Aligning vision, people
and performance

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Posts Tagged ‘executive coaching’

Who does your culture attract?

A paraphrased excerpt from a client letter received by the CEO:

“…Yesterday I attended the event at your facility. During my visit, I was fortunate enough to meet many of the wonderful employees and owners. Your VP and I had a very lengthy discussion about the culture and growth plans and suggested I send you my resume.

I really was not looking for new opportunities, but after experiencing the warm, friendly family environment, I was bowled over. This is the culture I have been searching for in America…a company who values camaraderie, respect and company loyalty, all of which I found abundant at your organization.”

Would your culture produce the same results?

Keeping your word with yourself…are you trustworthy?

Eight Flying Doves


As I work with senior executives and business owners, a frequent complaint is “employee lack of follow-through”.

So, ask yourself, what does it take for you to follow-through?

Consider these statistics shared by Association for Talent Development on your chances:

  • 10%       Hearing an idea
  • 25%       Consciously decide to adopt it
  • 40%       Decide when you will do it
  • 50%       Plan how you will do it
  • 65%       Commit to someone else that you will do it
  • 95%       Have a specific accountability appointment with
    person committed to

When was the last time you promised yourself to try something new, only to realize six months later you never started?

Leaders must coach to win!

“We’ve done lots of research over the past three years, and we’ve found that leaders who have the best coaching skills have better business results.”

V.P. of Global Executive & Organizational Development, IBM -The Dallas Morning News

We often hear about setting the example in leadership.  Sometimes it is just taking the “high road” and reacting to a situation with integrity and as much dignity as you can muster.

If you haven’t taken a look at yourself recently, take this simple self-check of 15 coaching behaviors.   Use this scale: 5 = always, 4=usually, 3=sometimes, 2=seldom and 1=never. If you are brave enough, let your trainee rate you.  It may be just the wake-up call you need to regenerate positive momentum in that relationship.

  1. _____Set high expectations
  2. _____Offer challenging ideas
  3. _____Help build self-confidence
  4. _____Encourage professional behavior
  5. _____Offer friendship
  6. _____Confront negative behaviors
  7. _____Confront negative attitudes
  8. _____Listen to what is said
  9. _____Recognize what is not being said
  10. _____Add specific activities that you believe would help
  11. _____Offer wise counsel
  12. _____Provide timely feedback
  13. _____Provide positive recognition
  14. _____Share personal experiences when appropriate
  15. _____Demonstrate care

If you scored 60 – 75, write a book!  You are doing it right and people seek you out for advice and counsel.

If you scored 45-59, share this rating scale with someone you coach and ask where you can improve.  Ask how you can demonstrate the coaching behavior they need from you and what they can do if you forget to do it again.

30-44, get yourself a coach who can help you develop these behaviors.  It will contribute greatly to the success of the group you lead and your own personal contentment.

15-29, what’s your employee turnover rate?  Unless, your employees have enlisted, they are not going to stick around very long!




Managers, pay attention!

If you are looking to run a high-performing team that flourishes, pay attention.

It is the minimum ratio of positive comments and feedback to negative comments and feedback  a team needs to achieve success.  That’s about 3 to 1.  Have you tracked how often you praise your team lately?  I bet your team knows.

Often when I am coaching business owners and senior executives, they sigh when the topic of positive recognition comes up. As visionaries who drive the organization forward, they tell me they are concerned with addressing the concerns they see ahead, not reviewing what’s already happened.   Would a glance in the rear-view mirror serve them well…once in a while?

Keep tally this week with two bowls on your desk-one for the positive comments and one for the negative, using paperclips, pennies or slips of paper. At the end of the week, total your score.

If you have difficulty reaching 3:1, consider this.  Research Psychologist, Marical Losada, found that a high-performing team has a ratio of 5.6 positive to negative comments.  If you reached the goal, congratulations! If not, look deeper.  It may be time for some in-depth analysis to determine why that goal block exists.  Is it with your management or the team make-up?

To learn more, request a copy of The Powerful Act of Coaching Employees .

Express to De-stress!

Sunset over Iguazu
Find yourself forgetful, confused or making “mountains out of molehills”?  Possibly the enthusiasm you felt earlier this month is dwindling and you might say you are “unenthused” or even depressed.  Be aware!  You may be experiencing signs of emotional distress.

These symptoms can affect us intellectually (hmmm…lack of concentration?), socially (or…withdrawing from people or events?) and even physically (maybe….clumsiness and excessive eating, drinking and smoking?).

