“Not Bad” Doesn’t Mean Good

Is your personal performance standard to consistently do good or great work, or is it to do just enough not to get fired?

So many of us have dropped our personal performance standard. As a coach, I routinely work with people who are okay with doing average. When asked how their weekend was, the answer is “not bad.” When asked how they are doing on their goals and objectives in the workplace, the answer is “not bad.”

“Not bad” doesn’t mean good.

So, what causes us to settle?

I see it this way. We are each born with amazing potential that remains hidden in us until we do two things:

  1. Identify it.
  2. Choose to use it.

To discuss potential, we talk about strengths, interests and values. Knowing and using these is how to bring your A-game – not your C-game.

When you know and use your strengths, you lead with your greatest abilities. You tap into what is strongest and best in you. Imagine your impact and potential when you know and choose to use your strengths.

Consider this:

  • Interests: When you know and include your interests in your day, you feel energized. You respond differently to things you like than the things you don’t like. You give it more effort, greater thought and therefore greater results. Imagine your impact when you know and choose to incorporate your interests in your day.
  • Values: When you know and include your values in your day, you have greater clarity in how to move through your day. I like to consider values as our guardrails; they define our edges so we feel balanced and confident, letting us focus on our strengths and interests throughout our days. Check in on your values to determine if excellence is one of your values. What would it take to develop this value and what would be the impact if it guided your approach to everything you do?

Now, with this perspective, think about your workplace relationships. Which ones are “not bad” and which ones are good or great? What do you do differently in those that are better than average and what is the impact on you, your performance and your degree of impact and happiness in the workplace? Who do you have to be to bring your A-game to your workplace relationships?

Now, think about your workplace culture. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? What could you do to share your thoughts with management to improve the employee experience? If you are a manager, how can you engage your employees to share their perspectives and opinions and raise the quality of the workplace culture, thereby increasing engagement to drive productivity, performance and retention?

Finally, think about your work. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? Are you in a role that needs what you do and like best? Does your work inspire you to play full out or do you do just enough not to get fired? What can you do to better align yourself to a role that amplifies your focus on excellence, or how can you change your internal talk to do and be your best, regardless of what is going on around you?

Take Action
You choose how to show up to work and life. Sometimes the workplace can make this easier for you. However, it is always your choice to accept “not bad” or good / great as an outcome. Stop and Notice where you play small and where you bring your best. Make one change in something you deliver as “not bad” and raise it to good or great. Notice how work and life improve when you raise your standard.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Be on the Disengagement Hunt

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Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

By Jay Forte

You have some amazing and remarkable employees who do great things in your workplace. And then you have some employees who do just enough not to get fired.

Sure, these employees show up, but they don’t have the energy, drive and commitment to do the important things in the workplace that advances performance and success. Is it you or is it them?

It is likely a little of both.

The Gallup Organization regularly cites statistics on the engagement levels of employees in the workplace. And alarmingly, nearly 70% of employees are in some form of disengagement. This disengagement happens for many reasons but the most significant are the lack of job alignment and meaningful relationships with managers. Both need to work in concert.

Let me explain.

Alignment is the process of knowing the success attributes of any role and using those attributes to wisely source, interview and hire someone who fits that role. This also applies to knowing and using the success attributes of any role when developing or promoting employees. It is critical for someone to have the abilities needed to be successful in a role.

Alignment, however, cannot stand on its own. You also need a strong, effective and professional working relationship.

In a 2015 study by Peter Massingham and Leona Tam titled, The Relationship Between Human Capital, Value Creation and Employee Reward, the researchers state, “Employee capability may or may not generate value. It is only when individuals are motivated to use their knowledge that it creates organizational benefit, otherwise it is an idle resource.”

Though you may (and must) hire wisely, the job alignment combined with the quality of the relationship the employee has with his or her manager ultimately dictates success. When we feel inspired by those we work for because they make the time for us, value us, develop us and treat us like we matter, we volunteer our best abilities and deliver them with greater energy and effort in the workplace. The result? Greater productivity and performance.

When we don’t make the effort to build the manager-employee relationship, we encourage our employees to move to the sidelines, to do just enough to get by, instead of really contributing. Though they may have what it takes to be great in their roles (they have the abilities), they still need the inspiration, encouragement and interest by their manager to move these abilities from idle to full speed.

