INSIGHTS

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The Workforce Awakens: Picking Your Team Up After The Christmas Break

Like most of the population, I took in the new Star Wars film over the Christmas break with my family and friends. No plot spoilers here, but it doesn’t disappoint in the action stakes and uses a pretty tried and tested formula for storytelling which gives something to almost everyone watching and has sent its audience figures skywards. It also invested in a production budget which was almost double that of the previous few films (to the tune of some $200m) and brought back a few of familiar faces to woo a section of their viewers they felt they’d ‘lost’ in the prior films. And boy does it appear to have been a successful strategy: with $1.2 billion in worldwide sales after only a few weeks, it’s set to be one of the all time biggest hits of cinema to date.

Your own production may not have the budget of Star Wars or need the customer figures they are focussed on, however even Star Wars has it’s critics and there is no doubt that their brand experienced a bit of a slump from episodes 1 – 3 which they have bounced back from successfully. If you’re a challenger brand or start up fighting against your very own Dark Side, you’re going to need every trick in the book to kick start your own team and come up with the ideas which will see you successfully through this year and next.

Do a Warm Up

You might be all fired up after days of planning and revitalising yourself over next year’s targets, however you can’t just launch into a conversation about your sales targets the first time you see someone after a break (just as you wouldn’t collar a client for a contract sign off). Or rather, you can of course. But don’t expect them to provide responses brimming with enthusiasm. Why? Because no relationship works that way – you need to show an interest in others to build them- and we are programmed to adopt social norms even at work. Which is why you will not be able to elicit any sort of meaningful response without easing into the conversation without the associated pre-amble of ‘How was your Christmas?/ New Year /Trip?’….

Focussing on the future helps inspire people

I have a well worn practice in January of booking my next holiday to have something to focus on. This year it’s going to be Disney World – more for the kids than me you understand… – and I make sure I do this before the end of January and share the news with my home ‘team’ so it can take their mind off any Back-to-School-Blues. You don’t need to take your team to Disney World ( or it’s grown up counterpart- Vegas anyone??) to replicate this, but discussing and agreeing something fun in the future is a great pick me up for even the most stubborn of Post-Christmas blues.

Recognise achievements as part of day-to-day business

Remind everyone just how much gets achieved on a regular basis. Had a shocker last Quarter that you’d rather forget? Everyone can bounce back, they just need the right incentive, motivation and tools to do so. So boost their mental-banks by reminding all of their successes, the bigger picture and don’t just recognise the big ticket items, but all the little steps you take to get there too.

Just keep doing what you are doing helps 

Its tough pursuing goals, keeping customers happy, hitting the numbers and motivating your team. But just ‘keeping-going’ inspires others, so apply all of the above to yourself first. Remember, whether you like it or not, you’re a role model to your team.  For bonus points, do it with a smile on your face. It’s infectious.

Downtime is important for the mind and body, as everyone needs to step back and catch their breath once in awhile. But getting everyone focussed and moving towards the future is just as important and imperative right now for you to be successful. The best leaders do what they say they are going to and reinforce all they are focussed on every day.

Want to feel the force with your team? (sorry, I just couldn’t help that one!)

If you want to get off to the best possible start next year, and ensure that you have systems in place that will allow you to generate some Employee Magic to boost your business, take away the ‘noise’, streamline your processes and claim your status as the go-to place people want to work with, and set meaningful goals for the year ahead (as well as create a blueprint that will actually ensure you achieve them), then get in touch today & sign up today at TheHRhub.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith

Photo Credit: Star Wars Weekends 2015 – Invasion III by Scott Smith

I Feel It In My Fingers… I Feel It In My Toes : Inherently, We All Want To Be Loved And Appreciated.

A recent survey (Quantum and Limeade) found that when employees believe their employer cares about their well-being and they are appreciated, they are 38% more likely to recommend your company to a friend and 10 x less likely to get hostile in the workplace.

Wowsers. That’s a big boost for simply showing you care about your team.

Love is indeed all around us

And not in a weird way either. There’s not a person I’ve managed who doesn’t like it when you show you care: when you recognise that their job is important, you are thereby showing that you think that they are important too.

