5 Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success (Based on the Co-Active Coaching Model)

March 14, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-by- moment choices that mold and shape us.” 

― Karen Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is: making progress at meaningful work. And coaching can help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential to understand what drives each person.

Unfortunately, many supervisors think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. This is an opportunity missed.

Coaching is a powerful experience that creates a resonant connection with another person and helps them achieve something they care about while helping them become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, it’s positive energy.

Start today to be a more effective manager by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members. As you resolve to support their ongoing learning and development, here are five key tips to get you started.

1.      Design Your Alliance

First, design and sustain your alliance. While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. But to do so, you need to establish an environment of mutuality and trust. As a coach, you must know how to work with your team member to empower them. This is a process of ‘co-creation’ where the employee also helps create the kind of coach she needs. Here, you can ask questions like:

  • What are you looking for in me as your coach?
  • If this coaching was to be effective, what would it look like?
  • What is the best way for me to challenge you?
  • How do you want me to respond when you have not completed something you wanted me to complete?

The designed alliance is the co-created space within which the coaching takes place. This space is dynamic and evolving so periodically you can check in on your designed alliance to see how it’s working for you. Just like ground rules you may need to add, modify, or delete some of your agreements depending on how the relationship has evolved.

2.      Listen with curiosity: 

Have you ever had the luxurious and deeply validating experience of communicating with someone who is completely focused on you and actively listening to what you have to say with an open mind and an open heart? What does that feel like? That’s coaching. And listening in coaching may be the most important skill set.

You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively and then follow your curiosity.

3.      Ask, don’t tell.

As a manager, you are used to problem solving. This is fine when you’re clarifying action steps for a project you’re leading or when people come to you asking for advice. But in a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.

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.

4.      Forward the Action

Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in their own stories.  While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them. You might ask, “What is it you really want?” or “Which of the activities you mentioned offer the greatest potential for reaching your goal?” Then, when the employee is settled on an action, ask them what action, if taken, would make the biggest difference in helping them advance towards their goal.

5.      Build accountability.

Last, but not least, it is imperative that the employee follow through on commitments. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. If your employee plans to network with other potential business partners, for example, give these plans more weight by asking her to identify specific individuals with dates and times and to deliver this information to you by a certain deadline.

A Final Word

If you want to build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak, try establishing regular coaching conversations.

Coaching accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. It concentrates on where you are today and what you are willing to do to get where you want to be tomorrow. Coaching provides a transformative space for your employee to experience easier and accelerated growth to move them towards their goals. It provides insights and clarity, pattern recognition and interruption, conscious commitment, real time feedback, and accountability.

Join the movement and coach your heart out.

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. 

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

7 Ways to Succeed in Any Role by Using Leadership Skills

January 30, 2019 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is an action and example.” 

Cory Booker

Leadership is what makes an individual effective and successful at any job. At the most basic level, being a leader is about positively impacting the people around you. The characteristics of a good leader include the ability to anticipate problems and solve them when they arise, to ‘read’ challenging situations, take initiative, and simply exhibit virtue that inspires others to be their best. In leadership, character comes first. To be successful in any role, let your leadership qualities permeate and show through more than just one approach: be resourceful, be composed during a crisis, and be flexible when dealing with colleagues and clients.

Here are a few more leadership lessons applicable to any role:

1.      Be a Problem Solver

The core responsibility of any leader is to resolve organizational issues at every level. This comes by analyzing the entire situation logically and with a cool head. The consequence of this would be a fast action-oriented decision that would work in the best interest of the organization and its stakeholders. It is the problem-solving skill that helps any leader to analyze and anticipate trends and issues. It is what makes a leader strategic and effective. Due to the successful turn-around of any problem, a leader will inspire the team while cultivating an image of reliability and credibility thereby earning the respect of all.

2.      Focus deeply on a few issues

Leaders don’t go wide, they go deep. Instead of picking 16 topics to cover in a shallow way, leaders pick a small number of issues that they want to own, and go deep on them developing expertise along the way. By contrast, some try to address a large number of issues and end up with mediocre or poor performance. When it comes to achievement, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity. Diving in shallow waters does not bring you the big fish.

3.      Always Show Initiative

A common scenario in any industry is when you are faced with a problem but it’s not clear whose job it is to fix it. When faced with such a challenge, a common reaction is to say that this is ‘not my job.’ It is imperative in such moments that you are able to display traits that will demonstrate why you were hired in the first place. This means demonstrating qualities of an effective leader including confidence, foresight, and the willingness to take the initiative to resolve the situation. By following these, you will not only get to the root cause of any potential problem but more importantly avoid unnecessary extra work. Displaying attention to detail and taking initiative shows that you are trustworthy, diligent, and dependable – and above all – you are a leader.

