Tag Archive: coaching

The Pre-Mortem Technique

During my research on how to make better decisions I came across the pre-mortem in the writings of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. He notes in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), that the pre-mortem technique is valuable in the decision-making process because it has two main advantages. PreMortemFirst, it overcomes “groupthink” that affects many teams once a decision appears to be made. When groupthink is in effect, the wisdom of a plan or decision is gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of disloyalty. The collective suppression of doubt contributes to the group’s overconfidence, which is often a tragic flaw.

Second, it unleashes the imagination of knowledgeable individuals in a much needed direction—the opposite direction of the decision. The principal advantage of the pre-mortem technique is that it legitimizes doubts and encourages everyone, even supporters of the decision, to search for possible threats not considered in the decision-making process. I immediately recognized it as an excellent technique for decision-making, risk management and general leadership.

Because this has proven to be of great value, I would like to share this excellent technique with you. The pre-mortem is easy to implement once the team reaches a decision or finalizes a course of action. Here’s what you need to do:

Step back and state the following: “Imagine that we are one year into the future. We implemented (the decision and plan) exactly as decided here today. The outcome was a total complete disaster. Take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.” If someone asks: “What do you mean by a total disaster?” Reply: “In any and every way imaginable it was a total failure.”

Then, explore all the possible reasons that the decision or plan failed. By taking this opposite approach to brainstorming the ideas, your team will likely realize that there are more points that need to be thought through before the plan is implemented.

Merit Career Development incorporates this technique into our leadership, strategic decision-making, risk management and project management classes and it is very well received.  In one recent class the participants clutched the flip charts from the group discussion. I saw this and asked what were they going to do with them? I was told that they were going to present the findings to upper management; they had never participated in such a rewarding experience.

Merit can help guide your team through various tools and techniques to optimize your team’s knowledge, skills and ability with techniques and tools such as pre-mortem and many others. Please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449 to schedule training to learn this and other valuable decision-making techniques.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/the-pre-mortem-technique/

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Essential Secret to Great Performance

The concept of emotional intelligence, EQ, has been studied for over 30 years. Research shows that high EQ predicts success beyond an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Emotionally intelligent leaders have significantly greater annual profit growth, increased customer satisfaction, and higher personnel retention. In management, the more senior the leader, the more the EQ matters. In sales and customer service capacities, the higher EQs correlate directly to success.

RedheadStudies show that lack of EQ may limit a person’s ability to achieve results. Lower EQ scores correlate with lower merit pay increases, lower job satisfaction and more burnout. Managers’ and supervisors’ EQ scores correlate with their performance ratings.

The definition of emotional intelligence has been the subject of ongoing debates; however, researchers all agree that it consists of two principal components. The first component; intrapersonal skills or self-awareness, is the ability to recognize one’s emotions as they occur, helping one gain self-control in potentially emotionally charged situations.

The second component, interpersonal skills or social awareness, is the ability to recognize others’ emotions. The ability to express empathy enables one to have more positive relationships and minimize unproductive conflict. EQ helps put people at ease, build and mend relationships, confront problem employees, and manage change.

It is important to note that emotional intelligence can be learned. Understanding and incorporating specific EQ skills, techniques, and behaviors can help improve both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill sets. An intra-personal skill, self-monitoring, can help one can limit or minimize emotional hijacking. Let‘s look at this closer…

Emotional IntelligenceWe all have specific words or phrases that are steeped in emotion. During the 1960s and 70s, the term “nuclear power” raised a great deal of emotion—both positive and negative. Similarly today we have emotionally charged words or phrases such as “gun control”, terrorism, and consumer privacy. It is important to recognize one’s own emotionally charged phrases and stop the emotional hijacking that is about to take place.

By recognizing our emotional responses when we hear a cue by self-monitoring, we can prevent emotional hijacking before it takes place. Stopping to recognize the emotional trigger is an important first step. Taking a deep breath, and/or silently counting to 10 can help us regain composure and react in a rational manner.

As for interpersonal skills, empathy helps us develop more positive relationships with others at work. Increasing our display of empathy enables us to connect with another person on an emotional level, thus allowing us to develop a meaningful, trusting relationship.

