At The Whiteboard

Peter is Perfect. Does He Still Need Feedback?

Season Two, Episode Five. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 5

Peter has come a long way. He’s taken your excellent feedback, worked hard to improve, and consistently meets and exceeds your expectations. In fact, you might go so far as to say he’s your “perfect” employee.

Thank goodness, because now you don’t have to give him feedback anymore and you can save all that time.

Right?

Wrong.

Star Employees Need Feedback Too

There’s not much that is more deflating to a high performer than suddenly feeling invisible or under valued. Sadly, this happens frequently – we reward our star performers with, what??? MORE WORK! We know they will do it and do it well, and then are surprised when they slip back into old habits or appear disengaged.

The truth is that ALL employees need feedback, even when you can’t find anything to criticize or improve. Why? Because feedback doesn’t have to be negative or constructive (and if that’s the way you view it, we encourage you to change that opinion).

Positive feedback, thoughtfully given and sensitively presented is ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

Three Things to Consider

Here are three common scenarios in which you might struggle to find the right kind of feedback to give to someone:

  1. The Over Achiever. This is the person who just wants more. All the time. They want more work, more challenges, and want to get better and better. They are the person sitting in your office BEGGING for feedback, and you’ve run out of things to tell them.
    • What to do? Consider asking them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10. Chances are they will NOT give themselves a 10 (because overachievers always want to improve). Regardless of how they rate themselves, you can ask them these questions, and let them come up with their own feedback!
      • What are the positive things that contributed to this rating?
      • What do you think you need to do to move the needle higher?
  2. The Practically Perfect Person. Ah, Perfect Peter. He is solid, reliable, has achieved all the goals you have worked on together, is happy with the feedback he gets (and you know this because he told you, not because you assumed), and is just the kind of person everyone wants on their team. So what kind of feedback can you continue to provide? Well, maybe at this point it’s time to switch from feedback to a goals discussion. Perhaps he really is a 10, and now you need to move the needle. Consider setting professional and global goals (global goals are skills that are easily transferrable and often required to “move up” the career ladder or shift to a different role, e.g. presentation skills, facilitation skills, networking) and creating a new set of objectives on which you can give feedback.
    • What would you like to do next? What skills are needed to achieve that?
    • How can you share your skills with others? Are you interested in mentoring someone or allowing someone to job shadow you? Would you like to give a presentation?
  3. The Average Joe. This is your average, reliable, normal person, who requires a combination of positive feedback and recognition in order to remain engaged. Oh and guess what, positive feedback and recognition, while related, are not the same!
    • Positive Feedback is giving specific details on how a person performed and how that performance impacted the team, the organization, you, or any other entity. Use ASBI to deliver that positive feedback in a meaningful way!
    • Recognition thanks someone for their efforts and gives visible reward for their efforts. Remember that recognition does not mean the same thing to everyone – in fact it can go horribly wrong if you assume people like to be recognized the same way you do. The best tip? Ask the person!

Remember – employee engagement has been proven to directly impact an organization’s results. Don’t save your feedback discussions for times of trouble or assume that your team members are all happy and don’t need your positive feedback or recognition.

Take the time to find the positive things to reinforce and inspire the behaviour you want on your team. Then think about how best to deliver it, and take purposeful action to get it done.

Honestly it takes 5 minutes. And it lasts a lifetime.

Until next time,

Ruth.

Peter is Crying. What Do You Do?

Season Two, Episode Four. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 4

Remember our poor imaginary employee Peter? Well, today we want you to imagine that he is now standing in front of you, in your office, weeping. He is distraught, using up your kleenex, and looking at you not know what to say or how to say it, and yet imploring you to help.

I guarantee that if you manage or supervise people, this has happened to you, or will happen to you some day, and you need to know what to do and how to handle the situation.

Shouldn’t Peter Leave His Troubles At Home?

Maybe 30 or more years ago, sure. Back then it was NOT ok to bring your troubles at work – you were expected to be a “big boy” or “big girl,” and “leave it at the door.”

Well, that’s not the case anymore. Now it is acceptable to “bring your whole self to work” and be who you are. If that’s not enough of a reason to hear Peter out, then here are three more reasons why you should make sure you know what to do if someone comes to you stressed out and/or emotional about something that has nothing to do with work:

  1. At the minimum, Peter will not perform well for you if something is causing him to become emotional in the workplace. And guess what – you are responsible for the performance of your team.
  2. You have a legal obligation, at least in Ontario and in many other places, to ensure that your employees are safe from bullying and harrassment, and this includes understanding whether there is an issue with domestic violence that could come to work. (See Bill 168 here.)
  3. It’s the right thing to do. As a human being it is appropriate to find out what is troubling this person and to make sure that they get the help and support they need. Note that this does NOT mean that you have to be their therapist!

