Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get the Process Right to Get the Right Results

Sometimes Super Bowl-type results can be achieved far easier and much faster by not focusing on the goal, but by dealing with the important process issues that are critical to the team’s success.


In October of 1995, I attended a fundraising dinner where Steve Young, the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, was the guest speaker. Young’s comments were so profound I still remember them today.

As almost anyone knows, Steve Young was the quarterback who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl Championship win in January of that year. He also was named Most Valuable Player for the game. At the fundraiser he shared one of his observations about that win.

Young said that during the previous year before the Super Bowl win, the 1993-94 season, the 49ers were a much stronger team and played far better than the year they won the championship. In that year they had a 13-2 record, compared to an 11-5 record in the 1994-95 season. But they lost in the playoffs that year.

One year later, with a less talented team and a poorer win-loss record, the 49ers won the Super Bowl. Why did this happen?

According to Young, in the previous season the team was totally focused on winning the Super Bowl. They thought of nothing else. They kept that goal at the forefront of their minds at all times. Nothing else mattered. Individual games were not important. One win was not a cause for celebration; it was just one step closer to the Super Bowl goal.

“We took a corporate view,” Young said. “We stayed focused on the goal. We came to work, accomplished the incremental goal before us, and moved on. We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it. We just did it.”

During that season the team members hardly talked to each other. They came to work, did their job, and went home. It was not fun; it was work.

“We were so totally focused on the goal of winning the Super Bowl,” Young explained, “we forgot the importance of the process.”

And that is why they lost.

After their playoff loss, Jerry Rice, the extraordinary tight end, told the team he never wanted to have another year like they had had that season. It had not been enjoyable. Rice declared, and the team agreed that the next year they would focus on having fun and worry less about the results.

Young said the next year the team did have fun. They enjoyed the journey. They developed relationships along the way. They got to know one another and shared special moments. They celebrated after each win and used each loss as a catalyst for moving them closer to the Super Bowl.

“We used the losses to vent about relationships rather than abilities. We talked about how we handle pressure. And we made renewed commitments to do better in the next game.”

Young said what his team found out was “even if you don’t get to the goal, you see yourself grow as a person. You enjoy the team process and recognize its value. You grow from week to week as a result of the relationships you’ve created.”

As a result of having developed a stronger team bond, the team became stronger. They performed better. They became unified and, because of their unity, achieved superior results from a team that everyone assumed was inferior. They won the Super Bowl with a lesser team.

Conflicts often arise on work teams between members who are primarily results-driven and those who want to “slow down” to address process issues. Steve Young learned the importance of developing relationships among team members. He also realized the value of confronting process concerns around how team tasks are accomplished. He discovered the value of team unity to accomplishing results.

For years Innovative Management Group has facilitated team building sessions to help groups of individuals achieve greater results by working cohesively as a work unit. Occasionally teams have to stop working on their tasks long enough to assess whether or not all members are “stepping forward together” to achieve their common objective. As Steve Young learned from his own experience, sometimes Super Bowl-type results can be achieved far easier and much faster by not focusing on the goal, but by dealing with the important process issues that are critical to the team’s success.

How to Gain True Consensus on Team Tasks and Decisions

If human beings only use ten percent of their brain, then ten people have to be in a meeting to get whole-brain thinking. The problem is getting them all to agree.


Someone has postulated that most human beings only use ten percent of their brain. If that is true, then ten people have to be in a meeting to get whole-brain thinking. This explains the value of working in teams.

Everyone who has been in one of my management training sessions knows that I define a “team” as a group of individuals who “step forward together” to achieve a common goal. Teamwork requires individuals to pool information and consider different viewpoints to find solutions and make decisions. Seldom do all team members have the same view about an idea or issue. Polarized views, opposing opinions, and stubborn hold outs can often block the progress of a team. The success of a team relies heavily on how quickly the members can come to consensus on both what their goal is and how it will be achieved.

A significant portion of a team’s effectiveness and “health” is tied to how well the team members interact and make decisions. Too often the most powerful or outspoken member of a team dominates the team’s discussion and determines the team’s actions. Quieter or less assertive members are not heard, which negates the power of the collective thinking of the team.

What happens to the motivation of individuals whose ideas are not considered or whose suggestions are not adopted? How is team commitment impacted when team members are not personally vested? What is the impact when arguments and off-purpose behaviors disrupt the progress of the team?

Coming to true consensus among a group of individuals is hard to do. It takes great facilitative skills and effective process tools among the group to bring everyone to agreement. True consensus requires everyone to remain firmly grounded and completely committed to their consensus decision once the team discussion has ended.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that consensus in many companies is only consensus until everyone leaves the room. Once people get back into their work area or start to ponder the team’s decision outside the team room, some members tend to question the team’s decision and their commitment to it. The key, therefore, to achieving consensus is not just getting it, but also making sure it sticks once it is reached.


As I facilitate groups I find there are several misconceptions regarding what constitutes a consensus decision. Some people believe consensus is when everyone in the group is in agreement with an idea or proposal. This, of course, is not consensus. A decision that everyone agrees to is unanimous; which is better than consensus. Team commitment to a decision is seldom questioned when everyone on the team is in unanimous agreement.

Other people I’ve encountered have the misconception that consensus is achieved when the team votes on a proposal and the idea that gets the most votes wins. Majority rule is never consensus. Majority rule is where the dominant majority overrules the less convincing minority.

The problem with majority rule is the minority. Whenever the majority rules; someone is left out. And those who are left out seldom step forward with the rest of the team. Majority rule is not an effective group decision making method for a team.

Still others believe consensus is achieved when members of the team agree to compromise in order to get everyone’s buy-in. Compromise is not consensus either. Members on a team may have to compromise to come to consensus, but consensus does not necessarily require compromise. In fact, sometimes compromised decisions can be the worst possible decisions. Compromise usually means everyone had to lose something in order to win. But a lose-lose situation seldom is a win-win for the team.

So what is team consensus?

A consensus decision is an idea that results from the full input of all team members. Sometimes one suggestion is universally accepted as best, and sometimes the decision is a combination of the thoughts of several individuals. Consensus does not necessarily mean the decision is everyone's first choice.

Consensus is defined as . . .

A decision or position reflecting the collective thinking of the team that all members participated in developing, understand fully, believe is workable, can live with, and will actively support.

To reach consensus, every team member must express themselves and participate fully in the discussion. Each member should listen to and respect the input of others and remain open-minded. Disagreements need to be confronted and explored until every idea is out on the table and an acceptable solution is found. Everyone must feel they were heard and their viewpoint considered when making collective decisions.


True consensus cannot be reached until everyone on the team clearly understands what they are agreeing to. Pseudo-consensus – where people agree in the room and then disagree later – occurs when people think of something outside of the team room that was not understood or addressed during the team discussion. Team’s need to take the time during the team meeting to ensure everyone is fully on-board before declaring consensus has been achieved.

Team members seldom accept a proposal that they feel is unworkable. Before consenting to an idea or solution people test the proposal in their mind to assess its viability. To achieve true consensus the team must work together to come up with decisions that everyone feels are feasible. If someone feels the proposed idea won’t work, the team should discuss how to make it work or come up with alternative solutions.

It is possible, however, to achieve consensus even if someone on the team feels a proposed solution won’t work. This happens when someone – usually a lone holdout – cannot justify their hesitation to consent with valid proof that the proposed decision is wrong. Accepting the possibility that the majority of the group may be right, and they may be wrong, the individual agrees to give their consensus to the group.

Please note that this constitutes consensus – and not majority rule – only if the last two elements of the definition of consensus apply. The hesitant individual must be able to live with the decision and actively support it. If they cannot live with it or actively support it, the team discussion must continue until real consensus is achieved.


These last two elements of consensus are the true tests of the team’s buy-in. Can everyone on the team live with the decision and will they actively support it? If any team member feels they cannot live with the implications and consequences of the team’s decision, the proposal must be addressed until everyone can. Actively supporting a decision means everyone on the team will put their full energy and effort into ensuring the team’s decision is carried out as designed. Half-hearted or disgruntled support is never acceptable on a team. Real consensus requires real commitment.

Consensus decision-making often requires more time and skilled facilitation to discuss the ideas and issues fully. Teams should not expect quick consensus on every issue. Failure to achieve true consensus usually can be traced back to the team’s failure around one or more of the consensus definition elements. For example, the team may have ignored the introverted or quiet members of the group and failed to solicit the collective thinking of the entire team. Or the team may not have explored the ideas fully enough for everyone to clearly understand what was being proposed. Maybe the team ran roughshod over someone who felt the idea was not workable. Perhaps someone on the team placated, giving in rather than fighting for what they believed was a better solution. Many factors contribute to a team’s failure to achieve true consensus.


