Archive for December, 2010

Feeling valued and valuing others is important not just in the workplace, but in life in general. For a unique perspective, check out this clever, heart-warming, award-winning video. It is 16 minutes long, but well worth the time. If you choose not to take the time now, write yourself a reminder, and check it out later.

Incite: In what ways do you “validate” others?  What are some of the things you do or don’t do, that you now realize could be devaluating?

Credit: Michael Lee Stallard posted this video link on his blog on Dec. 22, 2010 under the title Are You a Life Giver or Life Drainer? His blog is ranked #5 in the Top Business blogs in the Leadership Category. He is also the author of Fired Up. Or Burned Out, of which I’m an advocate. Check out his site.


The following video is an interesting metaphor for working in organizations.  It illustrates the importance of not only having purpose but having a clear sense of direction.

Because the video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment, it must be viewed directly on You Tube. Click the title to open a new window and go there now.

Robert Krulwich: Why Can’t We Walk Straight?

Could the subjects have moved in a straighter line if they were told specifically how to walk, swim, or drive in a straight line?  Probably not, a clear sense of direction is what’s important here, not receiving directions on how to do it.

What other incites do you see in the video?

Incite: Can you clearly describe your company’s purpose and strategic direction?   Your own?  What do you do to make sure your employees are not working in the dark?  Do you provide direction or directions?

Credit: I originally heard the video content in a podcast version posted by Michael Cerreto, Cognitive Retraining Specialist and Sports Psychology Counselor.

As my wedding anniversary approached, I thought it would be the perfect time to have a performance conversation with my wife.  After all, it is a partnership, and what better way to manage performance than with a verbal if not written review of her performance. With SMART objectives in my mind, balanced feedback, and a monetary reward system, it was a “can’t lose approach. “

I scheduled a review time.  I didn’t use my office; we sat side by side at the dining room table.  To sweeten the pot, I had put a blank check in my top shirt pocket and made sure it was visible.

I began by saying, “Dear, I would like to talk you about something… specifically your performance in our marriage this year. There are a number of areas in which I think you excelled, and a few that I think you could improve in.  But first, tell me how you think you did.”

The encounter ended abruptly with a strong emotional response and her running out of the room.

I rrealized the errors of my ways.  I should have told her the topic of discussion beforehand. I also think it would have been more effective if we had developed a marriage strategy and discussed personal objectives for her that directly aligned with the overall strategy.

Regarding her reaction, I think I might have to add a new policy to the Marriage Employee Partner handbook I am working on.

Incite: Feedback can trigger unconscious responses to power, authority, control, and status hierarchy.  Is there a better way?

Credit: This is a variation of a parody I first heard from either Tom Peters or Peter Block years ago.  Here’s a link to a related book on Amazon with the Foreword by Peter Block.  Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead. If anyone can confirm the source, please leave a comment.

Rewarding Behavior?

Posted: December 5, 2010 in Performance
Tags: ,

Most companies have reward systems in place believing that extrinsic rewards motivate employees.   Research has shown that what really motivates employees is 80% intrinsic, that is it comes from within.  Taking a more mechanistic approach, the act of working actually releases pleasurable chemicals in the brain.

After conducting many employee surveys and focus groups, I have found that one of the most underused reward systems is the manager/employee relationship.   Many employees would simply want to hear a sincere “thank you.”

To gain a deeper “incite” into the impact of external rewards, check out this 10:48 Daniel Pink video.

Incite: What do you find rewarding?  What motivates your employees?  How do autonomy, mastery, and purpose show up in your work, in how you lead others?

My original intent was to post original material.  I received this blog post on December 4, 2010, from Seth Godin and I just couldn’t resist.  A while ago IBM conducted a study and found that the average worker was productive 90 minutes a day.  So let’s ask the question, who is…

The World’s Worst Boss?

That would be you.

Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.

Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much as your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.

We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.

Incite: If you had to describe yourself as the boss of you, what would you say?  Are you supportive, critical?  What do you do well, what do you need to do differently, and what do you need to stop or start doing today?

A colleague of mine recently blogged about the importance of the performance appraisal because it was a part of performance management, which was part of talent management. Here was my reply.

“…while I agree with the case for talent management (TM) overall, my position on the performance appraisal being an integral part of TM simply because it is associated with performance management is not aligned with yours.

I agree with Dr. Deming that the appraisal is one of the seven deadly sins. Ninety-four percent of an individual’s performance is the result of the systems in which they work. Even if the objectives on the appraisal are directly aligned with those of the company, the process of evaluating performance is fraught with a myriad of psychological biases and errors. Time would be better spent evaluating and improving the systems in which people operate. Some companies say they need the document for potential legal defense, yet for every case won, three are lost because the document does exist.

The Harvard Business Review published a landmark study by GE over forty years ago. GE found that their performance appraisal system not only didn’t work, it had the opposite effect. Yet, it’s as if the study was never conducted.

Gary Hamel asserts that management practices have barely changed in a hundred years and that “management” is an area ripe for innovation.

One of the recommendations in a report I did last year was to do away with the PA. Based on my experience, I truly believe that if a CEO said we’re doing away with the performance appraisal, it would be like New Year’s Eve in Time Square.”

Check out this great clip. (Ignore the text balloon that pops up on the opening screen)

Incite: People do not work in isolation. Their motivation and ability are affected by other people, processes, and systems.  How do others respond to your efforts?  What systems facilitate or hinder your performance?