HARVARD B-SCHOOL: 50% of Grades Are Based on Classroom Participation - Should You Do More of That?

Here's an interesting business school item to compare to the business world - at Harvard Business School, it's common for 50% of someone's grade to linked to the frequency and quality of their class participation.

That creates a dynamic in the "case-study" method of teaching that includes a couple of things:

--People having to prepare more diligently for the material to be discussed.

--People being under pressure to participate since they know they'll be graded on it. Hbs-mbaclassroom (1)

--A wide variety of quality and quantity of participation, which the instructor must figure out in order to assign a grade.

Are you grading your direct reports for their participation in corporate America?  Should the managers you support do the same?  Should more of the performance management rating be tied to active participation in corporate conversations - meetings, project teams, etc?

In short, are you allowing team members to hang back and not participate actively in conversations meant to get better outcomes for your company?  For those that do participate, all are equal or are you probing as a manager/leader for logic and perspective in a challenging way that might get better conversations rolling and better business outcomes?

I think the standard is that we let people who don't want to be active hide in the weeds.  Here's some notes from the HBS site related to classroom participation and how instructors manage it:

"Students and instructors are co-creators of class participation, and the stakes may be quite high, not only for collective and individual learning, but also for performance evaluation. (For example, at HBS participation often accounts for 50% of the total course grade.) During a class discussion, case instructors manage participation along two dimensions: who to call on and how to interact with students in the process of questioning, listening, and responding. In managing participation, instructors should strive to create a learning environment that students experience as fair, safe, and challenging.

During a case discussion, experienced instructors often rely on a variety of principles to decide which student to call on (or avoid selecting) at any point in time. Instructors might choose a student with expertise relating to the discussion topic to help clarify a difficult conceptual point or, conversely, select a student with little prior background to start off a discussion pasture. Instructors may seek to bring in less frequent participants by keeping a close eye out for their hands during the discussion and by cold-calling these students on occasion. Body language may also provide a useful guide: instructors may prefer to call on a student who reacts with excitement or confusion to a comment just made in the discussion, as opposed to a student whose hand has been up for some time. Instructors should track class participation on an on-going basis to ensure that their calling patterns are not biased with respect to certain demographic groups or individual students."

What that summary doesn't say is how participants are graded for a couple of things - namely, their willingness to participate actively without being asked and of course, the quality of their thought process, ideas and interactions once engaged.

Great conversations and sharing ideas in a proactive, credible way without crushing dissent is part skill and part art.  

If you're a manager of people, are you grading people in your head for their willingness to engage?  I'd think about this and add it to your senior-level stack when it comes to performance management.

50%? Nah.

10-20%?  Now you're talking.


When Companies Hire Above You To Make a Statement (or Force You Out)...

There's a lot of plays in the ole' Human Capital Management playbook.  There are plays for recruits, high performers, difficult team members, managers, struggling performers and more....

This play is one that's run occasionally for low/struggling performers.  It's called:

"We're Hiring Someone in a Position of Authority Above You. In your functional area"

Bigger title than you.  You report to them.  You probably didn't even know we were in the market, but we just told you, so hey - meet the new boss.   You WERE probably the boss before if this play was ran, so the Who song doesn't apply ("meet the new boss, same as the old boss..).  If you were the boss and we just hired a superior above you to run your department, well, it's pretty clear the new boss is different than the old boss.

Got that?  Good.  Let's give you an example - Sean Spicer is out as the spokesperson for the Trump administration, but his resignation didn't come until Trump just hired someone above him.  More from The New York SpicerTimes:

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned Friday after telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with his appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier, as his new communications director.

After offering Mr. Scaramucci the job on Friday morning, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Spicer to stay on as press secretary, reporting to Mr. Scaramucci. But Mr. Spicer rejected the offer, expressing his belief that Mr. Scaramucci’s hiring would add to the confusion and uncertainty already engulfing the White House, according to two people with direct knowledge of the exchange.

If the moves amounted to a kind of organizational reset, it was not part of a pivot or grand redesign. The president, according to a dozen people familiar with the situation, meant to upgrade, not overhaul, his existing staff with the addition of a smooth-talking, Long Island-bred former hedge fund manager who is currently the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the Export-Import Bank, which he joined just last month. His rapport with the president establishes a new power center in a building already bristling with rivalry.

