How to regain trust (if you can) when it’s lost in a business relationship

November 7, 2012

Trust is too important to take for granted.

Yet many people do.

So when they lose the trust of customers, colleagues, employees and other stakeholders, well, they’ve give up much more than they may realize have.

If you lose trust in a business situation, can you get it back?

And if you can’t, what is the impact?

Consider these scenarios:

– A manager struggles with a small budget for employee raises as she completes annual performance reviews.

She avoids discussing the low number of salary increases, and the way she will make these important decisions.

When employees discover what she hoped to avoid addressing, the silence and mystery surrounding the process makes it seem to them as if she’s making decisions through favoritism.

– A cross-functional team is charged with creating a new product on a tight timeline.

Most members of the team meet the rigorous deadlines, high quality standards and their commitments to each other.

One group avoids telling the rest of the team about problems they’re having, and the fact that they’re going to miss their deadlines.

Without enough time to adapt to the late and incomplete information, the full team misses its launch and revenue targets.

In both of these situations, trust was eroded.

We can surely each cite our own examples of times when trust was eroded in in business situations, as well.

Here are just a few of the ways that low-trust environments decrease effectiveness and profits while increasing costs:

– Miscommunication
– Missed deadlines
– Reduced commitment to the business relationship and goals
– Effort that is withheld, consciously or unconsciously
– Customers who take their business elsewhere when product and service quality drops
– Employees who decide that their short- and long-run satisfaction will be higher at another company

Trust that is lost is hard to get back.

(And you may not be able to…let’s be honest about that).

But when you do recover trust, you can become a much stronger leader as a result of the experience.

You’re likely to be more attentive to what matters. And that includes what matters to your many stakeholders: customers, employees, peers, suppliers and more.

That makes for a very solid beginning that leads to a better situation for everyone.

Here are other ways you can try to rebuild trust if you’re the leader of your company or team:

– Review and recommit to your team and company vision and values.

– Reaffirm your commitment to your mission as a leader.

– Lead by learning, and by sharing the lessons of this experience with others, demonstrating continuous improvement in your own leadership practices.

– Reinforce and follow up on any new rules or guidelines you establish as a result of this experience.

– Pause before you make commitments and agreements to ensure that you will be able to keep them, or refine them so that you can.

– Clarify what information employees, colleagues and other stakeholders need from you, and when. Be clear about the information you need, as well.

What to do when “you want what you want and you want it NOW!” but you’re not “there” yet

April 24, 2012

“I want what I want, and I want it NOW!”

That sounds like a little kid having a tantrum, right?

It wasn’t.

That was me, 27 at the time, on a gray, blustery day in the new city where we were moving.

My husband…who’d just accepted a great new job we didn’t expect just then, but which he couldn’t turn down…wanted to push on as we looked for the next place we’d call home.

And me?

I just wanted lunch.

Well, that, and to be listened to.

I quietly worried about how we’d afford a second house while we tried to sell our first one (a house we’d only owned for four months) in a difficult Midwestern economy.

And I wondered what jobs the new city might have for me…again, in a very difficult economy.

I’d just started a new magazine for my current employer and had hoped to see it through its first important year of groundwork and growth.

Finally, in the wintry mid-afternoon wind of this not-yet-friendly city, I’d had enough of “making do,” being flexible, and not being listened to…by my husband, or, frankly, by myself, either.

I wasn’t being honest about what I wanted, up until that point.

“I want what I want, and I want it NOW!”

You know the feeling, too.

I know you do.

And you may know that feeling as the leader of a team or company.

When I think of this phrase applied to leaders I’ve worked with, I remember one client, in particular. He was one of the founders of a very rapidly growing financial services company.

I used to joke with him that what he REALLY wanted was to “defy the laws of business physics.”

In other words, he “wanted what he wanted” – major improvements in the way, and ease, with which work got done at his company – and “he wanted it NOW!”

He’d had enough waiting for change to move at a normal pace through his company.

