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In a recent article for the July edition of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Ignite! newsletter, senior consulting partner Ann Phillips describes three types of conversations managers need to master—goal setting, feedback, and one-on-ones.

One element within the feedback conversation—redirection—tends to be especially challenging for managers. It focuses on those times when a manager must provide feedback that a direct report’s current performance is off-track.

In their book The New One Minute Manager, coauthors Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson lay out a time-tested approach to help managers deliver needed feedback. Here are 4 key takeaways you can use to improve your feedback skills.

  1. Do your homework

Before you rush to deliver feedback, make sure clear agreements about goals, norms, roles, and expectations have been established. Often the root cause of poor performance is a lack of clarity around goals. Verify with your direct report that the two of you are operating from the same set of expectations. Many performance issues can be rectified at this stage.

  1. Focus on behavior

If goals are clear but there is a gap between expectations and observed performance, talk about it with your direct report. Describe their behavior in specific, not general, terms. Use a neutral tone to ward off any sense of blame or judgment—remember, you are addressing the behavior, not criticizing the person. The goal is not to tear people down; it is to build them up. As Blanchard and Johnson explain, “When our self-concept is under attack, we feel a need to defend ourselves and our actions, even to the extent of distorting the facts. When people become defensive, they don’t learn.”

  1. Let it sink in

After giving feedback, pause for a moment so you both can process the situation. Let your direct report feel your concern as well as their own.

  1. Move on

When it’s over, it’s over. Don’t dwell on the experience. Be sure to reaffirm your belief, trust, and respect for your team member so that when your meeting is over they are thinking about how they can improve their performance, not about how you mistreated them. Expect that the feedback will be received and acted upon. And be ready to endorse and praise performance when you see improvement.

Giving performance feedback is a critical job responsibility of any manager, but it can be a daunting task for many people—especially when the feedback is less than positive. Managers don’t want to generate negative emotions, damage relationships, or make a bad situation worse. As a result, managers often delay or avoid giving necessary feedback, allowing poor performance to continue.

Don’t let that happen to you or to the people in your organization. With a little practice you can develop the skill of delivering feedback in a way that changes behavior while keeping the relationship intact. Feedback is an essential managerial skill. Take an extra minute to improve your skills in this important area!

Would you like to learn more about improving the quality of performance management conversations in your organization? Join Ann Phillips for a complimentary webinar on Performance Management 101: 3 Conversations All Managers Need to Master. The event is free courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can learn more and register using this link.

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“I don’t want to be a micromanager!”

I hear that statement all the time from my coaching clients. I get it—no one wants to be known as a boss who hovers over people and tells them what to do all the time. However, what I’ve noticed with some clients who desperately do not want to micromanage is that they often go to the other extreme and completely abdicate their leadership responsibilities.

So how does abdicating—which we also label as under-supervising—frustrate? Let’s look at one common example.

Under-supervision is most damaging when a leader says to a direct report who is unfamiliar with a task, “I know you will be fine. Just let me know when you’re done.” The direct report very likely won’t be able to do a task they haven’t been trained to do. Then, when the task becomes difficult or the person experiences some natural early failure, it’s normal for them to think, “My boss thinks I can do this. There must be something wrong with me!”

This begins a stream of negative self-talk, which can kill creativity. People in this state rarely give themselves permission to be a learner, to take risks, or to experiment with possible solutions. Isolation can also set in. People are often hesitant to reveal that they don’t know something—and are even less likely to do so if they think their boss expects them to know it.

Finally, forward motion is thwarted. When someone doesn’t know how to do something and doesn’t have anyone to guide them, they will often work on the tasks they do know how to do and set the other task aside. It appears to be human nature. I’ve witnessed people who are otherwise brilliant do this many times.

I’m convinced that abdicating behavior from a manager can be just as frustrating to a direct report as the dreaded micromanaging. The ideal balance would be to provide the right kind of leadership style depending on direct report’s development level on whatever task or goal they are working on. As Ken Blanchard says, a leader needs to “Slow down to go faster.” Here’s how it works:

  1. With your direct report, articulate the goal for any assigned work. Express what a good job would look like. And this is a vital step: have your direct report repeat back to you what they heard you say about the goal and the desired objective. This will ensure you are both on the same page.
  2. Next, ask the person how they would go about achieving the goal. And then really listen.
  3. If they list out what they would do and it sounds like a good plan, send them on their way with your blessing. Of course, always let them know you are there if they need anything along the way.
  4. On the other hand, if you hear “I’m not sure,” “I haven’t done this before,” or other statements of self-doubt, take it as a sign the person needs more supervision. Partner with them to create a plan for getting the job done—and be sure to check in with them regularly.