OK, So What Do I Do Other Than Have Kleenex Ready?

Having an emotional person in your office is not unlike having an angry person, which we talked about a couple of episodes ago (read the blog recap here). It’s important to listen and convey understanding and empathy so that you can diffuse the emotion and get to the point where you can discuss what needs to happen. The LESTER tool works great for this!

  • Listen. Don’t talk. Just listen.
  • Echo. Repeat back what Peter said so you can confirm you know exactly what he’s upset about.
  • Sympathize/Empathize. Let Peter know you know how awful this must be for him, and then move on to the next step. The danger here is to start swapping stories of when it happened to you. Suddenly you become like a therapist to Peter, and he’s in your office every day, and nothing is getting resolved.
  • Thank. Tell Peter you’re glad he came to you.
  • Evaluate. Consider some solutions to help. This is important: avoid saying, “What can I do to help?” This can result in Peter dumping things on you with great relief. Instead, ask “What needs to happen to help you through this?” Now Peter can own at least some of the responsibility of solving his own issues. (Note that depending on the issue you may want to check in with your HR department and let them know what’s going on, and just make sure you’ve done everything you should. They can be an excellent resource for you.)
  • Resolve. Confirm the plan, follow up, and check in.

The key here is to ensure Peter is getting the help he needs, not let up on holding him (and yourself) accountable for any action steps, and for following up.

What if Peter’s Performance Doesn’t Improve, Even With My Help?

Well, the reality is that you are not Peter’s therapist, and you ARE responsible for your team’s performance.

If you have done everything you can think of to help Peter, and he is still not improving, then you will need to have a performance discussion. Here is where the ASBI tool will help you structure your conversation to be clear and direct:

  • Ask for permission to have a discussion.
  • Describe the situation.
  • Describe the behaviour.
  • Describe the impact.

This gives Peter the chance to understand that his performance is the issue (not his emotional concerns), and discuss how he can improve it.

If he STILL isn’t improving? Well, now you’re into a formal performance management conversation. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to call HR and check your organizational policy on this. (If you don’t have an HR department, then check your company’s policy on this. Does Peter need time off?)

Remember, that helping Peter doesn’t mean you have to become a therapist. It means you have to be kind and curious, help Peter get the help he needs, and ensure that your team or organization’s performance isn’t jeopardized in the meantime.

Seek the Happy Path, always. You may end up on the “Almost Happy Path,” and that’s ok too. Just avoid the “Well Intended But Unhappy Path.” That is an energy drainer and doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Tell Peter He Smells

Season Two, Episode Three. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, click here.)

AWK-WARD….

Phil Collins, in case you’re too young to know who this is. Also click here to listen to SUSSUDIO.

This season on the podcast we’ve been focusing on awkward/difficult/uncomfortable conversations and helping everyone to get over their fears and just DO IT.  Now I believe that all difficult conversations are to some extent awkward, otherwise they’d just be conversations.

In case you don’t have time to listen to Ruth and my hilarious banter about body odour and low cut tops, this blog will give you three quick tips to having a conversation about a super uncomfortable topic.

(But you should listen, because otherwise the Phil Collins reference makes no sense.)

What Kinds of Conversations are we Talking About Here?

We’re talking about uncomfortable conversations like:

  • body odour,
  • bad breath,
  • food odours, or
  • work attire.

And to some, these might be no more difficult or awkward than not getting a promotion, not getting a pay raise, or just giving feedback.

Some of these are most difficult because they are subjective….what is “bad” body odour, what food smells “bad” versus not bad, what constitutes “appropriate” work attire.  They are also difficult because they are personal – it’s happening to your body, it’s on your body, or you’re putting it in your body. The reactions to this type of feedback can sometimes be more emotional and defensive and that can make having these types of conversations that much scarier.

3 Tips for Having Awkward Conversations

1. Prepare & Map it Out

We talked about this last on the podcast, but I’m going to add it here.  Do some prep work with your HR department, your corporate policies, or the good old interwebs.  Check out what current policies and labour laws are for the item you are approaching your colleague about.

Create a process map or decision tree of your conversation.  This helps you plan for reactions that you aren’t prepared for.  What if the recipient denies that they actually smell? What if the recipient bursts into tears? What if they get angry and walk out of the room? So your conversation process map might be as simple as this:

Opening: I have something awkward to tell you involving body odour.