If you and your team “want what you want, and you want it NOW!” but you’re nowhere near the point of having it, these may be some of the reasons you’re struggling:

1. You’re not listening to yourselves, or each other.

Speaking from my own experience in the situation I’ve just described, and also, as a team leader and team member, at different times, listening is where you should start.

Are you listening to yourself?

Are you listening to each other?

Listening well, and fully engaging everyone in a project – and keeping them well-informed throughout it – can be far more powerful than you would guess in terms of creating success.

2. You don’t really know what you want…even if you DO know what you DON’T want.

Sometimes you know what you don’t want.

It’s what you have now.

But instead of that…you want…what, exactly?

If not knowing what you want is a problem for you or your team, try this (really…just try it):

– Imagine you have a magic wand, and can make any change that you want, right now.

– Now, imagine using that magic wand, and being in the new situation.

– Describe it. What’s “most different” from the situation you have now?

3. You don’t believe you can have what you want.

Sometimes teams don’t believe they can really have what they say they want.

To be fully activated, and on board, it helps to “pre-experience success.”

One way to do this is to envision success in detail, and to imagine the process of successfully getting there…over, around and through barriers you may experience on the way there.

Your team may also need more coaching, feedback, and peer interaction as they adjust to the changes they are going through.

4. You don’t know how to get what you want.

Wanting something, and actually being able to achieve it, are two very different things.

There are many ways to figure out how to get started, once you know what your goal really is.

Here are just a few of them:

– Research the best ways of doing the job.

– Take training.

– Observe, and ask questions of people who’ve already achieved what you hope to.

– Practice.

– Experiment, then observe what happens. Adjust accordingly.

– Get coaching and feedback.

– Pause to refresh, and stay connected as a team, as you move forward.

5. You don’t know if you can maintain success when you achieve it.

Think of it this way: if you happen to get what you want, but don’t believe it’s “really yours,” you may not be able to handle having it, much less be able to keep it.

It’s like a lottery winner who doesn’t believe he’s worthy of the lottery winnings, and fritters the money away to return to the more familiar, less-moneyed state.

Good fortune, even if you’ve worked very hard to create it, won’t “stick” if you don’t know what to do with it, or how to maintain it.

Prepare to be successful.

Start to develop the beliefs, knowledge and skills you’ll need to manage success when it arrives.

6. You’re not clearing the decks to make success possible.

Many people want to achieve success, but they don’t free up the time, energy, attention and resources to actually do so.

What do you plan to stop doing so that you can start doing something new?

Make success possible.

Make the time and space for it.

What stops you from sweeping your top problems away?

April 17, 2012

What stops you and your company from sweeping away the main problems you face?

“Limited resources,” you may say.

Or, “There’s just not enough time to get ahead of things.”

Yet, if you add up all the money and time it takes to clean up after each individual mistake…well, the cost can be astounding.

Sometimes things just happen, and you do need miraculous saves.

And for those times, it’s good to have people on your team who can step up to be the hero or heroine. 

But it’s better not to need to use heroes or heroines regularly.

It’s not good for your customers, profits, or company.

And it’s not good for your blood pressure, either.

Put your greatest problem-solvers to work on long-term plays.

Try this approach:

1.  Make a list of the top three problems your company faces.

Start with the problems customers are most frustrated about.

These are the issues that might drive them to your competitors, if you don’t get the problems solved and, in the future, prevented.

2. Start with the problem that’s most painful to deal with now.

This is a problem that’s frustrating to customers and employees, both.

3. See the problem in its fullest extent.

Find a visual way to show or understand the problem, and to be able to communicate it well to everyone who is going to be involved in solving it.

A flowchart or simple drawing of the way the process works now can be useful for this step.

Show the pain points in the process in some way, such as by drawing red, radiating “pain points” or frustrated exclamation marks in the most troublesome parts of the process.

