Archive for the ‘ Accountability ’ Category

How to Lead a Millennial

I am a millennial. I almost feel obligated to apologize for that because, for some, it has almost become a dirty word. Disjointed, entitled, unsocial… the list goes on. These are just some of the adjectives that people might describe this large portion of the Hipster Girlwork force and the current and future leaders of America.

For now, let’s say we get past our differences and agree on one thing: What we (millennials) need out of our leaders is different than what you needed. We need:

  • We don’t do politics very well. We haven’t quite navigated the whole office politics thing at all. You may see that as naive, but chances are, we may never actually master office politics. Truth be told, we are just not that into it. Our office politics are more like “The Office” and less like a scene from “House of Cards.”
  • Yes, we were the age that grew up with MySpace and “the” Facebook. We crave information and can read through it very quickly. We have the ability to look at a large amount of information and sift through the minutia to get what we need out of it. We actually embrace vulnerability as long as we are kept in the know about things. We hate to be blindsided or caught off guard.
  • Once we’ve earned it, stay out of our way! (In a good way). We are not a big fan of being micro-managed and want opportunities to be creative and innovative. We’ve grown up with technological innovation happening constantly around us and so that has nurtured our own creativity. And we want to show that off in our work.

Unemployed MillennialTo all non-millenials, remember, we are the generation that saw our parents lose their jobs, pensions, and futures during the economic downturn. We watched the news as the unemployment line was packed with people looking to stay afloat. We heard many say, “I lost my job and that was the only thing I knew how to do.” So we are diversifying our biggest portfolio by investing in ourselves. We are getting as many skills as possible, and although we may be accused of “coming for your jobs”, we are really just in survival mode. And we probably always will be.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

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This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

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1 Secret of High Performing Teams

We’ve started doing this accountability group around the office and it seems to be working. Recently, the boss man had this idea that if we put up our goals for everyone to see and kept each other in check for a 30-day challenge, the added accountability would help us stay committed tPic Calorieo reach our goal. Our goal was to start with 10 pushups at the beginning of the month and increase that number by 1 every day. As a result, we decided to continue this trend, and now we are participating in a daily calorie challenge where we log our meals and maintain a certain caloric intake. As you can see, so far so good and we have included 4 cheat days as good measure. I’ll probably eat a whole bucket of churros on my first cheat day.

Taking this concept past a simple pushup or calorie contest, in my own experience and what much of the research has to say is this:

  • In the weakest teams, there is no accountability
  • In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability
  • In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another

If you are on the first two teams, look for a trade or try to resolve the problem. None of these options are really that easy, but the latter option is probably the most feasible. Here’s what you need to know about accountability. Don’t be scared of it. If accountability is seen as negative and punitive in the office, do what you can to change that perspective for everyone. Put up a challenge for the various task goals that everyone has and create accountability for one another.

Here’s a distinction that you need to be aware of: there is a critical difference between “holding someone accountable” and “creating accountability” in your team. The first creates a culture of fear and brings potentially significant, negative connotations and impact. The second allows the team to be mutually invested in the success of oneself and others. Decide for yourself what environment you want to create in your office and see what outcomes you get as a result.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Leading Through Goal-Setting and Daily Mini Performance Reviews

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I was shocked to find that some leaders don’t take goal-setting and performance reviews seriously. Instead, it’s considered a formality or something done because it is “required”. Once a year, managers and employees meet to discuss goals that were forgotten a week after they were set and never revisited throughout the year. Two signatures later, they return to what they were doing.

Proper goal-setting is so important because it sets realistic expectations for performance and prevents employees from ever being confused about what they need to accomplish next. Every day, employees should refer back to the goals and use them to plan out the day. And managers should have regular conversations with employees on what goals are working, what goals are not working, and what goals need to change.

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Essentially, this is a performance review spread throughout the year. Then, when it comes time for the actual performance review, there are no surprises. This places focus not on the “final exam”, but on the daily tasks that employees do to make progress toward each of the goals.

So meet with your direct reports regularly and have conversations focused around goals with the perspective that you are there to do whatever you can to help them meet those goals. You are the coach; they are the athletes. And by setting those goals and making daily progress, nothing can stand in the way.

“Success isn’t owned — it’s leased. And rent is due every day.” – @JJWatt

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The boomerang generation: When 18 years isn’t good enough anymore

Get good grades they say. Get a college degree they say. Your life will be much easier they say.
I’m not sure who this “they” is but if someone can find them, I have a few friends and millions of young Americans who I’m sure would like to have a conversation with them.
The “they” that most parents may have been referring to was the previous economy, because Uncle Sam’s pockets have been quite drained for some time. He’s no longer the rich uncle that lives outside of town—now he’s more the one that lives in the baseboomerangkidsment.
Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) of 25- to 34-year-olds say they don’t currently have enough money to lead the kind of life they want, and thirty-six percent of this nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ homes in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center.
Also, large majorities (78%) say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements (living at home with mom and dad). So the stigma associated with living with parents is nowhere to be seen with this generation.
And according to the Journal of Marriage and Family, 79% of adults between 18-33 receive financial help, though there are varying reports about this data. I must admit that I fall in this age range and I used to receive some financial help from my parents while I was out of college. Since my cell phone and auto insurance were tied to the same bill, they never passed it along to me—thanks Mom and Dad!
If I had to guess, I would say the majority of the boomerang generation would like to spend the rest of their 20’s and 30’s chasing the American Dream as much as the previous generations. Stagnate wages, higher unemployment, and large student debt have been major obstacles to financial independence for the boomers. Although it has not been easy, much of the boomerang generation is optimistic about their future and financial progress. Many would suggest that they live life “entitled” but I believe many are hungry to begin their careers and add value to the organizations they serve.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The Customer Experience: Generation-Driven?