Response:

  1. No I don’t smell.  You have no idea what you are talking about.
  2. OMG, really? I had no idea?
  3. Crying/Leave room/Somehow end conversation

Responses:

  1. Here’s what I’ve observed, others have described. Here are the impacts to the team/me/others.  What are your thoughts?
  2.  Same as above
  3.  Reschedule meeting and try again

And you can keep going down the line, what are possible responses to those….and what are your responses.

2.  Open Well

One of the greatest openings for this type of conversation is just laying it out there. “This is going to be a difficult conversation”.  This is such a lifesaver.  It sets the other person up to prepare for something awkward. It gives you, as the conversation leader a little bit of a pass on being “perfect”.  It eliminates the need for any pleasantries or diverting from the topic.  It prevents you from starting with distracting comments like “We know you are really great, we love your work, how was your weekend…..”.  You can move right to the meat of the conversation.

3. Follow-Up

Once it is over, make sure that you check in after this tough conversation and see how it is going.  Is the behaviour changing? Is it staying the same? Why?  You might need to have a second (or third or fourth) conversation before the impact really sinks in.

Awkward conversations are hard. With planning and practice they can become less difficult for everyone involved.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until Next Time,

Nicole

 

 

 

How to Tell Peter, “No Raise for You”

Season Two, Episode Two. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 2

This episode we focused on telling poor imaginary Peter that he didn’t get that raise he was expecting. “No raise for you Peter!”

Why is it so hard? It should be pretty logical, right? Wellll, not always.

It’s a Touchy Subject

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us why the issue of pay raises, salaries, or compensation of any kind is especially difficult to address with people.

A person’s total compensation package is highly personal and strikes right at the heart of an individual’s ability not only to provide physiological needs for him/herself and his/her family, but also to build their own self-esteem, and to feel valued and worthwhile.

Essentially, you are impacting a person’s most basic and psychological needs.

It’s for this reason that you have to tread lightly when responding to someone who is angry about money. As you can imagine though, we strongly suggest you DO have that conversation. Why?

So many reasons.

  1. It’s respectful.
  2. It engages people.
  3. It builds your trusting relationship with that person.
  4. It sets expectations for the future.
  5. It’s just the right thing to do.

Peter Didn’t Get the Raise He Expected

Yup, back to poor Peter. In our last blog we focused on how to give Peter impactful (and kind) feedback about the quality of his work. Now we are faced with telling Peter that he is not getting the raise he wanted, either because he suddenly stormed into your office to discuss it, or because it’s part of your yearly salary or performance management conversation.

So what do you do?

  1. Say the hard thing. Be clear and specific.
  2. Be quiet and wait for the response.
    • You’re hoping they will say, you’re right. What can I do to improve?
    • It’s also possible they will be super angry.
  3. If they’re angry… well, read on.

Let’s say in this case, Peter is really angry. so, you give him all the logic of why he got what he did, what the protocol was, and explain things in very detailed words. All better, right?

No. Not right.

When we’ve talked about the Change Curve with clients and students, we’ve highlighted that when people are angry, they simply can’t hear you. Your best bet is to simply listen and let them vent.

The simple act of Listening is respectful, engaging, and HARD. Often people are taken back by anger and feel attacked and tempted to respond in kind.

So our tip for you today, to help you metaphorically throw the bucket of water at the anger, is the LESTER tool.

LESTER

LESTER is a great mnemonic to help you remember the steps when being confronted with anger in the workplace.

  1. Listen: Take a minute to breathe, and then just listen. Let the person vent, ask them clarifying questions, maybe even use “Tell Me More,” and listen. Really listen. Be engaged and be present. (Peter, tell me what’s got you so upset.)
  2. Echo: Clarify what you heard them say. It’s possible that, from all the venting, you will pull out the wrong issues or misunderstand what Peter said. (Ok Peter, it sounds like you are frustrated about the amount of your pay raise, and also – maybe even mostly – a little surprised by it. Have I got that right?)
  3. Sympathize: (Or perhaps Empathize, which messes up the mnemonic, but whatever…) Recognize their frustration. Tell them you can see their anger. Do NOT say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which is passive aggressive and only makes people feel worse. Just let them know that you heard them and you can understand that they are upset. (Well I can see that your upset, and I can imagine how frustrated you must feel.)
  4. Thank: Yup, that’s right. Thank them for letting you know. It’s as simple as saying, “thanks for coming to me.” This ensures that people will continue to come to you, which is what you want as a manager. It’s way better than having people complain about you at the water cooler. The only thing that does is ensure you never have your finger on the pulse of the team. (Thanks for coming to me. I appreciate it.)
  5. Evaluate: Now you want to work on solutions to the problem. It might mean you change a decision or a policy, or it might mean that you discuss things in advance, or it might mean working on ways for Peter not to be so surprised in the future. (Well, let’s talk about how to make sure you’re not taken by surprise next time. You know the pay cycle and the policy for it. How can we work together so that you get what you’re expecting?)
  6. Resolve: This final step is just about repeating any agreed on actions as the person walks out the door. (So what we are going to do is set quarterly reviews to talk about your performance. You’re also going to work on your report-writing skills, and I’m going to set you up with some job shadowing. Sound good?)

