Organizational Development

Organization development (OD) is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and/or efficiency and/or to enable the organization to achieve its strategic goals. OD theorists and practitioners define it in various ways. Its multiplicity of definition reflects the complexity of the discipline and is responsible for its lack of understanding.

10 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews Not Suck

 

April 4, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Performance reviews are dreaded beasts of burden for managers and direct reports alike. They make people feel small. They reduce people to banal check boxes and categories. But they don’t have to be like this. If you are still marking people as ‘fair’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ in your annual form, you should really rethink your system. While this article is not about re-hauling your system, it is about helping you cope with whatever system you currently have in place. This article is about the universal principles you can deploy for better delivery, greater impact and ultimately stronger performance. Adopt these and you will exponentially improve the experience of giving and receiving your performance reviews on both sides of the table. Neglect them, and well, the experience will suck.

1.    It starts with intentions. You need to check your intention going into the meeting. You need to ask yourself if you are sincerely interested in learning and understanding what drives your employee or just being right. Do a serious check in with yourself and then really try to see the person for who they are. Leave your agenda at the door.  Remember, it’s about behaviors not personalities.

2.    Fail to plan, plan to fail. This is the worst time to wing it dude. You have to be ready if you get hit with information you were not expecting and is important to consider. You have to be ready to be flexible to create a mutually beneficial strategy if problems are surfaced you were not expecting. If you think you’re heading into a one-way conversation, you’ve already lost. If you can’t meet their expectations, be ready to acknowledge the importance of what they are saying, and then explain what you need to do and why. Be prepared for salary increase requests and revelations you may have not been aware of before. Don’t act surprised. Act curious.

3.    It’s about facts, not fiction. This is not the time for your opinions. Don’t let it become a case of he said, she said. If you share your opinion, you are opening the door for a counter opinion. Instead, be prepared with facts and evidence to support your case. As a best practice, keep a log of performance pluses and deltas throughout the year. Keep copies of related work you want to use as examples. Anticipate and be prepared for counter arguments but always present the facts.

4.    Emotions will get you in trouble. If you feel emotional or emotions begin to creep in, reschedule. This is not the time or place to emote. Emotions have no place in a performance reviews so you would do well to manage them accordingly. Being able to do this means the difference between responding or reacting, which can make the difference in a calm or chaotic performance review experience.

5.    Strengths and weaknesses are so yesterday. Can we not do better than this people? Seriously? Yes we can. Most performance reviews focus on strengths and weaknesses. Instead of strengths and weaknesses, focus on values and opportunities. It’s a better framework that invites a deeper understanding of what motivates the people you work with and it will help you coach and lead them to better performance outcomes. You’re welcome.

6.    Zip that lip. I’m always surprised by how little people listen. Listening is the most underrated element of communication. You can glean so much about what’s going on in the mind of your direct reports by listening and asking a few strategic and well placed questions. Trust me. The intel you gather through listening is indispensable and far more valuable than whatever you have to say. So zip it and learn.

7.    Values eat everything else for lunch. Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. Values drive engagement, decisions, behavior, and well, you name it. A person’s emotional reaction is the easiest way to pinpoint a value. Negative emotions signal violated values. If the person becomes more emotional and animated in speaking about a topic, that’s because it’s important to them. There is a value hiding in there. Listen for repeated themes. Mine them for gold.

8.    Change the frame. People are locked into their own frame of reference. Change their frame, that is to say, change their perspective, and you’ll change their mind. Try asking powerful coaching questions: What if we could see this situation differently? What would a more positive perspective on this situation look like? Some people’s perspective is so intractable you may find yourself beating your head against the wall. Some people just aren’t willing to explore perspectives that are outside the realm of their own experience. It happens.  But at least you have made the effort if you try to get them to a new perspective. Recognize when the conversation should be terminated in order to maintain a respectful relationship and move on rather than trying to force your own viewpoint on the situation.

