Promoting Creative Thinking/ Is My Job Candidate Open to Humor?

March 25, 2010

Chapter 8 pg’s 189-191 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 One strategy for prompting creative thinking is to play the “yes and …” game. It starts with one person tossing out an idea that can be practical or zany, and each person in turn has to add to the idea by saying “yes and,” then adding something to it. For example, a leader might gather his creative team together to discuss ways to increase public awareness of the company. The first idea might be “We should host an event”; the next person might say, “Yes and it should have a memorable theme”; the next might say, “Yes and there should be a contest,” etc. By having only “yes” replies, there is no fear of being wrong; furthermore, the spirit and nature of the session are based on fun. Even if the ideas become impractical as the chain of “yeses” continues, there will likely be a few suggestions or kernels of creativity that may ultimately lead to an “aha.”

 For associates to be able to participate in this sort of freestyle thinking and sharing, they have to be open to humor. Everyone knows how to laugh, but there are some individuals who will find it challenging to lighten up and enjoy levity in the workplace. They may have the same fears that leaders have: that they won’t be taken seriously or will appear unprofessional. It is the leader’s responsibility to establish the humor precedent and help the associates to join in the fun. This is another aspect of associate development that is truly important for long-term success. Associates who can’t learn to lighten up and maintain a healthy attitude will ultimately be those who turn over or burn out.

 In establishing a workplace that embraces humor, leaders also need to consider whether potential hires are a good fit in that environment. The

 tone of a job interview is typically serious, and candidates will most likely behave in a strictly professional manner. #is presents a problem for leaders to gauge a candidate’s humor quotient. To the extent that it is possible, try to put the candidate at ease and take note of whether the individual smiles often. If appropriate, tell a joke or humorous personal story and see if it elicits a laugh. When it is truly hard to assess whether a candidate can lighten up, address the issue openly. Explain that your team takes work seriously but laughter and fun are part of the culture. Ask the candidate if that is an environment in which he or she would be comfortable.

 Use the clues from body language, attitude, and dialogue to determine if an individual will mesh with your team and be able to participate in the fun. When faced with difficult circumstances, your ability to use humor to diffuse stress and tension will actually help your associates to regain their focus and enthusiasm. We all try to organize our personal and professional lives so they run smoothly and don’t negatively affect one another. Inevitably there will be times when family will take precedence and interfere with our plans at work. There are also times when work demands a personal plan to be sacrificed or put on hold. A loving boss recognizes that an associate’s happiness and productivity involves more than what goes on at work. When a valued and reliable employee is simply having a bad day, respond in a way that is sensitive. Rather than a reprimand that will make the person feel worse, ease the tension through humor.

 Tell your associate to take a breather of some sort. If one associate is having a bad day, the negative attitude could affect other associates and lower their morale. It could also be evident to customers or clients. By helping the individual in distress, you also help the people who would be interacting with him or her.

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Make Plans to Fix the Problems and Follow Up Consistently

December 18, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg’s 135-137 Lead With Love By Gerry Czarnecki

Evaluation is useless if there is no change in behavior or performance, and change takes conscious commitment, effort, and a deliberate plan of action. Planning is not just saying, “I plan to do a better job,” or “I plan to be a better person.” Planning is deciding what the goals are and how to know if they have been achieved. It takes defining specific actions required to make changes, laying out a timetable for doing them, establishing checkpoints along the way, and creating a mechanism to assess if the actions and results are really on track to accomplish the goals. All of that is hard work, and it requires a real commitment.

An associate who has a sincere desire and commitment to improve will continue with the ongoing discipline required to achieve the steps on the journey to success. Without that commitment, most associates will fall well short of their original goals, and you will be having the same evaluation discussion later. That is where a leader can come in. You must follow up on any evaluation. You cannot make the changes, you cannot enforce the commitment, but you can support it. A leader can take several actions to make certain an associate has a reasonable chance for achieving success. First, you can offer to help the individual develop a plan. Helping an associate work to set goals is a logical extension of your responsibility to establish expectations.

 By being involved in this process, you are clarifying and enhancing your role as leader. Further, if an associate has not been able to establish a format for the plan, you can help create a structure that works. After it is completed, offer to provide feedback on the plan. One of the many values of being a part of the self-improvement plan process is that it gives a leader the opportunity to validate the evaluation feedback’s effectiveness. If the plan truly addresses the issues raised in the evaluation, then, at a minimum, you can say you have succeeded in communicating the need for improvement.

 If the plan does not, then you have an opportunity to refine the process before the associate wastes weeks or months of effort focusing on the wrong issues. This is hard work and requires a leader who feels the sense of love and commitment to the improvement of all associates as they search for their potential achievement level and fulfillment. Second, you can ask associates how they are doing on their personal improvement plan. Simple though that question may be, it can have a profound effect. When the leader asks a question, the staff listens. When the leader listens to the answer and responds appropriately, the staff has been affected. Leaders should never underestimate the influence they have. You are the single most important person in the daily work life of the associate. Your interest in them and your questions to them are powerful. Third, you can influence an associate by acknowledging improvement. We will look more closely in the next chapter at the power of this act, but suffice to say when you recognize improvement, you have reinforced the behavior.