Are expectations from the younger generations driving changes to customer service and product support?

genyEarlier this week, I came across an article on Forbes.com titled What Kind Of Customer Experience Are Millennials (Gen-Y) Looking For?.  In the article, Micah Solomon, the article’s author, attempts to summarize the expectations of the Millennial generation when it comes to expectations around customer service and customer experience:

Millennials are looking for the same customer experience as are older customers–but even more so. (More efficient, more respectful of their time, easier, more reliable, more transparent, with more choices and more control for the customer.)”

Expectations around customer service, customer experience, and product support are definitely on the rise, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is specific to Gen-Y.  In general, people want options when it comes to products and services and how they interact with business.

For example, if you’ve ever needed to contact Amazon’s support, you know they offer different methods to contact them via phone, email, or live chat.  They also have a web interface for their customers to do things like initiate a return, track shipments of orders, manage browsing history, along with a list of other options.  As the customer, I can decide my preference for how I want to interact using the various options Amazon has provided.

serviceAlternatively, red tape can slow down or even destroy a customer’s experience.  If I buy a product from a retail outlet and decide I want to return it, why should I have to fill out a form and then provide my driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, etc…, just to get refund?

I understand that businesses need to protect themselves from fraudulent returns, but if I have to jump through hoops just to make a return as a customer, I may start looking elsewhere for my next purchase from a business with a less-intrusive return policy.  That extra 15 minutes it costs me to do a return as a customer may also wind up costing the business-in-question a future revenue stream.

If you want to improve your customer experience, don’t look at just Gen-Y, but look at your entire customer base.  As cliché as it sounds, ask your customers for feedback!  Most won’t hesitate to tell you what they want or would like to see if the benefit for them is an improved experience, product, or service.  However, you have to be sure to follow through with implementing at least some of those requests (and make it known to your customer base that those implementations are due directly to customer feedback) to show that you’re receptive to their feedback and suggestions.

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The Balancing Act of a Leader

Being promoted into your first management role can be both an exciting and scary experience.  It shows that your employer trusts you to make decisions and lead others.  However, it can also be a major shift in responsibility.  People are going to look to you for direction, and it’s up to you to have the best possible answers for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are told that they will have new responsibilities, there’s one crucial piece that tends to be left out of that promotion-prepared conversation: get ready to start the workload balancing act.

What I mean by that is most people assume that their focus on work shifts to people they lead when coming into a management position.  While that’s true, that only paints half of the picture.  You had your own individual tasks and projects you completed before this promotion, but now that you’re promoted, you’re individual task work doesn’t simply stop (though the focus of that individual work may shift).  In fact, not only are you now responsible for your own workload, but you’re also responsible for the workload of those you lead.

It can be a major challenge when you have your direct reports coming to you needing direction, yet you’re in the middle of trying to complete a project with an impending deadline.  How can you balance the needs of the two?

  1. Start with the open door policy: Hopefully, you’ve heard of this term. If not, the basic idea is that your door is always “open”. If someone you lead has an issue they need to discuss, they can come by your office, email you, call you, etc… at just about any time of the working day. Having this policy can remove a major hurdle and allow the people you lead to get past problems faster than having to waiting until you’re available.
  2. Draw a boundary with your open door policy: While it’s great for your people to be able to discuss issues or get direction at anyJuggle Balls time, it may not always be feasible for you to maintain this policy at all hours of the day. If you have approaching deadlines or your own workload is starting to pile up, block out some time on your schedule. Set a ground rule with the people you lead that you can’t be disturbed during this time unless it’s absolutely critical. Be sure to follow up with step 3 below after establishing your boundary.
  3. Find your second-in-command: You’ve established your boundary, but now what? Your people need a backup plan for time-sensitive issues. After all, customers will only wait for so long before an issue gets out of hand. If you work in an organization with a large workforce, perhaps there’s another manager in the same department as you who can be your backup (also allowing you to reciprocate the favor).
    If you work in a smaller organization and there’s not an immediate manager who can cover for you, perhaps there’s someone you lead who is an expert in their role who can be groomed to take on this responsibility. Not only will it allow you to keep your boundary, but it allows you to tackle another management responsibility of developing your people.

Finding the right balance between being available and completing your own work will always be a juggling act, and you may find yourself needing to adjust and readjust your boundaries depending on the needs of your work and the needs of your people.

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