9.    At the end of the day, we work for the same place. Getting to agreement is not that hard. It’s just a process that’s well managed. Put everything on the table on both side and then look for the common ground. You don’t have to agree on everything but you both have mutual goals that intersect at some level. That intersection is what’s best for the enterprise and it’s where you should start looking for common ground. Sometimes you will need to reach to a higher level to do this so don’t try to get there too early. Make sure that the person feels sufficiently heard first. That’s your threshold for readiness. Once you cross that threshold, most people are congenial.

10.            Lock in the accountability.  To make sure everyone is walking away with a common understanding, solidify some action steps with clear timelines for who, when, how and how much of the behavior change you expect (did I say it’s about behavior?) Create opportunities to check in regularly during the year on the accountability action plan and support your direct report in maintaining their momentum to success. Provide more coaching support as needed.

A final word…

Performance reviews are generally not done well. People wait all year to provide critical feedback. This is a mistake. Nothing should be said at this stage that is a surprise to the employee because they should be working in a feedback rich environment that is constantly nurturing their growth. But we all know that’s not reality. So many workplaces suffer from so many dysfunctions. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the culture supports a more progressive approach to performance reviews, then much of the above is already baked in to your day-to-day operations. If you are not, arm yourself with these tips and at least create a better experience for you and your direct report.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

2 Easy Steps to Transform from Manager to Coach

March 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” ~ Amelia Earhart

At the core, coaching is a more powerful form of communication and engagement. This richer form of communication begins by asking better, well crafted questions that focus not on the problem or the solution but on the individual and their process.

If you are a manager, this means getting off of your agenda for a moment and taking the time to better understand your direct report’s point of view. It means respecting their point of view and then together, co-creating a new possibility that would support your shared goals. It is about providing them with the space as well as the ability to tell you what they want or need. And this can happen during every conversation you have.

Coaching is the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from garden variety supervisors. Here are two steps that form the foundation of coaching to transform you from manager to coach.

Step 1: Ask Powerful Questions

To ensure you have a solid foundation to build from, you will need to start with a baseline of best practices, and then, over time you can make it your own by leveraging your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.

Coaching engages a process of mindful conversation through powerful questions.

The right questions tend to show up naturally and organically within each conversation. The best coaches have attuned their listening skills to find the right question at the most appropriate time to unlock a key insight. This is both an art and a skill that must be practiced over and over to do well.

When this process of mindful inquiry is deployed against problems in a consistent manner not only are the ideas and solutions generated more meaningful, but there is a level of self-reliance and empowerment created in the individual that has lasting impact.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”

2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”

3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

Step 2: Foster Action and Accountability

Gaining insight into your own process is one side of the coin. It is half the story. The other side is acting on the solutions you generate.

In coaching, the desired solution is generated by the individual, not the coach, as they begin to better understand their own process. The magic of this method of engaging employees is that when they generate the solution, they also own it. And if they own it, we’re more apt to act on it.

Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies solutions and actions towards desired results.  Holding people accountable is about being clear, following up regularly, and having honest conversations when their commitment is wavering. Again, their process is more important than what they did or didn’t do. In coaching, you are always seeking to tap the roots, not swing from branch to branch.

A Final Word

At most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally trained to do. To foster higher levels of satisfaction and engagement, managers and employees should be having regular communication around growth and development. The best method to do this is coaching. It’s a powerful experience to create a resonant connection with another person and help them to achieve something they care about and to become more of who they want to be.

Without these regular conversations, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention. Starting today, you can be significantly more effective as a manager — and enjoy your job more — by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members.

To do so effectively, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

Starting today, create and sustain a coaching partnership that is focused on moving forward positively, listening deeply, asking powerful questions and building accountability.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

You Can’t Be A Great Leader If You Can’t Do These 5 Things

March 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

All leaders agree that certain leadership skills are must-haves in order to achieve the long-term results you desire. Here are the 5 that make my list in order of importance:

1.      Managing People

Managing people is part of leadership, but it’s a part that may not come naturally to some. In almost every job, people skills are every bit as important as technical, or hard skills. Inevitably, this means managing people to overcome interpersonal conflict, helping staff with their own goal setting, time management, and collaboration challenges, encouraging staff to diagnose their own performance, and establishing a culture of accountability for the team.

