Showing posts with label Feedback. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feedback. Show all posts

December 30, 2018

Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 

It's easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 

Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 

UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 

It's important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 

Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 

But when you says something isn't right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 

No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 

But people don't mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.

Don't criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 

That's real love without being a jerk. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 17, 2018

Don't Give A Fire Truck

Sometimes, others can get negative at you in life.

People are unhappy. 

They are being unreasonable.

Complaints are rolling in. 

It seems like you can't do right.

But you have to have a thick skin or as one colleague told me:
You need to be like Teflon and have it all just roll off you.

And this book title reminded me of this:
"The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck"

Yes, we do have to care about doing good in what we do. 

It's just that we shouldn't "give a f*ck" when others are just wanting to tear us down and enjoying it. 

Constructive feedback is good. 

But destructive negativity at every turn is just hurtful.

It's also a way for others to not take ownership.

We all need to do our part to make things better in this world. 

Sure, no one does everything right and no one is perfect. 

But everyone needs to try their best, and when others just want to beat on you...

That's a completely appropriate time to not give a firetruck. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 9, 2017

Getting Valuable Performance Feedback

So here are three simple questions to ask your boss that can help you get valuable performance feedback and advance yourself and your career:

1) What am I doing that you want me to keep doing?

2) What am I doing that you want to me quit doing?

3) What am I not doing that you'd like me to start doing? 

There you have it in a nutshell--you can partner with your boss to improve yourself and get ahead. 

Just three easy questions gets you a lot of good information. 

The hardest part is getting up the nerve to ask and then being willing to really listen to what's said. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 29, 2016

I Like Working Here

I got some bad news and really good news from a colleague at work this week. 

The bad news was that he was concerned that he hadn't gotten the raise that he wanted from his company for the last number of years.

The good news was that he said that despite that, "I and everyone else on the team really like working here--it is a special group."

It was funny, because recently someone else from a different office stopped me on the elevator when I was getting off on my floor, and she points and says "everyone says that is one of the best groups to work in!"

I can't tell you how happy I was to hear this feedback.

And while I certainly know that "you can't satisfy all of the people all of the time," it was especially meaningful to me to hear this on such a fast-paced and high performance team--where people routinely seem to not only pull their weight (and more), but also pull together. 

As to the raises from this gentleman's company that is a separate matter, especially as I understand that we all have bills to pay, but in terms of a good work environment and inspiring team that is something that also means the world to me. ;-)

(Source Photo Andy Blumenthal)
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July 8, 2016

I'm Telling You They're Really New

So I ordered a pair of swim fins to replace a pair that recently ripped in the pool. 

I went online and ordered a brand NEW pair. 

A few days later, the fins arrive in an envelope (no box). 

Already sort of terrified at what I will find in this strange bag, I slowly open it up, and find a completely disgusting dirty, scuffed, USED pair of fins with no tags or packaging

Ew...I am so grossed out and contact the vendor right away to return these, but instead of customer service, I got a boat load of b.s. and chutzpah.

They made a million excuses, tried to make me feel bad, and basically refused to provide for a return, saying that the product is not really used, that it just got dirty in the mail and on the trucks and all, and I just have to clean them off a little!

When I question them about why there was no box or packaging, they say, "Oh that, well we take it out of the box, so we can ship it more cheaply for you

I said, "What right do you have to take it out of the packaging when I ordered it new--maybe I want the packaging or need to give the item as a gift?"

Then they go on to give me an ear-full about about the high cost of shipping and that I should thank them for removing the packaging to the keep costs down (but the problem is that they were trying to keep costs down in more ways than one here). 

They continue to berate me as well about how I should be more understanding as to the dirt and scuff marks, since it's no big deal, because when I put it in the pool, the water and the chlorine will wash it off and kill all the germs anyway!

After patiently taking this abuse for a while, I went online and saw that others had the same experience with this merchant--getting sent used goods in the mail that had been advertised and paid for as new.  