The hiring of Scaramucci above Spicer is a classic example of the play outlined above -"We're Hiring Someone in a Position of Authority Above You."

Are we firing you?  Nope.  Do you have the same level of authority you did?  Nope.  Here's a couple of things anyone who uses this play is trying to say:

--You aren't performing at a high level.  That's obvious if we hired a new position above you without letting you know/apply.

--Your performance hasn't been great.  Also obvious if we did what we did.

--We don't think you can do everything we need you to do.

--BUT - and this is significant - we aren't ready to fire you.  You have some sort of value, and we'd like you to continue.

Whether you continue or not in the role is up to you.  You'll likely have to reframe how you view yourself and what the possibilities are in our organization.  Can you do that?

If you can't, then you'll probably resign.  If you can't but can't afford to resign (yet), there's probably going to be some bumps in the road with the new boss.  

Meet the new boss.  You didn't even have a boss in your area of expertise yesterday.  #deep


If I Were Starting A Union, Here's What I'd Do...

I'm spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about the challenges of the budgeted merit increases - you know the drill - 4% across the board, and you need to get "pay for performance" out of that.  Which got me thinking about this ...

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If I Were Starting A Union, Here's What I'd Do...I'd rip a page from the player's unions in the major sports leagues and focus my bargaining on the establishment of a salary cap.

Once the cap was established as a percentage of company revenue, the deal would be pretty simple from an economic perspective - members of the union would get more cash as revenue grew, and they'd be at risk if revenue didn't grow or decreased (I'd have to figure out how new headcount impacts that - there would have to be some way to protect a certain % of growth for the incumbents).

Of course, membership drives for my union would be challenged - mainly because the majority of workers in America have no interest in that kind of risk, or at least see little value in the upside. They'd rather take their 3% annually.

Which means I'd have to attempt to unionize high performers and Linchpins only.  Of course, that's problematic since this group really doesn't need representation and can increase their compensation on their own, both within the same company and via the free market.

Crap.  Back to the drawing board...


Sometimes Great Teammates Decide To Let Co-Workers Live With the Consequences of Stupid Decisions...

Sometime after your first year with your company, you start to settle in.  All the onboarding is complete, the honeymoon is over and you've accurately assessed your job as a mix of positives and negatives.  If you're still there and not on the market after a year, that generally means you're content.  Hopefully you're learning and things are starting to click related to your role and how you can have success.

Another thing happens after the one year mark - you've settled into a clear understanding of who your teammates are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and if applicable, the circumstances/topics/conditions that will make them absolutely self-destruct.

You're a good teammate - so you've likely tried to make the self-imploding teammate aware of his self-destructive, hot button issues. 

But.They.Just.Won't.Listen.

So you do what a reasonable human would do after getting nowhere.  They next time the mushroom cloud is getting ready to go up, you grab some popcorn, a Fresca and get ready to watch the show.

That's what happened to Buster Posey (catcher of professional baseball's San Francisco Giants) last week.  A hothead teammate picked a fight with an opponent, and Buster decided to take this scrum off.  If you don't see the picture below, enable pictures or click through to the site to see the setup.  Buster's the one that's standing behind home plate while the #### is getting ready to go down:

Posey

Pretty good analysis from the Mercury News in the Bay area:

Oh, crap. Why do I have to deal with this knucklehead? Whatever.

Buster Posey can say whatever he wishes with his own words about what happened Monday afternoon. He can speak out loud and put his own spin on the way Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland’s purpose-pitch hit Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper in the butt and sparked a bench-clearing meltdown. But anyone who watched Posey’s body language during the play could read and see exactly what was happening inside his brain.

Really, dude? And you expect me to defend you after . . . that?

The unwritten rules of Major League Baseball decree that when an angry batter leaves the box and charges at the pitcher, the catcher is supposed to sprint out and make an effort to hold back the batter before he reaches the mound.

Posey did just the opposite when Strickland plunked Harper, who reacted with a stare and then a sprint toward the pitching rubber. Watch the video. Watch Posey. As Harper storms toward Strickland, the Giants’ catcher actually takes a half step backward, not forward. Then he watches.