In short, the best leaders know how manage people to bring out their best as individuals and as a collective unit in order to get the results they want.

2.      Communicating Effectively

While technical skills are important, skills such as being able to communicate effectively are indispensible to you as a leader. We spend large portions of our careers learning the hard skills required to do our jobs, but relatively little time learning how to build effective relationships, communicate clearly, listen actively or communicate to persuade. These skills are critical to leadership and should not be seen as merely ‘soft’ skills.

In short, the best leaders use the full gamut of their communication skills to get the results they want.

3.      Empowering People

The best leader knows how to make staff shine, by delegating responsibilities according to each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses. They use an effective delegation model because they know that a leader’s ability to delegate will have a significant impact on driving business results. This means knowing how to define the span of freedom and responsibility in executing tasks for direct reports, empowering with clarity, ensuring staff take personal ownership for delivering on commitments

In short, the best leaders know how to best nudge, motivate and deploy their staff’s strengths to get the results they want.

4.      Leading Meetings

Leading effective and productive meetings is one of the most important skills a leader needs to have. This may seem like a superficial skill to focus on, but consider how many meetings are run daily in an organization and how many are in fact ineffective. Almost all meetings will be run by someone in a leadership role. You need to step back and consider how effectively organized those meetings are and look at the productive outcome. This means having the ability to engage people and knowing how to get everyone involved and participating in the meeting topic. It means managing meetings effectively, so each member is heard and getting to the main meeting points quickly. It means staying on time and on task, focusing on core objectives and limiting distractions, and perhaps most importantly, it means generating actionable results.

In short, the best leaders know how to hold productive meetings and use the format to get the results they want.

5. Managing Change

While you can’t know exactly what the future will bring, there is one thing you can train leaders to face: Change. Even seasoned leaders who may not be undergoing a complete culture transformation may be challenged by change management. These are difficult choices to make. How do you educate others about a change? How do you choose whether to try a different change tactic? How do you assess your own impact toward change? How, what and where do you communicate about the change?

The best leaders know that they must get everyone on board to share the same perception about the change effort to get the results they want.

A Final Word…

The Failure of the field of Learning and Development is not having taught people the bedrock principles about people, leadership and management.  Yes, people are complex but at the same time, there is a ton of research about what works and what doesn’t. And as long as you apply the research and your own experience in a thoughtful and intentional way, you will get the results you want.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The One Secret All Great Leaders Know

March 21, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Dr. Peter F. Drucker

If you only know one thing about leadership, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at meaningful work. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members be engaged and experience progress at meaningful work.

As a leader, your obsession should be keeping people engaged in their work. Countless studies have shown that companies with higher rates of employee engagement have been shown to meaningfully outperform those with lower engagement.

Engaged employees at work in a vital environment is not accident however. You must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

You may win battles, but without engaged employees, you will lose the war.

The best leaders understand that to realize their higher purpose, to create value for all their stakeholders, and to win in the marketplace, they must win in the workplace. They understand that if you only focus on results, then it can be very easy to get distracted from building the team you need to get the results you want.

Here are 10 things great leaders do clearly and consistently to help employees be engaged and make progress at meaningful work:

1.      They continuously confirm that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

2.      They are relentless about motivating people and giving people energy to their best work.

3.      They create an environment where high performers feel unmistakably valued for their input and their output.

4.      They are uncompromising about maintaining standards of quality but do so by caring about their employees.

5.      They acknowledge mistakes and don’t blame others or take credit for their work.

6.      They understand that a good plan well-executed beats a perfect plan poorly-executed.

7.      The deliver on results consistently and repeatedly.

8.      They are role models for the standards they evangelize.

9.      They build and inspire trust.

10.  They hold others accountable and are accountable to themselves.

 A Final Word

In my over 30 years of leadership experience teaching and coaching leaders at various stages in their careers, locally, nationally, and internationally, I’ve developed a very clear worldview on what leadership behaviors contribute to success. This comes from my own leadership experience as well as hundreds of research articles, books on the topic and my observations of other leaders I have worked with. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

In a nutshell, I’ve observed that the very best leaders are masters at inspiring, influencing and setting up the structures, processes and environments that help highly valued people maintain their engagement and make progress at meaningful work. That is how they win every time.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Essential Things All Great Managers Do

March 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers get a bad rap the world over. Meddling managers are seen as a distraction to real work rather than as facilitators of strategy, collaboration and career growth. The truth is that bad managers are actually a liability and good ones a commodity.

