Ratio of Criticisms to Compliments is woefully imbalanced…

I was reviewing my Son’s supplemental essay for College applications and came across a statement that he used to describe my feedback approach…”My Dad’s ratio of criticisms to compliments is woefully imbalanced.”  Let me spare you the rest of the color commentary.  Not flattering to Dad.  Whoa.  Trying to make him better?  Yes.  Trying to making him the best he can be?  Absolutely.  “Woefully imbalanced?”  Really?  Definitely a teachable moment from Son to Father. This post was inspired by my Son, by Patsi Krakoff in her post The Magic Ratio of Positive and Negative Moments and by Psychologists Donald Clifton and Tom Rath in their book “How Full is Your Bucket” which I read a few years back.  A few excerpts:

  • “Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman stated that we experience approximately 20,000 individual moments in a waking day.  Each moment lasts a few seconds in which our brain records an experience.  The quality of our days is determined by how our brains recognize our moments – either as positive, negative our just neutral.  Rarely do we remember neutral moments.  In some cases, a single encounter can change  your life forever.
  • “Everyone has an invisible bucket.  We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing (with positive experiences) and at our worst when they are empty.  Everyone also has an invisible dipper.  In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill the buckets (with positive experiences) or to dip (with negative experiences) from other’s buckets.  Whenever we choose to fill others’ buckets, we in turn fill our own.”
  • “…individuals who receive regular recognition and praise increase their individual productivity, increase engagement with colleagues, are more likely to stay with their organization and receive higher loyalty and satisfaction score
  • #1 reason people leave their jobs: They don’t feel appreciated.”
  • 65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace.”
  • 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people
  • Every moment matters…
  • “A recent study found work groups with positive-to-negative interaction ratios greater than 3:1 are significantly more productive than teams that do not reach the ratio.  …The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction
  • 5 strategies that they use to increase your magic ratio of positive to negative moments in any given day:
    1. Prevent Bucket Dipping.  Develop habit of asking whether you are adding or dipping in to bucket.  Work toward a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative comments.
    2. Shine a light on what is right.  Try focusing on what employees or peers do right rather than where they need improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good behaviors.
    3. Make Best Friends. People with best friends at work have higher workplace productivity.
    4. Give Unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.
    5. Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ you should ‘Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.’ Individualization is key when filling others’ buckets.

Sources: “The Magic Ratio of Positive and Negative Moments” by Patsi Krakoff.  “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton.  Image: zaazu.com

Leaders: Get Your Tough on…

Think back for a minute about the best bosses or mentors you’ve had in your career.  I’ll bet that they pushed you harder than any other by a factor of 2 or 3.   I’ll bet again you may have had only one of these beasts…maybe 2 of these taskmasters.  Dan Rockwell’s post in Leadership Freak (“Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On”) struck a cord.  Most of us are inclined to be “tender” rather than “tough”.  It does take more (much more) effort and more finesse to be tough – – to have high expectations – – and to be encouraging at the same time.  In order to realize the potential of our “Player” – – to have him/her perform at their highest levels…we as leaders need to PUSH.  We need to set the PACE.  And, the beauty and the maddening complexity of great leadership is that every Player is unique and requires you to push different “buttons” at different levels of intensity.  Hard work, yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  The next time your Player crosses the threshold of being average to achieving excellence, give yourself some credit.  Bask in warmth of having just a wee-bit of responsibility in seeing another fellow human-being achieve their maximum potential.  There are in fact very few of you out there really pushing…

Key Excerpts from Dan’s great post on Getting Your Tough On…

Being tough is harder than being tender. Toughness is the line between average performance and high achievement. High performance leaders know how to be tough.”

Jim Collins’ insights into the genius of “and’ apply to challenge and encourage. Many are great at encouraging. Few excel at challenging. Embrace bothEncouragement is the foundation of challenge, not a standalone behavior.

Err on the side of pushing harder not easier. When you wonder if you should challenge or comfort someone, challenge them. Expect more not less.

“Encourage those who are struggling but don’t exclude challenging them. Reject the temptation to coddle. People rise to challenges.”

Leaders that always challenge and never encourage, come off as never satisfied. They frustrate the team. Avoid the “never satisfied” trap by honoring achievements, a lot.

People rise up to challenges when they believe you’re on their team. They push back when they believe you’re pushing for selfish reasons. Express loyalty to their vision and career goals. Be an ally calling for their best not a taskmaster yelling for more.

Explore challenging goals with employees and get buy in.

6 ways to be tough:

  1. Believe they can do more and be better.
  2. Avoid letting anger or frustration fuel toughness.
  3. Focus on mission and vision, not tasks when calling people to reach higher.
  4. Honor past achievements.
  5. Ask how you can help them reach higher.
  6. Remove ambiguity.