4. Tally up the estimated cost, lost time and other negative impacts of not having solved the problem yet.

Estimate the cost of fixing the problem each time you have to clean up something that has gone wrong, especially if the customer has received that work-gone-wrong.

Include, for example, the cost of rework, the cost of making things whole for an unhappy customer, the estimated impact of lost sales and referrals in the future if frustrated customers quit doing business with your company.

5. See the problem as a puzzle you’re trying to solve or a game you’re trying to win.

Many people crave a contest, no matter what it is.

And if crave a contest, they probably also crave a “win,” whatever a “win” is.

Look at the problem creatively and make a game out of problem-solving and problem-prevention.

For example, you can:

– Reduce the amount of time it takes to do the job

– Increase customer satisfaction

– Reduce cost while increasing customer satisfaction

– Increase flexibility and responsiveness as you reduce costs

6. Experiment.

Experiment with ways of trying to win the game you’ve created.

Make notes about what you tried, and why, and what you think will happen, as a result.

7. See if the experiment worked.

Check to see if the experiment worked.

If so, move on to Step 8.

If not try another experiment.

8. Educate and implement.

Record the information you need to pass on to others who will use this process regularly.

Set them up to win the game you’ve created through this improvement. Teach them what a “win” is, in this process and for the customers who buy this product or service from you.

Better yet, involve them in some way in creating the game they’ll now be trying to “win” on a regular basis.

9. Follow-up.

This is the key to success in many things.

Check back to see if the problem was, indeed, solved, and if good intentions and ideas were sustainably implemented.

If not, go back as far as you need to in the process to understand the real problem you’re facing, and to solve it.

10. Repeat the process to solve the next problem.

Remember the list of your top three problems in Step One? Take the next one in the list and turn it into a long-term play, and a game you can win now, and well into the future.

Lost your zip and zest? Keys to getting your game back

March 20, 2012

Business is a game. It’s a game with high stakes, of course, but a game, nonetheless.

In spite of that, sometimes one’s zip, zoom and zest drain away.

When your enthusiasm has drained away – for any of many possible reasons – there are ways you can get it back.

Use one or more of these ways to get your game back.

1. A goal, or goals

2. Rules

3. An opponent (which may be your own past performance)

4. Feedback

5. Ways to track your progress toward the goal

6. Actions you can take to play the game better and achieve better results, with practice

7. Challenge that’s engaging without being overwhelming

Let’s take a look at each element in a little more detail:

1. A goal, or goals

An easy place to begin when you’ve lost your enthusiasm, is to clarify your goal.

Remind yourself why you do this work (in addition, of course, to getting paid).

Who benefits most from what you do, in addition to you?

What positive impact does your work have for them?

2. Rules

Rules can get complicated, over time.

Unnecessary details can cloud the “how,” even if you’re clear about the “what,” “who,” and “why” of your game.

See what you can simplify.

3. An opponent (which may be your own past performance)

You may have a clear opponent in your game. It may be a competitor you’re trying hard to beat.

Usually the game that pays off best, however, is when you’re competing with your own customer-focused past performance, always trying to improve it.

Choose a worthy opponent that constantly helps you make your best better.

4. Feedback

Engaging games give you feedback.

Business is a game of “Who can satisfy the needs of the customer best?”

Look for ways to get and use strong customer feedback.

5. Ways to track your progress toward the goal

Sometimes the simplest thing you can do is to record something that’s easy to track but significant in terms of leading directly to the desired results.

It’s like a person who’s trying to let go of excess weight who decides to keep a food diary, trying to see what habits may be delaying, or preventing progress.

Paying close attention – as tracking forces you to do – often changes behaviors in a positive direction.

6. Actions you can take to play the game better and achieve better results, with practice

If there’s nothing you can do to improve, there’s no game.

And if there’s something you can do to improve, but you choose not to, there may be a game, but you’re choosing not to play it.

Look around for, and then take the actions you can take to make something work better.

It will, almost inevitably, lead to improved performance and results.