If you are a manager and if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work in a positive work environment. It is not rocket science. People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization. While I usually make a distinction between the two, for the purposes of this post I’ll be using manager and leader interchangeably. Let’s take a look.

1.      Great Managers are Great Coaches who engage in regular coaching conversations with their team members helping them articulate their goals and challenges through powerful open ended questions that help individuals tap into their own inner creativity and resources. They co-create and sustain a developmental alliance that supports them in taking ownership over their own learning, and helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

2.      Great Managers are Great Connectors who understand the importance of relationships, motivation, and meaning. They know what drives each person and gives their inner work life purpose. They help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and they provide timely feedback when there is misalignment between the individual and the organization in order to help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. They are also focused on growing their internal and external networks because they recognize that these connections are a source of opportunities they can leverage on behalf of their teams and organizations.

3.      Great Managers are Great Talent Agents who select top performers and focus on their strengths. The craziest thing I see organizations do is hire people and then put them in roles that expose their weaknesses rather than exploit their strengths.  Once exposed, they create performance goals around these weaknesses with elaborate schemes to ‘improve’ them that just turn a potentially star performer into Sisyphus. Great managers help people find systems, both personal and organizational, that help them deploy and maximize their strengths.

4.      Great Managers are Great Communicators which is not to say they talk all the time. Yes they are clear when they communicate and can motivate and inspire others through their speech. But just as importantly, they have well honed listening behaviors. They know that listening to and respecting others helps shape organizational culture, builds working relationships and creates the opportunity for impact. They get that work is all about relationships and that listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

5.      Great Managers are Great Delegators who ensure even allocation of work and understand that employees are more effective performers when they feel challenged and stretched by assignments that help them grow. Great managers do not micromanage but make sure that the staff person understands exactly what is expected of them and what success looks like. Once they have communicated clearly about progress milestones and deadlines, they step back and give employees the freedom to do their job how they think it is best done, so long as the desired result is reached.

6.      Great Managers are Great Role Models who earn the respect of others because they lead by example and act as servant leaders. If they demand that their employees work more, it is because they work more. If they demand punctuality, it is because they are punctual. If they require stronger commitment, it is because they are fully committed. They cultivate a culture of trust based on their integrity infused behavior and they strive to develop other leaders rather than hog the glory. In short, they walk the talk of great leadership.

A Final word…

Leadership and management are not simple. If they were, great leaders and managers would not be so highly valued and such a rare commodity. The 6 traits highlighted above are by no means exhaustive. Great managers must excel at seeing the big picture, create loyalty, exercise emotional intelligence, create engagement and do much, much more. There are many personal qualities a great leader must develop over the course of their life and career. But these 6 traits are essential. I have never seen a manager succeed at being a great leader without them.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

3 Powerful Ways to Foster A Positive Work Environment

March 2, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expect it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” John Maxwell.

I want to start this article with a little story about my son. He was 10 years old when we were having a conversation that just blew me away. For some reason that I can’t recall now, he all of a sudden piped up with this statement: “Well, everything is about atmosphere anyway.” The statement was so all encompassing and filled with surety I had to explore further. “What do you mean,” I asked. “Think about it,” he said, “atmosphere is the most important thing at home and at work.” He went on to explain how parents determine the atmosphere of the home and how leaders determine the atmosphere of a work environment. He essentially argued that the atmosphere we create has the biggest impact on happiness and productivity.

I couldn’t agree more.

The culture within an organization plays a large role in whether the company is providing a happy and healthy environment in which to work. When the interaction between leaders and their people is constructive, employees will make a greater contribution to team communication and collaboration, and will also be encouraged to accomplish the mission and objectives assigned by the organization. The level of work satisfaction with their jobs and the level of team satisfaction can have a powerful impact on individual performance.