What if you go too far and challenge too much? Explain your intent to bring out the best and apologize.

Sources: Leadership Freak – Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On.

Managers: Do you stack rank everyone and everything? 3 Ways to Avoid “Measurement Whac-a-Mole”

The title of this Forum Corporation article grabbed my attention. THIS IS ME.  Stack ranking everyone and everything.  Despite the “best of intentions”, I’ve become Mr. Measurement Whac-a-Mole.  Short article.  So basic and logical – yet, so difficult to stick to the script.  Worthy reminders…

“The best intentions, quickly forgotten.” These six words describe most measurement systems.

Don’t use measurement data to flog employees. Instead try these three things:

  1. Highlight the good. Use measurement data to highlight the good work of employees. Rather than just looking at the areas that employees performed poorly, managers should analyze the data more thoroughly and reward employees for behaviors customers or patients applauded.”
  2. Stop the “issue of the month” insanity. Look at the measurement feedback over time and determine what really needs improving. Then, pull together a team to address the issue and make recommendations.”
  3. Don’t measure too many things. Instead, do a customer survey that enables you to determine your organization’s most important value drivers. Stay focused on those and your organization will be able to deliver what customers want most.”

Sources: Forum Corporation – Three Ways to Avoid Measurement Whac-A-Mole.  Image: www.crazyjunkyard.com

10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die…

From the “Best Article Each Day”:

1) I followed my heart and intuition.

2) I said what I needed to say.

3) I did what I needed to do.

4) I made a difference.

5) I know what true love is.

6) I am happy and grateful.

7) I am proud of myself.

8) I became the best version of me.

9) I forgave those that hurt me.

10) I have no regrets.

Complete Article @ “Best Article of Every Day” by Marcandangel
10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die.  Image: Far From Perfect Mama

What is the “Zeigarnik Effect” and how does it help you avoid distraction, focus and get things done?

I came to learn of the Ziegarnik Effect in PsyBlog.  In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik conducted a study in a busy restaurant in Vienna where she found that waiters remembered uncompleted orders or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.  This is described as the Zeigarnik Effect.  In 1982, almost 60 years later,  Kenneth McGraw conducted another study of the Zeigarnik Effect where the participants where asked to do a tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it – – and then they were told the study was over. Despite being asked to stop, nearly 90% kept working on the puzzle anyway.   These incompleted tasks “rattle around in our heads,” distracting and interrupting us from being focused and getting important things done.

PsyBlog’s recommendations below are on point.  I would suggest an alternative approach in one area.  PsyBlog suggests that in order to eliminate unfinished tasks from being a distraction, you need to get specific about action plans on your tasks (what, when, how, where).  I prefer David Allen’s strategy in “Getting Things Done.”   If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear – – you will be distracted.  You need to clear the noise.  Get all of your tasks written down and out of your head.  Have a system you trust to keep track of your tasks.  And then ask yourself: “What’s the next action”.   Then,  take the next action to move the task forward – no matter how small it is.  You’ll find that you’ll have more mental capacity to focus on what’s in front of you.  Getting too specific about action plans can be overwhelming and will lead many of us to do nothing (to procrastinate).  Outcome: we will continue to have “rocks” rattling around in our heads.  Best to get started, gather momentum and then dive deeper into the planning process as you gather a head of steam.

Here are some of the key excerpts from Psyblog on the Ziegarnik Effect:

  • On average each of us has 15 personal projects ongoing at any one time. It might include planning a trip to Europe, spring cleaning the house, getting a new job or any number of other goals.  Plus there’s all the stuff we’re doing right at the moment like working, shopping or reading.
  • Psychologists have known for a century that incomplete goals rattle around in our minds until they’re done. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect.”
  • The down side is that we can be distracted by incomplete goals while we’re trying to pursue another goal. And according to new research this is precisely what happens unless we have made very specific plans
  • “In a series of studies researchers found that while trying to enjoy reading a novel, participants were frequently interrupted by intrusive thoughts about an unfinished everyday task.  But when researchers told participants to make very specific plans about that unfinished goal, while reading they experienced less intrusive thoughts about the other activity. In fact the intrusive thoughts lessened to the same level as a control group.”
  • Making plans helps free up mental space for whatever we are doing right now, allowing us to be more efficient in the long term.”
  • “Specific goals include the how, what, where and when of whatever we want to achieve. For example if you’re planning a trip you might decide that during a quiet moment in the evening after supper you’ll draw up a list of hotels and flights to discuss with your partner. Then you can book them online on Saturday morning when you’re fresh (make sure, though, that you focus on the process and not the outcome).”
  • “If the plan is specific enough, it is automatically activated when the right circumstances arise. The rest of the time our minds should be freer from the other 14 goals that we’re not currently pursuing.”
  • “What all these examples have in common is that when people manage to start something they’re more inclined to finish it. Procrastination bites worst when we’re faced with a large task that we’re trying to avoid starting. It might be because we don’t know how to start or even where to start.”
  • “What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere…anywhere.”
  • “Don’t start with the hardest bit, try something easy first. If you can just get under way with any part of a project, then the rest will tend to follow. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, there’s something drawing you on to the end. It will niggle away in the back of your mind
  • “Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination.”

