"communication skills"

Mon 25 January 2021
The goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and vulnerabilities in your professional skillset. By getting feedback from your colleagues and comparing their perspectives to your self-assessment, you can get a deeper understanding of your work performance. 

There are generally 3 outcomes from a 360-degree assessment: 1) somebody has underestimated their abilities, 2) somebody has overestimated their abilities, or 3) somebody is self-aware about their abilities. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:

Self-Aware - People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management

Overestimating -  People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management

Understanding Underestimating your Abilities for 360-Degree Assessments

When somebody has underestimated their abilities, they are essentially giving themselves a lower score for whatever category is being measured compared to their colleagues’ score of them. At first glance, this may seem like a positive thing: “If my colleagues believe that I’m better than my self-assessed performance, then I must be doing pretty well!” This is partially true, but this article will shed light and provide examples of how underestimating your abilities can be an opportunity for improvement.

When my team and I at Ambition In Motion facilitate mentorship programs, we also include our 360-Degree Assessment (and its report) to each participant. We’ve found that our members use these insights to reveal the areas most in need of improvement. This has helped members identify the best course for professional growth and helps provide a major launching pad for helping them open up and be vulnerable in their mentor relationships.

The 5 core areas we measure in our 360-degree assessment are People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management.

This article is one in a series of articles focused on why underestimating one's score on a 360-degree assessment report based on the 5 core areas listed in the paragraph above is not necessarily advantageous for one’s career.

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively affects every interaction you have personally and professionally. When you make improvements to your communication skills, you are likely going to improve your skills in every other category measured by our 360-Degree Assessment. This is because when you underestimate your abilities with these skills, it is typically caused either by a lack of effective communication with your colleagues about what you are doing or by a lack of communication back about what your colleagues appreciate about your work. Communication is based on one’s ability to listen, trust that others are speaking openly and honestly with them, and understand what others are sharing before focusing on being understood.

If you gave yourself a lower score on your communication skills than your colleagues did, this could indicate a lack of trust, strong body cues for listening without retention, or a perceived lack of patience.

Lack of trust

The reason why underestimating your communication skills compared to your colleagues could indicate a lack of trust revolves around the question of trust: do you trust that others are speaking openly and honestly you? If you feel like others can’t be open and honest with you, but your colleagues feel that they can be, it is typically a sign that you don’t trust that you are getting the full information when you are speaking with your colleagues. The key is understanding why you might feel this way. Try to consider if you have a valid reason to not trust their honesty and you might just end up realizing that your assumptions are incorrect.
Strong listening body cues but a lack of retention

When it comes to non-verbal communication, some people have naturally great body language while others must work to ensure their body language fits the situation. As humans, the majority of what we perceive in the form of communication is via body language. We believe we are heard when we perceive the physical cues that the person is listening to. However, in some cases, people are great at giving physical cues that they are listening, whether or not they are paying attention at all. While naturally good body language is a gift, you might need to check that your internal response matches your external cues. By realizing when you are listening and when you aren’t, you can gain confidence in your communication abilities and know where you need improvements.

Perceived lack of patience

Some people are hyper-aware of their feelings and level of patience with other people. Some people feel that they are losing patience when communicating with their colleagues, but their colleagues aren’t perceiving it this way. Similar to having strong listening body cues, what others pick up from you is different than your perception of yourself. The difference is that when somebody feels like they are losing patience with somebody else, they are at least aware that they are losing patience – even if it isn’t perceived by the person somebody is speaking with.

A few solutions to help close the gap in one’s communication skills is to start practicing trusting your team. Try giving them responsibilities and information that you previously felt guarded about to start building trust. You can also deliberately practice reflective listening–meaning you mirror other people’s statements back to them and consider their words carefully before responding. Just by asking your team to share their concerns for their work and the upcoming hurdles they may face, you are growing mutual trust and practicing patience.

Counter-argument

The eternal counter-argument to this is “I just set the bar really high and I feel like I am not where I would like to be in this area.” If that is the case, then you are not effectively communicating your standards to those you work with. If your colleagues don’t know your standards, then they can’t properly assess your abilities in relation to those standards.  

Overall, the goal of a 360-degree assessment and report is to identify the gaps and blindspots one may have so then they can improve their performance. The goal is to be self-aware, thus enabling you to work towards excellence in each area. Underestimating your performance might feel good at first because it shows others think highly of you, but continually failing to meet your own expectations means that you risk burning out or losing engagement. So, try being honest with yourself and setting honest goals. Professional growth is a slow process that takes dedication, consistency, and honesty, but by following the path, we are all capable of becoming our best selves.

Sun 31 January 2021
A 360-degree assessment is a unique survey that uses input from self-assessment and from colleagues’ assessments to understand a professional’s strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. By gathering feedback from your colleagues alongside your own perspective on those same questions, we can get a deeper look at how your self-perception compares to the way your colleagues see you. 

With this data, we can break down the results of a 360-Degree Assessment into three outcomes: 

1) Somebody has underestimated their abilities (self-rating lower than colleagues’ ratings), 

2) Somebody has overestimated their abilities (self-rating higher than colleagues’), 
 or
 3) Somebody is self-aware about their abilities (self-rating matches colleagues’).

This article is going to address some possible problems and solutions that might arise for people who are self-aware of their abilities. This article is part of a series I’m writing about Ambition In Motion’s 360-Degree Assessments and how their results should be interpreted. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:

Overestimating - People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management 

Understanding Self-Awareness for 360-Degree Assessments

When somebody is self-aware about their abilities, this means that they gave themselves a similar score as the score their colleagues provided on the same skill. 

Initially, self-awareness may seem to be a cut-and-dry positive outcome but looking a bit deeper reveals some potential issues. After all, the goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and close the gaps between one’s self-perception and the perception of their colleagues. However, we find that there are opportunities for growth within a self-aware 360-degree assessment report and this article will review those opportunities.

At Ambition In Motion, our 360-Degree Assessment has 5 core components: 

a.                People Management
b.                Innovation
c.                Leadership Ability
d.                Communication Skills, and 
e.                Financial Management.

While self-awareness is likely the best outcome relative to the other two possibilities, I’m next going to explain how you can leverage self-awareness to grow as a professional and identify blind spots in your professional perspective. I’m going to show why self-awareness on your 360-Degree Assessment is more than just a pat on the back, even if you and your colleagues share similar views on your performance. 

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively affects every interaction you have personally and professionally. When you make improvements to your communication skills, you are likely going to improve your skills in every other category measured by our 360-Degree Assessment. Communication is based on one’s ability to listen, trust that others are speaking openly and honestly with them, and understand what others are sharing before focusing on being understood.

If you are your colleagues are in agreement on your communication skills, that is excellent, but that could mean that they agree that you are a poor communicator or a great communicator.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If your colleagues rated your communication skills relatively low and you agreed with them, that typically is an indicator that there are opportunities for growth.

You may think to yourself “I am in a pretty isolated role and communication isn’t a big part of my work.”

That may seem to be true, but that doesn’t mean that improving your communication skills will be wasteful.   

A key component of communication skills is the ability to listen to others. If others believe you are a poor listener and agree with your self-rating, this indicates that you are probably giving off negative physical cues that signal that you aren’t listening AND you aren’t actually listening to what they are saying.

This has negative consequences. If you are struggling to listen to what others are saying, it can be difficult to accomplish any work tasks because you have no idea if you are missing some key information. People can recognize a poor listener and they’ll dislike working with you because they feel like their time spent communicating with you is wasted.

The other key component to communication skills is trusting that others are being open and honest with you.

If you feel like others aren’t being open and honest with you, that is a HUGE red flag. This means that you should reflect onto yourself why you might feel that way about others. Do you feel like people are hiding things from you? Do you feel like people are skirting the truth because they only want to deliver you good news? Do you have any reason to believe that they are being dishonest or withholding the truth? Has something like this happened to you before in the past?