7. Challenge that’s engaging without being overwhelming

Your first challenge, if you’re feeling depleted or defeated, may be to figure out what the game really is that you’re playing, or caught in.

You may discover that the game is one you don’t want to play anymore. Plenty of people have found themselves in that situation at one point or another.

On the other hand, you may find and renew the drive and commitment to drew you to this line of work, or this company.

Maybe you find you need to up the ante, and expect more of yourself and others, and then to make that more possible through various decisions you make and actions you take.

Or – quite the opposite – you may find you need to relax and smell the roses a bit more.

Maybe all you need is to appreciate your work more, and to enjoy the process of doing it (I’m not kidding. Focus on the process…enjoy that…and the results are likely to be more satisfying, as well).

Whatever you find, the sooner you take the time to refresh and recover your game, the sooner you’ll be playing the game you’re really meant to play, and win.

Start solving problems that never seem to go away on your next “I’ve HAD it!” day

March 14, 2012

“I’ve had it! I just want this pile of problems to go away!”

Does that sound like something you’ve said (or a cleaned up version of it)?

The person in this case was overwhelmed and dispirited by the problems of rapid growth, as was his whole team.

“I just want to get things done, and to solve problems so they stay away!” he said, dejectedly.

That sense of frustration, and momentary futility affects startups, mid-size companies, and corporations, as well.

For example, “No one has time to improve the way we get work done,” said a beleaguered colleague recently. She’s a long-time manager at a leading high-tech firm.

“We just have to keep pushing work through the processes we have, hoping they’ll get the work done well enough,” she said, in exasperation.

Surely there is SOMETHING you can do if you’re feeling this way, right?

There is.

Start simply, but start.

One way to begin is by answering one or more of the questions below.

Your answers can guide you to begin making improvements, the benefits of which add up in a big way.

1. What isn’t working?

Make a list.

Start with the things that are causing you and the people at your company the most pain.

Then, in front of that list, put a list of the problems that are causing your customers pain (you know what those things are, right? If not, find out).

2. How do you know you have a problem?

Gather the facts.

You may discover, in the process, that there are, indeed, problems, but they’re very different from what you expected they would be.

3. What does the problem cost you or your company now?

Once again, you may be very surprised. Sometimes problems that seem small are costing you a lot of money, or may in the future.

You won’t know until you check.

4. How does the process work now, before you improve it?

Draw a picture of the process, the way it works now.

Then, ask a sample of other people who use the process to draw a picture of how it works, as they see it.

The differences may be eye-opening. This may show you that another problem is also in play: poor communication.

5. Who do you do your work for?

Be clear about who the customers are for the work that you, specifically, do. In many cases, this is someone inside your company.

6. How do your customers want the work done?

These tell you what your customers’ requirements are. These often include details such as what your customers mean, specifically, when they say they want something that is “on time,” “accurate,” or “cost-effective,” for example.

Customer requirements are your standard for success.

Know what they are and meet them.

7. If you don’t know what your customers want from you, how can you find out?

Then, do that.

8. If the process were working perfectly, what would it be like?

Imagine the process working easily and effectively, with little or no waste.

Describe and then write down a few of the most significant details in that perfectly-working process.

9. How is that perfect process different from the way the process works now?

Make a list of the differences between the way things could be, and the way they are.

10. Who are the customers your entire company does its work for?

These are the people who ultimately pay your salary when they decide to continue to do business with you, and to refer you to others.

11. What do your company’s customers want?

Make sure everyone in your company knows who your shared customers are, and what success means to them in terms of the products or services they buy from you.

12. How you know this is what they want?

Often, companies guess about what their customers want. Or they may assume they know better than their customers do about what’s important or valuable to them.

Few companies last long if they follow this, “We know what’s best for you” strategy with customer needs and requirements.

Don’t be one of them.

These 12 questions, and your answers to one or more of them can go a long way toward helping you start to solve the problems that typically cause you pain now.

