How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Focus groupquestions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.


Why Limited Feedback Points Are Crucial in Corporate Coaching...

You're a coach in the corporate world.  That means you know a lot - about a lot of things.  

It also means you've been trusted - whether formally or informally - to share your observations, thoughts and wisdom with others about their performance.  With that comes great responsibility.  I'm assuming you're good at what you do and have what it takes from a Subject Matter Expertise perspective to coach effectively.

So allow me to tell you where you're going to #### it up:

You're going to give your coaching recipient 10 things to think about the next time they perform the subject of your coaching.

Maybe 5 things.  The number is important, but also meaningless once you go above 2-3 items you attempt to coach on in a single session.  Let me explain what's out there in business books and then give you my own experience.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, you'll see the best in any field have 3 things present as they develop into world-class performers:

--They spent the time practicing - the 10,000 hour rule

--They had access to facilities/tools to practice the skill in question

--They had access to a coach/system that could provide immediate feedback

What's most interesting to me these days is the coaching part of that loop.  The older I get and the more coaching I do, the more I'm convinced that coaches have to be very selective in the feedback they give.  As SME's in whatever we do as coaches, it's easy to unload a list of things that a person should do in order to improve they next time they perform a task/service/etc.

You're a common sense person, so when I tell you "don't give the subject of coaching 10 things/points of feedback", you get it.

What if I told you that 3 points of feedback are too many? 

That's harder, right?

In my outside life away from business, I serve as a basketball shooting coach for some good to great players at a variety of ages.  The research Gladwell cited in Outliers certainly hold true for my students - they have to have a desire to put in the hours, they need access to an indoor gym and they need immediate coaching and feedback, which is where someone like me comes in.

In my basketball coaching life, experience rapidly brought me down to a coaching 3 points of feedback - base/feet, hand placement and speed through the zone/finish.  That's all I coach on, because different players have different styles and it's my job to maximize them - not change something that will take them backwards.

But experience as a coach in hoops has taught me something else - while it's OK to have culled my coaching package down to 3 things, when the player is getting reps in, 3 points of feedback is way too many.

What I've learned is that I can go into a coaching session thinking that we need to work on two of the three, but on a rep by rep basis, I can only give feedback on one.

One point of feedback per rep.

If I give feedback on more than one point of my package, it becomes so overwhelming to the recipient - you guessed it - improves on nothing at times during the session.

You're a good coach in the corporate world.  Check yourself before you wreck yourself when it comes to how you give feedback.

Coaching more than one point of feedback in a session?  It's bad for everyone's health.

 


VIDEO: Dealing with Sidetracks In Coaching Conversations...

Featured today - an interview I did with Tim Sackett for Talent Talks (a great series brought to you by Saba Software) on Dealing with Sidetracks in Coaching Conversations...

You know what sidetracks are even if you don't know them by name...  You know you need to coach a direct report on an issue, so you engage, only to get blown back by the employee with all the reasons the current situation (the one you're coaching on) exists.. It's them, it's their tools, hell, it's even you.

Yes, you! Sidetracks are so dynamic your direct reports can use them to throw you under the bus!!

Take a look at the video below (email subscribers may need to click through to see player) for ideas on how to deal with sidetracks.  If you like what you see, make sure to visit Saba Software- and don't forget to like the video or throw us a comment!


COMPETITION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD: You Want Employees Who Want to Stick It to the Other Guy/Gal...

Yesterday I pinged you about the change in corporate values at Uber.  They have always had a Viking culture, and that works when you're trying to conquer new land/metro areas vs. groups that don't want to be conquered.  Hell, that might even be necessary.  

Uber is making the right pivot and is probably two years late.  Once the majority of the conquering is done, the Viking culture doesn't work so well.  

But don't mistake having a positive set of corporate values with the assumption you don't want people to compete hard vs. the competition, and yes, at times each other (teammates).

You want people in your company who want to compete, and at times, stick it to the other guy/gal.  You just need them to do it with the cloak of professionalism.  With that in mind, I give you this picture of Mark Dantonio, who in this picture had just been informed that his team, Michigan State, is a 16-point underdog on the road at Ohio State.  If you can't see the picture below, enable photos or click through to the site for this gem (analysis below the picture):

Dantonio

This picture says everything you need to know about competition in the workplace and why you have to nurture it as a Talent Leader.

Mark Dantonio is a positive leader in the sports world.  He's soft spoken and generally has teams that overachieve.