Sources: PsyBlog – “The Zeigarnik Effect” and “How to Avoid Being Distracted From Your Goals”.  Image: 8tracks.com/dmark210

Leaders: Are you one of the 95% who does not understand the most important source of employee motivation?

The authors surveyed 100’s of managers around the world and asked what motivated employees.  They were startled to find that 95% of these leaders fundamentally misunderstood the most important source of employee motivation.  It’s not about getting the right people on the bus.  Or about higher incentives.  Or about athletic facilities and free child care.  Their research has found that the best way to motivate people is by facilitating progress, even small wins.  Yet managers surveyed, had ranked “supporting progress” as dead last as a work motivator.

The authors conducted a rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 daily diary entries provided by 200+ employees in 7 companies.  They found that the best managers create a high quality of “inner work life” for their employees.  Inner work life is about favorable and unfavorable perceptions employees have about their managers, the organization, the team, the work and even oneself.   A positive inner work life determines whether the employee has the motivation to their best work – it determines their attention to tasks, the level of their engagement and their intention to deliver their best work.

The authors found that there are 3 types of events that are particularly important in creating a positive inner work life:

  1. Progress in meaningful work (e.g. small wins, breakthroughs, forward movement, goal completion),
  2. Catalysts that directly help work (setting clear goals, allowing autonomy, providing resources, providing sufficient time, helping with the work, learning from problems and successes, allows ideas to flow),
  3. Nourishers/interpersonal events (e.g. respect, encouragement, emotional support, affiliation/bonds of mutual trust & appreciation) that uplift people doing the work.

Research found that #1, progress in meaningful work, was the most important event in creating a positive inner work life.

People’s inner work lives seemed to lift or drag depending on whether or not their projects moved forward, even by small increments.  Small wins often had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly negative one.  So, small actions to try to reduce daily hassles can make a big difference for inner work life and for overall performance.

It’s also important to note that small losses or setbacks were found to overwhelm small wins.  Small everyday hassles hold more sway than small everyday supporting activities.

Be sure that you are not the source of the obstacles.  Negative team leader behaviors affect inner work life more broadly than positive team leader behaviors.  And employees recall more negative team leader actions than positive events and do so more intensely and in more detail.

Chapter 8 includes a Daily Progress Checklist which is worth the price of the book.  A self assessment asking questions on Catalysts/Inhibitors, Nourishers/Toxins, the state of the Inner Work lives of your team and Action steps.  (e.g., Did the team have clear short term and long term goals for meaningful work or was there confusion?  Did I give help when they needed it or did I fail to provide help?  Did I show respect to team recognizing their contributions to progress or did I disrespect any team members? Did I encourage team members who have difficult challenges or discourage a member of the team in any way?)

Bottom line, to harness the powerful force of the quality of your employees’ inner work lives, you must ensure that consistent forward movement in meaningful work is a regular occurrence in your employees ‘ work lives, despite the inevitable setbacks.

Source: “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity of Work“.  Authors: Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.

Be LATE. Be DISORGANIZED. Have a quick TEMPER. All damage your TRUSTWORTHINESS. Really?

A colleague shared this article from ForbesWoman. (Thanks V.B.) My initial reaction was: ‘REALLY?’ which moved to an ‘AHA!’ moment. (And then drifted to, “Is she sending me a message?”)   It’s not a revelation that being trustworthy is one trait that everyone needs to succeed.  What is eye-opening though are new studies that show that people won’t trust you if you have a “willpower” problem.  If you demonstrate a loss of self control – – being late, disorganized, having a temper outburst, overeating, overspending, smoking – –  you are building the perception that you are less trustworthy. And that, it is not only important to be trustworthy, but equally important that you are perceived to be trustworthy.   How do you build willpower and self-control?   Read on…

“You can be as honest, fair, and reliable as the day is long, but if nobody else sees you that way, it won’t help you.”