You can’t be a laurel sitter in a “What have you done for me lately?” world

February 20, 2012

Laurel sitting can creep up on people, companies, and teams.

It’s the condition of resting on one’s laurels – accolades, awards, education, training and experience, among other things  – of the past instead of keeping them current, fresh.

Here, for example, is how one coach described it:

“We rested on last year’s laurels. Other teams came right at us and we did not respond to that.”
Wayne Cafferty

Laurel snatching can happen, too. And it can happen when you least expect it.

That’s when you’re not as ready for the current round of competition as your competition is.

Unless you stay competitive, a little bit hungry, and willing and able to do the work it takes to succeed again and again, you can quickly be surpassed or, worse, become irrelevant in today’s market.

Other companies may swoop in with a great new idea, superbly executed, and perhaps better than your latest idea was.

The thing it may be easy to forget is that, no matter how successful you and your company have been, other people, companies, and teams want success just as much as you do.

You may find they even want it more.

And if their employees are learning and improving faster than yours are, working better as a team than yours are, they’re likely to be very effective competitors.

Sometimes, what you wanted in the past just doesn’t thrill you anymore.

In that case, you may find you’re actually ready to walk away from laurels of the past. You may be on an active search for something new that’s now more interesting and more challenging to you.

Let’s say, though, you do not want to change. You like the way things have always been, including the competitive position you’ve had in the market.

Sometimes the opportunity to continue to compete the way you want to just comes to an end. How you adapt to that change dictates your future opportunities.

You can try to run or hide, or you can dive in, facing the change that has come your way.

Some companies take their success for granted, and let it slip away.

It almost seems as if they privately believe, “We’ve got this. It’s ours. We’ve earned the right from all our hard work in the past not to have to work very hard anymore.”

And we all know of companies that lose their competitive edge when they’re not paying attention to customers’ changing wants and needs.

The market moves on, while they don’t.

If you recognize that laurel sitting, or the loss of past laurels is affecting your company or team, there are things you can do.

Here are just a few ways to increase your focus, intensity, and drive for your goals now:

– Take the time to refresh. remember times when you felt fully engaged, fully involved in a job, team role, or work project.

Notice what’s common about those experiences.

What did you especially like about them?

Can you apply some of those approaches – and if so, how – to your current goals and challenges?

– Remember what your dreams once were. Next, look at what your current dreams are. 

Notice how your dreams have changed – if they have.

Let your aspirations serve as a guide for actions, decisions, and focus now.

– Brainstorm at least ten ways to turn today’s dreams into fact and experience.

Consider what it would really take to turn your dreams into reality.

Start taking action, even in very small and non-threatening ways that takes you closer to achievement of your dreams today.

– Live more fully in the present.

– Learn to look with clear eyes at the facts of your current situation.

Use those facts – about yourself, your current resources, skills and abilities, as well as about the market you’re competing in – to fuel change if you don’t like what you see today.

– Take the time to appreciate the good things you have now. Fully revel in the best of what you have.

– Appreciate, then let go of the past.

– Create a future that is more compelling by starting to step into it.

If you’re moving a new direction, start to move into it gradually, through experimentation.

“Beta test” the possibilities of this new direction. Learn and grow new skills and resources that will help you move into the future more confidently and successfully.

– Remember the joy (yes, joy) of learning, trying, testing and mastering new skills.

No matter how hard the pursuit seems when you’re in the thick of it, excellence and mastery feels good when you achieve it.

Laurels of the past can become the incentive for laurels still ahead.

Enjoy your journey, whatever it is. Appreciate successes of the past, and look forward to new ones, still ahead.


Two big ways you may be hurting your customers, company…and profits

February 12, 2012

The challenges of business are rich and varied.

Even if you do everything else right, if you make the following two mistakes, you may unwittingly chase customers, business and profits away.

1. If your priorities don’t line up well with what’s important to your customers, you could be working very, very hard…on all the wrong things.

2. If you don’t have a way to translate those priorities into actions you can plan and manage easily, there’s no telling what results will emerge at the end of the day…or your work process.