If your colleagues agree with you, ask yourself, why might this be? Are you giving the impression that others must give you the best news, even if that means stretching the truth? This might be a difficult pill to swallow but could this be a possibility? And if this is the case, what are the implications of this? This could mean getting blindsided, surprised, or feeling deceived. 

A great example of this is in HBO’s Silicon Valley. The show is about a group of people who found an up-and-coming startup business called Pied Piper. Pied Piper’s major antagonist is the CEO of a large conglomerate named Gavin Belson. Gavin is the type of leader who demands only good news, so much so that his people will lie to him to appease him, even if it makes him look like a fool later. A hilarious example of this rearing its ugly head is when Gavin is launching a new server called “the box”. Because Gavin is a narcissist, he requests that his signature be on every single box so his team creates a contest throughout the entire company to draft the best signature to go on the box. The signature that received the most votes was the signature “Gavin B”, which when displayed in the particular font used, looked like a phallus. The reason this scene is hilarious is because everyone on Gavin’s team can see exactly what it looks like, but Gavin is too self-centered to see anything but his name. Everyone is afraid to tell Gavin the truth, so Gavin moves forward shipping millions of boxes embossed with an ornate phallus prominently on the front.

The point is that if you feel like your team isn’t being open and honest with you and your team doesn’t feel like they can be open and honest with you either, you need to take action to create an environment and setting where others can be honest. This can start with asking for specific feedback on your work and the way you have communicated with others.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you gave yourself a relatively high score and your colleagues agreed with you then that is excellent. That indicates that your colleagues feel comfortable being open and honest with you and they feel like you are a good listener and overall communicator. 

The question one should then consider is the balance between productivity and communication.

If you have an open-door policy or situation where anyone can ask you a question at any time, then you are making yourself available and are clearly making yourself present while having a conversation with those you work with, but are you optimally productive?

Research from Stanford shows that it is impossible to multitask and that mental residue builds up when switching between tasks. Therefore, if anyone can communicate with you at any time, the gaps in time from pausing your work and having a conversation before finally getting back on task are essentially wasted. This is also very true for emails/texts/phone calls/social media. If you focus too much on being available for everyone at every moment, you are sacrificing your ability to get into deep mental focus for the sake of being available to communicate. You are being communicative and present, but you are not being as productive as you possibly can be.

Some people have subsequently adopted office hours where they are open to people jumping in and asking them questions only during certain time periods, minimizing the gap time mental residue that is created from switching tasks. 

As new technology comes out, making it easier to communicate with those on our team, there can always be new ways to improve our communication and optimize our performance.

Overall, having a self-aware response on your 360-degree assessment report isn’t a free pass to give in to stagnation. It simply shows that you and your colleagues are on the same page. But, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. The implications from having a self-aware score are not wholly positive or wholly negative. Instead, it is a snapshot of your current performance which can help you make informed decisions about where you need improvement. As long as you possess an open-mindedness about making improvements and are willing to measure whether the new changes worked, you can ensure that you are on a positive track towards continual growth and improvement.

Thu 18 February 2021
A 360-degree assessment helps you understand your professional performance by having both you and your colleagues assess your abilities across several key skills. 

The goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and vulnerabilities in your professional skillset. By getting feedback from your colleagues and comparing their perspectives to your self-assessment, you can get a deeper understanding of your work performance.  

There are generally 3 outcomes from a 360-degree assessment: 1) somebody has underestimated their abilities, 2) somebody has overestimated their abilities, or 3) somebody is self-aware about their abilities. 

This article is going to address some possible problems and solutions that might arise for people who have overestimated their abilities. This article is part of a series I’m writing about Ambition In Motion’s 360-Degree Assessments and how their results should be interpreted. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:


When somebody has overestimated their abilities, they are essentially giving themselves a greater score for whatever category is being measured compared to their colleagues’ scores of them.

At first glance, this can sting because you are essentially learning that your perception of yourself is greater than your colleagues' perception of you which may cause one to think “I must not be as good as I think I am” or “My colleagues must not realize all of the things I do to be strong in this area.”

For most people, the answer is somewhere in the middle. 

When my team and I at Ambition In Motion facilitate mentorship programs, we also include a 360-Degree Assessment and report to each participant. We do this for two reasons: 1) these reports can help reveal opportunities for growth in one’s professional skill set, and 2) deep self-reflection is a major launching pad for fostering vulnerability in a mentor relationship. These two components are crucial to developing strong, valuable mentor relationships. 

The 5 core areas we measure in our 360-Degree Assessment are: People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management.

Next, I’ll explain the significance of each of these categories, and then suggest ways that someone can learn after finding out they are overestimating their abilities in each category. This should be an opportunity for growth and understanding, not a time to be defensive and stubborn.

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively affects every interaction you have personally and professionally. When you make improvements to your communication skills, you are likely going to improve your skills in every other category measured by our 360-Degree Assessment. Communication is based on one’s ability to listen, trust that others are speaking openly and honestly with them, and understand what others are sharing before focusing on being understood.

If you overestimated your communication skills that means either you gave yourself a moderate score and your colleagues gave you a low score or you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues gave you a moderate or low score.

You rated yourself moderately

There are many reasons you may have rated yourself moderately in your communication skills. It could be that you don’t believe you need strong communication skills to perform your role effectively, or it could be that you’re aware of your weakness here but haven’t found the time to focus on improving it. 

If you are of the mindset that your role doesn’t require you to have strong communication skills, you might be right, at least based on your limited view of what your role is. If you are a solo contributor, you may think “I only need to get my work done and that’s it.” These common refrains don’t tell you the whole story though. 

The issue with this mode of thinking is that it forces you to walk the tightrope of patience. When you are an individual contributor and you don’t feel like you need strong communication skills, you willingly turn yourself into a commodity; if your company can find somebody to do your work better for cheaper, the economic decision would be to fire you and hire them. The reason is that you aren’t bringing anything else to the table in terms of your contributions to the culture of the company because you have decided that you don’t need strong communication skills so subsequently your interactions with others at your company are likely to be minimal at best and a net negative at worst. Any mistake in your work becomes magnified because you have decided to not invest in your communication skills. Consider which sounds better for management: “Jon made that mistake, but he is a great guy and he pulls the team together” versus “Jon made a mistake and now I feel like he isn’t listening to me or communicating effectively with the team.” Everyone makes mistakes so which Jon would you want at your company?

Maybe you feel like you just don’t have the time to work on your communication skills. So, you gave yourself a moderate score because you “think” you are communicating fairly effectively at least. Well, let this report be the smoke signal informing you that, as the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. You are NOT communicating effectively and what you “think” is just getting by is not making the cut.

If that’s surprising or frustrating to read, try putting the shoe on the other foot.

Have you ever given instructions to somebody or been discussing some important work topic and they responded as if they weren’t listening to a word of what you said? Or they seem like they were listening but still end up acting in a way completely contradictory to what you said? Think about that frustration for a moment.

You know how frustrating it can be to feel ignored. If your team is giving you a low communication skills score, YOU are that person, or at least you are that person often enough for them to notice.

Have you ever felt like you had to sugarcoat the truth when talking with somebody? First off, that is usually a frustrating conversation. But even worse, it’s a recipe for eventual disaster, especially if they need to know the real truth of what you are trying to tell them. Based on your team’s feedback, you are the person they feel they need to sugar-coat the truth for. Your communication skills with your team keep them from feeling comfortable being open and honest with you. Instead, they don’t trust your reactions and worry that you might react poorly to bad news, but that isn’t going to make the bad news go away. When your team does not feel comfortable telling you the full truth, you may as well be flying blind.

When your team gives you a low communication skills score, they are telling you that you are an energy taker instead of an energy giver. People must exert significantly more energy communicating with you because they have to work double-time trying to find how to get their point across effectively. Instead of just getting to the point, they might need to repeat themselves. Or, since they feel that they can’t be fully honest with you, they are forced to plan out what to say so you can handle it. That type of working relationship is untenable. Poor communication skills are bad for business, bad for your team’s patience, and bad for your career stability.