In almost all other aspects of our lives we recognise this (it’s only a fool who forgets to thank their loved ones more than once when they do something to help you), but sometimes we leave behind things we would normally do by default in our ‘real life’ when we swipe that access card or switch the computer on.

Promoting wellbeing is not just about providing dental

Whilst the idea of ‘wellbeing’ normally conjurs up ideas of a more medical of practices, the truth is that a happy healthy team is one where all feel they are wanted. Sure, providing private medical cover has become a staple for many corporates in the UK with many of them offering it to their teams, however there are other ways in which to look after your team that don’t require an underwritten excess.

So how do you show you care in the workplace without coming across as insincere?

  • Say thank you when someone does a great job: every time this tops the list. Every. Time.
  • Listen to them: most people naturally have a slight initial aversion to receiving ‘constructive feedback’, however those close to you and – crucially – to your customers may well have suggestions on how do things better which you will never get to hear if you don’t give people the chance.
  • Spend time with them: you don’t need to workshop or provide counselling every time you sit down with them, but make sure you give your team regular time to catch up with and the opportunity to talk to you
  • Let them know what’s going on: if people ‘know’, they feel involved. If people feel involved, they are feeling the magic.
  • Give people autonomy in their role: less micro-managing makes people feel less stressed.Instead, give them clear direction and then support and autonomy to get on with what you’ve asked for.
  • Note the little things: remember their kids/ partners/ dogs names and ask after them. If you think it’s not important, think about the last time someone you knew remembered something you had told them earlier about your plans/ family etc. I  used to think that the talent I have for remembering these type of things was almost totally useless ( I’d like to add at this point that this is countered by being able to have a total lapse in memory for things like major deadlines!). But how wrong I’ve been proved.

As in ‘real’ life however, actions mean more than words, so go the extra mile by:

  • Taking action on the suggestions your team has provided to show you’ve heard them: if you can’t address their concerns or suggestions, the action is to let them know why.
  • Having policies that aren’t punitive but supportive: I know that paid sick or compassionate leave can seem like pouring money down the drain, but imagine how you would feel about a boss you had who deducted money from your pay packet when you’re unable to get out of bed? I exaggerate to prove a point.
  • Having an employee recognition scheme whereby people can ‘thank’ others in the team – either at your team meetings or by an on-line recognition tool
  • Give them spot rewards based on interests they have
  • Giving them opportunities to develop and showcase their talents: it’s human nature to want to grow, so show them support and you will be rewarded tenfold

Showing you care doesn’t make you seem like a soft touch. It makes you a savvy leader.

For more tips on achieving  leadership savviness, theHRhub team are ready to help. So sign up to receive the ultimate online HR support for Startups and SMEs here.

Photo Credit: I love you with all my Heart by Tim Hamiliton 

Collaborative Leadership: Have You Got What It Takes?

What actually is a leader? If you asked 10 people for a definition you would probably get 11 answers. One of my colleagues once commented that “he may not always be right but he was always certain!” and it made me wonder how leaders could be so sure of their ground.

For business owners, the first step in creating your new business is a leap of faith and hopefully a solid vision. This automatically qualifies you as a leader. But things get a bit tricky as you start building relationships and partnerships with others. It can be your own people or it can be suppliers or trusted associates that help at critical times – the point is, you need every person acting like a leader in their own area of specialism. And they also need to be thinking like a teammate even if the “team” is not strictly delineated. Since the start of this century, the trend towards partnerships has paved the way for a more collaborative style of leadership……

It All Starts With Crafting A Great Team

Margaret Mead, American social anthropologist (1901-1978) was famous for saying “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

But how many people would it take? With only one person, it’s hard-but when you put that one person with four or five more, you have a force to contend with. All of a sudden, you have enough momentum to make almost anything that is immanent, actually real.

The hit 90s children’s TV series Power Rangers was based on a band of teenagers who possessed individual  super powers and came together to defeat any villain. A compelling case for encouraging diverse skills and talent if ever there was one. And it’s the same for you: orchestrating the make-up of your ‘dream team’ is the smart way to excel.  

One leader who recently got this so right is Justin Trudeau, the newly elected Canadian prime minister. His cabinet choices shows he understands the power of having a diverse team.  The smiling line up hints at the collaboration thus far. And the talents that this group possess is impressive. However, I am sure that each person will be expected to lead their part of the team.

