Management Success Tip #133: Managing Your Remote Team: Keep Your Eye on the Goal

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Working remotely is no longer uncommon. Like it or not, many of the members of your team – if not all, are telecommuting.

How do you get people to work together, to collaborate, to accomplish company goals, when they aren’t even in the same country, much less the same building?

One of the keys, according to Kevin Eikenberry (Remarkable Learning, Leadership Tip, Jan. 2014), is to have clear goals:

What is the team trying to accomplish? Do they all know, and can they all consistently describe, the goals? What are you doing to remind people of these goals and keep them in front of them? While this is always important, it is especially so when people are not in consistent contact with each other. As a leader you must make sure the goals are clear and everyone is focused on moving towards them.”

Dictionary.com defines a goal as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.”

Which means, that you have three goal-oriented issues to define, discuss with, and remind your remote team of:

– What is the result we’re looking to achieve?

– What is the effort required?

– What is the direction/s in which we should be aiming?

Explore these questions with your remote team regularly, and you’ll have a much easier time of keeping them together, collaborating, and effective.

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Management Success Tip #131: A Better Approach to Employee Feedback: Adopt the 5:1 Magic Feedback Ratio

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You know that giving feedback is essential to your employees’ ability to perform well, but you’re not always sure about how to best go about it.

The “praise sandwich” – where a manager begins feedback with a dose of praise, then offers the criticism, only to end with another layer of praise – has been much maligned as leading to weak management, among other criticisms.

Unfortunately, some managers have turned to giving purely negative feedback, to the exclusion of positive, in order not to seem “weak.” But this approach weakens the employee-manager relationship itself, hardly the desired outcome.

What to do?  Don’t worry so much about the “sandwich,” focus instead on the ratio of positive to negative comments.

University of Washington psychologist John Gottman has noted in his study of long-term relationships, that in the most successful ones the ratio of positive to negative interactions is 5:1  – even in the midst of a conflict.

That 5:1 ratio has been observed by countless others. It’s an excellent guideline.

Beyond that, put into practice Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s findings: that praising persistent efforts, even in situations where the employee has failed, helps build resilience and determination, while praising talent and ability results in risk-aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.

Management Success Tip #118: Don’t Dumb Down: Be Succinct, Be Clear!

Too often, in an effort to make things clear, we dumb-down our directives. But dumbing down isn’t the same thing as insuring clarity.

Don’t Dumb Down: Be Succinct, Be Clear!

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Clarity comes from being logical, succinct and to the point.

Jacob Kache in a recent Lead Change post sums it up well:

“Respect your employees’ intelligence. Maybe you got to where you are because you’re inherently smarter than those with whom you work. Maybe you got the position because your grandpa is the CEO. Either way, you need to remember that those who work under you are just as qualified to do their jobs as you are to do yours…As such, you don’t need to treat them like ignorant children when explaining complex issues. In fact, keep the “explaining” part to a minimum, otherwise you end up with day-long meetings and employees with dead eyes and crushed spirits.”

Communicate in bullets, in steps, use short sentences. Make sure your door is genuinely open, and that your employees know they can come to you for clarification if needed, and, as Kache says, your employees will: “…get the information that they need, and you won’t have insulted their intelligence by talking to them as though they were a bunch of drooling morons.”

Management Success Tip #103: A Performance-Enhancing Question to Ask Employees: Are You Happy?

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You may believe that asking your employees flat-out “Are you happy?” opens the floodgates to a litany of complaints, or would result in a confused “Uh, yeah” as in “Why are you asking? If I say ‘no’ will I get fired?” An exercise in futility, all around.

Wrong! Allison Rimm reports that leaders who ask their employees how they feel receive “priceless information that helps them retain their best employees and optimize their productivity.”

For example, according to Rimm:

“Daniel Parent, director of field human resources at video game retailer GameStop, has a recurring appointment on his schedule that says, “Ask employees how happy they are at work and what can I do to make them happier.” Daniel has learned over the years that simply asking those two questions indicates to his group that they have his support. Furthermore, he learns what their real issues are so he can provide them with meaningful direction.”

