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The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal

For leaders assuming the CEO title for the first time, taking time to learn and think translates into early successes. But the problem is there’s little time to do either. Information comes at them more quickly, more people than ever before demand their time, and they’re told that the myriad decisions piled in front of them are all important.

If hired from outside, there is a new culture to get used to and it’s not clear who to trust. Even when promoted from inside, the pace can be jarring compared to running a division in the same company. In both cases, any new leader must manage intense exposure (as it sinks in that top leaders have few places to escape to) and unrealistic expectations (of both self and others).

There is nothing new leaders can do to avoid these problems completely. All they can control is how they react to them. Because we tend to make mistakes when things speed up, especially when in unfamiliar territory, it can make all the difference to find ways to slow things down.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal pointed out that “All of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” He didn’t mean sitting quietly in front of a laptop responding to emails. The best thinking comes from structured reflection — and the best way to do that is keeping a personal journal.

I started keeping a journal when I took over a manufacturing research, software, and consulting firm. I was very young, we were in crisis facing a challenging market, and I wasn’t sure whom I could rely on. I kept a journal through my 12 years as chairman and CEO and have since recommended it to people moving into any senior position for the first time.

There’s strong evidence that replaying events in our brain is essential to learning. While the brain records and holds what takes place in the moment, the learning from what one has gone through — that is, determining what is important and what lessons should be learned — happens after the fact during periods of quiet reflection.

Also, when we slow things down and reflect, we can be more creative about solving seemingly inscrutable problems. Take, for example, a technique called the “second solution method” that I’ve used in the past. If a group was struggling to come up with options to solve a tough problem, we would brainstorm to identify a list of possible solutions. Before switching to prioritizing, making items specific, etc., we tried to identify all possible options. I found the best approach was to tell the group to take a break and when it reconvened to ask, “What else occurs to you?” Inevitably, this simple question resulted in about 50% more items, often of higher quality. By experimenting, I found that the break that took place between the first and second rounds was more important than the question. A journal is an effective, efficient, private way to take a similar break.

Journal entries should provide not only a record of what happened but how we reacted emotionally; writing it down brings a certain clarity that puts things in perspective. In other cases, it’s a form of mental rehearsal to prepare for particularly sensitive issues where there’s no one to talk with but yourself. Journals can also be the best way to think through big-bet decisions and test one’s logic.

 While personality, style, and situation cause different approaches, some guidelines have proven useful for the best results. Notes should be made as soon as possible after an event from which one wants to learn—ideally the same day. Waiting more than 24 hours seems to sacrifice specificity about details that made the most difference and why they happened.

An entry should begin with the primary outcome — the headline that best captures the major result. Then, list the essential reason for that outcome; an always-subtle root cause made apparent by asking “why?” five times to peel back each layer, revealing what came before. (I remember reviewing my journal once and realized that several big-bet decisions turned on the right question asked at just the right point in the debates. Fortunately, my notes were in enough detail that they showed that the same subordinate asked the right question each time. I started listening to him much more closely). Third, recall the emotions that affected decision making and why they flared. Last, identify what you can learn from the whole experience and what you can do differently next time.

Many will opt to keep a journal on their computer or iPad. While that may be more efficient, the point of keeping a journal is not efficiency but to reflect and slow things down so that learning is maximized. For that purpose, handwriting may work better. The novelist Paul Theroux has said that he writes long-hand because, “The speed with which I write with a pen seems to be the speed with which my imagination finds the best… words.” He noted a 2011 Newsweek article that said, “Brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing [and] it’s easier to remember something once you’ve written it down on paper.”

With so many benefits of keeping a journal, why do so few leaders do it?

  • It takes time, a most precious asset. Because a journal requires reflection, it’s best done during quiet periods, which are rare for any leader.
  • Sometimes, keeping a journal requires reliving something one would just as soon forget. Even though a vital step in learning, it’s unpleasant.
  • Because many leaders prefer to rapidly move on to the next challenge, reflection is not high on their list of things they enjoy or have much experience with.
  • Like any tool, it takes time to perfect the best way to use it. The methodology offered here did not happen right away, but came after many trials and errors.

These are minor drawbacks compared to the benefits. Slowing things down leads to better-thought-through, more effective judgement and to learning what to do more of and what to change. One result, as important as anything, is an increase in the satisfaction that should come from being in charge. A personal journal should be part of any leader’s toolkit.