I always think using this style is like offering a thirsty person trekking through the desert some water. It’s giving them something they desperately need.

The hope is that a direct report who isn’t yet self-reliant on a task will grow and develop autonomy as they go forward. As the direct report develops competence and confidence doing the task, you, as the leader, can pull back on supervision.

Matching your leadership style to the specific needs of your direct reports will allow you to always correctly supervise versus under- or over-supervising. In this way, your leadership actions will always be just right!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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Dear Madeleine,

I have been with the same organization for eight years. My company offers anyone who has been here for seven years a reduced pay, three-month sabbatical. My boss keeps pestering me to schedule it and take one. (I totally get that this is a good problem for me to have.)

I don’t have a partner or kids. I know I should take advantage of this opportunity, but I have no idea what to do! I have been thinking about it for years and have always thought something would come to me, but it hasn’t. I am interested in a few things, but none quite enough to take a pay cut and leave the flow of my job.

I am at the point now where I think maybe I’m just not that interesting a person if all I really care about is my job. I am also worried that I will take my sabbatical, it won’t be the best thing ever, and I will have wasted my time and money. Any ideas would be appreciated because I feel stumped and—

Pressured

Dear Pressured,

I think the pressure to do something brilliant with your sabbatical makes it hard to be creative. My first thought was how jealous I am—but then I started wondering what the heck I would do if I had three months of footloose and fancy free. It is, in fact, kind of hard unless you’ve always wanted to write a book or travel all over the world, or unless you have an extensive bucket list.

I don’t know that you need my ideas, but I do have a couple of thoughts for you. Maybe, if we’re lucky, my readers will have some more suggestions in the comment section.

  • What do you do in your free time? There might be some clues there. If you cook, maybe cooking school? If you do yoga, a yoga retreat?
  • Do you volunteer? Maybe there are service opportunities in that area.
  • You could go talk to your HR partner and see what other people have done. Your company may have service opportunities for sabbaticals in place. One of the organizations we work with has something called a Social Sabbatical where employees get to go do service work for a month. The company that organizes it is called Pyxera Global.
  • Use my BFF Google to come up with some ideas. Look at this site I found: 100 Things to do with Your Sabbatical. I want to do about 92 of them.
  • Talk to your friends. If you have always talked about wanting to do something specific, they will know.
  • Is there something specific you could learn that would make you even better at your job? That might be an avenue.

The most important thing is to do a bunch of research. Then put a stake in the ground and take the leap. Just changing up your routine and learning something new will be good for your brain and your soul. It probably doesn’t have to be the whole three months—maybe you will only want to take a month or two. Anything you do will be an experience and a learning opportunity. But if you don’t take the opportunity to do something, I am afraid you will regret it.

Let me know what you end up choosing.

Love,

Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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What does it take to become a world-class leader? In this episode of the LeaderChat Podcast, we speak with Elena Botelho, coauthor of The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders.

“Most ideals about why people are successful are driven by stereotypes and gut feel rather than facts and data,” explains Botelho. “In this book, we’ve aspired to provide information about how anyone can be successful by helping readers learn from other successful people in business.”

Learnings shared in the book are based on groundbreaking research and in-depth analysis of more than 2,600 leaders drawn from a database of more than 17,000 CEO and C-suite executives. Botelho describes the four behaviors of highly successful people as identified by the research.