But look at the face.  For all the professionalism, the look says it all.  Underneath the talking points, the corporate haircut and the conservative Nike attire, MARK DANTONIO WANTS TO ROLL INTO OHIO STATE AND MAKE KIDS WEARING BUCKEYE GEAR CRY. HE WANTS TO HURT URBAN MEYER'S CAREER.  IF HE COULD GET AWAY WITH IT, HE WOULD HAVE HIS TEAM TRASH THEIR HOTEL ROOMS AND KNOCK OFF A COUPLE OF LIQUOR STORES IN COLUMBUS JUST TO GET READY FOR THE GAME.

But Mark Dantonio is too smart to give you more than this look.  This is all you'll get. You'll quickly become bored by listening to him.  He's not going to give you reason to think that he's anything but a fine, upstanding citizen.

Underneath, he's a lot like the Viking version of Uber.  He's rolling into a city that doesn't want him or respect him, and he's just been told he's a huge underdog.  He's got a history of rolling into big games as an underdog and making people pay.

He's a Viking.  But he's a smart Viking. You'll never get him on record with anything that can be used against him.

But the look says it all.  HE'S COMING TO TAKE YOUR MOTHER ####### LIVELIHOOD FOR DISRESPECTING HIM.

This is what you need in your workforce.  You need to see the look every once in awhile from your best people.  You need them on that edge.  

The best ones never show you more than this look.

 


UBER: These Are My Values. There Are Many Like Them, But These Are Mine...

"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine"

--partial quote from the Rifleman's Creed (USMC), popularized in the movie Full Metal Jacket (click for video)

-------------------------------

It's hard to make sure cultural values stand out as a company.

Sometimes it's better that they just blend in and sound like everyone else's.  That's what's going on at Uber. Uber

It's been two months since Dara Khosrowshahi began his reign as Uber's new CEO, and like most new CEOs, he's on the listening trail, hearing the good, the bad and the ugly. and as the new CEO of Uber, that listening tour is probably more important than it is at most companies...

First on the agenda - rounding off the edges of a hard knock culture.  That's why DK's post on LinkedIn on Tuesday is so fascinating.

"It’s also clear that the culture and approach that got Uber where it is today is not what will get us to the next level. As we move from an era of growth at all costs to one of responsible growth, our culture needs to evolve," he wrote in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday.

To create new cultural values, some 1,200 employees sent in submission suggestions that were voted on more than 22,000 times, he wrote. Uber followed that up with 20 focus groups.

During the listening tour, Uber asked employees to tell company management what the new norms of corporate culture should be.   From the new CEO's LinkedIn post announcing the new cultural norms at Uber :

Uber’s Cultural Norms

We build globally, we live locally. We harness the power and scale of our global operations to deeply connect with the cities, communities, drivers and riders that we serve, every day.

We are customer obsessed. We work tirelessly to earn our customers’ trust and business by solving their problems, maximizing their earnings or lowering their costs. We surprise and delight them. We make short-term sacrifices for a lifetime of loyalty.

We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.

We do the right thing. Period.

We act like owners. We seek out problems and we solve them. We help each other and those who matter to us. We have a bias for action and accountability. We finish what we start and we build Uber to last. And when we make mistakes, we’ll own up to them.

We persevere. We believe in the power of grit. We don’t seek the easy path. We look for the toughest challenges and we push. Our collective resilience is our secret weapon.

We value ideas over hierarchy. We believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere, both inside and outside our company. Our job is to seek out those ideas, to shape and improve them through candid debate, and to take them from concept to action.

We make big bold bets. Sometimes we fail, but failure makes us smarter. We get back up, we make the next bet, and we go!

The note from Uber's new CEO also holds special contempt for something called "toe-stepping." Toe-stepping' was meant to encourage employees to share their ideas regardless of their seniority or position in the company, but too often it was used [as] an excuse for being an a--hole," Khosrowshahi wrote.

What made Uber special was a Viking/Pirate mentality to markets and business obstacles.  That Viking mentality spilled over to the workplace, which is why you see the post-scandal change to the values.

Toe-stepping is required when a city council tries to keep a revolutionary idea out of their city.  It's a problem when it spills over in the workplace via a climate where harassment is OK.

Can Uber remain special as their culture become nicer?  I think it can.  They just are 2-3 years to late with the change.  It will be interesting to watch.  

 


The Power of Self-Diagnosis In Corporate Coaching...

We've all been there as coaches in corporate America for our team.  