The question remains, however, how much emotional intelligence do you have—what is your baseline? Do you have an EQ deficiency, or are you well above average? There is only one way to know your EQ baseline and that is to take an assessment. Many exist on the Internet, some free others fee-based, however they may not stand up to statistical reliability and validity standards.

We invite you to take our free online self-assessment http://www.meritcd.com/assessments/eq/ and see how you compare to others; it takes less than 15 minutes. You will receive a report comparing you to the general population and you will know your starting point. With your baseline in hand you can select appropriate techniques and build your self-awareness and social awareness skill sets, and improve your emotional intelligence.

Would you like some guidance to improve your staff’s EQ? Merit offers half-day and full day workshops that help participants understand, identify their baseline, and strengthen their emotional intelligence. With exercises and interactive assessment tools, this workshop is engaging and life changing. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/emotional-intelligence-eq-the-essential-secret-to-great-performance/

Crossfit Training; Your Body and Your Mind

The start of a new year brings with it many changes, professionally as well as personally. Many of us choose to start the New Year by making goals and resolutions, whether resolving to stick to a budget, or picking up a new hobby. Mine? I’m in the majority of the population: lose weight. To help me achieve my resolution I’ve started an exercise program called CrossFit training.

What is CrossFit training? The CrossFit training program, as explained by its founder Greg Glassman, is a system of performing functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that optimizes physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains: Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

Glowing_ManThe CrossFit program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Athletes are trained to perform at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. This type of fitness is demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring overall physical prowess.

CrossFit training benefits the body by training your individual muscles over time to work together to provide an overall greater level of personal fitness than can be achieved by only conditioning one set of muscles at a time. This got me thinking: are there other areas in my life where I can use this approach? How can I “crossfit” my skills to become better at my job? How can I crossfit new learning opportunities to become a more valuable employee?

How can CrossFit training the body carry over to crossfit training your mind? If we consider our skills, hobbies, and responsibilities in our careers as muscles, we can make the analogy that those skills are muscles needing exercise. Some muscles are used more than others; some are barely used at all. All too often in our jobs, there is a set way of doing things that is like performing a repetitive workout. However, the brain is a muscle that like all muscles must be exercised to be kept in peak condition.

Modern cognitive psychology has demonstrated that the brain is not a static entity. Rather, the brain is continually and constantly developing and pruning pathways across skillsets, linking new knowledge to existing knowledge, or destroying old pathways which aren’t utilized to make room for new synaptic links. You can take advantage of this process by crossfit training your brain with a new skill or area of knowledge, which is seemingly unrelated to your existing career or job responsibilities.

people teaching each otherHow can crossfit training your mind benefit you in your workplace? Cross-functional training has many benefits for organizations as well as employees. At an organizational level, cross training skillsets help safeguard the organization against widening skills gaps. Organizations that cross-train employees across a range of functions put themselves in a good position to prevent sudden shortfalls and manage surges in specific areas when there is a spike in demand. On an individual level, cross training enables employees to explore and assess alternative interests and abilities. It also enables managers to identify and nurture employees who show exceptional talent in a particular function. Cross-training yourself to learn new skills, can increase your employability and enable you to stay relevant.

A few examples …learning the components of Strategic Leadership as a Project Manager (PM) can help reduce the probability of failure by sharpening leadership skills that enable the PM to better understand, motivate and build consensus with other members of a project team.  Or, learning to identify the role emotions and subconscious biases play in the decision making process can enable an individual to make more effective decisions. Learning Risk Management skills can enable a Human Resources manager to better anticipate potential problems and know how to create effective solutions before a problem arises.

In 2016, give consideration to learning things outside the scope of your role or responsibilities. Even if learning new skills may not seem directly related to your current work position, you will be increasing your value. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without these new skills.

If you are seeking to reduce your organization’s gaps in skills, improve cooperation and productivity through better communications and decision-making knowledge, or provide some morale-improving, team-building workshops, let’s talk. With a wide variety of courses, delivery techniques and a highly skilled training team, we will help you achieve your training goals for 2016 and beyond.

Contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or at jwynne@meritcd.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/crossfit-training-your-body-and-your-mind/

Can Everyone Be a Leader?

Collective LeadershipIn recent years, a growing number of organizations have changed the way they are structured. The old top-down way of doing business, in which management wields all the power, is increasingly giving way to a collective leadership style, in which all employees are involved in setting and reaching company goals.

