to explore opportunities for organizational growth. On the left side, the existing market (or customers) are on the bottom and new markets on top. On the bottom row, there are existing products and services on the left and new products/services on the right.

The bottom left box (Market Penetration) focuses on existing markets and products/services. Focusing on this box can result in growth through increasing market share or penetration. The top left box (Market Development) focuses on growth through existing products but new market(s).

By focusing on the bottom right box (Product Development), we strive for growth through existing markets with new products/services. The top right box (Diversification) focuses on new markets and new products/services. It is important to note that risk increases as one moves up or to the right of the matrix with the top right box having the most risk.

I encourage organizations to complete the Ansoff Matrix through divergent and convergent thinking. They can begin by individually or collectively generating opportunities for growth in each box of the matrix. After the team divergently identifies possibilities, they can converge by discussing the most promising opportunities. Here are examples of possible discussions that can take place for each box:

Bottom left (Market Penetration):

  1. Begin by discussing existing market (customers)
  2. How might we sell to more people like our existing customers?
  3. How might we encourage existing customers to use more of our existing products or services?

Top left (Market Development):

  1. What demographic groups are not existing customers?
  2. How might we identify new market segments that could benefit from our existing products or services? 
  3. How might we market our products or services to appeal to different demographics than our existing customers?

Bottom right (Product Development):

  1. How might we add value to our existing customers through new products or services?
  2. Are there related products or services that our customers could benefit from?

Top right (Diversification):

  1. How might we adapt to changing trends in society?
  2. Are there new opportunities that we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on?

The Ansoff Matrix is not perfect. When looking at new opportunities for growth, organizations need to consider factors such as competition, organizational strengths, and assets. A common strategy for growth today is a merger or acquisition, and it is possible that a merger or acquisition may help accelerate market penetration, new markets, new products, and/or diversification. 

The Ansoff Growth Matrix is one of many tools that can be used for developing strategy. We work with a wide variety of organizations to develop strategy for future success and growth. There are many approaches to successful strategic planning processes, and it is important to customize a process that best meets your organization’s needs. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help your organization develop a strategic planning process, please contact us

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Effective Teams, Innovation

Encouraging a more innovative culture

As organizations are navigating the COVID-19, many organizations are forced to adapt or face dire consequences. Leaders are asking, “How might we develop a more innovative culture?”

In a previous blog, I applied John Kotter’s change management process to crisis planning. The first step of his process is “Create a sense of urgency.” The pandemic has provided a “sense of urgency. Organizations can view this time as an opportunity to evaluate how they operate and determine how they will behave in the future. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle shares three skills of highly successful organizational cultures: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose. Under each skill, I’ve included strategies for leaders to encourage innovation. 

Skill 1: Build safety

When we “build safety,” team members experience a sense of belonging. In addition, they feel psychologically safe to share new ideas without fear of judgement or repercussion.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #1: Google has studied the characteristics of effective teams, and the most important characteristic is psychological safety. One strategy they use to encourage psychological safety is to begin meetings with each team member sharing a recent risk they took. No judgement is passed on whether the risk taking led to a successful result.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #2: Our approach to facilitating creative problem solving includes divergent and convergent thinking. Instead of traditional meetings that invite evaluation after each new idea is shared, we encourage collecting all ideas while deferring judgement. After all ideas are collected, we then use convergent thinking to evaluate ideas and begin focusing our options. This approach fosters creative thinking and psychological safety. 

Skill 2: Share vulnerability

Team members who display vulnerability willingly share when they don’t know something and need help. They are willing to admit when they are wrong and encourage learning from mistakes. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #1 Similar to the Google strategy to foster psychological safety, I encourage teams to find opportunities for each team member to share something they want or need to learn in the near future. Team members can volunteer to impart knowledge to others who desire to learn more about a topic. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #2: When we suggest new ideas to our team members, we often feel compelled to “sell” the idea as a complete solution. I recommend developing a meeting environment that allows team members to present ideas as imperfect and incomplete. In this type of seeing, we can admit that our ideas are not perfect and solicit open and honest feedback from our team members. 

Skill 3: Establish purpose

Team members share a sense of shared purpose. They understand why their organization exists and have a shared vision for the future. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #1: In recent years, Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action has emphasized the importance of determining our individual and organizational purpose (our “why”) before we identify our “how” and “what.” All employees can benefit from understanding their organization’s purpose and aligning their decisions with it. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #2: Leaders need to articulate their organization’s purpose and intentionally discuss what that means and looks like. Leaders can highlight important decisions and recognize individuals who live out the organization’s purpose. 

Successful organizational cultures take time to develop. Leaders must intentionally work towards develop a company culture that fosters innovation. Organizations that are able to adapt and innovate during this pandemic will be much stronger in the long run than those who attempt to maintain the status quo.

How can we help your organization develop a more innovative culture? We provide creative problem solving training, leadership coaching, and strategic planning services. Contact us to learn more.

References:

Coyle, D. (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.