The culture is, ultimately, a reflection of the values of those leading the organization. If your values as a leader are to be inclusive and give everyone a voice, this will be reflected in the way you manage meetings. If you value work-life balance, your employees are likely benefiting from this through specific programs you have implemented. The core values of an organization begin with its leadership, which will then evolve to a leadership style. When leadership is able to consistently communicate and promote the organizational ethos, values, and priorities to employees, their acknowledgement and acceptance of it can influence their work behavior and attitudes.

1.      Demonstrate Empathy – defined as the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others, empathy is more than mere sympathy. It is a key part of social and emotional intelligence and critical to being an effective leader. Transformational leaders show their teams that they care about their needs and achievements. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy. So do active listening skills. Good listeners foster trust which in turn fosters greater engagement. Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, and other professional development opportunities.

2.      Show Gratitude – Show appreciation for your team members as a routine part of your day-to-day interactions. Act on the belief that employees will do their best if their contributions to the team are recognized. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Criticizing employees publicly can create a sense of embarrassment among all who are present and diminish their respect for you as a leader.

3.      Reinforce Purpose – Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Research shows that employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees. They are also healthier, happier and more productive. Explain to employees exactly where they fit into the company structure and how they contribute to the success of the business. Institutionalize purpose driven conversations.

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to create a workplace atmosphere that better serves people, and ultimately impacts communities and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your overall health and well being too. Think about it. Everything is about atmosphere.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

If You Want to Keep Your Employees, Kill Your Job Descriptions

February 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“I got to get on the good foot” ~ James Brown

James Brown released the track ‘Get on the Good Foot’ in 1972 as a two-part single on an album of the same name released in the same year. It was his first gold record. To me, this track is all about playing to your strengths – something we rarely do with our employees.

That process starts with job descriptions, which are almost always some ancient HR relic created for compensation.

Why Job Descriptions Suck

The obligatory job description that identifies an employee’s tasks and responsibilities is regarded as the critical building block of HR. But most are outdated, poorly structured, generic, bloated, overly complex word salads that hardly ever actually describe jobs. It is ironic that we even call them “job descriptions.” We should just call them what they really are: ‘let’s-hope-we-get-someone-really-good-wish lists.’

Perfect employees don’t exist. You are looking for a unicorn. That’s why no job description is going to be perfect, either. And that’s why you always end up slapping a horn on a horse.

Job descriptions do everything but deliver on their eponymous promise. So why not kill them? Or at least choke them a little.

What Research Says

This idea is not too farfetched when considering some recent studies. Working off the premise that many hiring practices today are poorly suited to the rapid changes confronting many businesses, UCL School of Management Assistant Professor Vaughn Tan examined whether or not people performed better when they were able to adapt their job descriptions to focus on their strengths and drop those components they felt were not beneficial. The result was a more satisfied and successful workforce.

Or take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR team. They looked at workers who were retained over time and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at the innovative social networking company. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied and engaged workers who were retained longer.

The Minimalist Approach

If you only have a partial idea of who you need to hire and what those people need to do anyway, why not try a paradigm shift? Instead of packing a bowling ball into a marble bag, try building out only the skeleton of a job description and allowing candidates to co-design the fuller description with you in a way that speaks to their strengths and to your needs. Research shows that this approach works well for rapidly changing industries such as technology start-ups, advertising, and film production companies where predicting the future is more difficult. It is actually really easy to make your job descriptions speak to the candidate, describe their key objectives, and be open to possible alternative backgrounds.

A Final Word

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. But as they continue to compete for talented people, they will begin to create jobs around them. Keeping job descriptions minimal, instead of the current practice of covering all the bases, creates more possibilities and more opportunities. Unicorns don’t have to be real for people to believe in them. The same goes with the “perfect candidate.”So why not try something new and allow people to dance on their good foot.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Devil is In the Implementation: 5 Reasons Why You Fail to Execute on Your Ideas

February 15, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

I know. You don’t have to tell me. You’re inspired. You just got a great idea for a new business or product. Or maybe you just had a great meeting or strategic planning session and you can’t wait to implement the new ideas and strategies that emerged. Or maybe you just made your resolution for the New Year.