  1. They are decisive and understand the importance of speed over precision when making decisions. According to Botelho, most people assume that CEOs have an uncanny ability to make the right decisions more often than other people. But her research indicates that what really makes a CEO stand out isn’t necessarily the accuracy of their decision, but the speed and will to make the decision in the first place.
  2. They are reliable and deliver what they promise, when they promise it—without exception. This behavior sounds simple, but isn’t easy to practice consistently. Botelho describes the importance of being on time and doing what you say you’re going to do—and she offers another tip: “Highly reliable leaders are thoughtful about setting expectations right up front.” Botelho shares that this behavior not only improves the likelihood you will succeed in your role, but also increases your chances of being hired In the first place.
  3. They adapt boldly, especially when faced with the discomfort of the unknown. “Of the four behaviors, this is the one where people are most likely to underestimate their ability—and that is costly.” Botelho explains people naturally assume change will be painful, so they resist it. But her research shows that the most successful leaders are good at letting go of past behaviors, habits, and commitments that will not serve them in the future.
  4. They engage with stakeholders without shying away from conflict. These leaders focus on leading to deliver results that benefit the company as opposed to leading to be liked. They keep all stakeholders—customers, employees, and shareholders—in mind and manage those relationships.

Finally, Botelho shares some counterintuitive insights about making great strides in your career—what she calls career catapults. “Sometimes it is better to go small in order to go big,” Botelho says. Having an elite MBA or working for a marquee company is a great way to advance your career, but sometimes taking what looks like a side step instead of always focusing on moving up the ladder can have a more positive impact. By being in charge of a smaller project, division, or group, you might actually have a chance to practice more skills and get more exposure.

According to the author, here is the most important message to take away from The CEO Next Door and this podcast: Excellence is more achievable for us than we assume.

Be sure to stay tuned for comments from Ken Blanchard at the end of the podcast!

Check out this episode!

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Managers don’t have enough high quality conversations with their direct reports, according to Ann Phillips, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. This deficiency has a negative effect on both productivity and morale.

“Part of effective communication between manager and direct report is a mindset and part is a skillset. Both are required,” says Phillips. “It’s easy for managers to convince themselves they don’t have time for quality conversations, especially when they aren’t particularly interested in having them and don’t really know how to do it.

“Every manager I’ve worked with has so much of their own work to do all day, every day, that some can’t see their way clear to spending time with the folks who work for them—other than performance reviews, rushed interactions, or crises,” explains Phillips. “Conversations between these managers and their people are mostly manager-led directives of ‘this is what I want you to do; here’s how to do it.’ The manager is focused on getting stuff done and on what needs to happen—not on their direct reports’ career growth or needs.

“Unfortunately, when individual contributors in this scenario become managers, they treat people exactly the way they were treated. Sub-quality conversations become a cultural norm.”

The good news, according to Phillips, is that managers can learn to be more effective in their work conversations.

“If a manager has the right mindset and training, it’ll drive the right behavior,” says Phillips. She recommends focusing on three specific conversations to get started.

The Goal-Setting Conversation

“All good performance begins with clear goals. Effective goal-setting conversations begin with clarity—what to do, by when, and what a good job looks like,” says Phillips. “Be specific—and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s critically important to take the time to make sure both parties are interpreting the same words in the same way to avoid misunderstandings.

“Conversations and relationships can go sideways when people interpret things differently but don’t have a conversation about that interpretation. Never assume!”

This leads to the second important conversation at which managers need to excel—giving feedback.

The Feedback Conversation

“A friend of mine recently told me I tend to hijack conversations,” says Phillips. “The funny thing is, I was just about to tell her she does the same thing! We discovered that what I interpret as hijacking and what she interprets as hijacking are two different things.

“We talked about how, when she’s talking and pauses to think, I rush in to fill the empty space.  It goes back to my experience at home. In my family, you talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, and there are no pauses. So when my friend goes silent, I fill in the gap and start talking about something.

“Then I explained to her that I feel she hijacks the conversation when I tell her about something happening in my life and she immediately turns it into a discussion about something that’s happening in her life. It’s related, but it still feels to me like she is making it about her.

“Because we are committed to our friendship, we’re willing to discuss things that are uncomfortable and to consider each other’s point of view. That’s important at work, too. Managers and direct reports need to have the type of relationship where they can talk honestly. When a manager cares about a direct report as a human being—and vice versa—they build up an emotional bank account they can draw from.  That allows them to have difficult conversations when they need to.”

Sadly, the word feedback has a negative connotation in business today, says Phillips.

“People seldom think of feedback as praise or recognition. When people hear that word, they think at best it’s going to be constructive criticism. But it rarely feels constructive—it just feels like criticism.