Do this brief exercise:

– Think of your company’s top priorities.

– What are they?

– Why are these the most important things to you now?

– Do your priorities align with your customers’ priorities?

– What measures do you use to ensure that priorities turn into the right actions to produce what your customers want?

The consequences of being wrong – guessing, miscommunicating, or missing the boat – can create a chaotic, confusing, conflict-prone work environment.

And this increases the chances that problems will occur which must be corrected, wasting time, and money. 

It can also chase good customers away if they take their business to competitors who meet their needs better, and do so more easily.

What’s your most profitable path? It sounds simple enough:

– Take the order right, and easily.

– Fill or complete it correctly, and easily.

– Deliver it right, and easily.

– Follow up, as need be, to ensure that your customer is happy with the outcome.

Yet that seemingly simple plan can be deceptively hard to accomplish.

Below, here’s just one example of what we’re talking about…in a “Don’t Do This” story.

My daughter, then a kindergartner, and I were getting breakfast at a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru window.

This was unusual, especially on a school day, but we’d built in a little extra time…though not as much time as the restaurant was taking.

As the wait went on and on, and we heard no update from the person who’d taken our order, I finally asked what the delay was.

“Oh, there’s no delay!” he said breezily. 

“Our company guidelines say I have 3 minutes to get your order to you!”

Clearly there was no point in having a discussion at that moment with that young man about company policy, customer expectations, and the wide disparity between them.

All he knew was that company policy dictated to him what I was supposed to want…and what the driver in the car behind me, and the driver in the car behind him were supposed to want, too.

We just quietly never returned to that company’s restaurants again. That meant a lot of missed business and profits for them, and opportunities for someone else.

And the other lesson from this story for businesses?

Silence from your customers does not necessarily mean that they’re satisfied with what you’re providing them.

It may mean they don’t think it’s worth their time and effort to give you feedback, for a variety of reasons.

Remember, then, these key questions:

– Who are your customers?

– What do they want?

– Of the things they want, what are their top priorities?

– How can you clearly communicate those needs to the people who will fill them?

– As you’re working to meet customers’ needs, how do you and your team know if you’re on track to deliver what the customer ordered…and what will bring them back, with their next order?

Are you just completing training tasks or going for great positive impact?

January 1, 2012

Failure – well, partial failure – on a recent vacation activity reminded me what NOT to do when training someone.

In this case, I was a trainee.

Here was the situation:

A group of six of us had gathered on the beautiful Oregon coast, traveling from five different locations throughout the US to share the Christmas holiday.

Our daughter and her boyfriend, the most knowledgeable about Oregon, had looked for activities we might all like, in addition to enjoying each others’ company, cooking together, exploration of the beautiful area, and long beach walks.

Anne and John suggested crabbing which is, essentially, going out in a boat in waterproof clothes to catch your own seafood dinner.

Were we open to the idea?

We were.

The adventure, if nothing else, sounded like fun.

The day of crabbing arrived.

We donned our waterproof gear of boots, gloves, and warm, water-resistant clothes.

We paid for our boat, bait and other fees and bought our permits.

We listened quietly and earnestly as one of the owners of the crabbing company explained the process we would be following, what to look for, and which crabs were illegal to catch, and so had to be thrown back.

The lessons were simple, and we were sure we understood them. The woman training us seemed to be sure we were ready, too.

Her husband led us out to the boat we would use, and helped us get launched, providing lessons there on using this particular boat.

We headed out to the open water, a bit nervous but ready for the fun work ahead.

Soon, with patience, practice, purposeful experimentation, positive attitudes and a little friendly competition, we started to catch cioppino-bound crabs.

We filled every minute we had and headed back to port, buoyant, cold, tired, a bit wet despite our waterproof clothes, and feeling somewhat lucky and happy about our five-crab catch.

We also felt good about our teamwork and the process we’d “mastered” as much as we could in the few hours’  learning and experimentation we’d had for the task.