During the early stages of a team’s development the team should decide where consensus support is absolutely essential to the team’s success. On less important issues it’s often possible for the entire group to step forward together with a much simpler and faster decision making process than consensus. However, consensus decision making should always be used on team decisions regarding the team’s charter, ground rules, project plans, completion dates and other critical elements impacting the success of the team’s mission.


As a team strives to achieve consensus there will be times when it is difficult to get everyone on board. Invariably there may be one obstinate, hard-headed holdout who refuses to consent to what others on the team agree to. Sometimes this individual is a true roadblock, but often the person is merely trying to keep the team from falling into group think.

Group think occurs when the team cannot come up with alternatives to their ideas or solutions. Group think is particularly prevalent when a solution or decision seems obvious. Devil’s advocate dissidence among the team may be the very thing the team needs to keep the group from falling into the trap of collective blindness.

A perfect example of this is Galileo Galilei, the father of modern observational astronomy. Galileo's championing of Copernicanism – the view that the earth revolves around the sun – was controversial within his lifetime. The geocentric view that the sun revolved around the earth had been dominant since the time of Aristotle. The controversy engendered by Galileo's opposition to this view resulted in the Catholic Church's prohibiting his advocacy of heliocentrism. Galileo was brought before the Inquisition because of his views where he was forced to recant what he knew to be true. He spent the last years of his life under house arrest.

Like many lone voices on a team, Galileo was right. But more powerful voices in the group – in Galileo’s case, that of the ecclesiastical leaders – can dominate the team so strongly that anyone who actually agrees with the dissenting person quickly changes their position to avoid the “inquisition.” Group think often occurs when someone on the team is in a “power position” within the organization. Those on the team, not wishing to jeopardize their careers align themselves with the person who wields power over them. Sadly, consensus by decree or covert coercion is not real consensus.


This is why a team must take great care to ensure all voices are heard. Sometimes one person can sway the views of many. I saw this happen when I was facilitating a team of 27 scientists. As you might guess, trying to get 27 scientists to agree on anything is extremely difficult. There were many knock-down drag-out fights among the team before the group accomplished its mission.

During one of those fights 26 scientists were in agreement on a particular issue. Only one team member disagreed. No matter what everyone else on the team said to try to sway the one holdout to the position of the group, he refused to budge. He believed he was right. He stood his ground and fought for his idea. And, eventually, many hours later, he convinced the entire team to change their vote and consent to his idea. In the end his solution proved to be the right choice.


In that case the dissenting voice was correct. But sometimes there are dissenters within the team who are wrong and refuse to give in. They keep the team from moving forward because they stubbornly stand their ground. The nineteen techniques described below show the progressive steps to gaining consensus on a team. The steps start out easy and become increasingly adamant as obstinate team members refuse to consent.

1. The first step to gaining consensus is to make sure everyone understands the idea or issue fully. As stated above, the primary reason why people cannot agree is because they don’t fully understand what is being discussed. A dissenting opinion can often be easily swayed with more information about the proposed action. Ask the dissenting team member what they don’t understand and then address each of their concerns.

2. To solidify the team’s agreement you should “call for consensus” on the issue being discussed. This means you ask the team members to signify their consent. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to ask if anyone disagrees. If no one disagrees, the team is in consensus. However, this step only works if the team has established a ground rule stating that if anyone disagrees they must speak up. Otherwise someone could quietly disagree, but be too afraid or introverted to voice their descent. Passive aggressive individuals often use silence as a way of showing their disapproval. Therefore, if you use this technique, great care must be taken to ensure everyone on the team truly does agree.

3. If there is concern that someone might be silently disagreeing without speaking up, you should visualize the team members’ positions. Call for a visual vote to see where people stand. I’ve found the best way to do this is with thumbs. If a person agrees with the idea or proposal they should indicate their sanction with a thumb up signal. If a person disagrees with the idea being presented they should give it the thumbs down. And if a person is not sure whether they agree or disagree they should indicate their waffling with a sideways thumb. Now you can see where everyone stands.

4. Once everyone’s position has been identified, ask the minority if they can live with the decision of the majority. The purpose of this step is not majority rules but, rather, to speed up the process if dissenting members can actually live with the majority’s decision and will actively support it. It’s amazing how many people can easily accept the opinions of others when merely asked if they can do so. Minority members need to decide whether the proposal is significant enough to adamantly oppose it, or whether they can easily “live with” and “actively support” it so the team can move forward.

5. If any member with an opposing or waffling view cannot live with the majority’s position, always start with the majority first when opening up the issue for discussion. There is a strong possibility that the majority is right. If this is true, then a few additional explanations from the majority may easily sway the minority opinion and get opposing members to consent.

6. After allowing a few comments from the majority, ask if any of the dissenters have been swayed. If everyone’s thumb is now up, you now have the consensus of the group. If not, continue the discussion while continuing to ask if anyone has been swayed throughout the discussion.

7. If anyone on the team has not been swayed by the majority’s explanation, get the opposing opinion (those whose thumb was down) before hearing from the wafflers. Wafflers usually are swayed either by the thumbs up or thumbs down arguments. Allow the team to discuss the issue in a point and counter point fashion. Wafflers should also participate in the discussion if they have points to add to either side of the discussion.

8. Ask the team members to indicate when they have been swayed by showing the changed position of their thumb when they are swayed. When all thumbs are either up or down, you have consensus. Always keep in mind that consensus is when everyone on the team can live with the decision and will actively support it. They do not have to agree.

9. If someone on the team is having a hard time agreeing to something that everyone else seems to willingly accept, ask if they conceptually agree with the proposal. Sometimes a person may agree with the concept, but not with the particulars of an idea. In such cases they may appear to be in complete disagreement when, in reality, they are only stuck on a few minor points. Consequently, by getting them to agree conceptually (or in theory) first, you then can work out the kinks of the minor sticking points.

10. Another technique similar to the one above is to determine how close the person is to agreement. Ask the dissenter to state in a percentage how close they are to agreeing to the proposal. Someone who is “90% there” will be a lot easier to sway than someone who is “not even close – maybe 10%.” Usually the person who is close to agreement can be easily swayed by merely asking them what they need in order to give their 100% support. On the other hand, it may take a great deal of discussion or a revamping of the proposal to sway the person who is far from giving their consensus.

11. Another way to sway dissenters is to agree on the separate parts of the proposal. This is what I call “chunking down the issue.” The purpose of this technique is to separate out the various parts of the proposal to see which pieces a dissenter agrees with and which pieces they oppose. Quite often a team member appears to be in disagreement with an entire proposal when they really are only in disagreement with a specific part of it. For example, they may agree with points A, B, D and E; but be in complete disagreement with point C. In this case they actually are “80% there, yet seem to be in complete disagreement because no one chunked down the issue.

12. Sometimes a consensus discussion bogs down because people disagree with a step that comes much later in the process. Fearing a future roadblock, they feel the need to oppose the idea now. For example, they argue against a proposal because they feel it will be hard to implement. Rather than agreeing that the proposal is the right thing to do, they worry about how hard it will be to implement the decision even though its right, therefore they try to kill what is right because of their assumption of the difficult road ahead. In cases where there is a sequential step-by-step roadmap to follow, discuss and agree on the steps of the proposal in order. Only allow discussion about one step at a time and get consensus at each step. Don’t worry about step three until you get to step two. Don’t let the team take a detour on the right road just because they feel there may be bumps ahead.

13. Make the right decision first. Sometimes team members know a decision is right, but they fear the consequences of the decision. Once when I was facilitating a team discussing a significant reorganization within the company, it became obvious during the discussion that consensus on the proposal being discussed would require everyone in the room to relocate to a different state. Not wanting to uproot their families, some members on the team vehemently argued against the proposal. But it soon became obvious that their dissent was for personal reasons, not because they thought the decision was wrong for the business. Consequently, I had to get them to set aside their personal objections and make the right decision first. Afterwards we would discuss how to minimize the impact that decision would have on them personally.

14. If, after using all of the techniques listed above, the team cannot come to agreement, you may need to table the decision temporarily. This gives people time to think about the proposal and weigh out the points and counter-points in their minds in a less heated setting. However, be sure to come back to the issue at the first opportunity, typically the very next time the team meets together.