“It’s another area where most managers don’t have the skills they need—especially feedback around performance improvement and redirection. Managers are so concerned about how someone might respond to feedback, they tend to avoid it altogether.”

One way managers can be more successful when preparing to give feedback is to make sure they are coming at it from the right place.

“Your feedback can’t be based on your own personal agenda,” says Phillips. “It has to be about helping other people be successful or otherwise improving the team. If you come from a personal agenda, your feedback will come across poorly.

“In my conversation with my friend, she gave me the feedback about the way I hijack conversations because she wanted our conversations to be better.  I knew that, and it gave me a chance to think about my behavior and run it over in my mind. That was a good learning for me—to recognize that behavior I picked up from my family might be misinterpreted when I’m dealing with other people.”

The One-on-One Conversation

Listening and focusing on the other person’s agenda is especially important when managers conduct one-on-one conversations with their direct reports, says Phillips.

“It’s easy to fall into the manager’s agenda, where one-on-ones can turn into a review of how the direct report is doing on each of their goals. At The Ken Blanchard Companies, we teach managers to schedule semi-monthly one-on-ones, where the agenda is driven by the individual contributor and what they need.”

The manager’s primary role is to listen and provide support, says Phillips.  Senior leaders are generally better at this than are new managers.

“At the senior levels of an organization, a VP typically will have more experience asking a direct report how things are going and finding out what the direct report needs to succeed. As you move down to the frontlines of an organization, managers are less experienced at taking the lead in a conversation like that.”

Especially at the frontlines, Phillips observes, managers and supervisors need training in how to have effective one-on-one conversations. Otherwise, the direct report is likely to default to the manager and ask the manager what they want talk about.

“It’s important to teach managers to ask open-ended questions about what an individual contributor’s needs are. Suppose the direct report comes into the meeting with a blank piece of paper and says, ‘What do you want talk about?’ The manager should take that opening and say, ‘Let’s talk about some things you are working on. Let’s list the three or four tasks, discuss your development level, and talk about how I can help you.’ Eventually, that direct report will become more proactive and learn to take the lead in those conversations.”

It’s a process and a joint responsibility—one where everybody benefits, says Phillips.

“Leaders influence through the power of their conversations. Train your managers—and your individual contributors—in the skills they need for more effective conversations at work. It’s one of the best ways to improve performance and satisfaction.”

Would you like to learn more about improving the quality and frequency of conversations in your organization?  Then join us for a free webinar!

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT 101: 3 CONVERSATIONS ALL MANAGERS NEED TO MASTER

Wednesday, August 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Managers influence and lead through the words they use and the communication skills they apply. In this webinar, Blanchard senior consulting partner Ann Phillips will share the three types of conversations managers must know how to conduct.

  1. The Goal-Setting Conversation—how to set goals collaboratively with a focus on motivation.
  2. The Feedback Conversation—how to praise performance when it is aligned and how to redirect performance when it is off track.
  3. The One-on-One Conversation—how to set aside time to hear from direct reports using high levels of inquiry and listening.

Don’t miss this opportunity to evaluate how your organization is currently addressing performance management. Learn the elements of masterful performance management and how to apply these principles in your own organization. Ann will share tips and strategies you can put into practice immediately. The event is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Register today!

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Dear Madeleine,

Our company went to “unlimited PTO” about 16 months ago.  The idea was to try it out for a year and re-evaluate.  The re-evaluation period was moved to the 18-month mark, so it hasn’t happened yet.   

You would think the problem would be people abusing the policy but I have the opposite one: my people are not taking any vacation.  Back in the day when we had a “use or lose it” policy, I had to stay on people’s cases to take their PTO and they would, but now that time off is at the employee’s discretion, I can’t get people to take their vacation. 

I have a team of nine folks and every single one of them seems to feel worried about taking reasonable time off. I am worried that people are going to burn out.  Can I make my people take time off?  What to do? I feel like I need to call a…

Time Out

Dear Time Out,

This is certainly an interesting and trending topic, and you are not alone trying to navigate the dynamics that come with such a big change.  I found an interesting post on this that may help you.