You’re on your own, pal. I can’t believe this. But you deserve whatever happens next. 

As everyone knows, Posey is the center of gravity inside the Giants’ room. He has been almost since 2010 when he joined the team full time. He calls the pitches on the field. He calls out teammates when needed. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor but is a very serious man. We don’t see everything that happens when the locker room door shuts. But you get the impression that before any other Giants’ player speaks up, he at least glances over to Posey to see how he’s reacting.

Odds are you've got a couple of people like that pitcher in your organization.  They've got talent.  But they've got a hot button that limits them career-wise.  You've probably already gotten splatter on you from the fallout when you tried to help them.  Either they lashed out at you or someone else in the organization accused you of being in their camp.

At some point, you have to back away, let them implode and let nature take its course.  It's Darwinian in nature.  They've got a flaw and try as you might, you can't help - and you certainly can't fix it.  They couldn't adapt.

You're a vet now.  Sometimes you have to do what Posey did.  Just let it happen and stay above the fray.

The honeymoon is over, right?  


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


CAPITALIST WEBINAR: 5 Signs Your Performance Problem is Actually a Manager Problem...

By now you’ve heard the news.  Performance Management is dead and we’re told SMART companies are killing the performance review altogether.

There’s just one little problem with that popular theme – a recent CEB study shows that across companies Image001that have eliminated the performance review, manager/employee conversation quality declined 14%. Managers actually spent LESS time on informal review conversations and employee engagement dropped 6%.

My take? You don’t have a review problem – you’ve got a manager/feedback problem.  That's why I'm doing a webinar entitled "5 Signs Your Performance Problem is Actually a Manager Problem".  What could go wrong, right?

Join Halogen and me (KD) on March 28 at 2pm EDT and we’ll explore the disconnect, including the following goodies:

· Why the managers you support fail to coach and provide feedback, formally or informally – even though they’ll tell you to your face they consider it to be critical.

· How you can make your performance management process more meaningful and lightweight by introducing agile coaching methodologies into your organization.

· How to link a coaching/feedback strategy to more formal items like goal setting and performance management.

·  A roadmap for how to make your managers more focused on the career advancement of their direct reports – the surest way to get the attention of employees on all things performance-related.

Your managers are the most important link to performance.  Join us and we’ll show you how to make them better coaches, whether they love or hate the performance review. 

REGISTER BY CLICKING THIS LINK


CEB Study Shows Eliminating Performance Reviews Causes Managers to Suck More - Not Less.

I know, I know.  You think performance reviews suck. You're probably right, they probably do.  But is the alternative - not doing them at all - really better? 

I've always thought the biggest lie with the sexy, "we're eliminating performance reviews" clique was the assumption that managers of people in your company could deliver what's required to make sure employees still received feedback on how they're doing without the formal performance review.

My experience is that all of our managers could stand to get better at delivering feedback, and most avoid real feedback sessions with employees like the plague.  After all, feedback is confrontation, I-hate-talking-to-peopleand most of us avoid confrontation if left to our own devices.

The formal performance review forced that feedback at least 1X per year. A recent CEB study found a drop in employee engagement and performance across companies that eliminated performance reviews.  More from Fast Company:

A small but growing cohort of Fortune 500 companies made headlines recently when they broke with tradition and ditched the annual review.

Executives claimed performance reviews were often inefficient. Neuroscience backed them up. One study found that the dread filling employees prior to a review can restrict creativity. Another revealed that performance reviews foster a fixed mind-set in which the employee believes they’ll never be able to improve and achieve professional growth.

So it made sense to toss the annual review process. Leadership advisory firm CEB found that the number of Fortune 1000 companies eliminating the annual review increased to 12% in 2015 from 1% back in 2011.

But CEB subsequently found that getting rid of the review didn’t always reverse its restrictive effects. In fact, it proved to drop employee engagement and performance by 10%.

CEB’s researchers polled nearly 10,000 employees in 18 countries. Workers came from a variety of industries and organizational sizes. The researchers then compared outcomes and perceptions of those employees in organizations that use performance ratings to those in organizations without ratings. They also did a series of interviews with heads of HR to get a handle on trends and challenges for performance management.