Some of the most successful companies—like Google, Apple, and Zappos, for example—are comprised of employees who are passionate about their company’s business strategy and working toward its goals. They are also engaged in actively promoting their company’s policies

Collective leadership is one way to increase employee growth and productivity. Blurring the lines between boss and worker, it empowers the latter—and leads to creativity, team building and openness, allowing employees more ownership of their work, while maintaining a level of discipline that ensures the job gets done.

Leaders who practice this type of collaboration believe that their power doesn’t come from their title or position, but rather that the group is stronger when everyone shares information and each individual is encouraged to offer ideas and suggestions.

The challenge for the leader is to create an environment where diverse individuals can work together effectively toward those shared goals. To do so, keep these points in mind:

  • The manager must trust the employees and their judgment, and make sure the employees know it.
  • Employees need to be capable of achieving the stated goals.
  • Employees must believe in what they are doing and know they are members of the team.
  • The manager needs to recognize that employees from different generations may have different work styles and know how to blend those differences for team productivity.

A manager who practices collective leadership is easy to spot. First and foremost, she doesn’t dictate to her team, rather, she brainstorms with them, and they arrive at solutions together. This leader knows how to allocate time and resources to foster this collaboration, allowing team members to hold various roles in which their responsibilities evolve.

She doesn’t run around “putting out fires,” instead, she gets to the root of an issue, offering immediate and ongoing feedback. She coaches all year round, not just at performance review time. And she ensures her team members are cross-trained, trusting them and allowing them to be accountable for themselves.

Of course, it’s not simple or easy, but there are some guidelines for creating a collective leadership style in your workplace, according to Marion Chamberlain in the Huffington Post.

  • Rotate leadership responsibilities, giving everyone the chance to understand what it means to “lead.”
  • Educate everyone equally, giving them access to the same information.
  • Don’t promote just to promote. Let individuals learn new tasks and move forward in those they are best at.
  • Offer good salaries, benefits, and additional perks, so employees will want to keep advancing their skill set.
  • Allow employees to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable, based on clearly stated guidelines.

The collective leadership approach has grown with the increase in international competition and the shrinking of the global marketplace. Employees want to have more responsibility and autonomy in their work, as they actively engage and work as a team to create and set goals, and to achieve them.

This is especially true of the generation born between 1981 and 2000, the Millennials, who, in general, like to interact and collaborate with their colleagues, using a high degree of creativity to accomplish goals. This is a major divergence from the Baby Boomers who thrive on direct orders and chain of command, closed doors and annual reviews.

A truly collaborative environment is creative and innovative, and must tap into the best qualities of all the diverse individuals of all ages in its workforce. Putting at least some of these techniques in place can be a smart business decision that pays dividends over the long haul.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/can-everyone-be-a-leader/

How to Coach an Underperformer

How to coach an underperformerIt can be one of the most uncomfortable situations a project manager faces: You have a team member who simply isn’t delivering. Their work may be late or poor. They skip meetings or don’t file their progress reports in a timely manner. For whatever the reason, their role in the effort hasn’t gelled, and the gap is causing everyone else to scramble.

Most PMs dread such scenarios. After all, it’s never easy to call out someone on their performance. But when the need arises, you have no choice but to address the issues quickly and firmly. If ignored, personnel challenges can spread as other team members shoulder extra work and become distracted from their own priorities. Ultimately, the project’s quality, schedule and budget can be threatened.

The conversation is made all the more awkward by the unique relationship PMs usually have with their team – a position that’s more about dotted lines than formal reporting structures. When the underperformer isn’t a direct report, the PM must take the approach of an interested and invested colleague, a fellow team member whose focus is on solutions rather than blame.

Talk to the person. Your first order of business is to meet with the person and examine the issues you face. Express your concerns, but make clear that you’re beginning a conversation and looking for a solution, not issuing edicts. Be sure to get an acknowledgement of the problem and an agreement that it has to be resolved.

Be clear. Explain the ramifications of the person’s lagging performance. For example, by missing his own deadlines, he’s holding up the work of his teammates. Or, because she’s skimping on quality control, her colleagues have to put in extra time to identify and fix problems on top of meeting their own responsibilities. Be honest about what you’re seeing, and specific in your observations.