15. If someone continues to hold out with a dissenting view after everyone else on the team is fully convinced a proposal is right, there are only two reasons why they cannot give their consensus. They either have a valid or personal reason for not agreeing with the majority decision.

A “valid” reason is any explanation that validates the person’s opposition in the minds of the rest of the members of the team so they, too, agree with the dissenter’s point of view. The purpose of this technique is to allow the dissenter to sway the rest of the team over to their position by presenting reasonable and rational arguments regarding their opposition until the other members see the validity of that position. If they cannot sway the rest of the team with their arguments, then the dissenter’s view is not “valid.” The validity of the team member’s viewpoint is determined by the other members of the group. They decide what is valid and what isn’t by whether or not they have been swayed by the argument.

When the dissenter lacks a valid reason for their opposition, there resistance is for “personal” reasons. Invariably they are arguing against the proposal because of how it will impact them personally. In most cases, personal reasons are not valid, and therefore should not keep the team from making the right decision. Personal dissenters should set their personal feelings aside and make the right decision for the team.

There are times, however, when someone’s personal reasons could be valid if they revealed them to the group. Unfortunately, many team members hide their personal reasons (hidden agenda) because they fear the team’s reaction if their personal concerns were made known. A perfect example of this is a team member who has been given implicit instructions by their boss to oppose the team’s idea and directs the employee not to disclose it to the team. The employee now has a personal (career) reason not to agree with the team, but fears exposing that reason to the team and incurring the wrath of his or her boss for violating confidentiality. The best approach to this situation is to be honest with the team, make the right decision, and then use the team to help determine how best to handle the boss.

16. If a member continues to be a lone holdout, have the team leader or team sponsor meet with the member. The team leader should meet with the team member to discuss his or her opposition. Sometimes things come out in a one-on-one discussion that won’t come out in the group setting. If the team leader cannot get through to the member, then the person who formed the team (the team sponsor) should meet with the member to try to remove the roadblock.

17. If a person continues to resist and offers no valid reason for doing so, demand their consensus. Tell them they must agree with the consensus of the team and actively support it. If they have no valid reason for their opposition they must agree with the team if they want to be a member of the team.

18. If they refuse to give their consensus, ask them to withdraw from the team. The team cannot be held back from accomplishing their mission by one stubborn member. That person must leave the team if he or she can neither sway the team nor be swayed by the team.

19. Finally, if an obstinate member refuses to withdraw from the team, ask the team Sponsor to remove a non-valid dissenter from the team. The person who formed the team is the only person who can remove a member from the team. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to get a team back on track is to remove the resisting member who is holding the team back.

Each of the steps outlined above are designed to get the team to true consensus. Once the team has come to agreement, I like to anchor the consensus by declaring: “So let it be written; so let it be done.” This signifies that, unless something in the world dramatically changes to alter the team’s decision, the team should stay true to its consensus and carry out their decision exactly as planned.§

Innovative Management Group is renowned for our team facilitation skills. We know how to drive groups to consensus decisions on tough issues. We also know how to resolve conflict among struggling teams. We offer several results-oriented team building workshops that help teams stay focused on accomplishing their assigned tasks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Believing in Oneself and in One's Employees is the Key to Delegation

Delegation requires a manager’s trust, confidence and belief in the abilities of an employee to carry out a task to its successful completion. A multitude of beliefs come into play before a manager will let go of an assigned task.

I’ve been a consultant for almost 38 years. During that time I’ve noticed a vast majority of managers have a hard time properly delegating tasks to subordinates, particularly those tasks that are of high importance or entail great risk to the manager or company.

Delegation requires a manager’s trust, confidence and belief in the abilities of an employee to carry out a task to its successful completion. A multitude of beliefs come into play before a manager will let go of an assigned task.

The manager must believe the employee delegated to is fully capable of performing the task (competence) and that the task will actually be done (predictability). Managers often don’t delegate a task to someone else because they lack the confidence the task will be done as well as they could do it themselves.

Beliefs within the Manager

To delegate a task to another person, a manager must consciously understand the unconscious elements that play into every delegation. Before the manager can “let go” of an assignment one must harbor certain “beliefs” about the person to whom one is delegating.

The first element is a Competence Belief. A manager must believe the person is capable of performing the task as directed at the level expected. This includes the assurance that the individual has the skills, knowledge and ability to perform the expected result.

Having the skills to do a task and having a willingness to do it are two different things. Consequently, the manager also must have a Disposition Belief that the employee is not only able to perform the task, but disposed to perform as expected. The employee must be eager and willing to take on the responsibilities. If the employee is in any way hesitant or reluctant, the manager will be less inclined to believe the task will be completed properly. The employee’s eagerness to accept the assigned task influences the manager’s willingness to delegate the task.

Hence, the manager also needs a Fulfillment Belief – a sense the worker will carry out the action by actually doing it. To fulfill a responsibility an employee must have the ability, disposition, time, and resources to complete the task as expected. Delegation is not merely assigning a task to another person; it also is giving that person the information, tools, resources, incentive and training necessary to perform the work successfully.

Additionally, the manager must believe the employee will persevere until the task is completed. This Persistence Belief gives the manager the added sense that the employee will stick to the task and do whatever is necessary to get it done in a timely manner. This belief also entails the manager’s assumption that the employee has the ability to successfully circumvent any obstacles that may be placed in their way while performing the work.

Beliefs within the Employee

There are three additional beliefs that the employee must harbor in order to accept the delegated responsibility. Managers should consider these additional beliefs when delegating to an employee.

First, the employee must have a Confidence Belief in his own abilities to perform the task as expected. He must confidently know, or believe, he can do it.

Second, there must be a Benefit Belief regarding the delegated task. The employee must perceive there is a personal benefit from her performing the assigned action. Some type of personal payoff must be predicated upon the satisfactory completion of the task and have significant enough appeal to the employee to generate her commitment to the task.

Finally, the employee must consciously or unconsciously possess a No-Harm Belief. He must feel the task is within his scope of responsibility and that no harm will come to him, his boss, or his company if, for some reason, he fails in the successful completion of the task. Risk aversion is one of the primary reasons why employees fail to take on greater responsibility. Managers who can tolerate failure on the road to success have a greater propensity to delegate effectively.

True delegation might be better understood by using the term reliance in place of delegation. To delegate effectively a manager must be able to rely on another individual to perform the task as expected. A manager can only delegate to an employee when she feels the employee is reliable enough to do it right. §

Innovative Management Group teaches managers how to delegate effectively. We offer two- and four-hour training sessions that take managers through an introspective process where they confront their delegation hesitancies and learn how to let go and delegate effectively to achieve productive results.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Help Your Employees to Get "It”

There are several key things that every employee needs to understand if they want to get ahead in the work world. These things collectively comprise the “it” that every manager hopes his or her employees will get.


People who know me know I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. When I was a Scoutmaster I had charge over twenty-nine 12-13-year-old boys. I was tasked with nurturing and molding their young minds to help them become better human beings. I took my role very seriously and tried to magnify my calling to the best of my ability.

One night, at one of our monthly campouts, as we were all sitting around the campfire, I asked my boys an open-ended question: “At what age do people typically tend to get it?” I didn’t explain what I meant by “it.” I wanted to see if they, themselves, got it.

Wisely, the boys said there is no specific age when people get it. Some people, they concluded, never get it. They also suggested that people get it at an early age and others only catch on late in their life. They surmised that there are those who only get it only after a life changing or significant emotional experience that caused the person to reflect upon their life.

I then asked: “Who do you feel are the happiest in this life – those who get it, or those who don’t?” They all agreed people who get it are better off than those who don’t get it and end up struggling in life.

Finally, I asked these highly astute young men to tell me what the “its” are in life that people need to get if they want to be happy.

After a very interesting philosophical discussion they concluded there is an “it” in every element of life. There is an “it” in school; and those who figure it out do better scholastically than those who struggle or rebel against “it.”

They said there is an “it” at home and in the family; and those who know it and do it have a happy home and loving family, while those who struggle or rebel against the “it” of healthy family relationships have a difficult home life. They also assumed there must be an “it” at work that, when understood and adhered to, leads to a happy and successful career.

Your Responsibility to Help Employees to Get It

As a manager, you’re in an excellent position to help your employees to “get it.” The main purpose of identifying what you want from your employees is to help them to get the “it” of work – the reason why they exist as an employee. The sooner an employee gets it, the better off they will be. Those who get it go far in their career – and in life – while those who don’t get it generally struggle until they figure it out.