Here’s a quick overview of his dream team:

  • Minister of Health is a doctor.
  • Minister of Transport is an astronaut.
  • Minister of National Defense is a Sikh Veteran.
  • Minister of Youth is under the age of 45.
  • Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is a former farmer.
  • Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was a Scout.
  • Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development was a financial analyst.
  • Minister of Finance is a successful businessman.
  • Minister of Justice was a crown prosecutor and is a First Nations leader.
  • Minister of Sport, and Persons with Disabilities is a visually impaired Paralympian.
  • Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Canadian Coastguard is Inuit.
  • Minister of Science is a medical geographer with a PhD.
  • And new titles include, Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees who was an Immigration critic.

There are several scientists in the cabinet and it is made up of 50% women.  Oh Canada…… What a cabinet. What a team!

Collaborative Leadership Starts With You!

Being a collaborative leader means juggling the balance between respecting and valuing the differences of a partner or colleague, whilst smoothing out some of those differences in the interests of making the relationship work.

The leadership principles listed below will help you achieve this balance consistently. Modelling self-leadership is the most powerful way to embed a technique and it is further reinforced when you mentor or coach others.

These are the habits of self-leadership:

  • Practice, don’t preach.
  • Observe and listen.
  • Stay connected to your intention for change.
  • Stay with the conflict – don’t avoid it. Resolve it…help creative options open up.
  • Follow your heart-do what you love, love what you do.
  • Keep connected to THE big picture. Talking spiritual may be a step too far for some but the idea is – it’s a big universe of possibilities and serendipity has worked its magic already – make sure you keep connected.
  • Nurture your own space of reflection that supports your life journey.
  • Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Your focus will improve as possibilities emerge.
  • Use different languages with different stakeholders.
  • If you want to change others (other stakeholders), you need to be open to changing yourself first.
  • And never give up!

Practical Tips for Collaborative Leaders

  • Develop in collaboration, a common agreement about the objectives and how the relationship will operate.
  • Facilitate enthusiasm – and if necessary, make this a focus to get things started.
  • When things go wrong it’s important that you have created open relationship communications to discuss and resolve difficult issues.
  • Charismatic leadership is not the only way – collaboration is more about helping all voices be heard and agreements reached before acting.
  • Yes, it takes longer but creates stronger bonds to complete the goal successfully.
  • Finally, collaboration is about sharing control. Think about the consequences of too much control and aim to lead with a light touch.

 

For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Find out more about us here.

 

Photo Credit: Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger by Kikomachi

 

Mindreading: Why It’s Your Fault Your Team Aren’t Pulling Their Weight – And What To Do About It…

Featuring high on the list of complaints I have listened to from various clients over the last few years about their teams, is: “…they’re just not doing what I want them to”.

And it comes in many guises:

  • The “they showed such promise in the interview but have turned out to be a turkey” guise
  • The “but they knew I needed that information in time for the Client/ Customer/ Board meeting” guise
  • The “but they know where to find that sort of information” guise
  • And, not forgetting the “but they should just know!” guise

Chances are however, it’s not them. It’s you. Yup. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true.

Communication Is Everything When It Comes To Performance Expectations

When I start to ask questions at this point and delve into the details of how they set expectations, it becomes clear that 9 times out of 10, clear direction from them on what is actually required has been lacking, if not entirely absent.

Indeed one manager I know actually used the phrase “but I pay them to know what to do!” when asked why he had not actually spoken to his team about what he wanted. Fair enough you might say. You pay a wage and you expect certain standards to be delivered. But where things are not being delivered, it’s because of a disconnect about what you think you may have said about them, and what was understood by what these ‘standards’ are.

You might think that what you said had been understood by all, but how did you summarise and play it back? Did you involve them in how they might deliver what was being asked? Did you check to see that they understood what you had asked? And, crucially, did you do this in the way in which your team work best? Because each team member is likely to hear different things. What is understood by one team member, may not be understood in the same way as another as we all learn differently. Which is why you should also write things down and follow up wherever possible. Your role here is as a coach, helping them to see how they can achieve the goal in hand, providing the support (and environment) so that they can deliver with aplomb and inspiring them to want to do it.