Before these behaviors claim a foothold, develop a few strategies for your own “stress shot”.

  1. Talk to a friend or a support person-chances are you are not alone
  2. Take action and say NO to excessive demands
  3. Prioritize and slow down…breathe!
  4. Leave work at a reasonable time, take breaks and exercise!
  5. Listen before jumping to conclusions or taking things personally
  6. Avoid labeling yourself with harsh names you’d never call anybody else
  7. Mentally shout STOP when your focus starts to drift
  8. Remove the word SHOULD from your mental vocabulary
  9. Ask, will it really matter a year from now?

Focusing on what you can do today to make it a productive day, will bring satisfaction, enjoyment and relief of stress.  Take one strategy that appears to be a challenge and practice it for a whole day.  See what it does for you.  Practice it again tomorrow.  In a short period of time, you will be amazed at the results your stress reduction plan will produce!

Source: “The Leader’s Guide to Workplace Stress” by Profiles International Inc. Email for a copy of this white paper.

Take the Leader’s Challenge

4 wings
While celebrating with my CEO coachee her recognition into the 2011 “40 under 40”  class, the keynote speaker introduced some reflective questions and character-building actions for all leaders. Consider these words of wisdom Jeff Sandefer of ACTON School of Business shared with the top young professionals recognized this year by the Houston Business Journal. 
  1) Ask 5 people, ” What do I do best in the whole wide world?”

2) Make a list of  your ” I absolutely will not ___________”.  Store in a desk drawer that is handy to reach, so in times of ethical crossroads you can review your core principles.

3) Who is a someone you have never thanked, that has had a significant impact on your life?  Write a letter to that person.  Then, go to that person and read it to them.  You will be transformed for the several months to come.

These suggestions, if acted upon, (1) will create change, (2) build character and (3) instill gratitude.  Which of these 3 areas in your life are you seeing others lacking?   Now, work the question with the associated number to complete earnestly and sincerely.  Begin to see others changing around you!

Hurricanes, Tornados and Floods, oh my!

Nice New World
Let’s face it, a natural disaster causes retention problems for employers.  Their staff moves and sometimes never returns to their “home”.  After a coastal business had seen their employee count reduced due to a natural disaster and available new employee options thinned out, they were very concerned about keeping the good employees they had! So, we were asked to examine the consistency of their hiring process, profile their top performers for a Talent Audit, and review how effective they were communicating internally.    

How did they review their employees?  “We don’t like our review system at all”, we were told. They had a formalized approach for all of their company employees when assessing their performance.  Their company consisted of executives, management professionals, administrative and production personnel.   Upon closer review, the directors of the company were being assessed as if they were performing the same job as the manufacturing floor personnel…all because someone had provided a template solution.   

It is not uncommon for an appraisal format to be swapped or shared among consultants or companies, with little regard being paid to the impact that it can have on the results the company is achieving.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many companies I’ve written appraisals for like an interactive conversational style review.  We provide an opportunity for a self-evaluation that the employee completes prior to the appraisal.  There are many advantages to doing so because it:  

  • helps to jog the memory of the employer if he has missed any highlights during the year
  • reveals the mindset of the employee…what is their perception…did they think they had an exceptional year, average or possibly have areas needing significant improvement?
  • reduces the anxiety on both sides of the table, reinforcing the quality of work the employee has accomplished throughout the year

 The Reluctant Reviewer

One employee told me that his supervisor was not a “communicator” and wanted to cover his annual performance appraisal by email…and her office was right next door! 

Not every manager finds that communicating comes naturally.  If an owner finds conversation difficult, I’ll suggest a review where a list of core values, traits or measurable tasks can be reviewed by the employee.  Both the manager and the employee  select from this list ranking each item in order of importance.  This can be a good “icebreaker” to help the manager understand why the employee views his job the way they do.  The manager can then follow up with questions and review the ranking, asking why each was ranked as it was and why they see it that way. 

One manager was considering terminating a long term relationship with an employee he judged as “having an attitude”.  He interpreted certain behaviors as resistant and rebellious.  After utilyzing the alignment system, the employee-employer relationship transitioned to a new level of understanding and cooperation after experiencing years of misunderstanding.  

Employee Retention Downfalls

Every review has an evaluation scale of some kind whether verbal or numerical.  One of the quickest ways to build resentment which usually leads to a retention issue is to inadequately explain the evaluation scale.  Any ambiguity equates to “I fill in my own interpretation.” 