Now I had had it up to HERE, and I promptly did my duty and went online to give them an appropriate customer review to help others from getting cheated like this in the future. 

Guess what happens next? 

They email me to tell me that they took note of my feedback and not that they are sorry about what happened and want to fix it, but that "We will never ship to you again." 

My wife explodes laughing...mwahahahahaha--like who would ever want to go back and do more business with these crooks. 

People are absolutely crazy out there.

Caveat emptor (buyer beware) a million times.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 4, 2016

Clothing Optional

This was a funny painting in the gallery. 

A naked lady with a big colorful sun hat on. 

Be careful you don't want to get too much sun!

The painting also makes me think of the saying "The empress (or emperor) has no clothes."

The leader thinks they are wearing beautiful clothes, but the reality is they are naked in front of their subjects. 

People see when their leaders are shelling out a clouded vision, tempting them with empty (campaign) promises, or pushing ideas that don't hold water in the real world, but often people are simply too afraid to say anything.

Instead, they acknowledge the beautiful clothes or brilliant ideas that aren't there and in groupthink fashion, they fail to call out the folly for what it is, when it is. 

Naked is naked, and we should say the truth albeit with respect and in a constructive way, if we really want to make genuine collective progress. 

True--lauding or blinding following what simply isn't there and has no substance may land you a seat at the royal table, but what good is it, if you are sitting with some leaders that may be nothing more than naked idiots. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 27, 2015

The Millennial Workplace

So a colleague from a law enforcement agency told a funny story the other day.

When he was an agent-in-training he said they told them, "Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut."

Basically, you are new--so watch and learn before you do something stupid and potentially get yourselves or someone else in trouble. 

But now as someone who been there for decades and is a supervisor, he was interviewing someone right out of school, and in the interview the kid says, "I want to be in charge!"

The difference from Generation X and the new Millennials couldn't have been starker. 

But what did this guy do, he didn't show the candidate to the door by his earlobes, but rather he ended up hiring him. 

Times have changed--not only with all the technology we use--but also in terms of people's expectations from the job.

What do people want these days--aside from good compensation and comprehensive benefits?

- Engagement through challenging and meaningful work that has tangible outcomes from day one

- Innovating and creating versus pushing paper and doing routine, repetitive work

- Using current and cutting-edge technology

- Opportunities to stay and advance or building the resume to "move out to move up"

- Lots of feedback, teamwork, sharing, and transparency

- Considerable work-life balance 

The bottom line is don't be surprised by the kid who wants to be in charge from the get-go, instead relish their gusto and unleash their talent in your organization--with guidance, they can do amazing things. 

It's not your fathers workplace anymore. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to g Tarded)
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February 16, 2015

How To Give Employee Feedback

Finally some realism about how to conduct employee evaluations...

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past employees could expect that "we would bring them in and beat them down a bit."

But now, managers are expected to "scrap the negative feedback" and "extol staffers strengths" (accentuate the positives).

Companies are realizing that negative feedback does "more harm than good."

- You tick off the employee and ruin any positive relationship and trust. 
- The employee feels unappreciated, hurt, and in jeopardy. 
- Employees project their hurt feelings and accuse you of being the problem. 
- The deteriorating state makes them fear that you are working against them and they become unmotivated to try to do better.
- Instead, they spend their time working against you (and the company), and looking for another job. 

There is an old saying that you don't sh*t where you eat, and so it is with employee performance evaluations.

In over 25 years, I have never seen negative employees reviews produce positive results!

However, I have seen that sincerely praising everyones' best efforts, leveraging their strengths, and being thankful for what each person contributes makes a high performing team where people are loyal, want to work, and contribute their best. 

Everyone has weaknesses and problems, and frankly most people when they are being honest with themselves, know what their issues are. Pointing their face in it, doesn't help. (Have you ever told a fat person that they need to lose a few pounds?)