We sized up the afternoon’s work as a relative success.

Or so we thought.

Here’s the problem:

As we took off our gear, the owners of the crabbing company started getting crabby, and then accusatory with us about some unexpected holes in the nets.

We’d noticed one, too, as we worked, and wondered how it had happened, but tried to adapt by tying knots from a few of the seemingly chewed through ends of the cording.

We had followed their training to the letter, and reiterated that to these angry people, as they drove away future business in their process of defending their nets.

They blamed, accused, and turned what had been a fun adventure into, frankly, a baffling and maddening one.

I quickly tired of their accusatory tone, and replied, “We don’t know what you’re talking about. REALLY! We DO NOT UNDERSTAND what you’re talking about!”

Nothing they described as having happened to the nets on our watch, and none of the ill intent they attributed to us had been true.

Trying to make heads or tails out of this unexpected situation, I added, “Those things you’re describing make NO sense. Why would we do something to let the crabs OUT of the net? It was our goal to CATCH them.”

Part of me wondered if part of the way this duo increased their short-term profits (thinking nothing of the probable long-term effect) was to charge each boat an additional $40 for a net, after the fact.

And as I write this, I still wonder about that.

And in a negative sense, it was amazing to be reminded what a major impact a bad attitude from one or two people can have on a group, and how it can come close to ruining a otherwise-great experience…unless you actively counteract the effect.

I was also amazed that the owners of the company were not taking any responsibility for the training they provided.

As the experience wrapped up and we drove off with our crabs and distasteful memories of those crabby owners, we STILL didn’t understand what went wrong with the adventure of the nets.

We DO know a few things, however:

– We were glad to have shared the good part of the adventure.

– We were glad we’d caught enough crab for dinner, since we’d invested time, effort and money in the process.

– We would go crabbing again…just not through that company.

Here, then, are a few recommendations, if you train other people, in anything, for any reason:

1. Mistake-proof the process as much as you can. Teach the mistake-proofed process.

2. Help the learners understand the big picture, goals and process they will be using.

3. Provide the significant details that can ensure success and cause failure, if you know the things that may happen with novices at the helm.

4. Provide visual aids that learners can easily refer to as they work, if need be.

5. If you see the learners doing something wrong, correct them during the process.

Don’t wait until after the fact to inform them they did something wrong, and worst of all, to do it in an accusatory manner. That’s essentially lying in wait, hoping they’ll fail so you can be “right.”

However, if they fail at the process, and you see it happen…whether you trained them on those details or not…but do nothing to correct it, the fault is yours. You have the power to prevent a problem that they, who are less experienced, may not even be able to see yet.

6. Assume good intentions on the part of the people you’re training.

It makes no logical sense that someone would want to spend their time, energy, and money, if that is also involved, doing things wrong.

7. Take responsibility for your training design, detail, and effectiveness.

8. If you think you’re training effectively, and you want to make sure you are, you’ll ask learners for their feedback, as well as objectively assessing their successful application of your training attempts.

Untangling the knot when perspective is lost

November 22, 2011

As year-end looms and you work to meet the year’s final goals, here are two of many possible scenarios:


– Good for the finish line.

You have the right time, money, energy, attention, skills and other resources you need to get the job done.

– Hoping miracles are real…because you need one now.

In this case, resources may be limited, or poorly aligned with your goals.

Priorities may be unclear, or absent.

Skills, knowledge and experience available to get the job done may be less than what you now know are necessary to be successful in the way the year has worked out.

If you’re in that hoping-for-a-miracle situation, well, remember that you’re not alone.

Many people and teams are discovering the same thing at this point in the year, like it or not.

Sometimes circumstances and priorities in life get all tangled up. And when a deadline is looming – like year-end – the situation only seems worse.

You can improve next year’s plans.

You can improve next year’s implementation.

For now, focus on doing the best you can in the situation you have.

What, then, can you do to untangle the knot and get as much done as possible, as well as possible, before the end of the year is here?