You rated yourself highly

If you rate your communication skills highly and your team gave you a moderate or low score, that likely means that you are consciously trying to improve your communication skills, but it isn’t translating into reality.

People who rate their communication skills highly and then receive a lower score tend to be pretty surprised when they get their results. They may have done their “homework” and are familiar with many communication books or concepts and think they have tried ways to be better communicators. If you fall into this category, you probably are a little confused by these results.

Essentially, what this means is that the efforts you have taken to be a better communicator have not rung true for those you work with. 

For your ability to listen to others, do you ever hear what somebody says and then respond with a story or comment on something unrelated? We all do this from time to time. Maybe you felt that their point was likely over and you really needed to get that other story or comment out (what if you forgot it or the moment passed?!). What you may be neglecting is what your response is communicating to the other person. You didn’t realize that, although you heard what they said, they were expecting a relevant response to close out their comment; your completely irrelevant response about something completely irrelevant to that point makes them feel that what they said wasn’t heard. And when people pick up those signals, consciously or not, they begin to feel frustrated. By the way, I – Garrett Mintz the writer of this article – am VERY guilty of this and I try to work on improving this every day.

The other side of communications skills is fostering an environment where others feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with you. Have you ever seen this type of thing happen with other people? If you are a fan of the television show, Game of Thrones, this type of poor listening reminds me of how people listen to Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger, when he is talking with them. If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, Littlefinger is a sly, fast-talking businessman who is constantly playing people off of each other. When he speaks with anyone, he always tells them what they want to hear and everyone thinks he is on their side…that is until he backstabs them and leaves them out to dry. I am not saying that the people you work with are Petyr Baelish, but I am saying that they feel like they can’t give you the whole truth, and eventually, that will rear its ugly head (e.g. turnover, upset clients/employees, missed deadlines, unmet expectations).

There are a few things you can do to improve your communication skills. First, from a listening skills perspective, you can focus on your body language. Your body communicates substantially more than what your words do, even if neither person consciously realizes it. If you feel like you are listening but others don’t think you are, your body is likely telling them another story with mixed signals. To improve your body language you can focus on standing (or sitting) up straight when speaking with others, making 80% eye contact, nodding when they make points, and taking notes (if relevant and appropriate). From a verbal perspective, you must practice actively listening when you are waiting until they are done talking before sharing your response (and don’t interrupt them either!). When you do respond, you can reiterate their perspective to confirm that you understand what they just said. E.g. “If I am hearing you correctly…”

Second, from an openness and honesty perspective, focus on asking for feedback. When people provide unsolicited feedback to others, the brainwaves that are activated by the person receiving the unsolicited feedback are similar to the brainwaves when listening to white noise/nonsense. However, when we frequently ask for specific feedback, we are inviting others to give honest feedback and you are mentally preparing yourself to actually reflect on it. They are much more likely to be conscientious when giving this feedback and compared to unsolicited feedback, it’s much more likely to be a productive critique rather than some trite complaint. 

The other thing you can do to encourage openness and honesty with your colleagues is to practice vulnerability exercises with them. In a 1-on-1 environment, ask them if they would be willing to be vulnerable with you, and you in turn be vulnerable with them. Think of the things that concern you with work and try to share these with them; they may share these exact same concerns! The benefit of doing this is that it sets the standard that it’s okay to deliver you potentially negative news on important topics because it was on your mind anyways. People tend to not give people the full truth for fear of upsetting them. By showing others that you are just as concerned, it makes it okay for them to deliver you the full truth of what is going on.

In essence, overestimating your abilities in these categories does not mean that you will forever be this way, but it does mean that there are opportunities for growth that you must tap into if you would like to improve. 

Wed 7 July 2021
Every year, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducts a survey of over 5,000 CEOs to assess trends and forecasts based on what these CEOs are seeing in the marketplace.

PwC’s global chairman on strategy analyzed the responses to this survey and identified two key trends that leaders need to be preparing for in 2021 and beyond. The first is urgent innovation, the ability to make quick pivots in the face of data contrary to your expectations. The second trend is fostering an environment of innovation that builds teams that feel comfortable generating bold potential solutions, turning those into actionable plans, and sharing their results after testing. 

These concepts may seem like obvious goals that all leadership teams strive for, however, the reality is that most leadership teams struggle with empowering their teams for urgent innovation and the ability to empower their teams to be innovative.

This article is for people in those companies that tried new business ideas, regardless of whether they worked. Most leaders would agree that it’s important for their company to be innovative but struggle to empower their people.

Common things I hear from leaders are:

My team always comes to me (the leader) with problems but rarely with solutions,

Or

I give my team complete autonomy, but they keep doing the same thing over and over again,

Or

My team and I talk about being innovative all the time, it’s even in our core values, but we never find time to actually innovate.

When leaders run into these pitfalls and struggle to empower their teams, it’s usually for one (or both) of these reasons:

1.       Leadership didn’t provide sufficient context, and the team fails to focus on the problem that needs to be solved or on the desired outcome being created.
2.       Leadership failed at demonstrating psychological safety. You need to be willing to showcase your own mistakes and bad ideas in a way that invites others to share their own crazy, off-the-wall ideas.

The reason this article is titled Innovation with Bumpers is Better is because this approach is a simple way of solving both challenges from a leadership perspective.

Innovation with bumpers provides context to teams because it helps outline the problem being solved and the outcome being created.

For example, if you were to ask your team to cook you an entrée and stop there, that’s not enough context (i.e., too much autonomy). If you ask them to cook you an entrée after going to the grocery store, that still wouldn’t be enough because of the near-limitless combinations of ingredients your team must pick from. However, if you ask your team to cook an entrée from what’s available in your refrigerator now–that’s how you spark some creative solutions because there are a finite number of potential entrées your team could cook.

When you narrow down the problem scope and present clear context, it becomes much easier for them to innovate. The more open-ended your innovation process is, the less likely your team is to innovate because they don’t have enough context to innovate. 

Bumpers are the context clues you provide your team based on your own experiences in the market. You still leave some problem aspects open-ended, but you focus them on achieving a specific desired outcome because you are facing a specific problem that needs a solution.

Innovation with bumpers also provides teams with the psychological safety necessary to innovate.

A great example of this is the honeypot example. A Canadian power line company faces the challenge every winter of getting snow off their power lines. Their solution has been hiring a person to climb up the wire poles and shake the snow off the lines one-by-one. Not only is this process dangerous, it’s also extremely expensive. Insurance premiums from this work are enormous, plus the one-by-one nature of de-snowing each pole is extremely inefficient.

This power line company was very clear about the problem that needed to be solved (removing snow from the power lines) and the solution it wanted but left the team open-ended on how to solve this challenge.

A team without psychological safety will defer to leadership to generate ideas because they fear what their leadership might think if they share an idea that seems nonsensical or absurd. 

The reason this is called the honeypot story is because one of this company’s lowest level employees suggested putting honeypots on top of each pole and when bears smell the honey, they will try to climb up the poles for a snack and shake off the snow in the process. 

Take a moment to let that sink in…what an insane idea!?!? For a low-level employee to feel comfortable enough to propose an idea like that, it shows a LOT about their level of psychological safety within their team. 

And although the company didn’t end up using the honeypot idea, it did spark their eventual solution: hiring helicopters to fly by their power lines and using the wind from the helicopters to knock the snow off: a cheap, safe, and efficient solution. 

Psychological safety in innovation doesn’t mean that people feel comfortable when proposing the ultimate idea. It just means they feel comfortable proposing ANY workable idea and help narrow down what the eventual idea might end up being.