4.      Put People First

An effective leader is one that assesses a situation clear of prejudice and examines everything with an open mind through an objective outlook. In any job, it is necessary to interact with everyone accordingly. Underestimating the importance of relationship is a huge mistake. It is reckless to compromise a relationship to score a point with the boss. Throwing your team members under the bus is an unethical and unprofessional act. Great leaders put great stock into all their relationships because ultimately, they know it contributes to them being more effective at the different roles they have to perform.

5.      Have High Standards, Even Higher Values

Demonstrating strong values is one of the most important leadership competencies in the workplace. You shouldn’t throw your values out the window just to make a job easier. Not upholding certain ethics, standards, and values will lead to all sorts of issues. To put it simply, allowing for such to happen is unbecoming of a leader in any role. Values-driven leaders lead from a deep sense of purpose and service to others demonstrating strong values such as honestly, integrity, excellence, courage, humility, trust, and care for people and planet.

6.      Become a Communication Ninja

All great leaders are good communicators. They understand how to get a point across, describe the company vision to their employees, make sure daily tasks are getting done, facilitate office conversations, and know when it’s the right time or the wrong time for a meeting. It takes an investment of time, emotion, and effort to be a good communicator. It’s the job of the leader to rally and regroup the troops when times are tough and devise better plans that will reap better result. Being an effective communicator will inspire your team to work harder, possibly even going beyond their job responsibilities. After all, cohesive teamwork, in any and every shape and form, translates to more work done.

7.      Embrace radical accountability

We tend to think of accountability as something that is good for others but not ourselves.  But a successful leader is all about accountability, especially when results regarding certain projects are not favorable or when their own limitations are holding a project back. Most people are not prepared for the behavior changes that are required of them to be radically accountable. If you care about gaining the trust of others, you have to not just tolerate, but to embrace a deeper level of scrutiny and be able to engage in authentic feedback. This type of transparency and authenticity builds trust. Trust becomes the foundation of great teamwork and great relationships. We tend to hide our weaknesses never exposing them to the light. But by exposing them to the light, we have the opportunity to liberate ourselves from those limitations that we might otherwise subconsciously identify with. Accountability is a condition that is created in the interior of our relationships. Accountability is the ability to take into account the experience of the other and to own responsibility for the outcomes you have set out to achieve.

A Final Word

The Importance of leadership skills cannot be emphasized enough. It forms a strong foundation for your career success as well as the success of any team or organization. Adopting and nurturing these qualities will not only help you survive as an employee but also show that you are in fact a leader! It will help you to thrive within your role and with your team. All the factors above contribute to a well-rounded and highly effective leader. Consider each of these elements and incorporate them into your daily work as you move forward into becoming the best leader you can be.

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.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Why Collaboration is Not Always the Answer

January 25, 2019 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


You’ve watched ants at work. You’ve seen them collaborating around a shared goal. Ants are social insects and outnumber humans a million to one. They would rule the world if they could strategically switch mindsets between teamwork and collaboration.

We all think we understand what collaboration is, we all think we understand what it means, if this is true then how come we constantly read accounts of it failing? Well this is not the case. Collaboration is misunderstood and overused.

As a matter of fact, it’s common for people to use the terms collaboration and teamwork interchangeably. It’s common, but it’s wrong.

Teamwork – Collaboration, What’s the Difference?

Teamwork

Teams are created usually by a manager who is looking for a specific single result. A group of people with the required skills are assembled. Tasks, timelines, goals, and success measures are created and the team is off and running. Their actions are interdependent, but are fully committed to the result articulated by the manager.

For the most part, as long as the team is provided with good leadership and has the project management skills to and coordinate the action, teams work well. That’s teamwork. But that’s not collaboration. The key for a successful team lies in its leader. You can have an ineffective, argumentative team but as long as strong leadership is provided to resolve disputes and help the team communicate and coordinate their activities, odds are the team will be successful. We have all been in these situations before where engaging in effective teamwork really hinges on the effectiveness of the leader. There is a certain framework backed by standards and expectations that we engage in, when we work on teams. Accountability on a team is usually, in theory at least, clear. So are the lines of communication and how delegated tasks are advanced. Control is key with teamwork.

Collaboration

Collaboration on the other hand is completely different. Collaborators usually have some shared goals that are only a smaller part of their overall responsibilities. Unlike teams, collaborators cannot rely on a leader to resolve differences, and cannot walk away from each other when they do disagree. In collaboration, the hierarchy experienced on teams is muted so accountability, communication, and how tasks are advanced all look different. Successful collaboration is reliant on the relationships of give and take between its participants. The end product comes from the effort of the group thinking and working together as equal partners; without a leader. Where collaboration breaks down is when there is a lack of trust, an inability to have healthy conflict and no framework established for accountability (mutual trust and agreement).