That person you hired that isn’t working out. Do you think there’s a chance you could have seen that coming during the assessment process? Did you discuss the job description and what success of the role would be measured on? Was there more you could have done to help them get on in their first few weeks? Or how about that project you briefed into the team? Anything awry with your timescales or the description of deliverables you gave? Once you start questioning your own communication style, chances are you might uncover some ways to help your team (and yourself in the process).

There’s No One Single Way To Get Great Performance Every Time

But there are some simple steps you can take to get your message across and make the dark art of getting people to perform and behind you a darn sight clearer:

  1. Set Expectations From The Outset: From up to date job descriptions to quality time during the interview process and discussing what success in the role looks like. This stage is critical.
  2. Support Them When They Do Join: Don’t just leave it to chance that they will ‘pick it up’. Spend time with your new recruit on a regular basis outlining what you expect from them and when. Like to be updated on a weekly basis on how the product is progressing? Tell them. Show them. Share with them how you do it. Try it all.
  3. Focus On WIIFT: For you it’s probably very clear what you get out of their high performance, but What’s In It For Them? Learn what motivates them and push those buttons to get the most of out of your team.
  4. Return The Favour: Give them feedback on how their doing. Do it immediately and make it real. A well-timed comment along the lines of “That campaign you ran totally hit the mark in terms of coverage but the signups we were after didn’t materialise. Let’s analyse it together and see how we can do it differently next time” is far more supportive and constructive than leaving it a few months to the end of the probation to tell them they didn’t get the results you were after. You’ll have missed valuable time for them to improve and will look as though you were too incompetent to raise it beforehand.
  5. Keep Talking: Few people like to work in a vacuum, so keep the conversation flowing. It builds relationships. Makes giving feedback (good and bad) much easier. And makes people feel involved.

Not Even The Professionals Are Immune

Despite spending much of my adult life coaching on the subject, I’m not immune from it either. There’s been many a time over the years when I found myself ‘tutting’ in my head when a piece of work failed to materialise or arrived half finished. At that point I have to check myself and think about what exactly I said/ did/ wrote when I communicated what I wanted. Almost every single time I realised that I hadn’t been clear over the importance of what I’ve asked for, why I’ve asked for something and what exactly I’ve needed.

For HR help, advice and all the tools you need to manage and develop your workforce, sign up to theHRhub today. You can find out more about us here.

 

Photo Credit: Day158 – Channeling by nataliej

Embracing The F word: Why Feedback Is Good For You – And How To Get The Best From It

Do you know how you really come across to people, and what they think of you?  What are you actually like as a boss or colleague?  What is it about you that your staff find most inspiring, and which of your strengths do they value the most?  And do you ever behave in ways that frustrate or demotivate them?  In what areas do they think you should improve, and why?

Finally.. how many of these questions are you able to truthfully answer, without guesswork or assumptions?  Because the only way you can absolutely know the answers to questions like these is by asking your people, making it ok for them to tell you the truth and provide  you with good quality, honest feedback, and being prepared to listen and absorb it.

For many of us, receiving feedback isn’t something we particularly enjoy.  Being criticised, especially if the criticism is unexpected or seems unfair, is not usually pleasant.  And even when the message is positive, many people also feel uncomfortable receiving compliments or praise.  

But if you are able to get over the discomfort, it’s probably true to say that good, honest feedback is one of the most powerful gifts it’s possible to get from someone at work.  Feedback from other people is fundamental to knowing the reality of how you come across, the impact you have on them, and how well you approach your work, make decisions, manage pressure, communicate, collaborate and lead.  Becoming more self aware through feedback is the first step towards knowing what to improve in order to become more skilled as a leader, manager and colleague.

This all sounds great in theory I know – but being on the receiving end of critical feedback is still difficult and awkward a lot of the time.  So how can you overcome all this to really benefit from the feedback that comes your way?  