One idea that I did like from the Journal is called "feedforward," where you ask "employees to suggest ideas for their own improvement for the future."

This way each person can be introspective and growth as they mature and are ready, but not under threat, rather with support and encouragement. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 20, 2014

Like A Rock Star

It's funny that people derive so much of their self esteem from others. 

If someone says something nice to/about them, then they feel on top of the world--full of worth, productive, successful, confident.

And when someone says something negative, then they get down in the dumps--depreciated, questioning, can't do anything right, like a failure.

Yet, it the same person inside--the same heart, the same soul.

Of course, we are impacted by our behavior (when we do good and not) and people's reactions to it--and we should be--it's a helpful feedback mechanism to let us know when we are messing up or as reinforcement to continue doing good things. 

But at the same time, people's feedback is not always correct or well-intentioned and certainly it doesn't necessarily represent holistically who we are...it's just a snapshot in time. 

So we need to take what people say and reflect back to us with a grain of salt--listen, try to understand, but also look at the bigger picture of you. 

You know yourself better than anyone else, so incorporate the feedback and use it to improve, but don't get bogged down by any person, event, or cheap talk.  

Yes, you can be a rock star, by reflecting from what others tell you, but more importantly by listening to that voice inside that guides you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 13, 2014

Starbucks - BYOF

Okay, this was the second week in a row at Starbucks that I've seen people BYOF.

BYOF = Bring Your Own Food.


This gentleman relaxing on a Sunday has brought his ziplock bag and with some nice looking pound cake at that.


Message to Starbucks...either your food is really bad, overpriced, or perhaps a little of both. 


You pride yourself on your coffee and everyone pays a premium for it, but you are slacking on the food side of the coffeehouse. 


Seems like a big opportunity--fix your food (finally!) and make gazillions of dollars more off the addicted masses that flock to your coffee havens. 


My consulting fee...we can discuss. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 4, 2014

A Different Definition For IV&V

In IT circles, IV&V generally refers to Independent Verification and Validation, but for CIOs another important definition for leading is Independent Views and Voices.

Please read my new article on this: here at Government Technology -- hope you enjoy it.

Andy

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Joi)
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November 14, 2013

The Backlash Against Performance Reviews

So there is big backlash against employee performance reviews. 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek declares the annual performance review to be "worthless."

The performance review ritual is traced back to the 1930's with Harvard Business School Professor, Elton Mayo, who found that productivity and satisfaction of workers improved when they were measured and paid attention to. This was referred to as the Hawthorne Effect because the study was conducted at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric outside Chicago.

Later in the 1950's, the Performance Rating Act institutionalized mandated performance reviews for federal workers, 

But studies in the last 2 decades have found employees (42%) dissatisfied with the process and even HR managers (58%) disliking the system. 

Clinical Psychologist, Aubrey Daniels, call the process "sadistic!"

The annual reviews are disliked for many reasons including the process being:

1) Arbitrary, subjective, and personality-driven rather than objective, meaningful, and performance-based.

2) Feedback that is too little and too late, instead of real-time when good or bad performance behavior occurs.  

3) A power tool that managers use in a "culture of domination" as opposed to something that really helps employees improve. 

4) Something used to punish people and build a case against employees to "get rid of you" rather than to reward and recognize them. 

At the same time, this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft and other companies are getting rid of forced employee rankings.

The ranking system was developed by General Electric in the 1980's under Jack Welch and has been referred to as ""Stack Rankings," "Forced Rankings" and "Rank and Yank." 

Under this system, employees are ranked on a scale--with a certain percentage of employees (at GE 10% and Microsoft 5%, for example) ranked in the lowest level.  

The lowest ranked employees then are either let go or marginalized as underperformers getting no bonuses, equity awards, or promotions. 

"At least 30% of Fortune 500 companies continue to rank employees along a curve."

Microsoft is dumping the annual quantitative ranking and replacing it with more frequent qualitative evaluations. 