There are several key things every employee needs to understand if they want to get ahead in the work world. These things collectively comprise the “it” that every manager hopes his or her employees will get, because once an employee does get it the manager doesn’t have to manage that employee as closely as those workers who don’t get it.

The "It" in Business

The “it” of business comprises what I call the major premise of work. If an employee doesn’t get the major premise, she will have an even harder time grasping the subtle nuances at work. If, however, she grasps the big picture and understands why she exists as an employee, she is more likely to successfully fulfill her role and win at work.

Many employees struggle because they are confused about why they exist as an employee. They believe they were hired to serve the customer, produce a product, accomplish tasks, or do their job. Some less dedicated employees falsely believe they are only at work to earn a paycheck.

But every employee was hired for two primary reasons: Employees exist to increase revenue and reduce costs in order to maximize the profitability of their employer. Everything else that an employee does is a means to these two ends. All employees exist to either drive revenue or control costs in order to improve the company’s bottom-line. This is the major premise!

When an employee accepts that he was hired to increase revenue or reduce costs, he then can focus his energy and effort toward that end. He can prioritize his work and channel his performance toward maximizing profits, rather than merely accomplishing tasks. All job duties and responsibilities that don’t result in either generating revenue or controlling costs should be revised or eliminated. Everything that matters in the workplace either drives revenue or reduces costs. Everything else is an appendage to these two things.

Employees who successfully deliver this “it” enhance their value to the organization. This is another major premise. Valuable employees generally reap the rewards of their value. Good employees seldom lose their job. During depressed economic times, when cost-cutting layoffs occur, employees and departments with the least perceived value are usually the first to go. Consequently, it’s always in the best interest of an employee to understand and commit to the major premise of their organization by doing all they can to increase revenue, reduce costs, and deliver on the implied promises inherent in their job classification.

Getting Employees to Do It

Another important premise for you to remember is the knowledge that employees will only give you what you want when it is imperative for them to do so. When you find the right imperative you focus the effort of your employees by instilling an internal desire to accomplish what you want.

Sometimes the business imperative of is all employees need in order to perform well. For example, knowing that a company might go out of business if the employees don’t improve the quality of the products they produce can often motivate employees to improve their results. Seeing the impact a new competitor is having in taking away business from your organization can have a motivating effect on a sales force to generate more business. Understanding the fatal impact a production flaw might have in killing a customer can help employees concentrate on job safety. Consequently, finding the right business imperative that the employees can latch onto is critical to gaining their commitment to do it.

The best imperatives, however, are those that are specific to the interests and needs of the individual employee. Most people will not change their behavior until the consequences are such that they want to. Although negative consequences can cause people to move in the direction you want, the best consequences are those that provide an employee with a positive imperative to perform well. For example, delivery truck drivers who are allowed to go home as soon as all of their deliveries are made are less inclined to dally as they go about their work. Salespeople who get a commission on every sell usually stay focused on selling, rather than loitering around the sales floor. Teachers who are held accountable for student test scores are more inclined to teach rather than babysit.

Supporting Those Who Get It

The strongest imperative in the workplace is your support as a manager. There will come a day when every employee will need your support. There will come a day when they want a day off, a special favor, a promotion or a pay raise. When that day comes you will probably be more inclined to support those employees who are worthy of your backing because of how they performed and acted at work.

In other words, it is imperative for your employees to perform and act the way you want them to because there will come a day when it will be in their best interest to do so. The reason why employees need to perform well today is because there will come a day in their future when they will want to be rewarded for their actions.
Those employees who “get it,” realize their performance today determines the support they receive in the future. This is why I tell my employees not to perform well for me, or for the company, or for the customers; but, rather, to do a good job for themselves, because there will come a day when they will want my support. And I only support those in the future who have supported me in the past by doing what I expect. This is the “it” I want them to get.

When your employees understand the major premise of your business and see the imperative for their work, they generally do what you want them to do. The more clearly you can define and articulate the major premises and personal imperatives, the less you will have to manage your people. When your employees keep the major premise and personal imperatives uppermost in their minds, they hold themselves accountable and manage their own performance.

Let me give you an example of this by discussing another area of our lives where there are major premises and personal imperatives – at home.

The Major Premise at Home

If you are like most parents, you may experience the occasional tiff or tussle with your children, particularly if they are teenagers. This struggle often occurs because there is great disparity between what parents perceive their role to be and how teenagers view the parents’ role. Parents believe they exist to teach, nurture and protect their children. Teenagers seem to think parents exist to either make their lives miserable or to give them money whenever they want so they can to do whatever they want.

When we were having difficulties with our son we found it helpful to clarify for him what we felt was the major premise of why we exist as parents. We wrote the premise down and then talked to him about it so he would know that everything we do as parents is governed by one over-arching purpose. We told him the following is why we exist as parents:

We love you.
We would never do anything to purposely harm you.
We want you to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life.
Everything we do as parents is designed toward that end,
So don’t fight against us; we are on your side.

Literally everything we do as parents is governed by our desire for our son to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. Although it is sometimes difficult for our son to accept it when we tell him he cannot do something, he at least understands our reasoning when we can show our decision is tied to the major premise.

Obviously we don’t want to say no to our son; we want to say yes. We’re not ogres. But there are some things that are not in the best interest of our son’s future happiness, even though he may think otherwise. So we tell him we’re restricting him from doing an unwise thing today because we are not interested in his momentary pleasure; we are only interested in his long-term happiness. We’ve found when a teenager accepts the major premise that you love him and are interested in his future success; it makes the short-term pain of today’s disappointments much easier to bear.

Because our son knows our parental major premise is in his own best interest, it is imperative for him to comply with our wishes if he wants to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. He knows everything we do and say as parents is designed toward that end. He also knows our support is tied to his acceptance of and compliance with the parental major premise. Consequently, rather than arguing with us or fighting against our expectations, he usually does what we want when we want because he knows we are on his side.

Being on the Side of Your Employees

The “parental major premise” also works in managing employees. When your employees understand and accept the major premise and imperatives in the workplace they tend to be less resistant to your expectations. If you truly “love” your employees and would never do anything to purposely harm them – and they believe it and feel it – they will be more inclined to do what you ask.

Everything you do as a manager should be designed to help your employees have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining career. This is why you must identify what you want, communicate what you want, hire and train your employees so they can give you what you want, and do everything within your power as a manager to help your employee succeed. When your employees sense that you are sincerely interested in their success, they will not fight against you because they will know you are on their side. §

Innovative Management Group’s “Accountability Management Workshop” teaches managers how to help their employees to get the “its” at work by first helping the managers to get it. We focus every employee at every level of your organization on the things that matter most. Call us to learn more about this hard-hitting, results-oriented management training program.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Positioning Your Company for Success in a Yo-Yo Economy

Today’s economy is like a yo-yo. We have been dangling on a string in a “sleeper” recession for quite some time. The world economy continues to spin at the bottom. Everyone has been wondering how long the spin can continue at the abyss before experiencing a collapse of the market. Thriving in the new economy requires a business model that matches the values and spending habits of customers today. It could entail a complete change in the way you do business.


When I was a young boy I liked to play with my yo-yo. I became fairly proficient at performing fancy tricks with interesting names like “rock the baby,” “walk the dog” and “skin the cat.”

I also could do a yo-yo trick called “the sleeper.” This motion entailed throwing the yo-yo down without bringing it back up immediately. If the string tension was correct, the yo-yo would spin for several seconds at the bottom of the string. The difficulty of the trick was knowing when to pull the yo-yo back up before the spin petered out. If I left it down too long the yo-yo would collapse and die at the end of the string.

Today’s economy is like my yo-yo. We have been dangling on a string in a “sleeper” recession for quite some time. The world economy continues to spin at the bottom. Everyone has been wondering how long the spin can continue at the abyss before experiencing a collapse of the market. It’s hard to tell whether the economy is improving or not because the economic indicators keep yo-yoing between signs of improvement and signs of continued economic decline. The recent combative legislative debate over the debt ceiling just added to the economic confusion.

Survival Requires a New Business Model

Sadly, too many companies have been sleeping too long. At the beginning of the Great Recession some businesses refused to accept the notion that things could get this bad. They responded slowly to the crisis, hoping the downturn would be brief. A significant number of these companies no longer exist because they refused to take the necessary actions to save their enterprise.