We know the adjustment we need our direct report to make. It's easiest to just tell them what to do with a side dish of "why". Self diagnose

That's prescriptive coaching, and it has its place.  But telling someone what to do is rarely the best path for long term results.  That's why tools I've talked about in the past, like the Please Shut Up 6-Step Coaching Tool, always involve you "shutting up" and forcing the recipient of your coaching to respond/talk/engage.

But there's a senior level to coaching strategy.  I call it Self-Diagnosis and it goes something like this:

1--You've got a long term investment in coaching someone on your team.  You've spent the time, they've heard how you want it done.  If you're really good, they feel like they have participated in that process.

2--Unfortunately, they're still ####ing it up.  They're not as good as you want them to be, especially since you've spent the time.

3--They have good intentions - they are trying, they just haven't put it together - the muscle memory isn't automatic, perhaps it's a reps (not enough practice or live situations) issue.

4--They mess it up. You want to tell them what to do.

5--You resist the urge and go into being a coach that has "self-diagnosis" as part of your package.

6--Next time the performance isn't there, instead of telling them what to do, you ask them to self diagnose what went wrong. Hopefully you've established a pattern of limited feedback points (3-4 things that they need to do given the task or situation).  The first time you ask them to self-diagnose, there will be silence - they're used to to you telling them what to do.

7--But, if you keep asking them to self diagnose, a funny thing happens - they start to develop the ability to evaluate their own performance, which is the true key to performance improvement.

Using self diagnosis is a powerful coaching tool.  You have to lay the groundwork with limited feedback points for the situation/task, as soon as you've done that, you can start using self-diagnosis.

If you haven't used self-diagnosis before, be patient.  It might take 3-4 sessions before the employee understands the expectation is clear - they have to self diagnose, and you're not going to bail them out.

You know you've won when they start self-diagnosing without you asking them to.

Or you could keep telling them what to do and see how that goes for you....

 


Twitter, Trump and Renegade Employees On Their Last Day...

Stop me when you're heard this one before.  

Employee gives notice they're going to leave the company.  Company decides whether it's worth it to allow the employee to work the notice they've just given.  If the risk is high, the employee is offered a hardy handshake and told the notice won't be necessary and walked out the door (whether they are paid depends on the financial status of the company).

You know you've done it before.  The rule of walking people out without letting them work the notice is generally reserved for execs, sales employees and after that - the employees you've always had problems with - I'll call them the canker sores of your company.

Generally, you know which employees to walk out the door.  Occasionally, you let someone stay to work the notice and it totally comes back to bite you on the ass.  That just happened at Twitter - more from The Verge:

President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump, disappeared from the site for around 11 beautiful minutes shortly before 7PM ET. It was not initially clear what happened to the account, and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a series of tweets issued by Twitter’s Government and Elections team, the company first blamed “human error,” then attributed the move on a rogue employee who used their last day on the job to boot the president off the service. 

Trump's account coming down was originally thought to be a hack.  But here's your tweets with Twitter acknowledging that yes, Jan from customer service, who's moving over to the power company because she's tired of Twitter's shit, deactivated Trump's account on her way out the door.  Kind of like the scene in Jerry McGuire where he leaves the company, takes a fish, makes a scene and ruins and admin's life, except different:

Tweets about trump

Which begs the question, can you prevent employees from doing stupid stuff before they leave?  Probably not.

For any last day renegade action like this, you'll have some employees who cheer it - but just as importantly, you'll have the majority that will think the employee was a complete idiot.

Here's some basic rules for the situation:

1--Trust your gut. If you think the employee is a jerk, don't let them work to the last day. But don't get a reputation for paying out 2 weeks notice, either.

2--Don't allow employees in their last days TO HAVE ACCESS TO SYSTEMS THAT CAN DISABLE FUNCTIONALITY FOR THE POTUS.  Yeah, that seems important - star this one.

3--If somebody does something stupid, find a way to reinforce how stupid it was to the rest of the employee base.  I'm not advocating ruining that employee's reputation, but if they did something stupid, you might as well tell the internal world in a way that doesn't celebrate it, and instead causes people to ponder the recklessness of the moron.

You can't walk everyone who gives you two weeks notice out the door.  But you can trust your gut.  Check your state laws on whether you have to pay a notice out.

 

Sit Down Old People - I'd Hire You, But You're Not "Digitally Native"....

Thoughts from the road.

Let's talk about old people.  No BS, no talking around it, let's just talk about old people in the workplace.
 
I'm coming off some leadership training with a client. Great people, and when I do that type of training I'm always reminded how most people who obtain any type of leadership position with a company (first-level managers and up) are talented and want to do great things.  
 