This whole conversation can happen in five minutes. The more you practice, the easier it gets not only to avoid escalating, but also to actually de-escalate and build the relationship.

Give these tips a try, let us know how it went on Twitter at @whiteboardcons and check out the rest of our podcast series on our homepage at www.whiteboardconsulting.ca.

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Tell Peter His Work Was, um, Crappy

Season Two, Episode One. Podcast recap! (And if you missed the podcast, you can find it here.)

We are so excited to launch Season Two of our podcast this week! Get ready for a whole series dedicated to discussions related to “Difficult Conversations,” with tips, tricks, and tools to help you navigate those situations instead of avoiding them altogether.

In Episode 1 we focus on the awkward task of giving someone critical or constructive feedback. 

Podcast Recap: Season 2, Episode 1

How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve had to tell someone they didn’t do a great job on something, and you wished with the power of a thousand fiery suns that you could avoid the whole thing? Perhaps you DID avoid it and it kept happening anyway?

The funny thing is that most of us crave feedback. We want to do well, to grow and improve, and to feel competent, useful and valuable.

So why is it so hard to give feedback?

Trainingzone reports, “Feedback is difficult because it stands at the juncture of two human needs – the need to be loved and accepted for who we are and the need to improve and be better than we are.”

We think that’s spot on, and believe that FEAR is found at the juncture mentioned above. Fear of upsetting or angering someone, fear of being caught in an argument and having no “comeback,” fear of not achieving the desired result, or worse – fear of making things worse.

Our podcast focuses on overcoming that fear by learning methods that can help you be more effective at giving critical or constructive feedback.

Level One: Can I Tell You Something?

You are busy. Everyone is busy. The word of the day/week/year is busy. We get it. Who has time to be all nicey-nicey and make everyone feel good? You received a report, you reviewed it, it’s not very good, and you just need the writer to fix it.

You could stop by his desk and say, “Peter, I read the report. You’ve missed a couple of important details, and also the formatting is wrong. Please fix it and get it back to me by end of day.”

There’s nothing technically wrong with this. You even said please. But is it the best way?

Now let’s walk in Peter’s shoes. He’s also busy. He just got off a conference call, he got fifteen emails in the last thirty seconds, and his wife, who is home with a new baby, just texted him to call as soon as he has a chance.

He’s super distracted, and when you come by and interrupt his train of thought, he says, “Oh yeah sure, no problem.” He then calls his wife as you walk away, and relates to her how his micro-managing boss just stopped by and he has to go. Then he opens up the report and has no idea what he’s supposed to fix because he can not remember what his boss said.

Now what if you had said the following instead:

“Hey Peter, I know you’re super busy. Can I tell you something? Have you got a sec?”

In this situation, Peter is much more likely to look up from his email and look at you. He will probably answer with a much more clear and understanding response, and will maybe even take a note or two before calling his wife.

Using the phrase, “Can I tell you something?” is an automatic trigger to stop what you’re doing, look up, and listen. It signals to the listener that something important is about to happen, and they need to pay attention.

It works. And takes two seconds out of your day.

Level Two: “How Did That Go?”

Ok, so Level One is your base. It’s the bare minimum that you should do if you absolutely do not have time for a full conversation, and while it may not be entirely engaging or coaching for improvement, it will be effective in setting expectations.

The problem with Level One is that it’s directive, and doesn’t ensure that Peter will not repeat the same mistakes the next time he has to write this report.

Level Two adds a coaching element by first asking the person to self-discover what could have been done better.

How About This Instead?

You have a couple of minutes so you ask Peter to pop by your office. He sits down, and after pleasantries you say, “Hey Peter, I got your report and read it through. Thanks for sending it last night. How did that whole report-writing process go for you?”

Peter, who as we know is busy, says, “Fine. Yeah it was good. It took a while to get started, and I was so tired when I finished it last night. The baby isn’t sleeping, and I figure I rushed the end. But I wanted to get it to you.”

You have been dying to say, “the conclusion of the report is CRAP and by the way what happened to our brand format!” and apparently Peter knows it too. So instead you say, “Yeah, I noticed some gaps in your conclusion. And, can I tell you something?”