Why did that happen? CEB’s analysis also found the following contributing factors in companies that dropped the formal/annual performance review:

  • Manager conversation quality declined by 14%
  • Managers spent less time on informal reviews conversations
  • Top performers’ satisfaction with pay differentiation decreased by 8%
  • Employee engagement dropped by 6%

Which sounds a lot like this - when you eliminate the annual performance review, it decreases the pressure on managers to have their s### together related to being able to defend their stance on an employee's performance level .  

When the pressure goes down, it sounds like manager's coach less, not more.

So if you're going to eliminate the performance review, you'll need to become a LOT more formal with your expectations on things like 1-on-1's. If you don't get more formal with those things once you eliminate performance reviews, the CEB study shows managers coach less, not more.

The numbers don't lie.  If you're thinking of being sexy and eliminating the performance review, you better have an alternative structure in place to force managers to coach - or they won't.


Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Short post today about an important topic.  

Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

First, definitions for some of my readers who aren't HR pros.  Corrective Action is a formal process where you tell an employee, usually in a written document that is delivered in a formal Kick in the meeting with a witness - that their performance is below standards and unless they improve, they likely will be removed from the company in time.

Corrective Action is usually a three to four step process in most companies.  It's designed to reduce legal liability in firing someone, even in "at-will" employment environments.

Back to the question - Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Well, that depends Sparky - what type of manager are you anyway?

Here's what corrective action means to the players involved:

The Company - "the employee in question isn't going to make it."

The Employee him/herself - "I need to look for another job."

Who's missing?  Oh yeah... The manager.  What corrective action means to the manager depends on what type of manager you are:

The manager as coach - to this type of manager, corrective action is just a escalated tool to show an employee they've been coaching that things are esclating.

The manager as bureaucrat - this type of manager isn't a coach and may in fact be a bit of a coward.  He/she hasn't really coached the employee from the heart, so when they show up with a formal corrective action document, the employee feels like he needs a lawyer.  Of course, they don't have that right.

Again, back to the question - Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Corrective Action is never a death sentence to the manager who's an effective coach.  That manager is going to keep coaching for improvement and wants the employee to recover.  They've used corrective action to show the urgency and hope is turns around.  Unfortunately, to all other types of managers, corrective action IS a death sentence - because if you aren't actively coaching, your struggling employee has no shot at turning it around.

Which one are you?

 

 


The Heisenberg Rules: What HR Can Learn from Breaking Bad (#1 - Acknowledge High Performance)

Capitalist Note - I finally got around to binge-watching the former AMC hit Breaking Bad on Netflix, which follows high school chemistry teacher Walter White's journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and his subsequent turn to becoming a world-class meth producer.  This series (The Heisenberg Rules) represents what I was reminded of as a HR leader by Breaking Bad.  If you haven't seen the series, you can view a synopsis by clicking here. Spoilers abound in this series.

Rule #1 in the Heisenberg Rules is ACKNOWLEDGE HIGH PERFORMANCE:

The biggest transformation you'll find in Breaking Bad is the growing confidence of Walter White (WW). Once a high school chemistry teacher working a Walter_Whitesecond job where he's routinely berated by a car wash owner with a unibrow and 3 fewer degrees that what he holds, Walt's transformation into a capable meth producer delivers one important outcome - he's now good at something the world values and will pay for - even if it's highly illegal.

As WW explores how to best make meth, the following things occur in a pretty rapid fashion:

--He learns that his background in chemistry makes him uniquely qualified to produce the product, including a purity level unmatched by any other producers.

--The world displays that it will pay large amounts of money for his product.

--He learns that the people who know about his talent treat him with a form of respect that has rarely felt since college.  Of course, they're criminals, but that respect has been something that's been missing in WW's life for years.

Breaking Bad goes to great lengths early in the series to show Walter White as an emasculated man.  He doesn't earn a great living, his family takes him for granted and a key relationship - his DEA brother-in-law "Hank" - is cast as an alpha male to show the contrast.

As a result of WW's emergence as an expert, his confidence grows, but so does his frustration.  His new identity is hidden from his family for much of the show, which results in him having to do things like provide a cover for how he pays for his top grade cancer treatment - relying on a lie that former college friends (now rich) are paying the bills rather than disclosing that his earnings from meth production are the source of payment.