Make It Ok For People To Tell You The Truth

One of the biggest barriers to receiving critical feedback about ourselves is overcoming the natural reticence of people not wanting to hurt our feelings or saying something that might be career limiting for themselves.  So instead of suddenly hitting them with something like “I’ve called this meeting because I want you to give me feedback on my leadership.  Go!” which will elicit a few homogenous platitudes at best – give them some notice. Try “I’m serious about improving as a leader and in order to do that I want to understand what I’m good at and less good at. I need your help because you know me well, I trust your judgement, and I know I can rely on you to be honest with me about the things I am less good at, as well as the better stuff.  Please can you give this some thought over the coming week.  I’ll book some time with you next week, and what I’d like to hear from you is 2 things you think I am good at and 2 things you think I need to improve.  If you can think of any examples to help me fully understand, that would be even better.”

Remember You Are Human…

Just like everybody else.  You have enormous strengths and skills – otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are today, having achieved all that you have. However, in addition to this, none of us are perfect: we all have areas where we can improve.  So regard any critical feedback you are given as a chance for you to learn more about the improvements you can make, in order to be more effective in the future.

Allow Time For It To Sink In

When we receive information that’s significant but unexpected (positive, or negative) our immediate response – be it shock, disappointment, anger, elation or whatever – isn’t always the most appropriate or helpful. Let yourself experience the emotion, and then release it and try to accept what you have heard more calmly and rationally.   

Keep It In Perspective

It’s not unusual for people to allow one piece of negative feedback to overshadow all the great things that they do and forget the positive stuff about themselves. (Similarly, I have worked with some people who only paid attention to the praise and disregarded important corrective feedback they were given.) So allow the feedback to add to the psychological picture you already hold of yourself, rather than replace it or skew it.  Again, this sometimes takes time.

Show Interest And Ask Questions

You may need to explore the feedback in greater depth, assuming you can do this constructively, without being defensive or threatening. In what situations have they observed you behaving in this way?  What was the impact or consequences?  What would they like to see you doing instead?  

Look Below The Surface

In an ideal world, all corrective feedback would be wrapped up in tactful language, and delivered in a supportive tone by someone we believe has absolutely our best interests at heart.  But it doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes feedback is clumsily expressed, or comes from someone we don’t particularly get on with (so they would say that, wouldn’t they), or sometimes we think even with the best will in the world, they are just plain wrong to think of us like that.  What then?  Well – with tactless comments, simply look beyond the language at the essence of the message: there may well be some truth there, perhaps expressed harshly, but still a helpful point.  With the feedback from the person you don’t like – again, they probably have an important point to make, so look beyond any relationship issues and focus on what you can learn from their feedback.  Finally with the feedback you simply don’t agree with – well, be honest with yourself first.  Is there not even a glimmer of truth in what they say?  If the answer is – sincerely – still no, then ok.  But they have a perception, and they have been brave enough to share it with you (if that’s what they’re thinking, you’d still rather know, surely?).  So while you might disagree with their view, you do have something to work with in terms of that person’s perception of your style and how you might manage your relationship with them going forward.  

Don’t Get Defensive Or Argue With The Feedback

Instead, try one of these: “thank you for letting me know, I wasn’t aware I did that and I can see how that would look from your perspective”, or “thank you for telling me that, could you please tell me some more about my tendency to behave in that way” or if you really believe they’ve got the wrong end of the stick try “thank you for sharing that with me, I wasn’t aware that’s how I can come across, can I just explain more about what’s going on for me in these situations..” although handle this last tactic with care.  

Reflect On What To Do Next

Once you have accepted that this is the view held by your colleague, you can decide what you want to do with the information.  Don’t be too quick to either dismiss it or take it to heart – do it justice by fully reflecting on it first.  When you’re ready you can decide whether you agree, partially agree or disagree with the feedback.  Whichever you decide, you do need to accept that this is the view held by your colleague, and acknowledge that it might not have been easy for them to share it with you, so thank them.

 

Being able to receive feedback constructively is a great skill.  Done properly, the benefits are like looking in a mirror: just as we take a look in the mirror in the morning before we leave the house – to check our hair’s ok and there’s no toothpaste down our shirt – feedback represents the truth of how we come across to those around us.  Knowing other peoples’ views of you and how you might improve is a hugely powerful lever to improve your effectiveness. Leading without feedback would be like going through your working life without ever checking the mirror.

 

theHRhub is the ultimate HR solution for startups and SMEs. Find out more here.

 

Photo Credit: Feedback by Dennis Skley