One of the best ways to build psychological safety on a team is with vulnerability. As a leader, being vulnerable shows your team the emotional bumpers and that you don’t always have answers to every problem. Vulnerability also shows your team that you have made big mistakes and had awful ideas before and that those ideas help lead to better solutions. In the early days of Amazon, they had to pack their boxes on the floor, and Jeff Bezos suggested that the team needs knee pads; psychological safety helped an employee to say “No Jeff. We need packing tables”. 

When I write “innovation with bumpers is better”, this means that if we can provide enough context and psychological safety to our teams, we are much more likely to empower them and build an environment of innovation.

Sun 28 November 2021
I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest on the IBJ podcast a month ago to discuss the topic of the Great Resignation and why people are making career changes in droves. One of the consistent themes my fellow guest, Mandy Haskins, and I identified was how critical of a role that the manager plays in whether people stay or go.

One of the most important components for being a strong manager that engages their team and helps them feel connected to the work is their ability to have effective one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. 

This article is going to explain why having one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports is so critical to being a strong manager. Next, I’ll present some tips on how to have effective one-on-ones and how you can assess the quality of those important meetings.

Gallup came out with research that identified that 70% of employee engagement variance is based on the relationship between the manager and that employee. The adage “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses” is absolutely true. And the best way to ensure that you are consistently connecting with and having a pulse on your people is by having regular 1:1 meetings with direct reports to understand their feelings about work and their own path within the organization.

What is 1:1?

A 1:1 is time taken between a manager and direct report to discuss updates between each other and their overall feelings about the work. However, not all managers treat these meetings with the same significance. Some managers define a 1:1 as a quick chat about upcoming tasks. On the other hand, some other managers create an agenda to discuss key components of the employee’s work, keep notes from previous conversations to follow up on, and share a vision for the employee (and have the employee share a vision with them) that includes their role in the organization and their role within the particular team or department. 

The problem here is that the difference between the former and latter examples of 1:1’s is vast: you simply can’t get a good read on the situation without putting in the work to have effective 1:1’s. So I wanted to take some time to identify what an effective 1:1 looks like, what you should be discussing, and how you can assess the value of those meetings over time.

What does an effective 1:1 look like?

An effective 1:1 is a meeting between manager and direct where report the manager has asked the direct report to share some updates about their work and tasks to the manager before the meeting has started (i.e., updates on goals, perceptions of task performance, team productivity, team cohesion, and feelings about their ability to help others without being asked - organizational citizenship). This key step gives the manager context on to what has been accomplished since their last meeting and how they are feeling about work from a high level.

When the manager and direct report meet, the manager has questions prepared to ask their direct report that will help the manager better understand any gaps between the manager’s perspective and the direct report’s experience. For example, consider a case where a direct report shared before the 1:1 that they are feeling a little down on their task performance this month. However, their manager feels that the individual did a fine job and didn’t notice any signs of lower task performance. Effective managers can learn more about the cause of this gap in perception by asking questions like these in the next 1:1 meeting:

·         What areas do you think you performed well this past month and what areas do you think you could improve?
·         What aspects of your work do you like most? How do they play into your strengths and vision for where you'd like to be?
·         How do you feel about your work and the people you work with?
·         What areas of your work would benefit from greater clarity from myself or other team members?

What is critical about the questions a manager has prepared for the conversation is that they are not simple yes/no questions, nor are they “why” questions. Yes/no questions are not as effective in a 1:1 because managing and understanding your direct reports requires some curiosity from the manager to get useful answers. Binary questions leave out the details that provide needed context and understanding between manager and direct report. 

“Why” questions are also not as effective in a 1:1 because they insinuate that something needs to be justified. For example, if the manager would have asked “Why do you think you performed poorly over the past month?”, the subsequent response involves backtracking and providing a justification for why they scored themselves the way they did. It puts the employee on the defensive and hampers shared understanding. It also disincentives’ employees from being honest in future conversations and doesn’t lead to any greater understanding between manager and direct reports. What/How/Who questions are much more effective for 1:1’s because they emphasize curiosity and help a direct report feel comfortable sharing an honest assessment of themselves, their team, and their experience.

How does one measure the impact of a 1:1?

Management simply doesn’t allow for some one-size-fits-all scientific solution. Management is more of an art that needs to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis to fit their direct reports, their work, and work culture. At Ambition In Motion, we have created a tool that helps managers better understand their direct reports’ core feelings about work over time (updates on goals, feelings about their task performance, feelings about the team productivity and cohesion, and feelings about their ability to help others without being asked - organizational citizenship) called AIM Insights. 

One thing we have found to be really effective with the tool is when we measure the correlation between the number of 1:1’s had and their employees’ change in responses month-over-month trends for those core feelings on work. When there is a positive correlation, that would mean that the more meetings that manager has with that direct report, the higher the direct reports’ scores are (which means they should have more 1:1’s with that employee). When there is a negative correlation that would mean that the content and quality of those meetings need to change to help improve that employee’s feelings about work.

Of course, there are other factors that can impact how an employee is feeling at work, beyond their relationship with their manager, so this can’t solve every challenge an employee is facing at work.

However, refer back to the Gallup statistic – 70% of employee engagement variance is based on the relationship between manager and direct report. Measuring this every month can help a manager find the right communication style and cadence that works best for each direct report. This, in turn, can help managers better understand their employees, improve their engagement levels, and increase retention. As the relationship between employees and employers continues to change and evolve, I’m sure that the “winners” of the great resignation will be the managers who adapt and thrive: they will keep their best employees, develop up-and-coming stars, and provide a prime landing spot for anybody that’s sick of the old paradigm.