UCLA Professor, Samuel Colbert, says this is long overdue for a yanking at companies and managers' jobs is "not to evaluate," but rather "to make everyone a five."

While this certainly sounds very nice and kumbaya-ish, it also seems to reflect the poor job that managers have done in appraising employees fairly and working with them to give them a genuine chance to learn and improve, before pulling the rating/ranking trigger that can kill employees career prospects. 

A bad evaluation not only marginalizes an employee at their current position, but it limits their ability to find something else.

Perhaps, this is where the qualitative aspect really comes into play in terms of having frank, but honest discussions with employees on what they are doing well and where they can do better, and how they can get the training and experience they need. 

It's really when an employee just doesn't want to improve, pull their weight, and is undermining the mission and the team that performance action needs to be taken. 

I don't think we can ever do without performance reviews, but we can certainly do them better in terms of providing constructive feedback rather than destructive criticism and using this to drive bona-fide continuous improvement as opposed to employee derision. 

This is possible where there are participants willing to listen to a fair critique and work together on getting to the next level professionally and for the good of the organization. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Mediocre2010)
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July 26, 2013

Sears Couldn't Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

So I was amazed at the depths to which Sears will go to try to save their horrible brand. 

The Wall Street Journal (21 July 2013) described how Sears online has started a marketplace where they are now hosting the selling of high-end goods at their low-end department store site. 

Sears which normally sells kitchen appliances, tools, and crappy clothing is now trying to market $33,000 Rolex watches and $4,400 Chanel handbags.  

Good luck to that after their failed 2005 merger of Sears and Kmart--as if combining two lousy companies make one good one.

Since 2005, the company revenue has steadily declined about 25% from $53 billion to $39.9 billion and they lost $4 billion in 2011-2012. Yeah, that today's Sears!

My own horrible experience with Sears:

I went online to order a range, and Sears botched the order over and over again and kept me holding endlessly throughout the miserable process and at each stage asking for my feedback and apparently doing nothing with it. 

Problem #1: It started out pretty simply--I asked for some guidance comparing a couple of models, chose one, and they entered my order. However, when I looked over the order, they had entered the incorrect delivery date--when I wasn't available. So I contacted Sears back to correct the mistake, but they couldn't get their system to reflect the correct date--it would only show the original incorrect date--and this is a multi-billion dollar company? But I shut an eye when a supervisor finally assures me that it will arrive on the correct date. 

Problem #2: The next day or so, I get a call from a Sears customer service representative who asks me whether I am the Andy located in XYZ (some G-d forsaken location)--ah, no! Well, they explain that's where they have my order shipping to. They can't explain how that happened, but promise Sears will fix it. 

Problem #3: This time, I get a call from the Sear's installation company. They are demanding that they will not come out to do the install unless I pay them a required inspection fee.  But I explain that my order from Sear expressly states that shipping and installation are FREE. Sorry, they tell me free is not free, and if I have a problem, here's a number to their national whatever line. 

Three strikes, Sears is out--I contact them to review what had happened and to cancel this order. They refuse to cancel it--again, I think to myself this is a multi-billion dollar company? Over and over again this goes on, until finally they agree to cancel the order and refund my money. 

All this nonsense literally wasted hours of my time.

Sears is no longer that brilliant mail order catalog of the early 20th century; now they are a dumpster diving junk company trying to sell brand stuff, but they are laggards to the brilliant Amazon and eBay retailers--and soon Sears will be out of business headed to the big retail trash bin of history. 

The Rolex watches and Chanel bags are just another Sears circus sideshow. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2013

From Happy To Glad

So I heard a new saying: "From Happy To Glad."

I asked some folks "What is that was all about?"

They explained that it applies to when you give someone something to review and they make really minor, nit-picky edits.

For example, they said, when someone "just has to say something" or "they can't let it go."