Based on my experience with clients and my own team, I would have anticipated that people not taking time off would be the problem with unlimited PTO.  In fact, the first time I heard of it a couple of years back, I thought, “Oh God, people are never going to stop working! They’re just going to work themselves into an early grave.” In some cultures this is literally true, but that is because of a cultural expectation that people work massive amounts of overtime.  

In Western cultures at least, it would seem that giving people the option to manage their own workload, get their jobs done in the agreed upon timeframe, and take care of their personal lives with flexibility could only be a good thing.  Such an approach treats people like responsible, sensible adults.  But in some organizations many people are burdened with unreasonable workloads.  Some employees are poor judges of how long certain tasks will take, so they take on too much.  Other employees burden themselves by taking on more than they should.  The very ambitious sometimes seek to assure their promotability by simply outworking their peers.  It is up to the manager to figure this out and gauge the proper workload for each person.

In certain sectors people are going to be more affected by high performance pressure than others, making it feel unsafe for people to take time off.

People avoid taking time off for many reasons: For example, they:

  • Feel they are indispensable and believe nobody else can do the job they do.
  • Worry their customers will be upset by their absence.
  • Succumb to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)—they don’t want to miss getting in on an exciting project.
  • Fear being judged—they don’t want to be seen as a slacker.
  • Bank their hours for a “rainy day”—rather than taking a big vacation, they save their hours in case an unexpected illness or emergency requires them to be out of the office

You, as the manager, need to discuss PTO with every person you lead.  Each individual is going to have a different concern and you can work with them to alleviate those concerns.  You can also work as a team to assure that plans are made in advance and people are properly covered during their time off.

The benefit of the unlimited PTO policy is that it provides people with flexibility in their work day to attend to family or other personal matters without having to submit paperwork.  The danger is that people won’t take the time they need to rest, play, and get a change of scenery—activities that research shows are critical to mental and physical health.

You are the leader of your group.  Make it clear to your people that you expect them to take vacation time, rest time, time to go to doctors’ appointments, and other kinds of self-care. Show them you mean it by doing these things yourself. Have you planned your own vacation?

Love,

Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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I am one of the millions of people who has recently enjoyed a 24-minute video escape into happiness—also known as Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke.

The video is fun, it is revealing, it is touching, and it stays on your mind for days to come. That’s lovely in and of itself.  But besides Penny Lane, the house of Paul’s youth, and the Philharmonic Pub, what did I see?

As a coach for The Ken Blanchard Companies, I couldn’t help but notice that the qualities Paul McCartney revealed in the video are the qualities of truly successful leaders.

  • Whether with the host James Corden, or with a shopkeeper, Paul was open and connected.
  • In conversation about his career, he was reflective, humble, kind, and humorous.
  • With strangers, he was patient and generous.
  • And for his fans worldwide, he continues to be creative and generative.

Paul’s interactions with people were a video illustration of our Blanchard ABCD Trust Model:

  1. Able is about demonstrating competence. Do the leaders know how to get the job done? Are they able to produce results? Do they have the skills to make things happen?
  2. Believable means acting with integrity. Leaders have to be honest in their dealings with people. Believability is also about acting in a consistent, values-driven manner that reassures people that they can rely on their leaders.
  3. Connected is about demonstrating care and concern for other people. It means focusing on people and identifying their needs. It is supported by good communication skills. When leaders share a little bit of information about themselves, it creates a sense of connection.
  4. Dependable is about reliability and honoring commitments. This is about leaders being accountable for their actions and being responsive to the needs of others. If they promise something, they must follow through.

Watch the video (again). In addition to the joy, what do you see?   For me, it can be summed up as Trustworthiness:  A firm and positive belief in Paul McCartney’s ability, integrity, goodness, and reliability.   And isn’t that what we want to see when we look around—and up?

About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D., is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 120 coaches have worked with over 15,000 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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Dear Madeleine,

I work for a great manager at a nonprofit. My manager is wildly committed, super passionate, and really seems to care about his employees. I have reported to him for seven years, during which time I have gone from being known as a green kid right out of college to an old hand who knows how to get things done around here.

My problem is that my manager is terrible at hiring. Terrible. He keeps hiring people that were vetoed by everyone else on the team. He falls in love with candidates for obscure reasons, such as he likes their foreign accent or their backpack (true story—it was covered with travel stickers showing third world countries the guy had worked in, which is relevant to our mission, but still).