Your employees choose how they show up to the moments of their days. Do they do just enough? Or do they fully engage, using their greatest abilities to invent, challenge and improve everything they encounter?

This choice is inspired by how you manage. Are you bringing a healthy combination of alignment and relationships to your workplace?

Take Action

Learn how to be a mindful and inspiring manager. Our Executive Coaching guides you through foundational tools to help leaders and managers better connect with their employees and deliver greater results. Contact us for more information.

 

Consider reading Stop Managing and Start Coaching

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High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

By Jay Forte

The Gallup Organization’s 2017 The State of the American Workplace reported that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Disengagement, as defined by the Gallup Organization, means “employees who are checked-out and put neither energy or drive in their work. They get through the day by doing what they need to stay employed.”

Think about your team. Know anyone who fits this bill?

Though the thought of 70% of the workforce being disengaged is alarming – combined with the additional statistic from Gallup that nearly 51% of employees are searching for new jobs or watching for new opportunities – there is a silver lining: if most of the workplace is disengaged and is looking for a new opportunity, then most of the people you meet are open to change.

Knowing that so many people are disengaged in their work and are ready for a better fit opportunity, what is your current process to build a robust talent pipeline?

Though you do have opportunity to hire new talent, you must first understand and address your own disengagement issues. Unless these are addressed, you may lose some of your good talent to other organizations, or create a high turnover rate among new employees.

So where do you start? Some ways you can address disengagement issues include:

  • Aligning employees to roles where their talents and strengths are needed. This helps them feel competent and capable in their work. How does your hiring process focus on role alignment and job fit?
  • Creating an employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and supports employees. How intentional and successful is your employee experience?
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow, enabling development in their strengths area(s) and encouraging them to own their performance / have accountability for the direction of their career rather than becoming complacent. What is the quality of your feedback and focus on development?
  • Training managers to act like coaches. In this redefined role, managers work to build relationships with employees, set and manage performance expectations, host performance conversations and work to develop employees’ skills. What is your commitment to shift from managing to workplace coaching?

It’s not too late to create a New Year’s resolution for your company. Empower your people to watch for and connect with talented people who may be disengaged or disconnected from their work or employers. Train your employees to be talent scouts. And be aware of your engagement and disengagement statistics. Make a concerted effort to understand why they are what they are. Be committed to cleaning up your house before you bring new people in.

Most of your world is looking for a better opportunity. Could that be at your organization?

 

Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in May 2017.

What the IMAX Teaches Us About Being Present

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

I took a break from writing recently to see the new 3D movie Thor: Ragnarok at our local IMAX cinema.

The best way I can describe seeing a movie at the IMAX is that is a truly different type of movie experience. With a significantly larger screen and a fully integrated sound system that creates sound from every part of the theatre, you are completely pulled into the movie. And that’s only further enhanced when you’re watching a movie in 3D.

Those who know me may be surprised to hear I saw a movie – at the IMAX, no less. Truth is, I just can’t sit still that long. But I didn’t move for the full 2+ hours of that movie. I didn’t think about work, life’s challenges or opportunities, or what was due tomorrow. I didn’t feel the need to eat, chat or check my phone.

The IMAX knows how to make you very present, to focus only on the event in front of you and nothing else.

There are three big lessons we can learn from the IMAX experience to help us be more tuned in and present in our encounters with the people and events in our lives.

1. IMAX provides focus. At the IMAX, the screen quite literally fills your view. You’re forced to focus on the screen as a result of amazingly clear visuals that make you notice things about people and places a smaller screen with less clarity just can’t provide. As a result, you gather exponentially more information in each moment that keeps you more connected to the screen and the content.

What would it take for you to focus this way on someone or something to learn the most about them/it?

2. IMAX eliminates distractions. The screen is large and bright, and the rest of the theatre is dark. The sound and music are loud so the noises of the people around you are diminished or deleted. This compounded effect forces you to watch what they want you to watch, to tune in to the action of the moment.

What would it take to not be interrupted by distractions when you interact with someone or do something?

3. IMAX uses many senses. The sounds and sights are all-consuming. You don’t disconnect because the senses work together to keep you connected; this is done both exceedingly well and on purpose.

What would it take to concentrate all of your senses on someone or something to give your full attention?