This was interesting to me, because I find it really helpful to solicit feedback and vet things with a smart, diverse group--and when you do, invariably you get a better product. 

For example, with a document, the best feedback is substantive feedback about content, followed by solid edits to things like style, formatting, and of course spelling and grammar gaffes. 

The goal is to have a clear, concise, and consistent communication that is either informative or action-oriented, and with a good executive summary and enough supporting detail to answer key questions. 

Of course, this is very different than "Happy to glad" feedback--where you're getting someone who possibly is wordsmithing something to death, can't make up their own mind, wants to show how smart they are, or are just trying to drive you nuts.

With happy to glad, sure it'll satisfy the occasional control freaks and the ego-chasers.

But the changes you'll want to actually make are from the really smart and experienced folks whose input makes a genuine difference in the end product and your and the organization's success. 

So ask away for input, make meaningful changes, but don't get snared in change for change sake alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Zentolos)
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April 29, 2013

Bathroom Kudos

Going to a restaurant the other night, I stepped into the men's room for a minute and noticed this sticker on the right of the mirror that said "Great Work" in big yellow letters on the red background. 

I wondered what a strange sign to put in such a private setting as if we need applause for going to the bathroom or washing our hands. 

Then again, if you've seen many men's bathrooms, it could certainly be a time for kudos when it is kept clean and people use good personal hygiene--hence, the other sticker on the left, "It's cool to care!"

The frog sticker in the middle, he's just keeping an eye on things and thanking everyone for the job well done. 

This is a funny commentary on our society these days where people seem to need a pat on the back for everything--even the highly mundane and personal. 

Presumably, going to the men's room will never be the same boring, uncaring event again--at least at this fine eating establishment. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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April 4, 2013

Difficult Employees x 7

So I was learning about some management best practices in terms of there being 7 major types of difficult employees:
  1. Challengers--employees that are oppositional; they resent authority, are disrespectful and confrontational. 
  2. Clingers--people who are overly dependent; they are uncertain about what to do, fearful of making a mistake, withhold their opinions and may harbor deep resentments.
  3. Drama Queens/Kings--these folks crave attention; they can be found spreading gossip and rumors and making dramatic pronouncements both professional and personal.
  4. Loners--people who like to be left alone; they tend to hover over their computers and avoid personal interactions. 
  5. Power Grabbers--staff that tend to get into power struggles with their boss; they ignore instructions and resist direction. 
  6. Slackers--those who don't do the work they are supposed to do; they tend to linger on break, calls, or the Internet or be out of the office altogether.
  7. Space Cadets--employees whose minds and discussion always seem to be in la-la-land; they tend to be off topic and impractical. 
Obviously, each presents a unique set of management challenges, but one of the most important things a manager can do is focus on specific behaviors and the impact of those on the quality/quantity of work and on the organization, and work with the employee whether through coaching, counseling, mentoring, or training on how to improve their performance. 

It should never be about the manager and the employee, but rather about the results and the outcomes. Keep it objective, be empathetic, document the issues, and work in earnest with the person to improve (where possible). 

Difficult employees are not evil characters (or villains) like in the James Bond movies, but rather humans being that need inspiration, collaboration, guidance, feedback, and occasionally when appropriate, a change in venue--where a square peg can fit in a square hole. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 16, 2012

Big and Small--Who's Who?

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid--maybe 13 years old--comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I'm looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items--and I was genuinely impressed with this kid's "business savvy."

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy's father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, "Your son is a very good salesman."

The father responds surprisingly, and says, "Not really, he hasn't sold you anything yet!"

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other--shocked and upset by the whole scene--this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism--and yes, it's important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation--do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point--that we are the bosses, we are right, and it'll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid's movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: "I'm big and your small. I'm smart and your dumb"--clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, "Well maybe the kid could've actually sold something, if they lowered the prices" :-)

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated--when they are torn down, rather than built up--the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn't end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more--not think of themselves as losers or failures--even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)


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June 24, 2011

Feedback, Can't Live Without It

Whether you call it feedback or performance measurement, we all need information on how we are doing in order to keep doing better over time.