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People Believe What They See: Write Objectively / Don’t Accept the Blame

December 17, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg’s 134 Lead With Love By Gerry Czarnecki

Another way to deal with your associates’ natural tendency to rationalize their own performance is to use the written word. The written word offers a strong dose of reality. Seldom does anybody fail to get the message from written documentation. That is true for positive evaluations as well as negative ones. This impact, however, is not the only advantage. What you write out is much more likely to communicate the essence of your message because writing helps you to sort through key concepts you want to communicate. In addition, you are much more likely to be careful about what you say if you put it into the written form. As a further benefit, writing may help you to clarify your ideas or perhaps to even change them.

 Many of us do not enjoy writing and may be convinced that writing evaluations is a waste of time. Typically, organizations require a written performance appraisal. #e document we are discussing may satisfy the organization’s expectations, but it is not for the organization. It is for you. It is your guide to helping your associate improve. You will be a better leader if you have the ability to give better evaluations.

 Giving an associate constructive feedback is only half the responsibility. The evaluation process has one more critical step. You must also commit yourself to influencing the associate’s behavior. Of course, you cannot make the changes in behavior and performance; only the associate can do that. Your communications to associates must place the responsibility for the behavior and the performance squarely on their shoulders.

All too often, your associates will look to you to either explain their difficulties or to solve their challenges. At times you may be the cause of the difficulty, but in the vast majority of cases, this retort is simply an expression of frustration. The associate knows the problem exists and puts the problem right back on you anyway. Obviously you must consider carefully any assertion that the problem is your fault, but in most instances, you must not accept the burden. Individuals are, in the Final analysis, responsible for their own behavior.

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Love Means Honesty and Candor—Not Brutality

December 16, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg’s 133-134 Lead With Love By Gerry Czarnecki

Love Means Honesty and Candor—Not Brutality Giving effective feedback is hard work, but taking it is too. Hearing negative words about our behavior or performance is painful. Consequently, when we are in a position to give feedback, we usually attempt to couch the words in the most appealing fashion we can.

If you have been exposed to any formal sales training, you were probably taught you should always deal with negatives in a sales situation by attempting to focus on the positives instead. You were also probably told you must make yourself communicate in a positive fashion in order to get a resistant buyer to buy. In this case, there is no doubt the recipient of constructive feedback in an evaluation session will be a “reluctant buyer.” Such training gives you all the more reason to walk carefully through the feedback minefield.

 However, providing candid and direct insight is better than trying to mask the truth and spare people the pain of confronting their weaknesses. Don’t give associates an excuse to argue that they did not hear what you said. However, in spite of the need to be forthright, there is no reason to be brutal. Statements like, “That was stupid,” are cruel and confrontational and will elicit a strong reaction. Saying, “You have failed,” may be truthful, but it may also be so devastating that the associate may simply not listen. Try statements like, “I think you have some areas that could be improved.” This approach shows you believe the associate can fix the problem and the short-term failure can be overcome. It provides hope that the feedback will constructively improve the performance. Your goal should be to clearly and directly communicate the constructive evaluation, but you must continue to take all actions based on love.

Andy Grove, in High Output Management, offers sound advice about delivering the assessment. “There are three Ls to keep in mind when delivering a review: Level, Listen, and Leave yourself out.” By “level” he means to be honest; by “listen” he means just that. “Leave yourself out” means try to avoid the bias of your own thinking.

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Trait Reviews Are Tough, But They Can Be Fruitful

December 14, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg’s 130-131 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

A great deal can be gained from taking the time to talk to your associates about how their traits and behaviors affect job performance. The good news is most of the issues you are talking about influence job performance; the bad news is you may misjudge the situation and then have to argue with the associate. In addition, you are doing something that is not normally comfortable: telling people how you perceive them. You will be focusing on insights you have drawn from working with them. You will be talking about them and their behavior, not just their job performance. We think about people’s behavior all the time, but seldom do we tell them what we think. Yet results at work are almost always tied to behaviors. You may not be able to change associates’ behavior, but if they know what you have observed, they may conclude that they must attempt to deal with these issues.

 Incidentally, in the event you are challenged on the feedback you offer, here is a simple way to deal with an objection: acknowledge that you know you may be wrong, but that is why you are talking about it. You are trying to get a better understanding of her, so that you both can judge her ability to improve. Tell her you will spend some more time thinking about it. This acknowledges that you could be wrong without saying definitively that you are. Being right is not the issue. Giving the associate this information makes it possible for her to understand the perceptions that exist.