Some companies did respond to the crash – typically by lowering prices to continue to attract customers – but they never changed their actual business model. Perhaps they thought the spin at the bottom would be short, and they could pull their prices back up when it looked like the sleeping economy was nearing an end.

Fortunately, a few insightful companies realized early on that the economic downturn was going to last a long time. They wisely learned the trick of keeping their company spinning strongly so there would be enough strength in their business after the long spin to pull the business back up. They changed their business model to survive in a sleeping economy. They adjusted what they do to match the conditions of the new world. And they realized that when the economic spin does come to an end, the world will be much different that it was before. Consequently, they repositioned their products and services to appeal to customer needs and expectations in this new market reality.

Changing Priorities of Customers

The world has changed and any company who refuses to change their business model to match the new world is in danger of petering out. Customer behaviors have changed forever and they will not return to where they were before the recession – at least not in this generation.

The majority of customers have changed their spending habits. They now perceive their discretionary money in a different light. They have a completely different view of the value they expect for the money they spend. Customers are putting a lot more thought into their purchases to make sure what they buy is the best possible value for the price. They are less impulsive and more cautious about how they spend their money. They want to be assured that they are spending their money wisely.
If your company wishes to survive in the new world you must change your focus to align with the changing priorities of your customers.

For the most part, companies in the past focused on providing tangible and intangible products that appealed to the excessive and indulgent nature of their customers. Manufacturing companies produced cell phones, computers and other electronic gadgets with more bells and whistles than a person could possibly use. Casinos built massive, opulent resorts with every amenity imaginable to immerse guests in a sensory experience that appealed to their base desires. Restaurants sold the sizzle instead of the steak, emphasizing presentation and ambiance over the quality of the food. Customers spent thousands of dollars for an “experience” or access to products that would make them feel hip or cool. People paid far too much for far too little and flashed their materialistic possessions as indicators of their social or economic status.

What Customers Want Today

Today’s value-conscious customers want more than window dressing. They want ASSURANCE that what they are buying is worth the expense. They must feel confident that the investment of their hard-earned money will provide something of significant value. They need justification – or an excuse – for spending their discretionary money at a time when saving their money may seem like a more prudent action.

No longer are name-brand products or the “premier resort destination” the automatic purchase choice of many customers. People are evaluating their options and scrutinizing which choice gives them the biggest bang for their buck. They’re reviewing previous customer comments for assurance they are making the right purchasing choice. They are seeking to connect on an emotional level with products and services that match their current values.

Customers also want assurance of the RELIABILITY of your products and services. They want to buy products that work. They want whatever they buy to perform at the level promised. And, as the old throw-away attitude diminishes, customers are looking for products that last longer and won’t have to be replaced in a few months with a new generation product.

Customers want service companies to actually deliver quality service. They expect your employees to be friendly, efficient, knowledgeable, attentive and helpful. They want their hot food hot and their cold food cold. In many cases customers expect even higher levels of service during tough times because they expect you to truly compete for their business.

They expect you to stand behind your products and services and guarantee you will deliver what you promise. And if, for some reason, there is a problem with your delivery, today’s customers expect RESPONSIVENESS from your employees who quickly address their concerns and to fix the problem.

In tough times customers expect you to have EMPATHY and understand what they are going through. Very few people in this country have been untouched by the tough economy. Many people have lost their jobs, their home and even their possessions. They’ve downsized their lifestyle significantly. They’ve postponed their retirement. Those who are still employed may be underemployed, having had their hours or their wages cut. Some families may have more than one wage earner who has been affected by the downturn.

Consequently, when these customers do spend their money on a vacation, at a restaurant, bar or theater, they expect your employees to show APPRECIATION for the investment the customer is making. Stressed out customers expect your employees to understand their need for escape, relaxation, rejuvenation and a life free from the hassles of their daily grind. If they purchase a product from you, they want that product to be easy to use and not add any additional burden to their life. If they have to interact with your employees, customers want the experience to be pleasant and problem-free. They expect your employees to be totally focused on ensuring they have a good experience patronizing your business.

Aligning Your Business Model to New Customer Demands

It’s time to pull the yoyo back up and regain control of your company’s economic future. Innovative Management Group can help position your company for success in the new economy based on the realities of the market conditions you can expect over the next 3-5 years. We will help you:

• Define your strategic focus and outline your strategic intentions

• Reclaim your brand identity or redefine a new one based on the new market realities

• Identify your value premise and unique product differentiation

• Determine which of your current products and services match current customer needs

• Identify new products and services needed to create customer demand

• Align your marketing strategies and tactics with the new world

• Ensure consistent product and service delivery to create customer loyalty

• Engage your employees in making the changes necessary to succeed in today’s competitive world

• Ensure the commitment of your executives, managers and employees to focus on the things that matter most

During difficult times your company needs to stay focused, or refocus if your current strategies and tactics are ineffective or no longer appropriate. Now is the time to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Tough times require clear, creative thinking to minimize the weaknesses and threats and take advantage of the strengths and opportunities in order to drive value to your business. It is a time to rediscover the fundamentals of the business — the critical success factors that will keep your organization spinning successfully for many years to come.

Good leaders make good decisions in tough times. Call Innovative Management Group today to help you maintain or regain a strong competitive position in a weak economy.§

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Three Ways to Evaluate Employee Performance

The best way to monitor performance is by solid, objective measurement. Measurement is the one performance monitoring technique that works.


There are three primary ways to evaluate the performance of your employees. The first two methods listed below usually are less effective than the third. Yet these two methods are the more prevalently used by most managers.


Many managers believe the best way to assess the effectiveness of their employees is through Observation. They feel by observing an employee’s performance and behavior they can assess whether or not the employee is effectively and efficiently fulfilling one’s assigned duties and responsibilities. However, there are some problems associated with using observation as a performance monitoring tool.

First, observations can often be inaccurate. Most observations only provide a brief snap-shot of an employee’s performance at a specific point in time. That brief look may not provide a clear picture of the employee’s true performance. Unless you spend a great deal of time observing the employee in a variety of situations over a lengthy period of time, you may draw some false conclusions about the employee’s performance.

For example, I once witnessed four kitchen workers flipping towels at each other. I became irritated because I thought they were dangerously messing around when they should have been working.

The “snapshot” I saw was of the employees flipping towels. I did not observe what immediately preceded the towel flipping incident. Had I been there to observe what happened right before what I considered to be inappropriate, off-purpose behavior, I would have realized the kitchen staff had just successfully put out the highest volume of meals they had ever cooked in one shift at that restaurant. The towel flipping was them celebrating their accomplishment. Had I responded as my observations led me to believe, I would have chastised the employees for their celebratory behavior, instead of praising them; which possibly could have destroyed their desire to work so hard.

Another time I observed a security officer at a casino hiding behind a bush in the convention area of the property reading the newspaper. I was sure he was slacking off at work. When I saw him in the exact same location at the exact same time the following day I knew I needed to rectify the situation. I called his manager to report the infraction.

When the manager saw who the employee was he turned to me and patiently told me that the employee’s shift didn’t start for another hour. He said the employee always came into work an hour early so he could relax and read the paper before starting his work day. Once again my observations had been wrong.

The second pitfall of observations is that observations may not be relevant to the situation. As previously noted, your observations usually represent just a few frames of the overall picture. Just like a movie preview can often lead to disappointment when the actual movie is not as good as it appeared in the theater trailer, so also your observations of an employee’s performance can give you a false read regarding one’s proficiency. Observations are like judging a book by its cover. What you see may not be exactly what you get.

Managers sometimes wrongly believe that certain observable behaviors lead to specific performance results. One might feel, for example, that a salesperson must get out in the field and physically visit potential customers in order to make sales. But this extroverted behavior may not be necessary. An introvert may be just as successful, or even more so, by contacting customers through less gregarious means.

Third, observation is a difficult way to measure and monitor performance because you often don’t know what to observe. Since there is so much about your employees’ behavior and performance that you could observe; it is often hard to know what you should observe.

Observation entails taking in superfluous information that has no bearing on whether or not an employee is performing well. When an employee sits with his feet up on his desk it is impossible to tell whether he is neglecting his duties or formulating a creative idea in a moment of silent reflection. When a Card Dealer in a casino is not smiling, it may be because she was asked to stop doing so by an unlucky customer who was not in the mood for such cheerfulness.

Conversely, an employee who is feverishly working may be spinning his wheels and not be productive at all. Just because an employee looks like he is working doesn’t mean he is.