Wired (July 2011) reports that there are 4 basic stages to feedback:

1. Evidence--"behavior is measured, captured, and stored."

2. Relevance--information is conveyed in a way that is "emotionally resonant."

3. Consequence--we are provided with the results of our (mis)deeds.

4. Action--individuals have the opportunity to"recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act."

The new action (in step 4) is also subject to measurement and the the feedback loop begins again.

Feedback plays a critical role in helping us achieve our goals; according to psychologist Albert Bandura, if we can identify our goals and measure our progress to them, we greatly increase the likelihood that we will achieve them.

Thus, feedback is the way that we continually are able to course correct in order hit our targets: if we veer too much to the right, we course correct left; if we veer too much to the left, we course correct right.

Feedback loops "can help people change bad behavior...[and] can encourage good habits."

From obesity to smoking, carbon emissions to criminal behavior, and energy use to employee performance, if we get feedback as to where we are going wrong and what negative effects it is having on us, we have the opportunity to improve.

And the way we generate improvement in people is not by trying to control them--since no one can really be controlled, they just rebel--instead we give them the feedback they need to gain self-control.

These days, feedback is not limited to having that heart-to-heart with somebody, but technology plays a critical role.

From sensors and monitors that capture and store information, to business intelligence that makes it meaningful in terms of trends, patterns, and graphs, to alerting and notification systems that let you know when some sort of anomaly occurs, we rely on technology to help us control our often chaotic environments.

While feedback can be scary and painful--no one wants to get a negative reaction, criticized, or even "punished"--in the end, we are better off knowing than not knowing, so we have the opportunity to evaluate the veracity and sincerity of the feedback and reflect on what to do next.

There are many obstacles to self-improvement including disbelief, obstinance, arrogance, as well as pure unadulterated laziness. All these can get in the way of making necessary changes in our lives; however, feedback has a way of continuing to come back and hit you over the head in life until you pay attention and act accordingly.

There is no escaping valid feedback.

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May 28, 2011

Perfect Is The Enemy of Good

Perfection is a destructive force.

And the French philosopher, Voltaire recognized this when he said "Perfect is the enemy of good."

I never really fully understood this saying, until recently reading a Harvard Business Review article (June 2011) called "The Paradox of Excellence."

The article states: "High achievers often undermine their leadership by being afraid to show their limitations."

At the heart of it...high achievers can let anxiety impede their progress through stress, alienating others, and failure to seize real opportunities.

Here from the article are some of the "classic high achiever" behaviors that can get in the way of success unless artfully managed and balanced (my views):

1) Results-driven: High-achievers can be so work-oriented that they forget the people the make it all it happen. This is why they need to remember to delegate, empower, share, and CARE about others. The work is a team effort!

2) Highly-motivated: They can be so serious about all aspects of their jobs that they "fail to distinguish between the urgent and the merely important." Instead, they should take a bigger-picture PERSPECTIVE on the tasks and prioritize these accordingly. Not everything is life and death, thank G-d, and we need to keep a sense of humor and take the time to enjoy what we are doing.

3) Competitive: They "obsessively compare themselves with others," which can cause them to feel insufficient or make false calibrations. You have to remember to INTERNALIZE that the competition is not with others but with yourself--be the best you can be!

4) Risk-managed: "They may shy away from the unknown" and avoid risky endeavors. As they say in Wall Street, without risk, there is no reward. To INNOVATE and transform, you need to take calculated risks (without betting the farm!) after doing due diligence on an investment or opportunity.

5) Passion: This can lead to powerful, productive highs, but can also result in "crippling lows." Recognize that there are natural ups and downs in the course of one's work. You can STEADY yourself through these by seeing it as incremental growth and improvement, rather than as either pure success or failure.