Here are a few ways to tighten your focus and increase your chances of success:

1. Remember – or get clear about – what your goal is.

2. Recall who you’re doing your work for, and what they consider success to be.

3. Get out your map (or, more likely, project plan) leading you to to the finish line.

4. See if it still makes sense, and if not, adjust it so it will work in present circumstances.

5. Figure out where you are on that map or project plan.

6. See and take the next most natural, most obvious step.

7. Repeat as needed.

And all of that is easy to say…but sometimes hard to do.

Wires can just get crossed, and the primary target lost in the confusion, disarray or shuffle.

When that happens find ways to go back to square one to review and recharge, renewing your strong sense of your target, purpose and path there.

Let extraneous things fall away.

Focus your attention, resources and energy on what’s most important.

Here are just a few simple things that may help you regain perspective:

– Take a drive.

Sometimes when you see your office, home or city in the rear view mirror, perspective “magically” returns. Distance and movement away from present circumstances can bring much-needed perspective.

– Take a walk.

The same perspective-gaining principle applies here, except that you’re getting the big picture from nature, and immersion in it, even briefly.

– Review your vision.

If you have a vision of your desired outcome – in whatever form you recorded and saved it – review that.

Pre-experience it, and imagine achieving it, in great detail.

– Listen to satisfied customers.

Remind yourself why you do the work you do.

Review reminders of the great work you’ve done for customers in the past, and are doing in the present.

Listen to or read customer testimonials and review customer feedback.

In easy but effective ways, remind yourself once again why you do the work you do, for the people you serve through it.

Five ways feedback can fail

November 16, 2011

“I have feedback for you.”

When you hear those words, what do you think?

And what do you feel?

Your reaction may be similar to what many other people report: the idea of giving or receiving feedback makes you cringe.

If you’re a manager:

Providing feedback, including annual performance reviews, may be one part of your job that you’d love to skip.

Yet providing high-quality feedback is essential for your team’s and individual employees’ success.

If you’re an employee:

Receiving feedback, if it’s poorly provided, may make you feel smaller, less able, somehow diminished.

On the other hand, if feedback is well-done, you feel stronger, more capable and more likely to make the requested improvements.

With feedback there is – at least, in many people’s minds – the possibility that there will be tension and conflict.

Just remember that compliments are feedback, too.

Watch out for these five ways feedback can go off-track the next time you’re giving feedback, of almost any kind:

1. Feedback is not clear or specific enough to be understood or actionable

One colleague reported that when she lost her job during a round of layoffs at her high-tech company, it was not at all clear what had just happened.

She wasn’t sure whether her manager was telling her about THE layoffs, or HER layoff.

2. Feedback is focused on the person sending the message rather than the person receiving it

Nervousness or fear of possible conflict can play a big part in this.

If you’re a manager or leader, your job WILL include providing regular and timely feedback.

Get used to it, and learn to provide it well.

Plan and practice.

3. Feedback is not connected to the “big picture” or overall goals

All too often, when I hear about clients, colleagues, family and friends receiving feedback, I hear their frustration with changes that seem small, focused on matters of personal style and opinion.

I’d love to pull their managers aside and advise them to explain the context of the feedback, and the change they would like to have made, and why it is important.

A manager can and should describe, for example, how the change links to the organization’s long-term goals and priorities.

In addition, the person receiving the feedback should be clear about how the change supports his or her personal objectives.

4. There’s not enough time provided for good feedback

Important discussions take time, especially when changes are involved.

Make the time, and take the time to do the job well.

5. There’s no coaching or mentoring, just a “gotcha” style of feedback

“Gotcha” feedback is all too common, in all types of human relationships.

Make sure you’re not guilty of it.

Provide positive feedback along with information you’re providing about improvements you want the person to make.

Make feedback easy to take, and easy to use for good results.

Leave the person whole, feeling positive about his or her ability to successfully make the changes that are ahead.