When a manager rates someone as a 5-6 (meeting expectations) and the employee thinks are a 9-10 (exceptional performance), there is room for confusion and hurt feelings. If the employee understands that “exceptional performance” means there is absolutely no room for improvement and one consistently leads the company/department in this area…the evaluation rating takes on a new light. 

The manager can open up communication channels by asking how the employee believes their performance can reach the higher level.  If they do not know, provide examples as to how the next level of performance can be reached and how you can coach or mentor them.

The quickest way to lose an employee is to take out your anger or disappointment in a review based on something recent that has occurred.  One manager fell victim to a misdirected email regarding their personal policy about mandatory overtime and passively lashed out at the employee by rating an employee harshly in their review.  They revealed later that their overreaction and harsh rating drove a wedge in their business relationship that was never repaired.

Penalizing Performers 

Although forced ranking is a popular management philosophy of the day, I suggest we continue to reward performers at all levels. I was asked this question after speaking at a national convention …” should be a set number of “A, B and C performers “in each department”?  If a manager is doing an exceptional job of hiring and developing Top Performers in his department , why should he be penalized by a company formula limiting the number of A performers he has?

Unravelling Performance Appraisals…does one size fit all?

Externsteine - place of power
The subject line of the manager’s email reads: Annual Reviews Due!!  At that moment an audible groan is muffled behind every manager’s computer.  Why?

“Review time! We just finished forecasting and budgets!  Now, I’m going to pull more late nights and Saturdays!  There are just too many *%!@*  things to do around here!”

Reviews, appraisals, salary performance reviews or whatever you call the process…tend to sneak up on a manager’s horizon.  Following employee terminations, it could probably be ranked as a manager’s least favorite activity. Conversely, it is one of the most anticipated events of the year for an employee and can have a strong influence on whether a top performer stays or goes.

Why anticipated?  Well, an employee may receive infrequent feedback and wonder how their performance has been perceived. Or, they work remotely and it’s the time of year set to review how they’ve met their goals and to set goals for the new year.  Maybe, they’re waiting to hear if they get a salary increase or not.  But first, you, as the manager, have to get past the “manager dread”.

Manager Dread

Why do managers dread performance appraisals so much?

  • Not enough time has been set aside during the year to document performance and whether expectations were exceeded or just average
  • There are not regular performance talks (informal or formal) throughout the year, so it feels awkward to address “deep” issues
  • There are areas that need improvement with no clear goals, job descriptions or job duties so it appears that the manager is just  “adding more to their job, as needed”
  • The employee might ask specific questions about goals that are not measurable, and your review seems  contingent on how you feel about someone 

How can we make performance appraisals better experiences?

  • Professionally written job descriptions or guidelines
  • Know the traits that it takes to be successful in the position
  • Frequent informal communcation with the employee, including talks about performance 

Companies often will be able to tell you what it takes to make them successful, such as their core values and mission statement.  Yet, when it comes to breaking down the values, mission statement and strategies into bite-size parts for the employees to handle, it resembles a jigsaw puzzle fresh from the box.  How can that be avoided?

Next time: “One Employee’s Story” and How to Avoid Turnover

Drive for perfection, yet strive toward excellence?

Blinded by the lightA guy who viewed himself as one of the most laid-back “happy go-lucky” executives in the world asked himself this question upon recuperating in the hospital from an unexpected bypass heart operation. How could the ticker lose its tock now, when it he had survived the early pressures of the infancy days of FEDEX losing $1million a month and  when Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken threatened to go on the Johnny Carson show and blow the new CEO out of the water because he planned to change the formula of the gravy!

Frank shares his reflections in: 


Perfection is being right.

Excellence is willing to be wrong.

Perfection is fear.

Excellence is taking a risk.

Perfection is anger and frustration.

Excellence is powerful.

Perfection is control.

Excellence is spontaneous.

Perfection is judgement.

Excellence is accepting.

Perfection is taking.

Excellence is giving.

Perfection is doubt.

Excellence is confidence.

Perfection is pressure.

Excellence is natural.

Perfection is the destination.

Excellence is the journey.

Written by Frank Maguire 

The original Senior Vice President of Industrial Relations for Federal Express, Frank Maguire is credited by
CEO, Fred Smith, as creating the corporate culture that resulted in FEDEX being named “The Top Corporation of the Decade” by Fortune Magazine.

"Pat brings her charm, wit and insight into her advisory relationships and shares the same with her audiences. She's got the systems to back up her concepts."

- Frank Maguire FEDEX Senior Founding Executive

John Maxwell


Profiles Int'l