 So Teamwork or Collaboration? Which Should I use?

Both models are important and useful. It’s important to know how to be a team player but also to know how to be an effective collaborator. Knowing when to push and pull in each scenario is often a matter of emotional intelligence. With collaboration, you have to learn to share power and expect that your idea is not always the best idea.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I want participants to work as a team or as collaborators? Do I run this project as a collaboration or as a team? Which model will work best for this specific project? How do I prepare my personnel to excel as collaborators? How do I encourage team leaders?

Establishing teams uses up lots of internal resources. Collaboration is best when a project is greater than any one individual’s expertise and you don’t want to pull dedicated resources to ensure completion. Collaboration expands the team’s expertise.

Collaboration should not be thought of as a permanent solution. Collaborative groups should form, complete a project and disband. While collaborative engagements usually take longer, they should not be allowed to go ad infinitum. A team often stays together. When deciding whether a collaborative relationship is really necessary, assess if the conditions for success exist. Do people know how to work in a leader-less environment? Are they equipped to handle conflict? How will they communicate? How will they keep each other accountable?

A Final Word

So, collaboration and teamwork, no matter how similar they may seem are actually different. Both enable employees to work together efficiently to complete tasks and reach targets quicker. Both play an important role in the world of business. Choosing which to use, is an important decision with regards to resources as well as the capacity of personnel involved.

Creating an environment that encourages everyone to work together can have a big impact on your team’s performance.  Finding the correct balance between autonomous working, teamwork and collaboration will help to play to each person’s individual strengths to keep the workforce engaged and efficient.

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.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Want Top Flight Performance? Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

July 17, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Leadership is not a position or at title, it is action and example.” ~ Unknown

If you think there are a lot of definitions of leadership then you might be very concerned by the number of models there are to explain what leaders actually do! In fact, there is solid leadership research and literature that points the way to a more conscious approach that leads the path to accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations.  Here is one of the simplest definitions offered by management guru Peter Drucker:

·        Leadership: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-maker

·        Management: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-follower

What Does Poor Leadership Look Like?

You wake up, take one look in the mirror, and realize that you simply can’t face going into the office. You feel demoralized, dejected and defeated. Your expectations have gone unmet and your boss just doesn’t seem to get it. Like a polar ice cap, their unconscious behavior has slowly eroded your morale over time. You complain to your friends and spouse that all you get at work is crap.

Here is some of what they do:

  • They contact employees on their time off
  • They micromanage instead of fostering trust and empowering you
  • They are unwilling to listen to new ideas (or worse yet, take the new ideas but don’t give you credit)
  • They provide vague, useless feedback
  • They don’t foster a learning and growth environment
  • They criticize publicly
  • They iterate and reiterate your work until all feeling of satisfaction and engagement is squeezed out of it like a wet sponge

Do you recognize any of this? The truth is it doesn’t have to be this way.

What Does Good Leadership Look Like?

When working at their best leaders challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage positive behavior, creativity and productivity. They do this through committing themselves to particular sets of behaviors linked to these values.

These leadership traits are an observable and learnable set of practices, available to anyone prepared to spend time developing them. Now, let’s look at some of what great leaders actually do:

  • They thrive and learn from adversity and challenge
  • They take risks and regard failure as a chance to learn
  • They seek challenging opportunities to help you grow, innovate and improve 24/7
  • They envision an uplifting and ennobling future
  • They enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams
  • They achieve results through others and build trust in doing so
  • They are impeccable role models (and readily admit failure)
  • They recognize individual contributions to the success of every project
  • They celebrate team accomplishments

These traits and others, all go hand in hand to create a working environment that empowers employees to be their best. When employees feel that growth in the company is impossible, their motivation goes out the window and they stop performing at their best. And can you really blame them? What happens next is crucial. They either give up and move on, or face the dysfunction head on. Most choose the former. Look around. Is there a constant exodus in your company?

Give Them C.R.A.P.

The key to employee retention, engagement and satisfaction is consistent quality supervision.  People want caring, respect, appreciation and praise (C.R.A.P.) from their organization. But unfortunately, leaders are often not trained and don’t know how to show they care and that they respect their people or how to give appreciation and properly praise people. Training leaders on these skills is crucial. Most want to give their people C.R.A.P but have not been taught how to. If they are equipped to give their people C.R.A.P., they will, and if they are not, well, they just end up giving them crap!

A Final Word…

By giving your people C.R.A.P. you will inspire loyalty and your impact on the organization will go beyond the bottom line. Most leaders, I believe, have the desire to succeed but have never been trained on basic leadership skills. They are unconscious. Much of leadership is about becoming conscious, learning and then applying skills that support and serve your workforce. If an organization does not have consistent, ongoing leadership training, it will struggle with employee retention, because supervisors and mid-level leaders are the drivers of employee retention. Without trained leaders, you will never optimize your employee retention, and ultimately, your bottom line will flounder. There is a better way. Give them C.R.A.P.

