Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Year of Change

What a year of change!

Much of it positive, though not all.

After thirty years in New Brunswick, we moved! We had been talking about it for several years. We had agreed that, when our elderly neighbor was gone, that we would go too.

Her death was a major turning point for us because, not only had we lost a friend and neighbor, but her house would soon become a rental for Rutgers students.

Even with an agreement that we would sell our home, it was still incredibly hard, especially for my wife Joan who suffered emotionally throughout the process. There were days when I thought I might lose her.

Not long after, we also sold our "vacation home," a rental we had purchased for our sons, and their friends, to live in while in college.

In so doing, we cut our ties with New Brunswick, my home town where I had lived for over 61 years.

At this same time, our favorite restaurant, Tumulty's Pub, was sold, and our go-to auto service station, University Shell, was sold too.

And we sold Big Blue, our van of ten years that transported so many people over that time.

2016 was also the year of Eight Weddings including our nephew Sean and our niece Katie whose wedding was an unforgettable adventure in New York City.

There were several funerals too including the sudden and sad passing of my sister-in-law Susan's step-father Jerry, a true mensch, who we all loved so much.

As if to balance the scales, there was the birth of Paige, daughter of our niece Claire.

Looking back over 2016, it seemed to be a marathon of unending change. Our score on the Holmes and Rahe Life Changes scale?  Just over 400.

Lucky for us, we have many healthy coping skills for handling so much change. In particular, we have each other. We have our sons Kevin and David. We have many supportive friends and a close family. We have our faith community at St. Matthias.

Everyone has change in their life to deal with. Some years you get more than others.

Terrence Seamon helps his clients to manage the transitions of change. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and connect on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Zombie Performance Reviews

You know why zombies are so popular in contemporary culture? You can't stop 'em.
There's something weirdly fascinating about the idea of the dead suddenly and inexplicably re-animating...and coming after you for its next meal.
But we can turn off the TV and leave the theater after a zombie show and comfort ourselves with the thought that there is no such thing as a zombie in real life. Right?
Wrong. We apparently have a bona fide zombie apocalypse happening in parts of corporate America: the once dead-as-a-doornail performance review process has sprung back to life.
Just the other day I came across some updates on LinkedIn about a new resurgence around performance reviews. Apparently, if HR and business leaders reframe their thinking, and alter their culture, then performance reviews can deliver on their promise.
As an OD Guy, I try to look at performance evaluation processes as objectively as I can, while recognizing that I do have a personal bias about them.
To adopt a more objective view, I like to put on W. Edwards Deming's cap and ask, "Does this performance evaluation scheme promote or erode the values of Quality" e.g.
- customer focus
- systems thinking
- teamwork
- process improvement
- fact-based decision making using measurement
- how employees are treated, motivated and developed
If the performance management process supports these values, it's a good thing. For instance, if it enhances how employees serve the customer, that is clearly a benefit to the organization as well as to customers and other stakeholders.
If it detracts from these values, it is a danger. For example, if it diverts employees from a focus on the customer to some other organizational value such as jobs-per-day, then productivity may increase while customer satisfaction (not to mention employee morale) may fall.
From my standpoint, the Deming position is a great way to get into a discussion of management's responsibility for stewardship of people.
Just as management is responsible for the utilization of the organization's financial resources, so also is management responsible for the utilization, and development, of the organization's human resources.
What makes this stewardship of people unique is the development aspect. This stewardship of development is operationalized through such processes as orientation, communication, mentoring, delegation, training, coaching, disciplining, giving feedback on performance, and team building.
Who is in the best position in the organization, to observe, and judge, the execution of this stewardship? The employees who receive (or do not receive) it.
That's where upward feedback comes in. Upward feedback is the process whereby workers give their boss feedback on how the boss is doing. For this feedback to be most useful, it needs to be structured. That way, the boss gets actionable input.
Far too much emphasis is placed on downward feedback (aka traditional "performance appraisal") in most organizations, with relatively little attention paid to how the boss is doing. Yet recent employee engagement research (see Gallup as an example) points to the tremendous impact that Managers have on the workplace.
So, to wrap up, the great W. Edwards Deming wrote that evaluation of performance, merit ratings, and annual reviews of employee performance comprise the third of his "Seven Deadly Diseases" of management. Why? Because there is often a conflict between these practices and the values of Quality.
Among the values of Quality that Deming cared so much about was how employees are treated. For Deming, the motivation and development of employees was tremendously important, yet very difficult, requiring a high degree of focus and skill on the part of supervisors and managers.
To the extent that an organization's performance management process supports the development of people through training, mentoring and coaching, it's a good thing. To the extent that it drains and demotivates people, it is a danger and should be considered a candidate for the corporate scrap heap.
How do you kill a zombie? Shoot it in the head.
If you have been following the movement, these past several years, to dethrone the annual performance review process, you know that Performance Review is not likely to go away unless there is a viable alternative, so here goes a suggestion.
Instead of the Performance Management and Review process, how about the Organizational Results Alignment (ORA) process?
The key elements would include...
Alignment = The ORA process starts (and never ends) with linking and aligning employees to where the organization is heading and how it is doing. Information about the organization's strategy, goals, and performance is the life blood of ORA.
Goals = Every employee is linked to the strategy via goals and objectives.
Communication = Daily and weekly communication between team members and those in leadership roles is a must to keep everyone on the same page in today's constant change environments.
Strengths = The 21st century management theory is Theory S which says that we are at our best (and do our best) when we are using our strengths.   
Coaching = Managers are trained to be Coaches who develop their players. Like coaches of sports teams, they focus on each player's strengths. Coaches then play to the strengths of each employee in order to benefit the entire team.
Results & Recognition = Timely acknowledgement of progress and achievements, throughout the year, as well as at year's end, with a versatile arsenal of forms of reward.
Featuring a focus on strengths, coaching and recognition, ORA assumes competence, promotes performance, and expects achievements.What do you think?