6) Guilt: "No matter how much they accomplish, they feel like they aren't doing enough." This is an endless trap of it's never enough and never good enough. Hey, we're all mortal. Do what you can and balance the many demands that you have on you in your life, but FOCUS on what's most important, since you can't do it all and you can never get it all done.

7) Feedback: High-achievers "care intensely about how others view their work" and they require a steady stream of positive feedback. Don't get hung up by what other people say or think--it's not personal and they have their own problems. Stay focused on delivering excellence in products and services to the customer, and use whatever feedback you can get--positive or negative--as valuable information to IMPROVE your offering.

If you are a high-achiever and demand much (if not the impossible from yourself), take a step back and a breath in and out--you can accomplish a lot more of what's important to you if stop trying to be perfect, admit your vulnerabilities and limitations, and just try to do your best--that's all that anyone can ask.

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May 15, 2011

Hooray For Motivation

Much has been written about the importance of meaning in driving a productive and motivated workforce.

Already in 1964, Frederick Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory differentiated work satisfiers (aka motivators) such as challenging work, achievement, and responsibility, from dis-satisfiers (aka hygiene factors) such as the absence of status, job security, adequate salary/benefits, and pleasant work conditions.

In other words, motivation is driven primarily by the underlying meaningful and the productive work, not by the context of the work such as the money and fringe benefits.

In that vein, Harvard Business Review in "A Spotlight on Productivity" in May 2011 describes how poor managers "unwittingly drain work of its meaning"--in essence destroying their employees motivation and their productivity.

1) Trivializing Your Workers Input--"managers may dismiss the importance of employees work or ideas." In a sense, this one is about marginalizing employees, their creativity, and their contributions and is extremely destructive to the employees and the organization.

2) Decoupling Employee Ownership From Their Work--"Frequent and abrupt reassignments often have this affect." Also, not assigning clear roles and responsibilities to projects can have this affect. Either way, if employees don't have ownership of their projects, then the productivity will suffer amidst the workplace chaos and lack of ultimate accountability for "your work."

3) The Big Black Hole--"Managers may send the message that the work employees are doing will never see the light of day." In other words, employees are just being forced to "spin their wheels" and their is truly no purpose to the "shelfware" they are producing.

4) Communication, Not--Managers "may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customers priorities" or a shift in organizational strategy due to changes in internal or external market drivers. When employees don't know that the landscape has shifted and moreover are not involved in the decision process, they may not know what has changed, why, or feel invested in it. Without adequate communication, you will actually be leaving your employees blind and your organization behind.

So while it is tempting to think that we can drive a great work force through pay, benefits and titles alone, the lesson is clear...these are not what ultimately attracts and retains a talented and productive work force.

The magic sauce is clear--help your work force to know and feel two things:

1) Their work--is ultimately useful and usable.

2) That they--are important and have a future of growth and challenge.

When they and their work mean something, they will get behind it and truly own it.

In short: mean something, do something.

To get this outcome, I believe managers have to:

1) Make the meaning explicit--Identify your customers, the services you are providing, and articulate why it is important to provide these.

2) Determine strengths and weaknesses of each employee and capitalize on their strengths, while at the same time coach, mentor, and train to the weaknesses.

3) When workers go "off track," be able to give them constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement without demeaning and demoralizing them.

4) Find the inner strength and self confidence not to be threatened by your employees actually doing a good job and being productive--that's ultimately what you've hired them for!

5) Recognize the importance of everyone's contributions--It is not a one-person show, and it takes a bigger boss to recognize that other people's contributions don't take away from their own.

6) Be a team and communicate, honestly and openly--information hoarding and being the smartest one in the room is an ego thing; the best leaders (such as Jack Welch) surround themselves with people that are smarter than them and information is something to be leveraged for the team's benefit, not weaponized by the individual.

There are more, but this is just a blog and not a book...so hopefully more to come on this topic.

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