Our last three hires have been disasters, and I saw it coming each time. All three were gone quickly but our team is tired of the time and energy it takes to onboard these people as well as the disruption to our day-to-day work.

I have been researching different hiring practices and I think I could add a lot of value by making our process more effective so we make better hires. How do I go to my manager and offer my help without him getting defensive or seeing it as insubordination?

Only Want to Help

Dear Only Want to Help,

I can only assume your organization doesn’t have a competent HR person to support hiring—if it doesn’t, you do seem to be on your own. Hiring is so often treated as an afterthought and not considered to be as critical as it is. The best employees are the people with the right experience, the right skills, a solid fit with the values of the organization, and a love of work. The best employees are almost always good hires to begin with. There are a lot of ways to assess potential candidates and thereby raise the quality of new hires.

If you do, in fact, have someone in HR, you may want to start there so you aren’t stepping on any toes.

Either way, I think it is fair to say that you should talk to your boss. You have worked together for too long not to be honest about the toll the errors are taking and how you might be able to add value. I am laughing a little because all of my regular readers know exactly what I am going to say: talk to your manager and ask for permission to offer some thoughts.

The good news is that the mistakes were rectified quickly. The only worse thing than a bad hire is not recognizing it and fixing it fast. The best way to avoid big mistakes, other than hiring well, is to impose a three- to six-month probationary period before going to a full employment contract. You’d think people would be on their best behavior for the required time period, but my experience is that people are pretty much are themselves from the outset.

Even so, the cost of a wrong hire is high. So, as you prepare to talk to your manager, consider how he prefers to process information. He might respond well to a narrative—the emotional decision based on a backpack might be a clue. You describe him as super passionate and caring, so possibly an approach based on appealing to his emotions may be the way to go. Or perhaps if he is an analytical thinker and uses data (just not when hiring!) he will be persuaded by facts and figures. If he seems to be a systems thinker, you can go at the problem using information about how each system in the organization is affected by the disruption and how much more smoothly things would go with proper hiring decision making protocols in place.

Listen to your manager’s speech—the way he talks will be your tipoff. Use language he tends to use and thought patterns that will feel familiar to him. Ask for permission to share your thoughts and be ready with a brief, condensed version of your argument and your approach. Start with the big picture and the headlines and get him interested. Once he is interested, you can go ahead with your detailed outline. You can be ready with a presentation to give right in the meeting or to send to him afterward.

Your use of the word insubordination was a bit of a surprise, as there is less hierarchy these days than ever before. Perhaps your boss has strong control needs? If so, three bad hires in a row must really hurt. I think the only thing that would be insubordinate would be doing something behind his back or gossiping about his lack of competence in hiring. Trying to add value by doing research and making recommendations based on accepted best practices seems reasonable to me. Show respect and be polite and kind. Pay close attention to how what you are saying is being received and stay attuned to when you should stop and try again later. You should be okay. Your heart is in the right place.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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My wife is a big fan of TV cooking shows. You name it, she likes to watch it: IronChef, TopChef, Great American Food Truck, and MasterChef, just to name a few. Since she owns the TV remote control in our house, I’m pretty much forced to watch all these shows with her (I know, I should turn in my man card now!). Might it be I secretly like watching them as well? The answer is ‘yes.’

While recently watching an episode of MasterChef Junior, the show featuring young children displaying their culinary talents in competition with each other, I was struck by how the show illustrates the three fundamentals of effective performance management: goal setting, coaching, and evaluation.

Goal Setting

The young chefs are presented with various challenges that test their culinary expertise. The challenges are all unique. One may require the contestants to create an exact replica of a dish made by an adult chef, or another may be to create a dessert using a few specific ingredients, or yet another may be to create their own signature dish that follows a certain theme. Regardless of the unique challenge, the goal is clear. All good performance starts with clear goals. When goals are fuzzy or non-existent, energy is diffused and productivity suffers. But when goals are clearly defined, people’s focus is sharp, effort is purposefully directed, and productivity accelerates.