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way for deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are: 
  • Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement.  
  • Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work. 
  • Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Career Oriented
As a Career-Oriented Professional
If you are a career oriented professional, it means you are motivated by learning new skills and getting promoted. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating and uninspiring when you don’t have a clear path that you are working towards or if you feel like you have been passed up for promotions or opportunities. When this happens, you need to take the matter into your own hands and advocate for yourself.
Advocating for yourself to your manager about your professional aspirations can seem daunting because you don’t know how your manager is going to react. But, for you to get the most enjoyment from your work, it is critical that you clearly communicate your goals to your boss in a respectful way (so they aren’t surprised when you share your goals with them) yet in a meaningful way (so they can start working with you on a plan for where you would like to go professionally).
To get you started, here is one way that you could ask your manager for a meeting like this. Once you set the meeting, you can use these questions and suggestions to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  •  Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can share with you some of my professional goals and collaborate with you on how our team goals can align?
    •  This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your career goals. This helps you work towards your goals and helps you find ways to simultaneously align with the team goals. A good manager knows that for career-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial to keeping you from feeling underappreciated, confused as to how you fit in with the team, and potentially wanting out of this role.
  •  What are some of our biggest team goals over the next year? How can I contribute in a positive way to help the team succeed?
  •  How do you see my position evolving over the next 6 months to a year?
  •  Who is somebody on our team (or another team you have worked on) that you feel did a great job of effectively rising through the ranks of the company by being a great team member? What did they do that helped them stand out?
  •  Some of my professional goals are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Career-Oriented Professional
Career-oriented professionals need to have a timeline that they can work towards. If you lead a career-oriented professional, ambiguity is your worst enemy.
“Great job!” and “I appreciate the hard work” only go so far with career-oriented professionals.
Eventually, they need to have some form of concrete outcome that they can work towards, or they will become disengaged and leave.
Therefore, it is critical that during discussions with this direct report, you should be considering their professional goals and help create a path for them to look forward to.
You may be thinking to yourself “I don’t have control over who gets promoted, how can I still provide a path?” The answer is that, regardless, you should create some form of roadmap for your people to look forward to that is within your control. For example, I have seen call centers provide different tiered titles to professionals based on their tenure and effectiveness like Customer Support Representative I, II, and III. Perhaps the pay is slightly higher, or unchanged, but the job title embodies the progress for that employee. What matters is that your career-oriented direct reports are very achievement-focused so having something to look forward to is vital to your effectiveness in leading them.
If you are still struggling with creating a roadmap for your career-oriented direct reports, the easiest way to start is brainstorming. Jot down all your ideas on how you might be able to create a roadmap for them and share those ideas with your boss. If your company is investing in you by providing you with AIM Insights for your team, more likely than not they are invested in helping you identify the best solutions for your direct reports.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your career-oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In terms of your career, what would your ideal professional situation be in 10 years? (10 years is a good length of time because it’s distant enough to remove potentially troubling topics like switching companies or taking over someone’s role).
  • What are some experiences you would like to have while working with us?
  • Who do you know whose career path you would like to emulate? Could you elaborate on their career path and what they did?
  • {Share your ideas as to tasks they can work on and when and convey how those tasks helps them achieve their goals while also helps achieve team goals} After sharing some of those ideas with you, do you think those tasks would align with some of the professional goals you are working towards?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional tasks you can work on that will help you achieve your professional goals and help our team achieve our team goals. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Calling Oriented
As a Calling Oriented Professional
If you are a calling-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by changing the world through your work. Your professional life and personal mission are intertwined. In a work setting, it can be frustrating if your work loses its clarity as to how it is changing the world. Eventually, you will become burnt out if you don’t receive clarity and reinforcement as to how your work is positively impacting the world.
Advocating for yourself and asking your manager to have these conversations can seem daunting, especially if your manager does not share your work orientation. But, for you to gain value and meaning from your work, it is critical that you have regular conversations with your manager about why the work is meaningful to you and find ways that reinforce and build more meaningful work practices. Your fellow coworkers may not also be calling-oriented and may not share your drive for changing the world through your work. But that is okay as long as you can work with your boss to stay cognizant of your impact and nourish your drive to continue making a difference.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I could dive deeper with you into our work and how our work impacts the people we serve?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your motivation for work. This helps you build a shared perspective and helps you find new ways to approach team goals. A good manager knows that for calling-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial for understanding the meaning of your work and finding new ways to change the world. 
  • What is the biggest benefits people gain from the work we do? How does our work positively impact their lives?
  •  Can you share with me any recent testimonials from our clients about how our product/service positively impacted them?
  •  What are some of our goals for further impacting our clients in the future? How can I get more involved in having a positive impact on our clients?
  •  Some of my goals for impacting the world through work are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Calling Oriented Professional
Calling-oriented professionals are motivated by the belief that they are positively changing the world through their work. As a manager, you may not be calling-oriented and that is okay.
But it is critical that you nourish this drive from your calling-oriented direct reports, or they will leave to seek out work that better satisfies their calling to change the world through their work.
Calling-oriented professionals need regular confirmation that their work is making a difference. It can be easy for them to get lost in the minutiae and lose focus as to why they are doing the work. If your calling-oriented professionals lose focus on the “why” to work, they will become disengaged and eventually seek out better prospects. For example, I have seen calling-oriented professionals leave nonprofits because they lost sight of the positive outcomes driven by their work. 
Calling-oriented professionals will bend over backward to do a great job, so long as it’s clear that their hard work is making a difference. Calling-oriented professionals often can stay highly engaged, even for seemingly grueling work with long hours and not incredible pay, because truly believe in the value of the work they are doing. Often, this includes their manager regularly reinforcing how their work impacts the people they serve. 
Just to be clear, eventually, there comes a point where a calling can only get you so far. Work orientation is fluid and can change, and this shift can make previously acceptable conditions no longer tenable for a calling-oriented professional. When you are asking your people to do too much, consistent reinforcement will eventually run dry, often the case in startups with a charismatic founder. Their work orientation will adapt, and they will demand more from their work before being ready to switch back into that calling-oriented workstyle. But, if you are leading calling-oriented professionals, it is critical that you nourish their drive for impact regularly and creatively. "Regularly” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, but once per month is a good benchmark, especially if you can find new ways to connect your employees to the greater value of their work.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your calling oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In your perspective, what is the best way we impact our customers?
  • How could see us making an even greater impact on the world?
  • How could you see our business growth goals also impacting the world?
  • Throughout a typical month, what typically reinforces to you that we are on track and continuing to impact the world in a positive way?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional ways we are impacting the clients we serve and ways we can be more innovative at better serving them – even if they all aren’t realistic at the moment. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Job Oriented
As a Job Oriented Professional
If you are a job-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by work/life balance and using your professional development to gain greater control and freedom over your life. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating when your company wants to keep pushing additional responsibilities onto you without considering your input on how this affects your workload, compensation, or balance. 
Advocating for yourself can be difficult because it might be counter to the culture that is set at the company. If your manager and everyone around you is working 16-hour days, you may feel like a slacker when you finish up after only 10 hours. But, for you to get the most value from your work, particularly with regard to your long-term engagement, it is critical that you broach this topic with your manager or you will become burnt out.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can gain some clarity on my role and set some expectations for the upcoming months?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your need for work/life balance. This helps you enact greater control over your situation and can ensure that you have a say in your work/life balance. A good manager knows that failing to have these conversations with job-oriented professionals can lead to overwork and potentially an exit from the company.
  • I am struggling with creating boundaries between work and life and I was wondering if you could help me clarify my goals so then I can feel like I am holding up my share of the work?
    • Job-oriented professionals excel at finding ways to do great work when the rewards are connected to their desire for control over their work/life balance. Leaving early doesn’t mean leaving with work left undone; it means you want to find new or better ways to do your part so you can reap the fruits of your labors. 
  • Right now, my current workload is impacting my ability to {xyz – spend time with family, play videogames, spend time with friends, etc.} and that is really important to me. Would you be open to helping me structure my work schedule so then I could get my work complete and optimize my ability to {xyz}?
  • If I feel a task assigned to me is too much for what I have the capability to handle, how would you like me to communicate that to you?
  • What is the most important aspect of my work and what do I bring to the team? How can I optimize my time to be most impactful?
Managing a Job Oriented Professional
Job-oriented professionals are motivated by work/life balance and gaining control over that balance. You may have a different work orientation than somebody that is job-oriented and that is okay. Being job-oriented doesn’t mean you are lazy or disengaged, it just means you want work/life balance. Pursuing the next promotion or making an impact on the world are not significant motivators for you. This simply presents a different way for an employee to find their motivation for work, and it doesn’t mean that calling or career orientations lead to better work. In fact, after studying thousands of professionals and their work orientation, our team has found that no single orientation has greater engagement than another. Essentially, job-oriented professionals are just as engaged as everyone else.
What is critical, as managers of job-oriented professionals, is that we understand that and are conscientious of that when we add work to their plates.
When managing job-oriented professionals, it is critical that we set clear expectations with them regarding how much they expect to work, their compensation for that work, and how their work should be prioritized. Good managers must do their best to maintain standards and adapt compensation (not strictly monetary) to match changes in workload. Job-oriented professionals will be particularly frustrated when new, arduous tasks disrupt their expectations, and this leads to disengagement or leaving the company.
For job-oriented professionals, their work is not their entire life, and that is okay! Job-oriented professionals want consistency. They want to know their work or workload isn’t going to drastically change overnight so they can put their mental energy into their life outside of work.
For example, some managers of job-oriented professionals give them incredible amounts of autonomy with their work with very clear expectations. These managers know how much time it takes the average person to complete the task and what quality metrics are necessary. They support motivation for job-oriented employees by providing incentives for great work like pay bonuses, greater control over hours, or even intangible rewards like a manager’s trust when picking projects. 
However, you don’t want to cheat the system because your employee will notice, not even including the broader effects of dishonesty at work. Job-oriented professionals expect a fair deal and will respond fairly. So if you are offering half-measures or offering poor incentives, they will take notice. “Fake” rewards (e.g., offering to let them leave early for completing a task impossibly fast) will only build distrust. They are not going to fall for that trick a second time and they are going to lose trust that you have their best interests at heart.
What is critical to job-oriented professionals is clarity as to what you expect from them and that they are in agreement that your expectations are reasonable for them to complete.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your job oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • How do you feel about your current workload? When do you feel like you are working too much? When do you feel like you are working the right amount?
  • What aspects of your work could benefit from greater clarity from myself or other team members?
  • Who on the team do you feel is working too many hours?
  • What aspects of your work do you like the most?

