Cut through the noise
Let’s have some fun. For each of the eight statements that follow, determine whether you believe it is a goal or an expectation.
Employees can only do what you expect when they know what your expectations are. That sounds simple enough, right? How is it then that so few people, when asked, can provide a fantastic—or even just an adequate—answer to “Will you tell me one specific expectation your manager has of you?”
There are three mistakes managers commonly make that undercut their effectiveness. The first two mistakes, failing to set and communicate expectations, and their fixes are detailed in Chapter 1 of Focus on This, Not That, but Mistake #3, failing to maintain a focus on expectations, is nicely “blog-sized.”
You can't have the same training in half the time. You can’t. But you can have better training in half the time. Getting to better training in half the time will certainly include design choices. But better training also requires a communication strategy at the outset that sets you up to develop better solutions. My Five A’s model will get you there; and, this article will address the first of the A’s – Appreciate.
Here is a riddle: What happens in a meeting when the right people aren’t there? The answer: Nothing—other than reinforcing the stereotype that meetings are a waste of time.
The meetings you want to be known for—inspiring, engaging, results-driven—require having the right people in them. This is a basic premise for meeting effectiveness but one that is commonly violated. To have the right people in the room, you need to shift your approach to extending invitations. Two common extremes are inviting everyone you can think of or attempting to fly beneath the radar by inviting as few as you can.
This really happened to a colleague. I am willing to wager that it has also happened to you or someone you know…
A newly hired senior vice president called a staff meeting to update her team on revisions to a mission-critical standard operating procedure (SOP) affecting the group’s work. A few weeks later, she confided her frustration with her staff to her executive coach: “I don’t get this place! Two weeks ago, I brought the whole team together to share this update. No one wrote a thing down or even brought a pen and pad. No one asked any questions either—I’m not even sure they were listening to me. And then, this morning, one of them sent a group email saying the process that had been in place—the one I updated them on—no longer works and needs to be revised. To make matters worse, two staff replied in agreement saying they experienced the same thing. I feel like I might lose my mind.”
It would be convenient if one-on-one meetings were somehow exempt from disruptions caused by the two participants. In reality, they aren’t. Whether pleasant conversations with people whose company you enjoy or tense conversations, one-on-one meetings can require you to manage disruptions.
Reality Check: Do you approach one-on-one meetings expecting an easy flow from one agenda item to the next? If so, read on…
Meetings that lack participation can be awkward and uncomfortable—such as those characterized by the leader who asks a question and when he gets no responses, quickly fills the void with “OK, well here is what I was thinking….” At the opposite extreme, meetings in which participants dominate, ramble, negate everything, introduce tangents, or “participate” in other counterproductive ways can be as or even more painful to experience.
Yes, you want participation—but not all participation is created equally. If you expect people to automatically participate productively in response to “I’d like to have everyone’s participation today,” you will likely be disappointed. Instead, use this 4-step process:
Shift your mindset. If you are responsible for developing teams’ skills, change the definition of your role from “creating learning events” to that of “building development continuums.” When you do, you will be able to enhance learning outcomes and regain lost training time. Building a development continuum requires designing a complete learning solution—one that prepares learners for the core course, provides multiple touchpoints to the body of content, integrates on-the-job application, provides support to learners after the core event, and taps into the frequently overlooked role played by learners’ managers.
When you receive requests for the same training in half the time, I’ll suggest that you focus on the donut—not the hole (unrealistic expectations, limited resources, misguided requests, and so on). Even small shifts count when moving the finish line on these requests. Focus less on how far the line gets moved and more on moving it. This will build momentum for bigger shifts on future projects.
Have you ever committed to do something for a friend only to have it slip your mind? Then, days or weeks later, a passing comment, commercial, or other trigger reminds you of it? And, even though you had every intention of following through, without the trigger it wouldn’t have happened?
Learners experience the same phenomenon—even in the best-case scenario, in which they appreciate the learning opportunity, arrive motivated, value the course material, and intend to use it. When they return to work, they get hit by all that transpired while they were in training and often lose sight of their implementation plans. Learning boosters can refocus them on their action plans and implementation strategies.