Whatever the case, there is a spike in your enthusiasm and excitement in the beginning. You are excited to get to the action, to see the results, to impact change, and to make improvements. But before long, you start to lose momentum to execute on your Big Audacious Hairy Goals. You fail to follow through. Your great ideas begin to melt and run down your arm like a scoop of ice cream in the middle of July.

In all the examples above the problem is not the idea, the plan, the goal or the strategy. The problem is the people and their behaviors that either drive or impede progress on the idea. The problem is how you execute.

Steve Wozniack likes to tell the story of how Steve Jobs only learned to execute after he was fired from Apple and started NeXT. Jobs was just 30 years old, wildly successful, fabulously wealthy and a global celebrity when he was suddenly fired. But that firing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was when he came back to Apple that most of the iconic products we know and use today were launched because in his time away, he had learned how to execute.

If you perceive yourself or are perceived as having an “execution problem,” by others, you will benefit from knowing the fundamental reasons why.

Reason #1: You Don’t Have the Right Mindset

In strategy sessions, people often ask questions like: “What would success look like?” and “What action will you take to implement the strategy?” These questions and their answers do not lead to change. That is because, as we have established above, we have a people problem and people are about behavior. And obviously, if you are asking the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers. Because we are a culture obsessed with positivism, we look to assets and strengths. Fair enough. But what about weaknesses? The right question to ask instead is: “What current behavior do I see in myself, my team, my manager, or my organization that will make success less likely?”

This question is about facing reality, which is a pre-requisite for strategy execution. By articulating the answer to this question, you are identifying the potential barriers to progress, which you must first remove before you can see change. You are also recognizing that behaviors drive results and that mindset drives behavior. To impact change, you have to shift the mindset that leads to behaviors that are not getting results. This is fundamental.

Reason #2: You Don’t Have the Right Goals (or you have too many of them)

Sometimes, people are focused on the wrong things and sometimes they are focused on too many things. If you try to attend to all of your competing priorities, you will lose focus. It is far better to apply more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns kicks in which says in a nutshell that you will achieve 2-3 goals with excellence and 5-6 goals with mediocrity . That is because human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. Multi-tasking is a myth. It causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity.

Once you have the right goals and the right number of goals, you can identify the right people with the right strengths to apply towards specific goals. Here, you will have to make choices. Execution is about being laser focused and maintaining momentum. The pitfall is trying to get forward momentum on all your work instead of the most important work. You have ask yourself: “What will make the biggest impact?” and “What will get me the biggest bang for my buck?” Then, you have to make that thing happen.

Reason #3: You Don’t Have the Right People

In any team, organization, or coalition, there are strong performers and weaker ones. There are those that are fit for the task because the task speaks to their strengths and those that aren’t because, well, it doesn’t. Strong performers can be identified by their skills, knowledge and commitment. In any environment, you should know the strengths of the people are at the table. If you take a purely democratic and all-inclusive approach, you will miss the opportunity to identify the people who are most essential to achieving your goal. In the case of yourself this becomes about self-awareness.

Reason #4: You Don’t Have the Right Mechanism

Execution is a discipline and, well, it takes discipline to execute. What I mean by that is having the discipline to organize people, assemble resources, and then generate a plan that others can follow in a methodical and systematic process is what it takes to make progress. Organizations (formal or informal) and their related processes are largely conservative bodies that don’t like surprises or chaos. Therefore, you have to be as methodical in your approach as possible. This means disciplined project management, feedback loops, data driven decision making, clear roles and responsibilities, accountability measures, success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), kaizen (continuous improvement), scrum, agile, Six Sigma, Lean and so on.