Here's another observation. The older managers in my group this week were great.  They were engaged, thoughtful, talented - and among the people I would trust the most to try and put the conversation techniques we we teaching in play at their company.
 
So why don't more companies want to employ older workers?  I'm convinced that this is probably THE undervalued sector in the employment marketplace right now. The-bucket-list
 
Why is this on my mind?  Mainly due to this article I spotted on the road from Inc, detailing the new codewords tech companies are putting into job descriptions to try and eliminate older workers from consideration.  Take a look at this bull#### (Inc reporting is solid, so I'm talking about the subjects of the reporting):

People would be rightly shocked if a job description for a high-tech position said: "whites and South Asians only" or "women need not apply." They'd be shocked not because racism and sexism aren't rampant in these firms, but because the company would be explicitly acknowledging that the racism and the sexism exists.

However, whilst they're sensitive about being outwardly racist and sexist, high tech firms are total fine with discriminating against one type of job candidate: anyone born before 1985. To express this, high-tech firms use the dog-whistle "digital native" which basically means "nobody older than 36 need apply." Here's an example from the Mountain View-based TapInfluence:

"As an Influencer Marketing Accounts Coordinator, you are an eager and ambitious can-do-er. You are bright, creative and won't stop until both you and your customers (marketers and influencers) are successful. You are a digital native who loves everything about social media and who keeps up with all the rising social trends." (Emphasis mine.)

The term "digital native" comes from a 2001 article suggesting that "children raised in a digital, media-saturated world require a media-rich learning environment to hold their attention." Over time, this highly-questionable notion that millennials are particularly prone to ADD and ADHD has morphed into the even-more-questionable notion that millennials are better adapted to the digital world.

Digital native.  Nice. New buzzword for old.  It used to be "energy", but everybody's probably on to that, so we changed it. Everyone take a bite of the turd sandwich that phrase is. Also, the article points out that Facebook diversity statement includes consideration for every protected group under the sun except - you guessed it - old people:


High tech firms, though, have so thoroughly embraced this "digital native" junk science that many don't even feel it necessary mention age in their pro-forma diversity statements. Like Facebook, for instance:

"As part of our dedication to the diversity of our workforce, Facebook is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion."

So that quote is the diversity footer on Facebook's posts on LinkedIn.  I'm not a big "let's be politically correct" person, so I really don't want to shame post on Facebook.
 
But **** it - shame on you Facebook.  You'll include every other protected class but the old folks?  Damn.
 
Old folks use tech products.  Old folks also trend more politically conservative, so If I was Fox News, I'd do a segment claiming that political leaning is the real reason you don't keep age top of mind as a protected class.  
 
But I'm not Fox News.  So I'll assume the reason you don't want old people is because you think they can't hang.  A lot of times, you might be right.
 
But older workers are a value play in the talent marketplace right now.  If you're looking for great talent, you might want to figure out a way to sort the player/non-player thing out across older workers.  I'd hire all of the older people I saw this week - without hesitation.  
 
Are they "digital native"?  I don't know.  But if you're discounting the whole class due to that factor, I've only got one thing to say:
 
Up yours. 
 
You're wrong.  Run a ####ing algorithm to figure out which of the older folks can hang.  That's what you do, right?  Use data to make smarter decisions?  Try that with older people and hire a few of them - the talented ones - and see what happens. 
 
I bet it's positive.
 

Snoop Dogg, Lonzo Ball and Having a Favorite Direct Report on Your Team...

“His daddy put him in the lion’s den with porkchop drawers on.”

–Snoop Dogg on Lonzo Ball via Twitter

Let's start with that quote.  Most of you know who Snoop Dogg is (music industry), but you may not be familiar with Lonzo Ball or Lavar Ball, father of Lonzo.  To level set, Lonzo Ball is a professional basketball Beverlyrookie who made his debut at 19 years of age with the Los Angeles Lakers last night.  Lavar Ball is the father and professional promoter of his son(s), who has been very active in the media describing that his son is going to be the greatest of all time.

Read up more about Lavar Ball here if you so desire.

That means Lonzo came into the NBA with a bit of a target on his back - a rookie with a big promotional wave behind him, a wave that provokes veteran NBA players to test/challenge/abuse a rookie like Lonzo to a greater degree than they normally would.   Lonzo's first game with the Lakers presented that type of challenge from a veteran named Patrick Beverly (Clippers guard) who came out super physical with Lonzo and had this to say after limiting Lonzo to three (yes, 3) points in his first NBA game:

"I just had to set the tone," Beverley said. "I told him after the game, due to all the riff-raff his dad brings, he's going to get a lot of people coming at him. He has to be ready for that, and I let him know after the game. But what a better way to start him off. I was 94 feet guarding him tonight. Welcome his little young ass to the NBA."