Understand the problem. The issues may be symptoms of a larger problem. Your team member may be facing challenges at home, with his boss, or something else. Whatever the underlying cause, it’s important to understand the forces that are at work here. After all, you can’t address a matter until you know its dynamics.

Have ideas. Good project managers always have solutions in mind. That’s as true when it comes to working with people as it is when facing logistical or technical hurdles. As you come to understand the problem, develop approaches for addressing it. It might be the person has too many competing priorities and needs clarity. There could be a personality conflict with another team member. Whatever the issue, proactively work with the person to develop an approach that will get their efforts back on track.

Put in the time. Coaching people takes time – sometimes a lot of it. Chances are, a single conversation isn’t going to do the trick. Set up regular one-on-ones with the person so you can track her progress and follow up on previous discussions. Develop metrics so you have an agreed-upon mechanism to measure her performance until the situation is resolved.

Remember, this process should be interactive. Encourage the team member to develop his own ideas, and listen to them carefully. Sometimes, all a person needs is an opportunity to talk things through in order to get refocused.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/how-to-coach-an-underperformer/

The Right Leadership for the Right Situation

Situational LeadershipDo you change your style, and adapt to the abilities of your employees?

If you are in a management position, you probably won’t have trouble imagining the following scenario.

Boss to subordinate: Please enter these statistics into the database while I’m at my meeting.

Subordinate: Sure thing!

Two hours later, boss returns to find subordinate had either 1) entered statistics in unintelligible ways or 2) had done nothing because he wasn’t sure of the process.

Can the boss get angry and upset? Sure. Should he? How would you react?

Leaders must be sure to take a few steps before delegating any tasks to their employees or they risk the above situation—wasted time and effort and upset people all around.

The act of taking the time to determine the maturity and training levels of the people being supervised and then guiding them accordingly is known as Situational Leadership. Instead of using just one style, successful leaders adapt their styles to the training and experience of those they lead, based on the job that needs to be done.

Leaders can choose from among four leadership styles:

  1. Tell: The leader tells his group what to do and how to do it.
  2. Sell: Leaders give information and direction, but do more in the way of “selling” their ideas in order to get people engaged.
  3. Participate: The leader works closely with the team, sharing the decision-making process and focusing on the relationship with his group.
  4. Delegate: Leaders hand off most of the responsibility. They oversee the progress, but are less involved in routine decisions.

There really is no single best style of leadership. The most effective leadership is task-relevant and the most successful leaders are those who adapt their leadership styles to the maturity, and education and/or experience, of an individual. By maturity, we mean the individual’s ability to set attainable goals and the willingness to take responsibility.

John Juzbasich, CEO of Merit Career Development, says that Situational Leadership is actually a simple model and easy to follow. “Look at the task at hand and the individuals on your team and choose what style to use based on their level of readiness. Know your people well and know how to work with them.”

The choice of leadership style—telling, selling, participating or delegating—is always made relative to the task-at-hand and the person’s readiness to perform.

The four levels of employee readiness are categorized in the following ways—from lowest to highest.

  1. Lack skills, knowledge, or confidence. These employees need to be developed so it’s important to give them stretch assignments. But it does mean you’ll need to give more support, clear direction, and oversight.
  2. Willing, but skills not there yet. The willingness is there, but these people will need to develop the skills to do the job well. Be prepared to do more handholding and teaching.
  3. Have the skills but not the confidence. These people are ready and willing and have a better skill set, but are nervous. Meet with them, coach them and give as much support as they need to feel confident.
  4. High levels of confidence and strong skills. Sounds perfect, but you still need to be available for guidance and input, just give them the breathing room they need.

Can these levels change? Sure.

With good coaching, readiness level can improve more rapidly than you expected. Likewise, someone can be fully motivated and engaged and then have a flat tire or have an argument with their teenager over breakfast, and suddenly they seem to go backwards in their ability to perform.

An aware leader would recognize that something was wrong, that the situation had changed, and would adapt her style to meet it.

Many variables, including personal issues and changes within the company, can cause shifts in employee readiness, and the effective leader must continually assess the best way to present projects to his or her subordinates. The ability to assess an employee’s readiness level and adaptability are hallmarks of the situational leader. The leader’s level of success will reflect how well he or she has learned those lessons.


For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/are-you-a-situational-leader/