Finally, observations are generally negative. Typically, it is much harder for you to “catch people doing things right” than to see what people are doing wrong. It is much easier to see the dirty spot on the carpet than notice where the carpet is clean. It is easier to see the exceptions to the rule and the discrepancies than it is to see exemplary performance. Most managers expect their employees to perform well. Therefore they usually look for examples of where an employee is deficient, not where she is proficient. Errors are easy to spot; competency is not.


The second way to evaluate performance is by using one’s Judgment to determine whether or not an employee is performing satisfactorily. Unfortunately, there also are flaws in using your judgment as a monitoring and measuring tool.

Judgments are typically based upon one’s personal values. Some managers believe employees who come to work early and stay late are dedicated workers. This, of course, may not be the case. A worker who has to work long hours may just be inefficient. Or he could be a “brown-noser.”

You need to be very careful when you identify your expectations of your employees. Sometimes your personal biases can cloud your judgment about what is good or bad, helpful or not helpful, or effective or ineffective at work. Some insecure managers feel their employees are being insubordinate when they question the manager’s orders. Some managers question the loyalty of their workers when they put family obligations ahead of work responsibilities. Some managers feel employees must keep their nose to the grind stone, while others believe they need to provide a fun atmosphere to maintain employee morale. Neither philosophy is necessarily true or right.

Since judgments are values-based, judgments usually remain static and unchangeable.

When one believes as they believe, it is often hard to change those beliefs. A manager who believes an employee is untrustworthy, for example, may find it very difficult to ever trust the employee even when evidence suggests the employee is trustworthy. An employee who commits a serious infraction may find it hard to change the judgment of a manager who refuses to forgive or forget the indiscretion. Black-balled employees seldom return from their banishment. Once judged as incompetent, it is often hard to prove one’s competence.

Finally, judgments can lead to prejudice and blindness.

Many judgments are actually a result of a pre-judgment. Some managers come to quick conclusions about what they see, hear or feel. Their judgments are based upon long-held beliefs.

To pre-judge before gaining solid evidence or proof is prejudicial. Prejudices, by their very nature, entail some elements of blindness. Having judged quickly, it is often difficult to change a person’s preconceived notions without significant evidence or personal involvement to override the prejudice.

I once consulted with a telemarketing firm in the Midwest. As I was walking among the work stations I noticed an employee with a huge butterfly tattoo on his forehead. The wings of the butterfly wrapped around his bald head. I was absolutely amazed. I have an opinion about people who have butterfly tattoos on their foreheads. They are not at the top of my list of ideal employees. Yet, when I suspended my judgment, I realized the customers of the telemarketing firm had no way of knowing what this phone solicitor looked like. Nor did they care. For all I knew the butterfly guy could have been the top performer at the company. Judgment is a poor indicator of whether or not an employee is performing well.


The best way to monitor performance is by solid, objective Measurement. Measurement is the one performance monitoring technique that works.

Actual performance measurement is a more effective way to evaluate performance because measurement is relevant to the situation or process. When you measure performance you look at a specific situation or step in a process and assess your employee’s progress accordingly.

Measurement assesses an employee’s performance now, in this situation, under these conditions. It does not matter how well a basketball team performed last week when they are facing a new rival this week. How employees perform at another company may or may not be relevant to how your employees perform at your company. Your performance measurements must be uniquely tied to the distinct conditions of your work areas and they must be designed around the specific conditions of your business.

Measurements are conducted in exact terms and real numbers. Stating that you want to increase production by 200 units per day is much more effective than saying you want to increase production by 20% per day. People have difficulty grasping abstract information. The more specific and succinct your measurement criteria, the more likely your employees will succeed at achieving the results you desire. Measurements that are easily counted count more than obscure indicators.

Performance measurements focus on results, not behaviors. Sometimes managers get caught up in how their employees perform rather that what they produce. Too much focus on how work gets done, rather than what gets done, can often lead to an emphasis on work processes rather than work results. In most cases how an employee performs doesn’t matter. The issue is whether or not they achieved the desired outcome.

In many cases you actually should ignore the behavior of employees because it has very little bearing on actual performance. Behavior is difficult to measure because much of it is covert. How “hard” employees work, for example, may have no relevance on the results they achieve. Some students get straight A’s with very little effort while others studiously pour over their textbooks and still get a C-grade on the exam. A soldier may hold his rifle “wrong” and still hit the target accurately. Likewise, as mentioned earlier, some employees can appear to be working hard when they really are not. Behavior is only relevant when results are not being achieved; and even then behavior may not matter.

Measurement provides a way to win. The measurement indicator tells the employee exactly how to score. It tells her what really counts. Specific measurements show specific accomplishments. When you measure performance it is very clear what is achieved and who achieved it.

Measurement criteria should be set around the goals, objectives and expectations you’ve established for the employee. In another article I wrote, entitled “How to Establish Clear, Specific, Measurable Performance Goals”, I outline nine measurement categories you can use to measure every element of an employee’s performance. You should constantly monitor the employee to ensure she is performing as expected and achieving the results you want. And, of course, you monitor the employee’s performance by evaluating her results against the measurement criteria you’ve established, not by observing or judging her behavior. §

Innovative Management Group offers a variety of executive, manager and supervisor training programs on performance management issues. Please contact us for a list of the customized training courses we offer.

Criteria of Effective Goal Setting

Focus the performance of your employees by following some basic guidelines of effective goal setting.


The first competency of management is the ability to identify and set specific performance goals for your employees. You need to establish realistic and valuable performance goals that focus your employees on achieving the results that matter most for the organization.

Effective goal setting is a management science, not an art. There are no mysteries or hidden secrets to establishing employee performance goals. Focusing the performance of your employees through clearly defined goals is as simple as following ten basic guidelines of effective goal setting:

1. Goals must be written. Goals that are not written are merely wishes. The mere act of writing goals down and reviewing them regularly makes them real. Winning teams do not make up their plays during the game. They write their plans down and regularly review their performance against the plan. Games are won and results achieved when plans are followed and goals achieved.

2. Goals must be your OWN and "owned". The greatest performance successes are a result of individual commitment to personal success. Goal setting and goal striving are most effective when team and company goals become the same as personal goals. Results are achieved when performance goals become "my goal" for "my company".

3. Goals must be positive. The goal is not to avoid a loss; the goal is to win. Winning corporations focus on achieving increased market share, not on protecting their current advantage. Goals need to be visualized and the only way the goal can be visual is if it is positive. The mind rejects negative goals. Give people a positive benchmark for which to strive.

4. Goals must be measurable and specific. Specific goals produce specific results. Clear goals produce clear results. Indefinite goals produce no results at all. Goals must answer how much, how many, by when, and by whom.

5. Goals are best stated in inflation-proof terms. In football a touchdown is always six points and a golf stroke always counts as a stroke. Goals are best stated in units of measure that do not change. For example, “units sold” is a non-inflationary number, while “revenue generated” changes with the economy. “Pieces produced per employee” provides a clearer measurement of production than “total number of units produced,” since staffing levels may fluctuate. “Revenue generated per number of table covers” in a restaurant provides a clearer picture of actual production than mere “total revenue.”

6. Goals must be stated in the most visible terms available. When goals are measured in real, countable things, everybody knows the score. Goals must be measured in something you can see. Percentages are too vague. Instead, identify in real numbers what a 10% increase in production means in terms of units produced. In the heat of competition, communication has to be direct and simple, like a football team calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. Goals should not have to be translated by the manager in order to make sense to the employees.

7. Goals must contain a deadline. If there is no deadline, there is no goal. Deadlines are the foundation of commitment. Deadlines are adrenalin boosters and the instigators of achievement. Deadlines provide the pressure necessary to push people to attain the goals. Goals without deadlines are mere philosophical statements.

8. Goals must allow for change. People and situations evolve. Goals must allow for flexibility and adjustment in strategy throughout the game. Winning teams know how to alter their game-plan while the clock is still running. Don’t make goals so rigid that people cannot adjust their tactics when conditions change.

9. Goals must contain a statement of benefit. Goals and benefits go together. Goals need to tell performers what's in it for them. A benefit statement explains the WHY to people and provides motivational value. When there is a tangible reward, reaching a goal becomes a "want to' instead of a "have to" experience.

10. Goals must be realistic and attainable. Big results are achieved by incremental goals, not by quantum leaps and unrealistic expectations. Achievement of small goals provides the motivation to strive for bigger results. Success breeds success.