Through it all, Walter White smolders at the continuing emasculation.  He's treated as a bit player by his own family and an object of pity as he earns hundreds of thousands of dollars - in secret.

Eventually, Walter's wife becomes aware of his new life as America's top meth producer. While that's a story arc of its own, it's an important contributor to WW's frustration.

Skyler (Walter's wife) is rightfully fearful of what's going on.  But she never really turns the corner to acknowledge what's in front of her - that the emasculated man that's been the object of pity actually has skills that will result in a ultimate stockpile of 10 million dollars.

What's the tie in to the world of HR and talent?  It's pretty simple.  We routinely error in our companies by failing to do the following:

--recognize what individuals are best at and what makes them unique from a performance perspective.

--use references to what people are best at when we are coaching them on things they need to improve on.

--understanding the need for recognition - about true high performance, however small it may be in some cases - provides a deep connection that will deliver many managers through difficult circumstances with the employees who report to them.

I was reminded by Breaking Bad that failing to stop and acknowledge when someone really kicks ass (not in a public way, but 1-on-1) is a missed opportunity and is probably at the core of a lot of relationship dysfunction in the workplace.

I'll leave you with a final thought.  Let's say you have a problematic employee you're coaching in a lot of areas.  The one thing she's good at is being aggressive towards people who aren't getting things done and forcing them to act.  She's a bit of a bully, but damn - she get get results in that circumstance.

Of course, what makes her great there serves as a relationship noose everywhere else.  She's a one-trick pony, trying to bully everyone all the time.

Why not acknowledge her super skill in getting people to get things done (only using in limited circumstances) while coaching her on her crass, abrasive personality everywhere else?

Acknowledge high performance where you can, even if some view it as negative.  It's the bridge to coach the same person where it really matters.


Great Careers Live At The Intersection of Niche and Grind...

I remember being in High School and somehow ending up at the VFW where my dad liked to knock back a Seagram's VO or two.

On the night in question, my dad was at the bar with a guy who he introduced me to and said the guy had some great advice for me, as I was interested in communications at the time.  The advice went like this:

"Don't major in journalism or communications.  Find another major and minor in journalism or communications." WOJ

His point was simple. People who were subject matter experts in a specific field had a much better chance of great careers in writing than those who were generalists - because they had depth and knowledge that gave them authority others didn't have.

The year was 1986. That dude looks like Nostradamus these days.

Like most HR leaders, I didn't come out of college looking for a job in HR.  I kind of slopped into it and then found out it was a good match for me.

I'm asked for career advice a lot by friends, family and people I don't know as part of this blog and my career in HR.  I've never forgotten that Seagrams-influenced advice given by a journalist passing through a town of 2,000 in the middle of Northeast Missouri.

These days, my version of that advice is the following:

Find a niche you're interested in that has enough action to pay well, then fully invest yourself in becoming that absolute ####ing expert of that niche.  Then make sure people can find you, which means you're going to have to self promote a bit. 

The world has enough generalists.  There's nothing to say you can't do both.  You can be a generalist by being a financial analyst early in your career, but at some point you need to find a niche that's going to be in demand by someone who wants to pay you more in the future.

So you're a Financial Analyst.  Why not dig deep and make yourself the expert in metrics that help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a sales function?  I guarantee you there's a CFO who will double your salary for that focus.

Generalists are the ones that get laid off in the next economic downturn.  Specialists who have a unique skill who can also do the generalist work?  Protected.

Find a niche and grind at it for best career results.  I leave you with the case study of Adrian Wjonarowski, pictured in a snapshot below from my smartphone this summer.  

He goes by the handle of "WOJ".  Woj is the guy that breaks 80% of the news in the NBA, and the NBA hates him, as evidenced by the picture below that shows him interviewing people outside a ladies bathroom in Las Vegas.  That's where the NBA put him, because he's got more power than they'd like and they're trying to knock him down.

Too late.  Woj didn't even blink an eye on this day, he just powered through the insult and solidified his power base for future rumors/news by interviewing 20 people he didn't have to.  If you're into Game of Thornes, he's Varys.

Woj found a niche and grinded his way to domination.  Whatever your field, you can do the same.

But only if you... 1) find a niche, and...2) grind like hell. #noshortcuts

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