Mon 17 January 2022
Leadership is an aspect of work that is about to have a major overhaul. It is a skill hardly covered in higher education, yet people are expected to step up when their name is called to fill in management positions. 

Many universities have downgraded Management from being a standalone major to a co-major or a minor. When I was a student, I didn’t think much of this at the time, except for the fact that this decision dissuaded fellow business students from pursuing the field of study because it meant doing just as much work as a normal major but having the label as “co” attached to it, making the degree seem less significant. 

From my understanding, their reasoning was that most college students aren’t hired for management roles right out of college, so other degree fields are more immediately relevant to employers making hiring decisions. The notion was that these young professionals will learn and develop management skills as they enter the workforce and be ready to step up.

The issue with this mode of thinking is that most companies promote based on individual contributions within their role, and they provide little guidance to middle-management on how to be an effective leader. On top of that, the skills that make somebody a great individual contributor are not the same as the ones that make somebody a great manager. The result is burnout, and not just for the managers. Both employees reporting to untrained managers and the managers themselves suffer from the stress. A new manager that’s in over their head can go wrong in a variety of ways. They might expect their new direct reports to all perform at the same high level that the manager (thinks) they did at the time. On the other hand, they might fall prey to ruinous empathy. They want to be the cool, approachable manager, but they lack the skills to maintain discipline and have direct, potentially uncomfortable conversations with team members. This stress feedback loop between managers and direct reports rapidly degrades engagement and company culture. 

A recent Gallup report found that burnout for people managers increased from 27% in 2020 to 35% in 2021. The effects of manager burnout are distributed across a whole company. Frequent turnover and changes in leadership completely erodes psychological safety in employees, which in turn contributes to more turnover. These feedback loops are insidious problems and only grow more difficult to fix as they gain steam. 

The point is that companies need to begin thinking about increasing their training and development resources for their mid-level managers if they want to be a viable business in the years to come. The cost of hiring, training, and then re-hiring digs too much into the narrow margins most companies have allocated for maintaining long-term profitability. And for companies that are breaking even, getting started now is imperative!

When reviewing whether the company found the right manager (hired or promoted), sometimes you find it didn’t work out. It is too easy to simply chalk it up to “poor fit” or that the person did a bad job. This lets the company off the hook for their hiring choice when there’s another side to this story. The manager that didn’t work out in that position may think that “the company didn’t give me the resources to be a good manager and put me in a position to fail”. 

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

I believe that being a really good manager isn’t some inherent skill that people pick up naturally. It is a learned skill that can be developed and honed over time. And this skill can’t be learned in sprints; it’s learned through a marathon of consistent, focused practice on improvement. Consistency is the key. 

When people talk about their boss being a “bad manager” and vent about all the bad things that their boss is doing, I would care to argue that in almost every case, the manager is not intentionally being a bad manager. Nobody comes to the office thinking “how can I ruin your day?” and then just go ahead and do it. Pure intentions can’t hide the effects of poor execution. 

People have off-days. 

Whether they are burned out from work, stressed out from something personal, or just on edge and unsure why, people have off-days. When you are an individual contributor, having an off-day is easier to keep to yourself. It’s easier to mostly contain that negativity, or at least keep it from being an issue for your coworkers. 

But, when a manager has an off-day, there is a magnifying, exponential effect because they have an opportunity to negatively impact everyone that reports to them.

If you string enough of those off-days in a row together, you create a toxic culture. And, unsurprisingly, toxic cultures don’t make off-days less frequent. If you are a new manager, and things aren’t going how you planned, this can be deeply frustrating. You didn’t intend to create a toxic culture, and your work style and preparation didn’t change from being a great individual contributor, but your performance as a leader of people continues to dwindle. The most important thing you can do is to start working on improving it now.

So, here are a few things you can do to maintain your A-Game as a leader.

Read Leadership Books (least expensive)

To know what a good leader does on a regular basis, it is important to learn from those that have studied the best leaders. There are about a million of these books, but to get you started I’ll share a few that have influenced my thinking. I am a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Jocko Willink’s Extreme Ownership, Brene Brown’s Dare To Lead, and Kim Scott’s Radical Candor. Eventually, you’ll have your own list of the books that most influenced you on your path to becoming a great manager. 

Join an Executive Mastermind Group (moderately expensive)

Executive Mastermind Groups can vary based on industry and title, but in general, they are a group of leaders coming together to learn from each other, share their challenges, and identify solutions to the challenges they are facing. They are a great outlet when you want to have a sounding board outside of your spouse, friends, or coworkers. My company, Ambition In Motion, actually runs executive mastermind groups, both for executives and middle managers – if you are interested in learning about them, feel free to reach out. The way I look at it is that we, as leaders, are all scientists testing hypotheses and trying to find the best ways to lead our teams. 90% of what we try probably won’t work, but these mistakes teach us how to get better at finding that last 10% that’s your key to success. If we can all bring our failed and successful leadership experiments together, we can exponentially improve our leadership and speed up our learning curve.

Review your team’s data (moderately expensive)

In my last article, How to Have An Effective 1:1 with a Direct Report, I wrote about how to have an effective 1:1 and what metrics can help you understand whether your message is getting through to your team. You need to be sure that your message is being received the way you intended. If you can understand how your team is receiving you as a leader through data, you are much more likely to make tangible improvements as a leader over time than if you aren’t measuring anything at all.

Get an executive coach (more expensive)

Getting an executive coach can give you a ton of personalized attention and focus to pinpoint the exact area you are challenged with. Executive coaches can question your way of thinking and acting and reframe your leadership style to serve your team in more impactful ways. 

You can also combine all of these suggestions together to give yourself the best opportunity to improve.

Overall, leadership is undergoing a major overhaul and as current or future leaders, we must take steps to prepare ourselves for what is to come so we can lead our team the best we can.

 

Tue 19 April 2022
Congratulations, you’re in charge of your team now! The dynamic at work is changing, but don’t worry, you got this! 
If you want your direct reports to respect you, it’s important that you first show them the respect that they deserve. 
Actively treating all of your workers fairly, demonstrating your value for them through your words and actions, listening to their concerns and addressing them as best you can will set you apart as a leader that they can trust and respect. 
Garrett Mintz, founder of Ambition in Motion, discusses the way that the best leaders are the ones who dole out credit and take accountability for things that don’t go the way that they’re supposed to. 
“It’s a beautiful thing when the leader doesn’t care who gets the credit,” said in a TikTok duet about leadership with Garrett Mintz and Josh Lewis, Management Consultant.
 
=> Want more videos like this? Join our Mailing List to be part of our Executive Mastermind Group. Click the link to sign up for our newsletter: https://buff.ly/3FZfhcq 
 
            At Ambition in Motion, we don’t control the content of one’s work but we can have an impact on how people interact with each other at work. 
            At your company, you are in charge of your direct reports! The respect that you receive from them must be earned, and it begins with your ability to be confident in your actions and malleable to your new work environment. 
 
How can I get my direct reports to respect me as a leader? 
-       Give out Credit 
-       Take Accountability
 
What does it mean to take accountability? 
            Being “accountable” is more than just taking responsibility, or being reliable. 
Several veins run through a truly accountable leader. 
Accountability is a skill that requires leaders to own up to a team’s actions, decisions, and mistakes. It’s also the ability to follow up on the commitments you have made within an organization and its people. 
As a leader of others, you are actively representing your organization, and promoting the quality of work that you aim to produce and to be produced by others. When things do not go according to plan, take the initiative to be the first to shine a light on the opportunity to grow, as a team.
 