Terrence Seamon helps his clients developing their coaching cultures. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Two Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

Recently, in several client sessions on the topic of employee engagement, I was asked, How should you measure engagement?

Without saying so directly, I facilitated them toward the answer to another question: Why would you measure it?

Here's how we did it.

After setting the stage with information (drawn in part from the work done by the Gallup organization) about What employee engagement is and Why it's so important, I asked this polling question:

What can a Manager do to promote employee engagement?

As each person answered, we kept a running tally of the answers on a flipchart or white board.
The answers included such ideas as...

  • Keep an open mind
  • Solicit input
  • Communicate often
  • Listen
  • Be available
  • Provide coaching
  • Give feedback
  • Recognize each person for the contribution they make to the team
  • Be flexible
  • Empower the team

And more. You can imagine what other answers were given.

What comes next, though, is the important part.

These answers can be turned into two types of measurement tools for employee engagement.

The first is a self-assessment for leaders. Borrowing an idea from the great coach Marshall Goldsmith, you can take each of the ideas listed and plug it into the frame "Am I doing my best to..." For example,

  • Am I doing my best to empower my team?
  • Am I doing my best to communicate often?
  • Am I doing my best to give feedback?
  • Am I doing my best to listen to my team members?

The second is an upward feedback instrument for team members to give input to leaders. You can turn each of the items into a short statement that the team members would answer. For example:

  • I feel empowered in my role to get things done.
  • I get frequent communication about what's going on.
  • I get timely feedback that helps me improve my performance.
  • I feel heard when I give my opinion.

Such measurement tools will ground the concept of employee engagement in practical terms that can lead to learning, action, and real change.

Terrence Seamon helps his clients to tap into the power of an engaged organization. Follow him on twitter @tseamon and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Leading is a verb

I write about leadership quite a bit. It's a big part of the work I do with my corporate clients when they bring me in to help them with things like change, engagement, and culture.

The other day, a colleague of mine shared a reaction to the word "leadership," saying:

When I see the word leadership, I think of the quote from the author John LeCarre: "A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world." What ever happened to MBWA?

Good point.  Leading is a verb. A leader is known by the actions he or she takes.

Here are three actions of real leaders.

1. They ask for input - Leaders know that power is not in position. Rather, power is in posture. And the most powerful posture is humility. An open and receptive posture that invites and welcomes many voices and perspectives. "What are your thoughts?" is a positive power play with real potential. So, leaders actively seek the ideas of their team members. "What do you guys think we should do?" is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader. Quite the contrary. It's brilliance. Leaders ask for help. Leaders listen. And, in so doing, they engage and empower others.

2. They seek wisdom before they take action - Leaders take action based on what they believe is wise, that is, the right course for the right reasons. Where do they find this wisdom? While leaders often have good ideas, even the smartest know that they don't have all the ideas. There may be even better ideas out there among their constituents. The leader that seeks the wisdom of the people in the system is indeed a wise one.

3. They learn and change - Leaders are agents of change. And all change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. The Self. A wise leader would take a long and honest look in the mirror. And resolve to make the necessary changes in himself.

So, if you are thinking about being a more effective leader at work or outside of work, remember:  

Leading is a verb.  

Terrence Seamon helps individuals and companies in their struggle with change. His company is Facilitation Solutions. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and connect with him on LinkedIn.