Peter snaps to attention, because “Can I tell you something?” does that to people.

“The formatting needs some work too. Have a look at sections two and three – they are completely different and off brand. Can you please fix this and get it back to me by end of day?”

Peter knows what he did. And now he knows that you caught him at that and a couple of other things, and it’s unlikely he will do it again.

Level Three: ASBI

The ultimate feedback tool is the ASBI methodology, which comes from the book “Giving Feedback to Subordinates,” by Dana McDonald-Mann and Raoul J. Buron. While we don’t love the title for how hierarchical it sounds, it has some excellent ideas and tools, including ASBI.

How often have you either given or received feedback that sounded like this:

  • Hey, great job on that report!
  • I’m not happy with the way you handled the project.
  • Thanks, your team did really well.
  • You need to become a dynamic speaker!

These phrases are better than nothing, of course, and they could be even better if they were more specific. What was great about the report (so I can do it again)? What about the project did I handle incorrectly (so I can fix it)? What did my team do well? What do I need to do to be a more dynamic speaker?

The ASBI tool is short and sweet and allows you to give essential feedback that is clear and helpful, and allows the listener to process and respond.

Here’s how ASBI works:

A = Ask for Permission (Can I tell you something?)

S = Describe the Situation (I was in the Finance Committee meeting yesterday for your presentation.)

B = Describe the Behaviour (I noticed that you tended to read from the screen with your back to the audience.)

I = Describe the Impact (When you did that, it seemed that you didn’t know the material very well, and that you weren’t interested in engaging the crowd in a dynamic way.)

Then be quiet.

This last step is so important. It’s tempting to fill the awkward silence with chatter because we feel badly for just giving someone critical or constructive feedback. When we do that, not only do we we take away the listener’s ability to process and think of their response, but we also confuse the message.

In most cases, the person will listen, ponder, and then respond – perhaps in many different ways. Be prepared for that!

And in all cases, the listener will know exactly what you meant, and what the impact was of their behaviour. This is the only way for them to be able to both correct behaviour AND maintain a good working relationship with you.

Next on the Podcast

We will continue our discussion on Difficult Conversations by talking about how to deal with someone who’s angry!

Stay tuned for that, and please let us know if you have any questions or ideas by sending us an email at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca. You can also follow us on our social media:

 

 

 

What’s Your Corporate Climate Like?

We originally wrote the following blog post last winter, and were thrilled it was picked up by The Huffington Post on March 27, 2017.

What’s your Corporate Climate like?

Before you answer that, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page with respect to the use of the term “climate.”

We aren’t talking about the temperature in your office, or whether it’s really dry from the winter cold, or whether there aren’t any blinds on the west-facing windows so it’s unbearable on summer afternoons.

Rather, we are talking about an alternate definition provided by the Merriam Webster dictionary: “the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing a group.”

What Defines a Corporate Climate?

We define the Corporate Climate as the synergistic effect of all the things that influence how, how well, and what work gets done in your organization. This includes things like:

  • People: There may be people who have influence over others at any level of the organization; it could be the CEO, an administrative assistant, a manager, or a new hire. If that person has a presence that influences (positively or negatively) other people, then he or she is shaping your Corporate Climate.
  • Policies & Processes: There may be policies & processes that are outdated and confusing, or relevant and useful. Some may be formally documented, and others may have evolved over time. Either way, they are impacting the quality of the work that is done.
  • Traditions: Do you hear the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” a lot in your organization? It could be a good thing (We’ve always had a company picnic and included all the families”) or a not-so-good thing (“We’ve always done this manually”). These traditions are a huge part of the Corporate Climate because they influence how and how well work is done.
  • Values: Does your organization have a values statement? Is it recent? Do leaders demonstrate those values and are people held accountable to them? Those values (or lack thereof) impact the Corporate Climate because they influence the way employees and customers engage with the organization.

Why You Should Care

Your organization’s Corporate Climate has a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

Oh, you’d like to know how it impacts the bottom line? Ok.

The Corporate Climate influences employee engagement, which causes your team members to:

  • Wake up to the day’s most important news.
  • Stay or quit,
  • Do high quality work or the bare minimum,
  • Work as a high performing team or do their own thing,
  • Treat each other respectfully or tolerate incivility, and
  • Speak well of their organization or trash it.

Gallup Research consistently shows that ​employee engagement is an important predictor of corporate performance, even in a tough economy. They say, “engaged workers have bought into what the organization is about and are trying to make a difference.”