Reason #5: You Don’t Have the Right Support

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and you really feel like you’re already doing all of these things, and yet somehow you’re still perceived as having an “execution problem,” then consider getting an Implementation Coach. Coaching is often used in organizations to fix leadership flaws, but that is only one focus of coaching. If the problem is truly endemic, I recommend hiring an Implementation Coach. The role of an Implementation Coach is to ensure that implementation success is a priority, working at the deepest level to build the skills, knowledge, capacities, systems, and processes needed to deliver results and then to ensure those results will be sustained. The main imperative of an Implementation Coach should be to delivering lasting outcomes.

In addition to being outstanding problem-solvers, these individuals are practical, experienced, and excellent coaches. Their distinctive strength is in knowing how to work with and coach people to get things done. These caching session are about focusing on larger behavioral patterns to the extent that they are getting in the way of the task at hand.

 A Final Word…

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I can give you 20 good ones in one conversation. Ideas without implementation are illusion. The art and science of success lies in their execution. Put another way, “the devil is in the implementation.” Many people get energetic about their ideas but fail when it comes time to establishing a systematic approach to execute on those ideas and fail in maintaining motivation. I’ll deal with motivation in some upcoming posts. For now, remember this: execution is a discipline in and of itself. It is the flip side of the coin to planning and setting the right strategy. You need both to succeed.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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Respect is the Currency of Great Leadership. Here are 5 Ways to Earn It and 1 Rule to Remember!

February 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

High respect = High performance.

But you have to earn my respect. If I don’t respect you, why should I follow you?

The principle is simple. If people respect you, they will give their 100% to their work. But not 100% of the people will respect you.

That’s because of the 20:60:20 rule.

The rule says that 20% of your highest performing and most dedicated team members respect you already. Then, you have a reasonably high level of respect with your solid citizens (the middle 60%) that are good but not great. As for the bottom 20%, well, no matter how much you try, not everyone will love you. Trying to win the respect of your least productive people is, unfortunately, not an efficient use of time and effort, particularly in today’s time starved business environments.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders who strive to be liked absent respect, fail as often as authoritative rulers. Respect is earned not given. And if you buy the above arguments, namely that respect is the currency of leadership and that leaders need to at least ensure they have the respect of the 20+60%, then another key question emerges: How can leaders best earn the respect of their teams?

While the answer differs according to context, I have generally observed that leadership respect is a combination of five important factors:

1.      Respect is about listening:

Lean in, share acknowledgment and paraphrase what you hear them say. When you actively listen, you are not thinking about what you will say next. Be with them in the moment. This means that when employees talk with you, show interest and enthusiasm for their thoughts. Leaders who only like the sound of their own voice, never gain the benefit of the many voices around them. No matter how good you are, after a while, people will stop listening if you are not listening to them. Respect is a reciprocal act of listening and communication. By being open to input from peers, colleagues, and subordinates, you broaden your sources of information. By helping others be open to input from each others, you expand possibilities and opportunities to accelerate progress. This is how listening makes you a better leader.

2.      Respect is about accountability:

Successful organizational management necessitates accountability. There is no way around it. In practice, respect must form the foundation of accountability. Accountability is being responsible for our actions at all levels. It is about owning, correcting, and learning from our actions. It is about being transparent. It is also about being aware of the perceptions we create and taking responsibility for our emotional footprint at work (emotional intelligence). When leaders take personal accountability, they are willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, their behaviors, and their actions in all situations in which they are involved. Accountable leaders are fixers, not blamers.

3.      Respect is about sharing success:

It shouldn’t seem hard. Give credit to others for their success; take responsibility for your own failures; and learn from both. If you are the type of leader who takes the credit for the work of your team members, you are no kind of leader at all. Good leaders share the credit with their teams when things go right and take the blame when things go wrong. Being a blame thrower spreads insecurity and decreases the odds of your employees taking ownership. Sharing credit builds investment in your enterprise by your employees and allows it to flourish.

4.      Respect is about consistency:

Are you constantly sending mixed message? Are you the manager who says she wants ideas from her staff and then proceeds to put down every idea brought to her? Without respect, it’s just harder for you to get shit done. If a leader develops a reputation for being inconsistent in either their words or actions, employees will eventually lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively. Consistency is not a concept; it’s a personal discipline. If you consistently demonstrate your commitment to a desired goal and are willing to invest the necessary time and effort to achieve that goal, people will also notice that and be inspired by your example.