The quotes from Snoop and Beverly got me thinking about the topic of favorites on your team.

Do you have favorites on your team?  Some of us do and some of us don't.  If you have a favorite or you've recruited a new hire that you think can do great things, the Lonzo Ball debut is reminder of the danger of over-promotion.

It's human nature to hear hype about someone and start gunning for them.  Here's some ways that can impact your team if you have a favorite or are overhyping a new person on your team:

1.  You have a favorite.  80% of your recognition verbally is about stuff they work on.  Your spend 80% of your time with the favorite.  

2.  The other direct reports - who may or may not be as good as the favorite-get tired of hearing that #### about the favorite.

3.  Your favorite needs help from the team to be successful.

4.  Depending on your culture and the personality of the "non-favorite" direct reports, the non-favorites either discretely withhold help or outwardly gun for the favorite in a negative way in their interactions with him/her.

5.  By over-promoting your favorite (or a new hire you have high hopes for), you've made it much harder for them to be successful if the other team members decide to play hardball and cut them down a notch, which is a very human reaction.

Favorites are an interesting case study.  Your team might have a opinion about who on the team is your favorite.  Whether they try to take that favorite down a notch or two is dependent on how you treat the rest of the team.

Lavar Ball (the dad) has a favorite (his son Lonzo). He treated the rest of the team (the world) like crap.  The rest of the world (every guard in the NBA) is going to do everything in their power to make life hard on that favorite.

Lonzo will have some good nights in his first year with the company (the NBA).  He'll also have some nights where Patrick Beverly will be waiting in the conference room, determined to make his life hell.

Good luck Lonzo.


Is Anonymous Feedback From Employees OK?

Who here is tired of seeing disgruntled employees rip your company on Glassdoor?  Wow..almost everyone.  I can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous feedback is rapidly being recognized for what it is.  The newspaper industry entered the digital industry with the Trollthought that readers commenting on articles online would unlock a form of community unlike any other.  That happened, but in a negative way, with trolls and racists and every other type of creep posting whatever they wanted under anonymous accounts with zero chance of being outed.

It's so bad that responsible publications online have gone one of two ways - they've either eliminated comments altogether or moved to Facebook comments, where commenters have their thoughts tied to a primary Facebook account.  

Let's move back to the workplace.  A deep thinker, expert on employee opinion and a friend of mine - Jason Laurtisen - did a guest post over at Fistful of Talent last year and called for an end to anonymous employee feedback.  Here's a taste:

"When it comes to feedback, anonymity is less effective, and frankly, out of style in today’s workplace. We expect our leaders to be candid and transparent, particularly about the important stuff.  We expect them to tell us the whole story and to openly share their failures and missteps.  Yet, when it comes to asking employees for feedback about something as important as their work experience, we use completely different standards. Why? We’ve convinced ourselves that employees just aren’t up to the task."

I'd encourage everyone to go read Jason's post - because most of you do employee surveys and he's an expert in that area.

Me?  I'm here to give you some comfort in employees savagely ripping you - either internally in surveys or at company rip sites like Glassdoor.  Here's the dirty little secret that will make you feel better:

Employees and Candidates viewing anonymous feedback are increasingly immune to ultra-negative reviews. They're maturing and giving much greater weight to harsh comments that are found as a part of balanced feedback - outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

I'm increasingly hearing that candidates viewing rip jobs by the disgruntled on Glassdoor don't take them seriously.  They're increasingly looking for the sane commenters on the rip sites, allowing themselves to only be influenced by the rare bird that gives insightful, balanced feedback on life at a company.

That makes sense.  When you see the rip jobs on reputation sites, take a deep breath. The more extreme, unfair and personal it is - the less likely it is to be taken seriously.

When it comes to employee surveys, here's what you can learn from this.  Instead of letting your employees rip away in the verbatim comments section - force them to be balanced and give you a good thing for every bad thing.  Then show the mixture of feedback as the entire verbatim - rather than splitting up good and bad feedback.  

While most of you don't share open ended employee feedback with the entire company, showing the totality of each employee's feedback will show your leadership team which feedback segments should be taken seriously - and which ones could possibly be ignored as a lunatic fringe.