“When your boss doesn’t trust you, you don’t get key assignments, promotions, or the latitude to do things your own way and take risks…”

“…You may be seriously undermining that you are trustworthy if you appear to lack self-control.   New research shows that people just won’t trust you when you seem like you might have a willpower problem…We trust people because we know that when things get hard, or when it might be tempting for them to put their own interests first, they’ll resist temptation and do what’s right.”

“Studies show that when you engage in behaviors that are indicative of low self-control, your trustworthiness is diminished.  In other words, all those things you know you shouldn’t do – smoking, overeating, impulsive spending, being lazy, late, disorganized, excessively emotional, or having a quick temper – may be even worse for you than you ever realized, because of the collateral damage they are doing to your reputation.”

“Start by making peace with the fact that your willpower is limited.  If you’ve spent all your self-control handling stresses at work, you will not have much left at the end of the day for sticking to your resolutions.  Think about when you are most likely to feel drained and vulnerable, and make a plan to keep yourself out of harm’s way.  Decide, in advance, what you will do instead when the impulse strikes.”

“So if you want to build more willpower, start by picking an activity (or avoiding one) that fits with your life and your goals – anything that requires you to override an impulse or desire again and again, and add this activity to your daily routine.  It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier over time if you hang in there, because your capacity for self-control will grow.    Other people will notice the change, and trust you more.  Armed with more willpower and the trust of those around you, you’ll be more successful than ever before.”

(ForbesWoman: The Key Trait Successful People Have And How to Get It and “Self-Control” image:  Vincent@EG1471)

Are your sales reps pushy enough?

This is the third HBR Blog article on the Challenger series.  The first two articles (Post 1 & Post 2)  defined the most successful salespeople as being Challengers – assertive, offering relevant insights and guiding the client through the purchasing process.  During their research, the authors found that sales managers were concerned that if they coached their team to be Challengers they would be too aggressive. (Similar to the photo representation above). Yet, their research found some interesting findings:

“Most reps are far more likely to be passive than aggressive…guided by years of training and a deeply seated but mistaken belief that they should always do what the customer wants, reps seek to resolve tension quickly, rather than prolong it. But maintaining a certain amount of constructive tension is exactly what Challengers do.”

“Why do most reps fear tension? First, they feel they have no choice — it’s either acquiesce or lose the deal. Yet, in a recent survey of sales reps and procurement officers…75 percent of reps believe that procurement has the upper hand in the rep-customer relationship, 75 percent of procurement officers believe that reps have more power. What does that tell us? At the very least, if reps give in simply because of a perceived power imbalance, they’re conceding way too easily.”

“Most reps adopt a passive posture because senior management has told them…to “put the customer first,” or “place the customer at the center of everything we do.” Without clear guidance, most reps simply slip into “order taker” mode, closing small, disaggregated, price-driven deals at a discount all in the name of “giving customers what they want.”

Sources: HBR Blog: Why Your Salespeople Are Pushovers.  Photo: RealLifeDeals.com

Pull the Pin? No. No. No. Don’t quit. Bleed from your eyeballs if you have to, but don’t stop.

There are days…we all have them…when the hill feels too steep.  You wonder if all of the time and effort of the pursuit will pay off.  Steven Pressfield nails this entry and exit in his inspirational post “My Years in Wilderness.”  Worthy…

 …When I was struggling to teach myself how to write, I was so far gone that the idea of choice never entered the equation. The question wasn’t, Does this make sense? Am I getting anywhere? The question was, “Am I out of my mind? How much farther down is this road gonna take me?”  ….

…The tramps in the bunkhouses had an expression: “Pull the pin.”  The term came from the old railroad days when the switching crews would literally pull a steel pin to uncouple one car from another. “Pull the pin” meant to bolt, to pack up in the middle of the night. You might wake up and the bunk next to yours would be empty. “What happened to Jack?” “He pulled the pin…

…Don’t quit. Bleed from your eyeballs if you have to, but don’t stop. What kept me going was the same thing that kept those dancers working at the barre. I just loved it. Even when the work was garbage, which was 99.9% of the time, I had to keep trying—and if you’re trying now, God bless you. Keep hammering. If you have a choice, you’ll know it and you’ll stop. But you who are like me … you don’t have a choice. Don’t quit. Keep slugging. It takes time. There’s a price. Keep hammering.”

Source: Steve Pressfield: My Years in the Wilderness

McKinsey: What Women In Business Want…

“Although women generate about a quarter of US GDP, they contribute less than they could—far too few of them move up the corporate ladder, for example, but not because they lack ambition. A McKinsey survey of about 2,500 college-educated men and women found that women who make the leap from entry-level jobs to middle management and on to senior management are not only increasingly interested in becoming leaders but also increasingly confident that they can. Read “How women can contribute more to the US economy” (April 2011).”  (Source: McKinsey Quarterly)