By asking this question, Daniel discovered that one of his employees was concerned about her ability to care for her new baby while maintaining her work performance, and together, Daniel and his employee came up with a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

Rimm concluded: “The small investment of time he [Daniel] makes in asking his employees how happy they are has paid off many times over when he considers what it would cost to replace any member of his team.”

Happy employees do indeed make for engaged, productive employees!

Management Success Tip #97: Want Engaged Productive Employees? You Gotta Have Heart!

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Good management isn’t for wusses. You won’t have happy, engaged, productive employees unless you have the emotional courage to lead them with heart as well as head.

No, that doesn’t mean to become a sentimental, sender of cute-animal-emails. What it means, according to Peter Bregman, is, among other things, “To be vulnerable and open to challenge and criticism… to be willing to consider anything. This requires a tremendous amount of confidence. The kind of confidence that allows them [leaders] to be questioned by others — even take blame and feel threatened — without becoming defensive…

“To put the good of the company above their own department, team, or agenda. They must be good-hearted, mutually respectful, and gracious, resisting the urge to dominate, take the upper hand, or shine at the expense of others. Part of being generous with others also means taking an interest in, learning about, and offering opinions regarding the other team members’ functions.”

In other words, be as interested in your employees’ opinions and concerns, as you are about your own.

And that’s the heart of the matter.

Management Success Tip #85: Success Favors The Optimist: Be One!

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Pessimists are often portrayed as realists, but here’s the skinny: research consistently shows that optimists live longer, happier, healthier lives, and – more to the point of your business – outperform their own talents.

I love that one! Think of it, just by being optimistic you can do better at work, and encourage others to do better at work, than your talents would warrant. It’s like donning a Superman cape without the discomfort of the phone booth.

How do you know if you’re being pessimistic? According to “Learned Optimism” author Marty Seligman, when you’re being pessimistic, you’re operating according to the three “P’s” – you see situations as Personal (“It’s worse for me”), Pervasive (“Everything is now worse”) and Permanent (“It will always be this way”).

So when you fail to meet your departmental quota, you think it’s Personal (worse for you than for your co-worker who also failed to meet the quota), Pervasive (my whole job is now in jeopardy, nothing I do is right) and Permanent (I’m a failure, I’ll never reach my goals).

The good news is (really? There’s good news here?): once you know what the 3 “P’s” are, you can interrupt the cascade of pessimistic thoughts at any “P.” For example, Personal: “John weathered his low quota month, he and I aren’t really much different.” Pervasive: “I’m still contributing during team meetings, just the other day, one of my ideas was incorporated into the team strategy.” Permanent: “I don’t like falling behind, but I can improve. I can figure out what I need to learn or do differently to get back on track.”

Pessimism is a success-killer. Mega-successes like Donald Trump may sound over-the-top in their zealous descriptions of their accomplishments, but really, all they are doing, is using the immense force of optimism to power their achievements.

So can you!

Management Success Tip #80: Construct a Successful Praise Sandwich: Be Specific!

Giving negative feedback is rarely a manager’s idea of a good time. Most managers will avoid doing so, until things get so bad it’s unavoidable, which only makes the interaction that much more painful.

So when the idea of a “praise sandwich” came along, it seemed like a really good idea.

You start by saying something positive to your underperforming employee, like “You’ve been doing a great job,” then tuck in the problem, “But you turn in your work half-finished” and slap on a positive ending; “I know you’ll do better now.”

Fat chance! As Ayelet Fishbach, professor at the University of Chicago, has demonstrated in her research, people’s take-away from the praise sandwich is “I’m doing just great.”

With that, managers have been tempted to throw away the praise sandwich and just go with the criticism. But that doesn’t work so well, either.

The praise sandwich works beautifully, in terms of helping workers improve their performance, when it is specific. That’s the key. Specificity.

For example: “You made a good beginning with Project X, and I need you to complete the rest of it with the same thoroughness. Review your guidelines for this project and follow them carefully. I appreciate your cooperation.”

It’s still a praise sandwich – positive followed by negative topped off with positive – but it’s specific to the task at hand, not general. Such specificity may take more effort on your part, but it will generate far better results.