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.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

The Most Powerful (and least used) Leadership Tool

June 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.”

~ Seth Godin

Authentic and conscious dialogue is the most powerful tool available to us as leaders. It’s also the most underutilized.

Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships and it tends to grow over time – with mutually beneficial dialogue. Dialogue is the process of fostering ‘power with’ instead of ‘power over.’ That’s why it engenders trust.

Leaders often fall into the trap of believing in their own ‘power.’ Little do they know that their power is limited by their immediate circumstance and is always ephemeral. Even Presidents turn over every 4 years.

Dialogue is an art. In dialogue, we offer our thoughts and feelings as new dimensions of the collective exploration. In dialogue, we place the emphasis on hearing everyone and considering all facets of a problem until the best obtainable truth or solution, agreeable to all present, emerges. Dialogue refers to people exploring meaning together. “Meaning” might refer to ideas, experience, or feelings. In other words, things we talk about in dialogue are not trivial or irrelevant. In dialogue I’m engaging with meaning, not just socializing.

In dialogue, we are mining for shared values, affinities and understandings. This usually involves a more sophisticated process. It involves partnership. Engagement in dialogue requires conscious awareness. Authentic dialogue involves following an unfolding inquiry.

In dialogue, we are practicing co-evolution, co-exploration, co-intelligence.

There are many ways to explore meaning together. And there are many aids to mastering dialogue as a skill. More will probably evolve.

In my experience, the quality of exploration in dialogue depends largely on how open people are willing to be with each other – it depends on how conscious we are. If the dialogue is being facilitated, it also depends on the quality of facilitation. Positive, collective engagement and conscious dialogue is the progenitor to positive change. So what does that look like?

In conscious dialogue, we start from a place of appreciation.

In conscious dialogue, our attention is the currency of exchange.

In conscious dialogue, we use silence as well as words.

In conscious dialogue, we are fully present.

In conscious dialogue, our orientation is towards a solution.

In conscious dialogue, we are active listeners.

In conscious dialogue, we employ, rather than avoid confrontation.

In conscious dialogue, we have no hidden agendas.

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.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

What is True Leadership? (hint: it is NOT management)

April 26, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

~John C. Maxwell

Leadership is influence.

Leadership comes from our heart and our head. It’s our attitude, and attitude is everything.

Leadership is also the ability to focus a team’s attention and the ability to inspire a team towards a grander vision – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

In 1961, JFK visited the NASA Space Center. The United States was in the space race with Russia, a crucial period in geopolitical history. The Russians were ahead of us, and we felt threatened as a culture and a society. Kennedy wanted us to be the first to put a man on the moon. He offered a challenge and a penultimate goal to the dedicated people in the field:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon returning him safely to the earth.”

– John F. Kennedy

Notwithstanding the risk to his own reputation, which was at stake on the world stage, his vision shook NASA to its foundations. In part because, the spacecraft they would use had only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the smarphone that is in your pocket right now.

But at the same time accountability, engagement, motivation, and morale within NASA soared. Most leaders find this surprising. We tend to think that morale is impacted negatively when accountability and pressure are at their highest. The reality is the opposite: providing teams with an inspirational stretch goal, narrowing their focus and harnessing their attention increases both accountability and the engagement of the team.  This is what James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 blockbuster book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies meant by Big Audacious Hairy Goal (BHAG).

As evidence, consider that during his tour of the NASA space center Kennedy stopped to speak with a janitor. He asked, “What do you do?” The janitor responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

How are you influencing others?

If that influence is coming from your heart and your head, it will have a positive impact on others. That is true leadership!

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.

*Photograph of President Obama and White House custodian Lawrence Libscomb by White House photographer Pete Souza

Communication Breakdown at Work?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed


“What we have here is a problem to communicate.”

~ Spoken by Strother Martin (as the  prison warden) in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke

George Bernard Shaw best summed up the problems that lead to communication breakdowns. The single biggest problem in communication, he said, is the illusion that it has taken place. And therein lies the problem.

Here is a perfect example of what he meant spoken by a U.S. government official: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!”

Ha?

Question: How do you communicate with impact?

Answer: Strategic Listening.  Here is how it works:

Step 1: Put away the smartphone.

Step 2: Suspend judgement.

Step 3: Reflect on what’s being said.

Step 4: Ask open-ended questions to bring people out and get them to expand their ideas.

Step 5: Then restate their ideas to show you’ve been listening.

Step 6: Have a real conversation.

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.

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.

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.