The Corporate Climate also influences the consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness of your products and services which:

  1. Causes customers to love you or hate you,
  2. Adds or reduces your sales and expenses, and
  3. Improves or reduces your level of employee engagement.

So, a positive Corporate Climate = a strong bottom line.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Possible

Creating a positive, vibrant, and successful Corporate Climate is not easy, and yet – it’s possible!

Step One: Assess your Corporate Climate of your team, department, or the whole company. Consider the four categories we discussed:

  • People: How is our employee engagement? Do we have people that are positively or negatively influencing the Climate? Do we promote or coach those people accordingly?
  • Policies & Processes: When was the last time our policies were updated? What do we expect from our people? How do we treat them and each other? Do we have documented business processes? How long ago were they examined? Could we do better? Be more efficient?
  • Traditions: Are our traditions entrenched in the right areas and challenged in others? What high level traditions do we share and talk about? Do we know what traditions exist at the team level? Do those traditions represent what we are trying to do at the Corporate level?
  • Values: Would our employees be able to state what we value as an organization? Would our customers agree that we demonstrate our values? Have we ever defined what we value?

Step Two: Which of the areas above is the most pressing? Engage people in answering that question, and brainstorm some different answers and impacts.

Step Three: Start with one thing. Measure how it is now, take some focused action, and measure it again in six months. If there’s no change, go back to step two!

Your Corporate Climate is important. Take some time to assess yours today.

September – The New, New Year

As I write this post, I’m looking out at a gorgeous blue sky free from oppressive humidity and full of the fresh crisp air that lifts my spirit like nothing else.

It’s September 1st. Fall is coming, Jon Snow. Fall is coming.

Since I was a little girl I have considered September 1st to be the “real” New Year’s Day – in addition to the weather I love the most, it’s the return to routine, which is also something I love. Whether it’s back to school, back to work after vacation season, back to cooking comfort food in the over after BBQ season, or back to a new TV season, it’s our launch into a new year of promise and opportunity.

So what can you do to mark this day?

At Whiteboard we seize any opportunity to make lists, set objectives, and identify and refine goals. So our recommendation is that you take a moment to write a few “New New Year” goals for yourself – this way you will have a productive fall season, and be well in line to enjoy the December holiday rush. Not only that, your January resolutions (if you do that sort of thing), will be a breeze.

But Resolutions and Goals Never Work

Never is a strong word. Granted, they are tough to maintain, even for the most diligent list-makers. And you know what? That’s ok. It’s totally fine to re-visit and re-write your goals from time to time.

By taking some time now, you will at least start your fall season off with intention (which is always a good thing). And if you follow our steps below, we believe you will stick with it longer than you normally might.

STEP ONE. ASK YOURSELF A FEW KEY QUESTIONS.

What is one thing that you did in the last several months that you are proud of? What things or conditions were in place to help you be successful?

What is one thing that you wish you did better? What were the barriers that were in the way, and what can you do to eliminate them as you go forward?

STEP TWO. CONSIDER A VARIETY OF GOALS.

Yes, this is a business blog, but you’re allowed to have goals other than professional goals. In fact, you should. It helps you with balance.

Health & fitness goals should focus on well-being and strength. Personal goals might focus on education, relationships, or achieving balance in your life. Community goals could help you find time to volunteer, get involved in a community group, or maybe become involved in your child’s school.

goals

STEP THREE. CHOOSE A GOAL.

Now pick a goal (or goals) relating to one of the areas you pondered. Before you get all excited and choose all three, go back to the questions you answered in Step One.

It may be (probably is, for most people) tough to choose goals in all three areas, so make sure you prioritize Fitness, Personal, and Community, and decide where you want to start. We recommend starting where you’re most likely to succeed – this helps you build confidence.

Whatever you decide:

  1. Make sure your goal is achievable. Ask a friend if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or if you’ve set a realistic challenge for yourself.
  2. Make sure you are very clear about what your goal is. This means it is measurable and has a timeline.
  3. Ask someone to help keep you accountable and check in with you on a regular basis.

And don’t forget that it’s ok to change your mind. December 1st is 3 months away, which is an ideal time to re-examine and re-set your goals.

Here’s to a productive, fun, and humidity-free fall season!

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

How I used a process map to make a kid go to bed.

Ah Summer Vacation.  Rest, relaxation, sun, fun……and a screaming 5 year old. We had the pleasure of taking my stepdaughter on vacation just a couple of weeks ago.  Nine hours of driving to arrive in the stunning Virgina mountains at a family fun resort. Yay!

To be fair, let me tell you this kid is an angel.  She is most definitely the sweetest, kindest, most polite child I have ever set eyes on. And there is no bias there whatsoever. Bedtime, however, reveals a second more scream-ey personality.