Employees are more productive when they have clearly defined performance goals to achieve. One of your primary roles as a manager is to define the production you want from your employees. When performance goals are defined based upon the ten guidelines outlined above, your employees know exactly what is expected and they become more focused – and more motivated – to achieve what you want. §

Innovative Management Group offers several executive, management and supervisory training programs on effective performance management, including how to set clear, specific, measurable performance goals. Please contact us for more information about our custom-designed courses.

Strengthen Your Interpersonal and Working Relationships by Pitching In, Helping Out

Imagine how wonderful it would be to work in an organization where people willingly help out and serve one another without being asked. Think how the employees would feel about their colleagues if everyone willingly pitched in to accomplish the work.


In November my wife and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary. Our love and commitment to each other grows stronger every day. I attribute the success of our marriage, in part, to our mutual willingness to unselfishly help out and serve one another without hesitation or reserve.

In the first few months of our marriage I formulated a philosophy that has guided the way I act toward my wife. It has helped me to refocus in moments when selfishness or lazy notions enter my head.

Whenever I see work that needs to be done around the house, a question consciously enters my mind that I placed there many years ago. As I see dishes that need to be washed or items that need to be picked up, I ask myself who’s going to do it by saying: “If not me; who?”

If the answer to that question is my wife’s name, rather than my own, I then ask: “If her; why?”

Is it because she’s a woman? No, that would be chauvinistic of me and wrong.

Is it because she’s a homemaker and it’s part of her “job”? Yes, that may be true. But why is it only her job? In real partnerships there are no his or her roles. There is no “mine” or “yours”. In a partnership, whoever sees that something needs to be done should just do it. And they should do it without having to be asked or told.

Consequently, when I ask myself why someone else should do the work instead of me, the only real answer I can contrive is because I’m too lazy (or too tired)to do it myself. But that is not an acceptable answer — not to me or anyone else.
Finally, when I’ve resolved that I’m the only one who should do the task, I commit myself to doing it by asking: “If not now; when?” The only acceptable answers to that question are either immediately or very soon.

Imagine how wonderful it would be to work in an organization where people willingly help out and serve one another without being asked. Think how the employees would feel about their colleagues if everyone willingly pitched in to accomplish the work.

Far too frequently people respond to requests for assistance with excuses as to why they can’t help. Comments such as, “It’s not my job”, “Find someone else”, “I’m too busy”, “I’m in the middle of something”, or ‘I can’t right now” permeate our language. Saying no seems to be the natural inclination and normal response rather than stepping forward to volunteer.

We need a new language for today’s workforce. Listed below are some phrases I feel we all need to infuse into our daily work conversations. I’m sure they would make our bosses and colleagues very happy.

Here are some phrases that should become a normal part of your vocabulary at work:

When Someone Asks For Help

• “Sure. I can do that.”
• “Thanks. I’d love to help out.”
• “I’d be glad to do that for you.”
• “No problem. I’ll get right on it.”
• “You bet. I’ll be right there.”
• “I appreciate your asking.”
• “I don’t mind. I enjoy doing it.”
• “You can count on me.”

Better Yet, Before Someone Asks

• “Let me do that.”
• “I volunteer to do it.”
• “Let me help you with that.”
• “I want to help.”
• “Do you mind if I work along with you?”
• “I have a minute. I’ll do it.”
• “I can take care of that.”
• “Let’s do it together.”
• “I can stay late and do it.”
• “How can I help you?”
• “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
• “Why don’t you go ahead and go home. I’ll finish up.”
• “What else can I do for you?”
• “I resolved it.”
• “It’s already done.”

We need people in the workplace who say to themselves: “If not me; who? If not now; when?” We need workers who see what needs to be done, and then do it. We need people who step up to the plate and pitch in without being asked.

I’m one of those people who like to whistle or sing while I work. One song, in particular, seems apropos while I’m laboring:

"The world has need of willing men
Who (share) the worker’s (zeal).
Come help the good work move along
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
Put your shoulder to the wheel;
Push along.
Do your duty with a heart full of song.
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel."

What could contribute more to building strong working relationships than unselfish service toward one’s coworkers?

Two things happen when you willingly help others. First, you make the person you serve happy. My wife tells me all the time how appreciative she is of the things I do around the house. She thanks me for helping and tells me how good it makes her feel.

The greatest benefit from serving others, however, is the second thing that happens from that service. Although I love my wife and want her to feel good as a result of my helping, I’m not just doing it for her. I’m really doing it for me; because when I help out, it makes me feel good. §

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Maintain Employee Motivation and Commitment after a Layoff

Downsizing the business is a fast and effective way to reduce expenses, maintain profitability, and ensure the continuation of the business. But how you lay people off will a have long-lasting effect on those who remain with your company. Poorly handled decisions today can impact productivity and morale now and for a long time in the future.


More and more companies are forced to lay off employees as the world economy continues to tumble.

Downsizing the business is a fast and effective way to reduce expenses, maintain profitability, and ensure the continuation of the business. But how you lay people off will a have long-lasting effect on those who remain with your company. Poorly handled decisions today can impact productivity and morale now and for a long time in the future.

Employees who stay with your company after a layoff often have confused emotions as they wrestle with the changes brought about by the reorganization. A paradox of conflicting loyalties stirs within them. Feelings of concern for former colleagues are juxtaposed with feelings for oneself. Previous feelings of loyalty to the company now conflict with loyalty to oneself. Employees question their previous work effort as they worry about whether they have a future with your enterprise.

While employees are going through these internal emotional struggles several other factors impact their future motivation and commitment.

Invariably surviving employees are expected to take on more work. Normally they are asked to do more work for the same pay or, worse yet, for less pay because of the company’s declining financial position. Since most layoffs are undertaken to cut costs, the downsizing often results in salary freezes for those who stay with the company. Moreover, some former motivators may also have been eliminated, such as company cars, travel and entertainment budgets, or professional development expenses. Finally, there may be less career advancement opportunities after a downsizing, making one’s future with the organization less certain.

The Importance of Communication

The most important thing you can do to maintain morale and commitment after a layoff is to openly communicate with your employees.

Many managers are hesitant to share information with employees after a reorganization, particularly if the information is of a negative nature. However, your workers expect you to bring up all relevant issues in a straightforward manner, especially any negatives that might impact them directly. Avoiding these issues sends a message that either the issues are not important or, worse yet, the employees themselves are not important enough for you to share information with them.

The absolute worst thing you can do after a layoff is to send a message to remaining employees that they are not important. The more information you share with your employees during difficult economic times, the more they will feel you are concerned about their future. Likewise, the more employees feel you are concerned about their future, the more they will be concerned about the future of the business.

One critical thing to remember during a reorganization is that when people lack real data, they make up their own. Usually what people make up is far worse than reality. You can stop the rumor-mills that typically run rampant during a downsizing by being up front with the employees.

There are three crucial objectives you should have for your communication with employees during a reorganization.

First, you should do everything you can to mitigate the usual fears employees have when an organization is in transition.

Second, you should view every employee contact as an opportunity to build rapport with your workers.

Finally, your message should be formulated and presented so well that it focuses the energy and effort of the employees where you want it – on the customers – rather than on the company. What you say must eliminate from the employees all doubt, worry, gossip, wondering, and hesitancy.

At the conclusion of your message you want the workers worrying about their work, not worrying about their jobs or their employer. To do this you must understand the psyche of the employees and address the concerns they worry about the most during a layoff.

What Employees Want to Know

Invariably there are five predictable questions employees will have during a company downsizing. Although the specific verbiage of the questions highlighted here may not be exactly how the employees would articulate their concerns, the answers to these questions will address most of the issues employees will be wondering about. When you know these questions in advance you can target your communication to address the employees’ concerns before they come up. This in turn shows the workers you are empathetic to their needs, thereby building rapport between you and them.

Your answers to five critical questions will determine whether surviving employees will remain motivated and loyal to a company after a layoff.

The questions are: 1) Was the downsizing integral to the business’ overall strategy to survive?; 2) What does the future look like for the company?; 3) Is there still a place for me in the company with continued opportunities for advancement?; 4) Will those employees who are let go be treated fairly?; and 5) What is expected of the employees who remain at the company after a downsizing?

Integral to Business Survival

Employees want to know that the reorganization is not random or whimsical. Remaining employees have to be assured that the layoffs were necessary and not just done arbitrarily. A clear business need for the change must be supported by facts and figures. Employees need to know and understand the business reasons for the layoff and what the consequences would have been had the layoffs not occurred. The layoffs must be logically tied to the future business needs of the company and should have only affected those departments that were non-productive or no longer essential to the business.