Gordon Ramsay Setting a Clear Goal on How to Cook Filet Mignon

Gordon Ramsay Demonstrates How To Cook Filet Mignon | Season 6 Ep. 1 | MASTERCHEF JUNIOR - YouTube

Coaching

Once clear goals have been established, the second fundamental of effective performance management is day to day coaching. People need direction, support, and feedback in real-time to help them address competency gaps, make course corrections, or consider alternative approaches. In MasterChef Junior, this is illustrated when the judges connect with each of the chefs during the preparation of their dishes. They ask questions that get the youngsters thinking about the vision and strategy of their meal, or the judges will give advice if they notice something is not up to par, or they’ll offer warnings of things to pay attention to or avoid. The goal of coaching is to help the individual produce the best outcome possible.

MasterChef Judges Coaching a Contestant

Cade Confuses The Sardines For Salmon | Season 6 Ep. 11 | MASTERCHEF JUNIOR - YouTube

Evaluation

Dumping the once a year formal performance evaluation is all the rage right now. What gets lost sometimes in this popular trend is the need remains to do some sort of performance evaluation with your employees. The timing, frequency, and format of the evaluation may change, but evaluation is still a critical component of the performance management process. It allows both the leader and employee to assess the effectiveness of the employee’s efforts, what worked well, and what could be done better. In MasterChef Junior, the judges offer each contestant a critique of their dish. I’m surprised, yet pleased to see, the candid nature of the judges’ comments. Rather than falling into the trap of over-praising effort to the neglect of constructive criticism, the judges deliver feedback in a factual, straightforward manner. The young chefs know clearly what they did well, where they came up short, and how they can get better in the future. Isn’t that how it should be in our workplaces?

Example of MasterChef Junior Performance Evaluation

Gordon Ramsay Tastes Quani's Cupcake | Season 6 Ep. 11 | MASTERCHEF JUNIOR - YouTube

Life at work doesn’t fall into the neat, 1-hour, edited format of a TV show, but the principles of effective performance management we see in MasterChef Junior are still valid. Good performance starts with clear goals that enable individuals to understand what they’re trying to achieve. Good leaders provide real-time coaching on an as-need basis to help employees stay on course, get back on course if they’ve strayed, or to consider ways to improve their performance along the way. And finally, once the goal or project has been completed, the leader and employee review the performance and celebrate things done well, and if needed, discuss how to improve performance in the future.

Randy Conley is the Vice President of Client Services and Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies. His LeaderChat posts appear the fourth or last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

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Dear Madeleine,

I manage a large team of accountants and other kinds of finance experts. We recently posted a job for a senior budget analyst.

One of the applicants is a person who was in the finance department a couple of years back. I wasn’t his boss, but I wasn’t impressed with him then and I am not impressed with him now. He wasn’t a team player, he was loud and obnoxious, he complained about the workload, and he left the group suddenly.

I am dead set against rehiring this person. But my boss, the CFO of our company, remembers him fondly and thinks it would shorten ramp-up time to hire someone who knows the organization. I think we can do much better.

How do I make my argument without sounding like a jerk? It’s also possible that this guy is a friend of the boss and I would run the risk of hurting myself politically.

Taking a Stand

Dear Taking a Stand,

Adding a new hire is always a risk to a high-functioning team, so you are right to be concerned. One bad apple can indeed spoil the barrel, as Adam Grant shares in his recent research. Hiring may be the most important part: some people are good at it but sometimes it is just sheer luck to get it right. One of the consultants we work with to get job fit exactly right, Phil Olsen, told us you must answer three critical questions when hiring:

  1. Can they do the job the way we want it done (or better)?
  2. Will they love us?
  3. Will we love them?

I would also suggest you take an analytical approach to solving this problem. Lean on HR to design the exact competencies and experience required for the job. Include the importance of attitude and work ethic in your job design—this should easily exclude the candidate you are allergic to. You won’t be a jerk—it’s just a matter of fact. (If you don’t have that expertise in house, I’d suggest you contact Phil. His method is phenomenal.)

If you are stepping onto political thin ice, I guess you will find out if your boss insists on hiring the ex-employee despite the data showing what a mistake it would be. It seems, though, that if you get your ducks in row and can intelligently make your case, you will be fine.

Finally, the best argument against a weak candidate is to find an ideal one—so the faster you can do that, the better off you will be. Good luck!

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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