As the evil stepmother, I try not to interfere with the nitty-gritty parenting details.  That’s for daddy.  I’m there for playing, cuddles, and using snapchat filters to make the kid laugh.  After a few days of nighttime screaminess (and not enough wine in the world to combat the effects), I decided to take matters into my own hands.  The kid needed structure – even if we were on vacation and things were a little less routin-ey. So I did what I know how to do best.  I facilitated a process mapping session (cleverly disguised as a “craft”).

Use Process Tools to Re-engineer your kid. Child’s Bedtime Process.

Step 1: Engage Them

So, first I said, would you like to do a “craft” with me? We can use stickers and markers and stuff?

Then we went to building a current state/ future state map simultaneously (which I wouldn’t do normally, but I had attention span issues to deal with).

I asked questions about her normal bedtime process at home:

  • What comes first?
  • What next?
  • What if…?
  • What it..?
  • How would you feel if we did this first, next, afterwards?

This made her feel like she designed the bedtime process, she knew what would happen next, and she had some consistency – everything should go in the same order every time.

Step 2: Map the ProcessIMG_5054

Since she can’t quite read, we added pictures and stickers.  Ok, and it’s not a true process map.  It’s a list.  But it shows the order of things and what is included, and we even made some notes for concurrent steps or other issues (sometimes I brush my teeth and hair at the same time, or sometimes I don’t want a show, I’d rather have a story). I will definitely be introducing basic process mapping shapes into the next version, don’t you worry.

Note: If you are alarmed by the term face mask – we found a sleeping mask helped her close her eyes and got to bed – so it became part of the process too.

Step 3: Execute with CONSISTENCY

The next step was to get all excited about the list and try it out.  We posted it on her bedroom door and said, “ok – what do we do first?”  Eureka! It worked.

The more we did the list, the less she complained about this step or that step.  She almost always had something to look forward to, and bedtime didn’t feel so imminent.

And now – we just stay with the flow.  We make adjustments as necessary, but try to stick to the process as much as possible.  Maybe in a month or two we’ll map it again- hey continuous improvement is just as important as the first improvement.

So process geeks rejoice!  You can now process map at home without fear of repercussion.  Even kids get into it.

Let us know if you try it out @whiteboardcons #bedtimeprocessmap.

Until next time,

Nicole

Why Context Is Critical to Success

A few weeks ago I spent a wonderful week at my cottage north of Toronto with a really good friend and her awesome kids. We had the best time splashing in the lake, exploring the local town, heading to the beach, eating, sleeping, playing Scattergories, colouring, and just chilling out.

I particularly enjoyed it because it was my first real downtime in a while – even when I’ve been at the cottage other times this summer, I’ve been working on it, readying it for rent through a shared rental service (something I started this year in order to cover rising operating expenses), and not simply enjoying it.

One of the things you have to do when you rent through a third party is to take extra care when preparing the space. This means you don’t just clean and tidy – you fluff pillows, you fold a bright and cheerful dishtowel over the edge of the sink “just so,” you wash the floors, you make smart “hotel corners” on the bedsheets, and you ensure the faucets are sparkling. Why? Because you want that coveted 5 star rating, which will get you more renters.

I have an amazing team who usually looks after this for me, so it was with some dismay that I found myself reverting to my picky nature when tidying and cleaning before my friends and I left to return home.

At one point everything was pretty much done, save cleaning out the fridge and taking out the trash. On my way to the kitchen I walked by the living room and nodded with satisfaction when I saw the blankets properly draped, the pillows smooshed just right, and the magazines fanned out nicely. Then, a few minutes later I walked by again and noticed, to my dismay, the kids flopped out on the sofa and rooting through the coffee table for the colouring book and crayons.

My reaction? Frustration/annoyance/panic (I had to be out by a certain time that morning.)

I did NOT say what first popped into my head. I ended up saying “If you kids mess this up, I’m going to end up cleaning it using YOU as a mop!” This sounded dumb, and elicited giggles, thank goodness. Then I took them on a walk up the driveway to water the flowerpots and look for bears.

And this applies to work how?

Here’s the thing. I believe I was annoyed because “those kids don’t have a clue how much work it is to prepare for the guests! If only they knew!”

If only.

Why didn’t I take the time that day to explain what was going on with all the hustle and bustle and why it was important? I bet they would have not only understood, but offered to help.

The same thing can happen to any leader at work.

We keep things from people because

  • we don’t think they care to know,
  • we don’t think they need to know,
  • we don’t realize they want to know.

I believe most of the time we don’t realize they want to know.