What does it mean to give out credit?
            The best leaders give credit to others, they don’t take credit for themselves. 
            When you represent a team of people, one of your biggest goals is to encourage them to be the best that they can be. Just as your team is learning and growing, you are also learning how you can help them best grow and reach their highest potential by remaining malleable to their work processes. Every member of your term plays an important role in the execution of your overall goal; the more respect and power that you give to them, the more success you will find. 
            However, mistakes happen. A leader who assumes the blame, and passes the credit, send a message that mistakes are OK and that when they happen, it will be an opportunity to learn and grow. By inspiring those in your charge, your employees will emulate your best traits, which will include assuming the blame for themselves.
            The best leaders inspire others and give credit. 
 
Why is it important that I give credit and take accountability?
            Giving credit and taking accountability sets yourself apart from the team, as a guide toward your team’s overall success. The more emphasis that you put on guiding your team, rather than showcasing your leadership (by taking credit or blaming others for mistakes), the more respect you will gain from your direct reports. Check out these leadership tips: 
 
  1. Encourage your team 
            Earning your team’s respect starts with building a trusting and positive community within the team. 
Encouraging and promoting others to do their best and work together also boosts productivity because it makes employees feel less isolated and helps them to feel more engaged with their tasks.
By creating a positive and supportive work environment, your direct reports will not only trust and respect you, but they will also work harder to produce good results as they aim to live up to the high standards that you hold for them. 
 
2. Recognize and praise good work
Although it’s important to give credit to your team, public praise is great for both recognition and learning. When you publicly share specifically what was great and why it was great, not only does it have more meaning for the person being praised, but it helps the whole team learn something new.
Remember to provide details about what the person did, the impact, and the context so that the whole team learns.
When you recognize good work, you remind your team what you’re working towards, and what they’re doing right, which in turn, inspires them to keep doing better. This plethora of inspiration and praise allows for a more open-minded environment for idealization between you and your direct reports. 
Looking for a more efficient way to evaluate performance reviews within your company? Ambition in Motion offers the software, AIM Insights reports, ensuring visibility over all ongoing activities: task performance, manager performance, organizational citizenship, team performance, and goals for direct reports. Click here to learn more about how you can simplify your performance review process! 
 
3. Correct in private
Although praise is an extremely important part of your relationships with your direct reports, it is normal for things to go wrong sometimes! However, it’s important to correct people’s mistakes in private, and then later emphasize to the team what they should avoid, without calling anyone out personally. 
Private criticism is important in order to be kind and clear. Radical Candor is not the same thing as “front-stabbing”, and it’s much kinder to criticize someone in private. 
Public criticism can feel unnecessarily harsh. Private criticism will also be clearer because it’s much less likely to trigger a person’s defense mechanisms.
 
4. Acknowledge workplace adaptation
Yes, you have new direct reports! 
Yes, the workplace dynamic is different now. Own it! 
As a new manager, it’s important to remember that just as your team is learning to adjust to you, you are also learning to adjust to them and your new position.
Do not be afraid to emphasize this learning curve to your team. In order to create a culture of respect that encourages growth and high levels of success, it’s your job to make learning a part of your daily routine in the workplace. 
Learning helps people keep a broad perspective. 
An important part of your job is to know that your direct reports are counting on you to guide them. When mistakes are made, it is no one’s fault (including you), but as a manager, you make a promise to your team to lead them in the right direction as best you can, meaning you must learn to take accountability for team mistakes. However, this is a positive part of your job! Not only will you take accountability for mistakes, but you will do it with pride, and emphasize a learning curve in everything that you do, and everything that your team does; mistakes are OK! 
 
5. Be transparent about your motives  
            Transparent communication is the act of both good and bad information being shared upward, downward, and laterally in a way that allows all to see the why behind the words. 
A workplace with transparent communication is a more collaborative and trustworthy workplace, with information being openly shared between employees and across levels of the organization. 
Transparent communication also allows employees to be more innovative since they are more informed. Additionally, transparent communication encourages others to communicate openly and increases the sharing of ideas. 
When transparent communication is present between you and your direct reports, you allow the workplace to be collectively informed about the true happenings within the organization in order for them to align their actions accordingly, ultimately making your job easier and removing any confusion about the team’s overall goals.
 
 
            These leader tips will help you set the grounds for a positive, encouraging work environment. 
Real accountability requires leaders to take responsibility and pride in the art of encouraging and guiding their employees. Being an accountable leader is not as easy as it may sound, but it is necessary to bring genuine value to your team of employees and your organization as a whole. However, taking responsibility and giving out credit whenever possible will set you apart from other leaders, and enable your direct reports to respond positively to your leadership.
Mon 2 May 2022
Congratulations on your firm acquiring a new company! You’ve been working towards this achievement, you have plans for change ready to implement, but what’s going to happen with your newly acquired employees?
Recently, an executive in our mastermind group acquired another firm in Toronto. The former owners of the newly acquired company were older in age and ready for retirement. 
The newly acquired company was historically making sales with ridiculously great prices (sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?). In the due diligence process, our executive learned that the technology used at the newly acquired firm could reduce his manufacturing costs by 50%. So, one of the first points of business was raising prices to normal prices in order to raise their profit. In addition to this, they hold plans to implement their technology into their current company in order to minimize their overall operating costs. 
Of course, for the firm that acquired this company, this plan looked GREAT. But, like anything else, there’s a catch. The biggest problem that managers face in an acquisition is how to effectively integrate the new team members into the new work culture.
 
Why is it important to put time and effort into integrating your newly acquired team into the new company you wish to build? 
 
Mergers and acquisitions represent an enormous operational and cultural change for employees. Culture is too often neglected. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap!
One basic problem is management’s tendency to focus mostly on changes that would help to capture a deal’s value targets (business and technology), meanwhile largely ignoring those required to maintain and enhance the company’s health… AKA, the people involved. 
And why is it so important to ensure that the people involved in these changes are being taken care of?
Easy: If you give them the support that they need, they will give you the support that you need. 
After all of the work that you’ve done, who needs a new team of employees making things harder? If you work to integrate them into your plans, they will work to integrate you into theirs as well. Remember, you’re in charge, but you need them on your side, and it will be in your best interest to begin forming these relationships as soon as possible! 
 
How can a manager effectively communicate with their newly acquired employees during an acquisition? 
A company acquisition can be a difficult and stressful time for your employees. Learn from these tips how you can help calm their concerns and guide them through the process with success.
  1. Make a plan to shape your introduction. 
 
Following an acquisition, it’s vital that a welcome message of some kind is delivered to the acquired business from the parent company. The employees of the acquired business will appreciate this gesture, and it will allow you to set an expectation for the type of relationship you will have moving forward. Consider whether or not your company is well known to the acquired employees. 
If you need to provide background information about your business and its history, now’s the time to do that. You can also let them know when additional communications can be expected.
The goal here is to acknowledge that the acquisition happened and that you care about them!
 
2. Help your employees understand what it means for them, right now. 
 
Give the employees the information they are most interested in—how it impacts them. To do that, figure out what’s new, what’s changing and what’s staying the same in the immediate future, and determine the best way to communicate this information.
To complement the larger organizational meetings and email summaries, leaders should hold face-to-face meetings with their individual teams. Here is where leaders can go into deeper dives about what the change means for their specific teams. Employees who may not have felt comfortable asking questions in a larger meeting may feel more at ease doing so in a smaller team setting.
With all change, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open after the initial announcement. As progress is made on initiatives, consider putting together quick one- or two-minute videos in which you speak to the successes made thus far and key areas of focus in the short term. Email the videos to teams, and/or host them on the company’s intranet page. These tips will allow you to create a mutual relationship with your team members. 
Leader videos and follow-up emails can contain calls to action for employees to complete surveys. Surveys can be hugely helpful in keeping a pulse on employees’ attitudes toward the change and any challenges or concerns that have come up. Employees have a different perspective than leaders, so including their feedback to continue certain initiatives and course-correct others can lead to greater success. In future communications, leaders can speak to how they’ve addressed survey feedback, which can go a long way toward maintaining employee support and engagement. At Ambition In Motion, we have created a tool called AIM Insights to help with that process.
 