Dan Ciampa (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is a former CEO, an adviser to boards and chief executives, and the author of five books, including Transitions at the Top: What Organizations Must Do to Make Sure New Leaders Succeed (with David L. Dotlich, Wiley, 2015) and Right from the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role (with Michael Watkins, Harvard Business Review Press, 1999). 

 

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2017/07/the-more-senior-your-job-title-the-more-you-need-to-keep-a-journal?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter_weekly&utm_campaign=weeklyhotlist&referral=00202&spMailingID=17626641&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=1060705986&spReportId=MTA2MDcwNTk4NgS2

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How to Handle Underperformers on a Team You Inherit

Recently I was talking with a new manager about the team she had inherited. While she thought that most of the team members were doing a good job, she was concerned that one or two people were not pulling their weight. She wasn’t sure what to do about them. She was worried that if she fired these people, or even put them on notice, it would sink morale and others would worry about losing their jobs, too. She also didn’t want to come across as mean and insensitive so early on, because she wanted her team to like her. But she knew that if she didn’t do something, the team might not hit its goals.

These concerns probably sound familiar to any new manager. Suddenly, instead of focusing only on your own performance, you have to make sure that other people are performing. Instead of building relationships with one or two coworkers, now you have to think about how you relate to the whole team. It’s not an easy transition. In order to manage it successfully, there are two principles you should keep in mind.

Principle number one is to remember that as a manager, your primary responsibility is to the organization and the achievement of its performance targets. Your job is not to compete for the “most popular manager” award or to make things easy for your team. Principle number two is that your success depends on the success of your team members. You need to help them achieve their individual and collective targets and feel good about the company — but you can’t do their jobs for them. If someone can’t perform, you have to find someone else who can, or you’ll be putting your own success at risk.

Applying these principles means that you have to be, in the words of Jack Welch, hardheaded and softhearted. You have to prioritize the team achieving its goals and everyone performing at the required level. But in order to do this, you have to set your team members up for success. This means understanding each person’s individual style, personality, and capabilities — and what they need to be successful.

Let’s go back to this new manager’s dilemma. She should not let the weaker performers on her team off the hook. This would not only put her and the team at risk of missing their goals but also send a message to other members that she is not serious about achieving the targets. Some employees may resent the fact that they have to work hard while others can slack off. Eventually they too might feel they can get away with underperforming. So not dealing with poor performers can be worse for morale and overall team performance than confronting the issue directly.

At the same time, the new manager shouldn’t judge the underperformers too quickly by assuming they are not capable or motivated. She shouldn’t assume that they can’t do better or aren’t the right people for the job. Instead, she should consider the potential reasons for their performance. Maybe the previous manager hadn’t insisted on high performance, or hadn’t trained them properly, or hadn’t given them the tools they needed.

So what should the new manager do? First, she needs to make her expectations about high performance clear to everyone on the team. She should create a performance “contract” with the team that lays out the overall goals and what each person needs to contribute to reach them. This contract might also include the behaviors that are expected.

Based on these requirements, she then needs to meet with the “problem” performers one-on-one to find out what’s going on. What do they need in order to get to a higher level? How can she help? Are they willing to do what’s needed to step up? For example, some people, when confronted honestly and constructively with high performance requirements, will start talking about whether there might be other jobs that better fit their skills. Others might raise the question of whether they have the capacity to work at that level. And still others, in the best scenario, will be excited about the challenge and will want to talk about what they have to do in order to improve.

For those team members who are ready to move forward, the manager has to establish an action plan and timeline for getting them to acceptable performance. This might include formal training, peer coaching, observation, future feedback sessions, or any number of other supportive steps. And for those who are not willing to put in the work, the manager has to move forward with replacing them or redistributing their work to others.

What’s important is that a manager do this transparently and quickly — in a matter of days, or weeks at the most. Creating the expectation for high performance and doing what’s necessary to help your team be successful is a critical skill for anyone managing others. So learning how to do it at the beginning of your managerial career will serve you well not only in this first job but also in many to come.

Ron Ashkenas is a Partner Emeritus at Schaffer Consulting. He is a co-author of The GE Work-Out and The Boundaryless Organization. His latest book is Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done.