At the same time employees must perceive there is a clearly identified and well-thought-out strategy to return the company to stability and long-term profitability. They need assurance that by downsizing and taking hits now the company will be much better off in the future. Perceptions of unnecessary or illogical reductions in staff cause employees to lose confidence in your ability to protect the future viability of the company. Fears of future layoffs persist when employees see no clear linkage between the reduction in staff and management’s plan to return the company to profitability.

You must be adept at understanding and explaining the business imperative for the change. Employees can buy-in to a reduction in staff, even the elimination of their own positions, given a reasonable business need for doing so. Managers who want to motivate surviving employees must take workers into their confidence and clearly outline the logic behind the downsizing decision.

Outlook for the Future

In a down economy when layoffs are necessary the future is often unknown. People generally are afraid of the unknown. To alleviate their own fears, the remaining employees will latch on to any information they can get about the company’s future plans to return the business to profitability. This is why rumors run rampant during a reorganization. It is the natural human need for information – any information – even if it is false. Surviving employees will remain fearful about the future until they have information that will assuage their fears.

Before addressing the employees you should have a clear vision of where you want to take the company in the future. Leaders who possess and can communicate a confident view of the future can infuse confidence within surviving employees by sharing their vision. Employees are more apt to follow leaders who have a clear view of what the future entails.

Although you may not have a clear view of the future when economic conditions have not yet stabilized, you must share what you know, assume or hope for the future. You must help employees to see the future themselves. Let employees know what they can expect to see and experience in the months ahead. Explain what changes or non-changes the company anticipates over the next one, three, six or twelve months. Share your plans. Be as open, specific and precise as possible. Any hesitancy or waffling from you will damage the confidence and commitment you will receive from your employees.

Future Opportunities for Advancement

Surviving employees want to know what their future prospects are with the newly reorganized company. Since traditional career paths may have been eliminated, new opportunities for “advancement” must be created. These typically entail such things as compensation for performance rather than position, greater autonomy and decision making authority, or opportunities to improve one’s “employability” through exposure to more aspects of the business. Employees in the new organization will want to work on projects that develop their skills while achieving company goals.

You need to identify the advancement opportunities that will be in play after the reorganization prior to implementation of the change. Nothing demotivates employees faster than to have career options for which one has been striving to attain suddenly become unavailable because of elimination of positions or layers within the company.

Treatment of Downsized Employees

Surviving employees are greatly influenced by how downsized employees were treated when they were let go. Surviving employees want to be assured, should it happen to them, that laid off employees were “cared for” through severance pay, outplacement services, ample advanced notice, and fair and consistent treatment throughout the reorganization. Employees predict how they will be treated in the future based upon how the company treated displaced employees in the past. You will be wise to remember that employees have a long memory when it comes to company reorganizations. They recall exactly what was said back when and who did what to whom. Be very careful when making decisions about how to treat downsized employees.

Expectations of Remaining Employees

Finally, although employees may not know they have this last need, and therefore generally may never articulate it, workers who stay with the company have an inherent desire to know: What is my charge?

Once employees have decided they want to stay with the company after a reorganization, they need clarity on what the company expects of them. What do you want them to do? Should they carry on as they have been doing in the past, or should they do something different? What are their new marching orders?

If you expect employees to change, you must tell them so. If you expect employees to continue doing what they have been doing in the past, you must tell them this also. Never assume that the employees will conclude what you want them to conclude. You must tell them.

After you have gone through a downsizing you must give the surviving employees their charge. You should share with your employees the things that matter most in the new business model. Tell them:

• What it takes to win in the new company

• What they can do to contribute to the success of the company, as well as to their own success

• What is in it for them if they do contribute to the future success of the company

People need hope in the future. Employees need to know that their future will once again be bright as they work to return the downsized company to profitability. Everything you do during a reorganization must be designed to build hope, not destroy it. When you answer point-by-point every question outlined in this article, you mitigate the fears of the employees, you build tremendous rapport with them, and you refocus their energy and effort on the future success of the business. You get people focused on the customers instead of focused on themselves. §

Innovative Management Group is adept at bringing about successful organizational change, particularly on how to maintain employee commitment after a downsizing. We know how to engage your employees at every level of your company and get them to commit to the new organizational conditions. Please call us to learn how we can help focus your employees on the things that matter most.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Avoid Wasting Your Time in Unproductive Meetings

Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient.


Do you ever feel like you waste a lot of your time sitting in unproductive meetings?

Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient. Many managers have a misconception that employees need to meet often in order to ensure effective communication and coordination. Yet, in reality, much of what is done in meetings can be achieved through less time consuming methods.

Innovative Management Group offers a one-day training course entitled “Effective Meeting Management” that helps managers realize that effective teams don’t have to meet together as often as one might think. During the workshop participants learn how to produce quality results without having to spend a lot of time in meetings. They recognize that production occurs on the shop floor, not in a conference room. Consequently, they find ways to share important information and solve group problems without attending long meetings.

The first thing participants learn in the Effective Meeting Management workshop is how to determine whether or not to hold a meeting in the first place. Several innovative and inexpensive techniques for communicating without meeting are explored during the course.

Once it has been decided that a meeting is necessary, there are several things a meeting leader can do to make the meeting more productive and less time consuming.

First, there needs to be a specific goal or desired outcome for the meeting. The topics to be addressed during the meeting should be designed to achieve the goals for which the meeting was called. Topics that do not move the group toward the goal should be eliminated from the agenda.

Meetings are more effective when the participants come prepared. Advance notice of the meeting’s purpose and the topics of discussion should be given to those who will be attending the meeting. The meeting leader should send out the agenda in advance. When the goals of the meeting and topics to be addressed are published in advance both the meeting leader and the participants will be able to ensure that the right people attend the meeting. There is nothing more wasteful and frustrating than not being able to make a needed decision during a meeting because the right people were not in attendance.

Attendees at IMG’s Effective Meeting Management course learn how to accelerate their meetings by sending out pre-meeting announcements that fully prepare the members to participate in the meeting. The information also ensures the meeting members stay focused during the meeting.

Another skill taught at the workshop is how to quickly move through the agenda by sequencing the agenda items to accomplish the best possible results. They also explore ways to create an open environment of trust and respect during the meeting so attendees feel comfortable participating in the meeting.

One of the greatest complaints about meetings is that they either start late or go longer than scheduled. This frustrates those who try to plan their day or manage their busy calendars. Attendees in the Effective Meeting Management course learn the value of time control and are given specific tools for focusing and controlling the discussion during meetings.

One method of controlling off-purpose discussions during a meeting is to manage the expectations of the participants during the meeting. Too often meeting attendees turn minor agenda items into major points of debate. Typically this occurs because the meeting members had an expectation that every topic was open for discussion. Conversely, sometimes meeting attendees are silent when advice or open discussion is warranted.

This problem can be rectified by letting people know in advance the type of agenda item being addressed. Normally there are four types of agenda items in a typical meeting.

“Informational” agenda items are not open for discussion. These items usually entail merely sharing information for clarification only. During informational agenda items participants should listen quietly or ask questions for clarification. No other discussion of the agenda item should take place.

During “advisory” agenda items the leader is soliciting input from the members. The group’s role is to give advice. They should not expect to make the decision or to argue or debate after the advice is given and the decision is made.

“Problem solving” agenda items are placed on the agenda when the group is needed to discuss the item and make the decision during the meeting. Obviously, problem solving issues are the most time consuming items on the meeting agenda, while informational agenda items should be brief. Long meetings result when attendees try to turn informational or advisory agenda items into problem solving issues.

The fourth type of agenda item is “Solicitation for Help.” This is an item that is not open for discussion during the meeting, but brought up by an individual who would like help from someone inside the meeting later outside the meeting. Too often in meetings people bring up these type of issues and people end up providing the help inside the meeting when the item should have been addressed outside the room.

During the Effective Meeting Management workshop meeting leaders are provided with tools to manage the meeting to achieve productive outcomes. They learn how to control off-purpose behaviors that may arise in meetings. They also receive techniques to ensure action items are assigned, followed-up on, and completed.

Someone once said, “When the outcome of a meeting is to hold another meeting, it has been a lousy meeting.” Attendees leave the Effective Meeting Management workshop with everything they need so they won’t have to attend another lousy meeting. §