 The content of a “trait review” follows a simple structure, but it must always be part of a comprehensive review of the associate’s performance. Never do a trait review without tying it to a performance evaluation. The goal is to give associates an opportunity to see that their performance can be tied to their personal traits. Also never tell associates you are evaluating them on their personal traits. Performance evaluations should be based

on the associate’s achievement of results. But the trait review gives the associate an opportunity to correct issues that affect performance.

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Talk about Behavior First

December 11, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg’s 128-130 Lead With Love

We all know that job performance is that we must focus on. Our expectations are the driving force for our leadership position. If our associates’ performance is either superior or unsatisfactory, we must offer them feedback. However, we must also understand that all individual performance is a function of behavior. If associates come to the job with severe behavioral limitations, then their job performance will be negative. If they come to the job with certain essential weaknesses that could be improved in order to substantially improve job performance, then we have a duty to provide feedback. It’s the duty of a leader, I should say, who truly loves and cares about his or her associates’ success.

 If what people are and how they behave can make a difference in expectations, then we must, as leaders, focus on those. Qualities like intelligence and the ability to reason, to think logically, to articulate ideas, and to function under stress help to define what people are and how they will perform. So do the capacity to relate to people, the intensity of the work ethic, and much more. You need to know your associates. It is not  enough to say, “You did a great job.” You need to understand them as whole beings.

 A good way to do this is to use “trait reviews.” These are not report cards on behavior like children get in elementary school, but they do have one critical resemblance: they give feedback on behavior characteristics that can influence the ability to perform. The goal must be to focus on results, on performance compared to expectations; however, it is equally important to give feedback on traits that either help or hinder success. If an associate has difficulty developing working relationships with her peers, that weakness will have a major influence on her ability to achieve results in almost any organization. Effective feedback, counseling, and developmental support are critical if the associate is going to become a superior performer. If you choose to avoid this sensitive psychological issue, you will cheat the employee of support that could make a huge difference in both current and future assignments. If you really have the capacity to love an associate, you must take on this topic and attempt to help the individual deal with the shortcoming. Of course, how effective you are will depend in large measure on the individual’s receptivity; however, your performance is critical also. If you give feedback in a manner sensitive to the recipient’s mindset—in other words, if you “walk in her shoes”—you will have a much better chance of being heard and heeded than if you chose to preach and moralize. Giving speeches may make you feel better, but the tone may also make an associate reject what you say. The associate must acknowledge the weakness and accept it as an issue that requires change. No amount of preaching brings positive change if you alienate the associate. Only when the individual acknowledges the problem can a solution be found and implemented. By the same token, if you never raise the issue because you think psychology is not your role, then you will probably fail to provide your contribution to the development of a superior performer. This part of evaluation is hard work, but it is what leaders must do if they are to play their role well. Helping to make winners is not always easy, but it will always be rewarding for a leader who begins with love.

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Even Daily Feedback May Be Too Seldom

December 9, 2009

Chapter 5 Pg 124-126 Lead With Love By:  Gerry Czarnecki

Compounding the problem of giving effective evaluations is that all too often they are relegated to a once-a-year activity. Nothing could be worse. The practice of waiting a full year to give direct, formal evaluation and performance feedback is unfair to the associate and illogical for the organization’s interests. Evaluation must be an activity tied to the individual’s daily performance, not to the convenience of a process. We cannot expect associates to know what we do not tell them. Either positive or negative messages about behavior or performance must be communicated at the time of the event, not a month or a year later. How can we expect change if we make no attempt to inform associates about their performance? Annual reviews do not work to the associate’s or the organization’s benefit. Over forty years ago, Douglas McGregor, in his classic book !e Human Side of Enterprise, wrote about the annual performance appraisal. His message is still on the mark:

 The semiannual or annual appraisal is not a particularly efficient stimulus to learning for another reason:  It provides “feedback” about behavior at a time remote from the behavior itself. People do learn and change as a result of feedback. In fact, it is the only way they learn. However, the most effective feedback occurs immediately after the behavior. The subordinate can learn a great deal from a mistake, or a particular failure in a performance, provided it is analyzed while all the evidence is immediately at hand. Three or four months later, the likelihood of effective learning from that experience is small. It will be still smaller if the superior’s generalized criticism relates to several incidents spread over a period of months.

 A behavioral psychologist, such as B.F. Skinner, would say if you fail to reinforce desired behavior, it will eventually disappear. And if you fail to punish undesirable behavior, you will encourage it to continue. Classical Freudian psychology would hold that behavior will persist until an individual understands the core reasons for its existence. In any case, allowing an   associate to continue working without an honest evaluation of behaviors and performances is a classic sign that the leader has failed the love test. If we really loved our associates, we would not allow them to drift with no idea as to how they stand. Unfortunately, too many of us fail our associates and give them, at best, severely delayed feedback.

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