The IMAX experience teaches us to focus, eliminate distractions and use more of our senses to be fully engaged, to get the full experience. Think of the impact this kind of awareness could have in your life, relationships and situations.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. To be more present, how can you control distractions when you are interacting with another?
  2. To be more present, how can you give a person or an event your attention?
  3. To be more present, how can you manage your emotions and feelings to stay attentive and connected?

Need help getting present? Consider talking with a coach to develop your personal mindfulness practices.

 

Consider reading Moving in Autopilot.

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Stop Managing and Start Coaching to Engage Employees and Activate Performance

By Jay Forte

If I asked your employees to describe you as a manager, what would they say?

I recently asked a team of front line employees at a large IT company to describe their manager, and most of their responses were less than supportive. Words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging” were the most frequent responses.

I also asked the same group to describe a coach. The most frequent responses included “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive” and “committed.

What a difference.

Compare the two lists. If the words with negative connotations are how most people think of their managers, it raises significant questions about the effectiveness of these managers to activate employee engagement and inspire exceptional performance.

So, what can managers do to be more successful in connecting, engaging, empowering and activating employee performance?

Shift from managing to coaching.

Here are four areas where managers can start to shift to a coaching mindset to inspire and engage greater employee performance.

1. Connect with employees

Two of the most powerful coaching connection skills are acknowledgement and validation. Acknowledgement refers to taking the time to focus on an employee when they communicate, ensuring you hear and understand what they say, think and feel. Validation allows them to have their feelings and thoughts, and shows you understand and respect their perspective. The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share. Acknowledging and validating creates rapport with employees so you can then do what coaches do best – ask empowering questions.

2. Engaging employees

It has been noted that managers tell significantly more than they ask. In fact, the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report published by the Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. Basically, these employees do just enough to not get fired. Much of the reason for this average performance is that employees are not routinely asked to contribute or share their perspectives.

As a result, more of the communication you have with employees should be in the form of questions. By asking questions, you actively involve your employees, activate their thinking, get them to use their talents and greatest abilities, and encourage them to make commitments and own their work.

3. Helping employees find solutions

Once you get your employees thinking by engaging them through questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of proposing only one idea or waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and become part of the solution.

4. Guiding employees to achieve

The goal of shifting to coaching from managing is to activate greater employee achievement and performance. Connecting, engaging and solving produce a more committed and present employee, which drives greater ideas and a better working relationship. Coach your employees to achieve.

So, what really is the difference between managing and coaching? It is the approach. Managers tell – they push and pull for results. Coaches engage – they use tools to help employees discover and develop their strengths to see their value, think larger, contribute more and own their performance.

Shift from managing to coaching and see the change in you, and you will see the change in them.

Contact Jay for his summary of the Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workplace Report.

 

Consider reading Are You Ruled by Worry, Fear and Uncertainty?

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, February 2017.

The Lousy Manager (and how to avoid becoming one)

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

How did you learn to be a manager? And how do you know when your management style helps create engaged employees vs. driving them away?

According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report by the Gallup Organization, employee disengagement is at nearly 70%. And approximately 50% of employees who leave their jobs leave because of their manager. High disengagement is due in part to poor employee-manager relationships, a critical relationship that drives organizational performance.

Having spent years working with managers and leaders, I see some repetitive management styles, some productive, many unproductive.

Productive management styles encourage employees to discover, develop and use their strengths, own their work, think critically, support others, add value and make a difference. Through productive management, employees become more engaged, activating greater performance and retention.

Unproductive management styles don’t support a focus on strengths, accountability or independent thinking.

Here are some of the most frequent unproductive management styles I’ve seen over the years:

  1. Helicopter (or training wheel) manager – You constantly hover over your employees and get involved in every decision, choice and direction. You assist them on everything because you don’t trust them and their decisions, or you feel great pressure to ensure results.
  2. Fairytale manager – You only see the good in your employees. You are not realistic about their abilities, interests, behaviors or performance.
  3. Google manager – You have the answer for everything. You never let your employees discover, learn or try things on their own.
  4. Cinderella manager – You allow yourself to be treated like the hired help. You constantly do your employees’ work for them instead of encouraging employees to take responsibility and own their work and performance.
  5. Tiffany parent – You give incentives and bonuses to everyone without a specific connection to performance, effort or commitment. Your employees have little or no concept of incentives or value.
  6. Thunderstorm manager – You always find some fault with your employees. You are the constant negative voice reminding them what is wrong, not good, or is disappointing about them; your focus is on what’s wrong not on what’s right.
  7. Drill Sergeant manager – You bark orders, demand, confront and challenge. Your employees fear you and are reluctant to share ideas with you.
  8. Pageant manager – You constantly make everything a competition or a comparison, always talking about winners and losers and comparing your employees to each other. You use words like worst, best, better, nicer, smarter or better.
  9. Secret agent manager – You are always checking up on your employees, whether it’s their social media activity, their emails or even if they’re just at their desks. You are convinced they are always ready do something they shouldn’t, or show up and do less than is expected.
  10. Parrot manager – You constantly repeat what the latest management sources say as your way of managing, whether meaningful or not to your employees and your environment. You quote experts but don’t use their wisdom to affect your own behavior. You talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

These styles take away confidence from your employees, hindering performance.

Some of the productive management styles I’ve seen over the years include:

  1. Improv manager – You show up, accept what is going on and use what you know in the moment to choose the best response for the situation and employee. You don’t use managing scripts or apply a one-size-fits-all approach. You are tuned in to the details of your people, performance and opportunities.
  2. Coaching manager – You regularly use questions to get your employees thinking and owning their choices, decisions and directions. You ask more than tell and listen carefully to the responses. You help your employees discover, create and own their solutions; you get to know each of your employees in a way that helps you guide and support them in their current and long-term success. You treat them personally, care about them and make time for them.
  3. Zen manager – You are tuned in. You know yourself and manage your emotions, giving you the ability to more easily separate your employee from his or her actions to address specific behaviors.
  4. Professor manager – You encourage your employees to constantly learn. You introduce them to new ideas and opportunities, and help them value self-development, learning and expanding their skills. You applaud and support them in expanding their thinking and raising their performance.

Just like your employees choose how they show up to their jobs, you choose how to show up as a manager.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. Where do you see yourself in these management styles? Are any of these your “go-to” management style?
  2. Is your style effective or ineffective?
  3. Take a moment to tune in to your work environment. How does your management style impact your employees? Are they happy and engaged? Or doing just enough to not get fired?
  4. Are there changes you can make to inspire greater engagement from your employees?

Think you may benefit from a coaching session? Contact Jay Forte for a complimentary 15-minute introductory discussion to determine if coaching is right for you.

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, April 2017.

How to Deliver Employee Feedback That Gets Heard

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Most managers think their role is to fix, to watch for areas where their employees miss the mark and correct that behavior. Though this is certainly a component of being a manager, the more critical and meaningful responsibilities of a manager are to guide, support, develop and coach employees into significant or greater performance. If your communication is primarily critical or corrective – instead of supporting, encouraging and empowering – you risk disengaging your employees. They’ll just tune you out.

So how can you get your employees to hear you, regardless of whether you’re sharing supportive or corrective feedback?

Here are my top 3 tips on how to deliver feedback in an intentional manner to ensure employees hear you.

  1. Be present. You can’t offer feedback – supportive or corrective – if you have no idea what’s going on. Most of us only notice things when they go really wrong, which means we’re clearly missing the things that go right – prime opportunities to provide supportive feedback or applause. Tune in. Pay attention. You can’t guide, support and coach without the facts.
  2. Make feedback only about behaviors. Feedback should only be information about how someone acts or acted, not who someone is. You may be upset about the actions of your employee, but that doesn’t make them bad, horrible or awful. Reconnecting to, activating and developing employees’ core strengths is the purpose of powerful supportive or corrective feedback. Venting is unproductive.
  3. Deliver feedback in a way the other person will understand. Feedback has two parts: content and delivery. Be sure both of these align to who is receiving the feedback. Technical explanations to someone non-technical or raising your voice to someone who is timid and shy will guarantee you won’t be heard. Choose what to say and be intentional in how you say it.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What type of feedback do you typically provide to your employees?
  2. In what ways can you change your approach to providing feedback to ensure your content and delivery is appropriate for the employee you’re speaking with?
  3. How will you inspire and engage employees with well-delivered feedback?

 

Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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This is a modified version of the full article, which originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, December 2015.

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