 

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2017/06/how-to-handle-underperformers-on-a-team-you-inherit?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date&spMailingID=17463422&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=1041158494&spReportId=MTA0MTE1ODQ5NAS2

 

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40 Years of Research Proves Women Are Better Managers Than Men Because They Tend to Have This Crucial Skill

To create highly engaged workforces you'll have to focus on these four keys areas:

In a Gallup report based on over four decades of research, including the analysis of 27 million employees' responses, female managers outperform their male counterparts when it comes to driving employee engagement. Gallup defines engaged employeesas those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
Regarding the day-to-day practical evidence, the study found that if you reported to a female manager, you were more likely to reply "yes" to the following statements:
  • "There is someone at work who encourages my development."
  • "In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress," and,
  • "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."

Why is this such a big deal? The main reason is that 87 percent of employees worldwide report being disengaged at work. On the flip side, companies that have engaged employees outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. That's a lot of uncapitalized potential.

Let's take a look at the four components of employee engagement that gave women an advantage over their male colleagues.

1. SETTING BASIC EXPECTATIONS

One of the quickest ways to create confusion and stifle productivity is to be ambiguous about expectations. A major indicator of an engaged employee is ownership over one's role, and it's awfully difficult to take control without baseline responsibilities. To ensure that your employee is crystal clear about their position, make sure you:

  1. Have a job description review and discuss areas of importance, key contributions (what tasks affect others), the potential for impact and areas of accountability.
  2. Lay out the consequences, in a friendly manner, and be consistent. This includes both the positive and negative side-effects of your employee's performance.
  3. Establish clear metrics, key performance indicators, and behavior standards. Everyone wants to understand how they will be evaluated.
  4. Clarify areas where your employee can be autonomous.
  5. Ensure all process based capabilities are handed down. AKA, department "know-how", training and standard operating procedures.

Word to the wise, be careful about assigning accountability without authority. It's frustrating, as an employee, to be held accountable for something that you can't manage or make a decision on.

2. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Great managers understand that engagement is an outcome of meaningful relationships. What constitutes a meaningful relationship? Here are five characteristics from the Mind Tools Editorial Team.

  1. Trust --If you could pick a cornerstone for a good relationship, trust would definitely be the best option. It enables employees to be open, honest and transparent. You'd be surprised how much energy new employees can conserve (and redeploy) by not having to constantly watch their back and question everything they say/do.
  2. Mutual Respect -- You can't expect respect without giving it first. We must value everyone's thoughts, ideas, and input. Then, it will be much easier to develop solutions based on collective insight -- a key to engaging your employees in your vision/mission. People don't take direction and learn from those whom they don't respect.
  3. Mindfulness -- We must take responsibility for our own actions, words, emotions (or lack thereof) and the effects that they can have on those around us. Employees are products of their environments. Make sure that you're mindful of the one you're creating.
  4. Welcoming Diversity -- "People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say, and factor their insights into your decision-making." (Mind Tools)
  5. Open Communication -- This one is pretty simple: the more we communicate with our employees, the richer our relationships will be.

3. ENCOURAGING A POSITIVE TEAM ENVIRONMENT

In efforts to automate and systematize our work, we've become obsessed with computing outcomes and collecting data to drive decisions. Don't get me wrong, data is necessary and there is definitely a place for it, but it does not replace the need for leadership.

Unfortunately, this obsession with measuring throughput and efficiency has created mechanistic management crutches. News flash, people don't thrive in standardized environments. Our employees are naturally different and diverse. Forcing them to conform stifles creativity and limits leaders to the role of a delivery system. Instead, focus on creating a human system. One that is characterized by team harmony, respect and caring for employees' welfare. Then, watch as these humanistic conditions unearth your employee's engagement.

4. PROVIDING EMPLOYEES WITH OPPORTUNITIES TO DEVELOP WITHIN THEIR CAREERS

The feeling of stagnation is terrifying. Help your employees stay relevant and challenged by investing in their development. If you don't, others will.

It may seem like engagement is just another buzz word that HR departments throw around to create more work for managers. However, this Gallup report proves that higher levels of engagement produce higher-performing teams. Gentlemen, if we want to even the odds, then we must focus on creating a culture within our teams that breeds engagement. 

Michael Schneider/Apr 19, 2017

 

https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/flip.it%2FpiT5mP-40-years-of-research-proves-women-are-b/f-90eccc1e7d%2Finc.com

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