A few years ago I was talking to my team about the upcoming budget requisition season. I launched in to the savings we had to find and how we would work those savings into this year’s process. A couple of people were not paying attention, and I started to get annoyed, but I didn’t say anything.

Later, there were a couple of screw ups. Nothing awful, but to me they seemed obvious and avoidable.

When I met with the team and we talked about what happened and what we could do differently next time, one person spoke up and said, “Ruth, I think it would help if you explained how the whole budget process works. Some of us just don’t know.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Of course they need to know! If they don’t know, how can they understand why the little things are important, which things need to be prioritized, where to get details, and why they should be concerned with the outcome.

Tell the story.

In the absence of information we make things up, and without the right context, we can’t expect everstoryyone to do their best work. It’s up to you to provide the back story and to not just drop people into Chapter 13, expecting them to know how you want the story to turn out.

If you’re seeing spotty results, can you look back at your communications to people and determine whether you started at the beginning of the story?

Some people have been reading the book along with you, and some haven’t. The effective leader knows the difference and covers both situations.

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

Why Leaders Should Download PokemonGo.

What the &$^# is a Pikachu?

It started with a few photos on Facebook.  Cartoons and acquaintances of mine were popping up in photos together on my newsfeed.  I figured it was random or a super geeky thing I didn’t need to know about and then the posts started getting more cryptic….friends were “hunting” Pokemon? Pokemon were screen-capped sitting on friends’ laptops and posted to social media and I was very very confused.

Even the University Health Network here in Toronto posted a chart on how to play safely. Wait what?

Then the naysayers started emerging. Nasty tweets and posts popped up about how stupid it was. While sending a text during my morning dog walk the construction worker doing road paving near my house said “Ugh.  Tell me you aren’t looking for Pokemon? That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of”.  News stories broke out about PokemonGo related injuries, accidents, along with the instant rise of Nintendo’s share price.

IMG_3076

My attempt at photographing Ruth holding a Zubat. 🙂

My husband came home that night, and described the concept.  “You walk around and there are things to collect and battle while you walk around.  And it is in real life. It’s weird, but kind of interesting, right?”

I thought, wow, I’m not really interested in phone games, but the concept sure does sound neat.

So I downloaded it.  Much like Snapchat I didn’t get it right away. (My good friend Jamie told me that it was so old people couldn’t figure out how to use it. Hmph.) But I figured a few things out. I caught a few Rattatats and Zubats.  Then Ruth downloaded it and we went for a little break.  We had quite a blast, and I learned a few things too!

So while I hate to admit it, it’s kind of fun.  It’s kind of social. It got me outside for a quick walk instead of glued to my laptop.

So why would a leader in an organization give PokemonGo a try? Shouldn’t we be keeping our minions in their offices doing work instead of looking for nearby Pokestops? I don’t think so. And here’s why:

3 Reasons Leaders Should Download PokemonGo

  1. It Will Help You Be Kind and Curious. Remember our famous coaching phrase? Kindness and curiosity leave no room for anger and resentment.  Instead of harbouring all that anger and resentment for those cute little cartoon characters, try playing it for 15 minutes.  If you hate it, at least you can say why and you can say you tried it, right? Get your kids to teach you, or get your employees to show you how it works.  They’ll get a kick out of it.  Trust me.
  2. You Will Find Something New to Talk about. Often when dealing with different generational types in the workplace, it’s hard to find some common ground in conversations. Instead of your team members jumping back to their desks and pretending to finish their TPS reports when they were actually out poke-hunting, you can ask them if they found that damn Zubat, and encourage them to relax. Start a conversation, ask them to take you for a hunt and show you how it works.  They will love getting to engage with you without having to have that same humdrum conversation about your weekend. (And they’ll respect you when you suggest it’s time to get back to work now.)
  3. It Will Help You Encourage an Active Work Culture. Maybe your office has a lunchtime plank session, or yoga class, or fitness or meditation group.  In large organizations that might be possible, but in smaller organizations it might be cost prohibitive to implement a large scale wellness program.  This is a great way to take 10-15 minutes out of your day, to get outside as a group, go poke-hunting together, and get some fresh air.

This all being said – boundaries are important. What I love about the UHN tweet is that asks people to be safe and considerate of others, but also jumps into the spirit of things and wishes players luck.  If you feel it necessary to set some boundaries in your organization, try to keep it firm and fun, instead of shutting the whole thing down and making people hunt in secret.

Tell us how PokemonGo is playing a part (or not) in your worklife. Tweet us at @whiteboardcons!

Until Next Time,

Nicole (@missNicoleNorth)