5.      Respect is about walking the talk:

Lead by example. It’s the oldest leadership lesson in the book. Being a role model is about being value driven and being value driven earns respect. Child development specialist and author Dr. Robyn Silverman suggests that healthy self-confidence manifests as pride in who you are and what you’ve learned throughout your life. Show courage when faced with difficult decisions. Demonstrate trust (the cornerstone of all relationships) towards others and take actions to earn their trust. Demonstrate ongoing commitment to excellence. Do everything to the best of your ability; always.

As leaders, we must acknowledge the role we play as exemplars. People are savvy. If you don’t walk the talk, they’ll notice. Earn respect through actions and strong work ethic. To be a trusted leader who earns the respect of others, you must honor your words with actions and care for others beyond yourself (servant leadership). This helps build respect and trust within teams, between peers and colleagues, and ultimately promotes a sense of fairness that is essential to an engaged workforce. Walking the talk is the mark of a true leader and is exactly why leadership is so tough and exactly why there are so few real leaders. When you let promised work go undone, you lose respect and set a bad example. Effective leaders do not avoid responsibility, they do not procrastinate, and they do not under or over commit. If unsure about whether they can commit, they say no to the task and yes to the person asking for the commitment. In this way, leaders provide their own insurance that they won’t let promised work go undone.

 A Final Word…

The organization as collective entity achieves great results not only because of strong sales, growth, operational efficiency and competitive position, but also because of the positive workforce culture and strong values of respect and accountability. This concept applies to everyone in the organization but especially to the leadership who should be held accountable for their actions. Exercising complete respect consistently as a leader enables environments that bring out everyone’s best performance. It is essential for creating economic as well as social value. Leadership is not about being right all the time. It is not about having all the answers. It is rather about acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers. It is about the near-wins, not the wins. It is in the striving and the reaching, the journey, the promise of getting there, and the perpetual self-refinement.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The High Cost of Low Morale (and How to Create a More Progressive Workplace)

February 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

U.S. workers put in more hours on the job than the labor force of any other industrial nation, including Germany and Japan, where death from overwork has a name: karōshi.

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

Longer hours have been connected to low morale increased absenteeism and employee turnover, which cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Stress Related Illness

Despite progress in implementing so called ‘work-life balance’ programs, stress-related illness remains a serious concern and health risk in the workplace. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress. Simply put, negative work environments increase stress while positive work environments can become a protective factor for your health long-term. Negative work environments have a “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

The Toxic Boss

Studies show that 50% of Americans hate their bosses and an even larger percentage say their boss being fired would make them happier than getting a raise!

The fact is that bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. By some estimates, abusive supervision costs companies $23.8 billion a year. But stress-producing bosses are not just bad for productivity, morale, loyalty, and engagement. They are literally bad for your heart.

In a large-scale study of over 20,000 employees conducted at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees. Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Call to Action: The Progressive Workplace

Companies must catch on to the high price of their bad hires. They must also recognize the negative impact of regressive policies on their employees. Progressive work-life policies such as flex time, child care and opportunities to care for loved ones are a must. But they must also get better at screening out poisonous personality types and tasking leadership with creating an atmosphere and culture that is conducive to productivity and creativity. The job of leadership is to bring out the best in their people. It is said after all, that people don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Creating a positive and healthy work culture should be in the job description of every manager.

The progressive workplace recognizes the contribution of all employees no matter their position. It offers development opportunities, flexibility and feedback. It offers employees a sense of purpose and is build upon a foundation of trust and collaborative relationships.

A workplace is often a reflection of a company’s true culture. Shifting the culture in a new direction will create higher morale and buy-in and before long, you will see a company full of ‘intrapreneurs’ who think of the organization as their own and take decisions to make things happen. Creating an extraordinary team culture and climate of creativity where talent can flourish is not easy, but it is your mandate as a leader.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.