3. Share your vision for the future. 
 
What is your vision for the future? 
After learning how the acquisition will directly impact them right now, employees will want to know what the future holds. You may not know exactly what the business will look like post-acquisition as many businesses need to go through an assessment period to understand if and when future changes will be made. However, be as transparent as you can. Let your stakeholders know that future changes may come down the pike and that you will provide them with regular updates. 
Figuring out the key information to communicate during an acquisition is just one step to building your acquisition communications plan. 
I’m sure you have lots of ideas. But what are the most important pieces of information you should share with your team? 
In order to effectively communicate with your team, they’re probably going to be wondering what the timeline is, what’s going to happen to them and their work routine, due diligence, and 1:1 meetings will be extremely helpful in this situation. 
After ensuring that you’ve developed your timeline, plans for the team, and the due diligence that they must complete, a 1:1 meeting with each of your new team members will help acclimate them to you and the workplace. 
A one-on-one meeting is a dedicated space on the calendar and in your mental map for open-ended and anticipated conversations between a manager and an employee. Unlike status reports or tactical meetings, the 1:1 meeting is a place for coaching, mentorship, giving context, or even venting.
The 1:1 goes beyond an open door policy and dedicates time on a regular cadence for teammates and leaders to connect and communicate.
Mon 23 May 2022
How important is it to help your managers succeed? 
Managers and how they manage their reporting staff members set the tone for your entire business operation. Managers are the front-line representation of your business.
It's easy to understand why managers make significant mistakes in their daily management of the people they employ. 
Many managers lack fundamental training in managing people, which is usually manifested in their inability to practice the significant soft skills necessary to lead.
But more importantly, many managers lack the values, sensitivity, and awareness needed to interact effectively all day long with people. 
The best managers fundamentally value and appreciate people. They also excel at letting people know how much they are valued and appreciated. 
 
Why is it important to prioritize the best training for your managers?
You want to make sure all of your managers are successful, right? After all, managers have a huge impact on their entire team.
They are the cogs that hold your organization together because all of your employees report to them, for better or for worse. 
The majority of communication about the business is funneled through your managers. For your business and employees to succeed, your mid-level managers must succeed and become adept at managing in a style that empowers and enables employees.
Skills and techniques are easier to teach, but values, beliefs, and attitudes are much harder to teach, and harder for managers to learn. 
These are the underlying issues that most managers struggle with being successful. 
This is why educating your managers to the best of your abilities and coaching them for success matters to you and your employees.
 
The current way that we equip new managers is flawed 
Many people aspire to get promoted and move into leadership positions. But with this exciting transition comes a natural challenge: one of the biggest tests new managers face is knowing how to go from being a peer to managing their peers.           
It’s important to be able to recognize the right employee to transition into a first-time manager, but it’s crucial to help them become the skilled leader that the organization needs. But more than likely, these new managers won’t have all of the skills they need right away.
Even if someone is excellent at their job, being a new manager comes with an entirely new skill set. They are not just responsible for themselves anymore; they have an entire team to manage.
Joining the leadership team is a great accomplishment, but it could also lead to the demise of a person’s career if not managed properly. 
The biggest flaw when equipping new managers is the outdated protocol for transitioning positions within the company. 
When anyone is given a new position, they must go through the transition process of paperwork and assessments to assure that they are fully aware of what the job entails and what their new duties are within the company. 
However, the duties of a manager include much more than just understanding how to direct their employees in a certain direction of goals that the company aims to accomplish. 
In order for a manager to fully have an impact on their new employees and the overall change of the company, they need training in more than just the protocol transition work. Understanding how to effectively make an impact as a manager, make close connections with their new direct reports and emulate a positive workplace are all things that must be implemented into the new manager transition period
Going into the job, managers will be more confident in their abilities to perform successfully if their training includes more than just the most basic protocol. 
New managers need to be confident in their promotions and know that it's possible to assimilate everyone successfully. For example, having the mindset of “I’m ready and willing to learn” will position new managers on a path toward a thriving managerial journey.
These are the kinds of things that need to be enclosed during the new manager training/transitioning period.
 
What do new managers need to have to succeed within their roles? 
It's always exciting to promote a member of your team to a management position. However, some of your other workers might not take kindly to their peer becoming their supervisor, especially if that means they’re missing out on the same opportunity.
As challenging as this may be, there are ways to get through these hoops! 
It starts with proper training. 
Beyond the basic transition guides and paperwork that a new manager must endure at the beginning of their term, it’s important for new managers to do some intentional observation of the work environment. 
Advising and teaching your new managers to observe the operations of the team through the lens of a manager rather than a peer will inspire your new managers to take notes and learn the inner workings of their new direct reports, and how they can best serve their needs. 
 
Here are a few insider tips for your new managers: 
 
●     Get to Know Their Employees
Developing a relationship with reporting employees is a key factor in managing. You don't want to be your employees' divorce counselor or therapist, but you do want to know what's happening in their lives. When you know where the employee is going on vacation or that his kids play soccer, you are taking a healthy interest in your employees' lives.
Knowing that the dog died, expressing sympathy, or that her daughter won a coveted award at school makes you an interested, involved manager. Understanding and connecting with your employees will make you a better manager who is more responsive to employee needs, moods, and life cycle events.
 
●     Provide Clear Direction 
Creating standards and giving people clear expectations as a manager is crucial so that people know what they’re supposed to do, and how they can manage their time. More importantly, they will always feel as if they have accomplished a complete task or goal if the timeline of everything is laid out in an easily understood way. 
Within your clear expectations, if you are either too rigid or too flexible, your direct reports will feel rudderless. You need to achieve an appropriate balance that allows you to lead employees and provide direction without dictating and destroying employee empowerment and employee engagement.
 
●     Trust From the Start
All managers should start out with all employees from a position of trust, which shouldn't change unless an employee proves themselves unworthy of that trust. When managers don't trust people to do their jobs, this lack of trust plays out in a number of injurious ways within the workplace.
Micromanaging and constantly checking up on others are examples of how to create an untrustworthy work environment. However, if you work to trust your employees from the start, you can create an environment that fuels creativity and trust within your direct reports’ work, allowing for an inspired and communicative work environment. 
Fri 1 July 2022
Retention has become an increasingly critical metric for driving profitability, especially the retention of highly engaged employees. Turnover has become a big problem for a lot of companies. 
But, what if you’re looking at the problem wrong? What if it’s not about doing what you can to hold on to those employees, but perhaps it’s about focusing more on creating an environment where good employees thrive and stay?
Retaining employees is an important part of building a successful team. When managers and supervisors work to make their teams feel valued and motivated, employees are more likely to stay with a company that can contribute to the company’s overall growth and prosperity. 
 
Why is it important to retain your employees? 
●     It can build a strong workforce
Steady employee retention allows managers and supervisors to invest in their team members and helps them develop into more productive employees. When employees stay with a company long-term, they often accept more responsibilities, seek professional development, and help the company grow.
●     It increases productivity
Instead of spending time looking for and training new employees, managers and supervisors can focus on helping employees be more productive. A stable staff knows what needs to be done and how they can achieve it. They have a strong foundation for advancement based on institutional knowledge and developed skills.
●     It improves employee morale
Employee retention strategies are designed to increase employee happiness and job satisfaction. When managers regularly implement these strategies, they help increase employee morale overall. Employees who feel happy at work are often more willing to work toward the company's mission and contribute to a positive work environment.
●     It is more cost-effective
Hiring and training new employees are often more expensive than offering development opportunities to current employees. Consider offering current employees an educational stipend to advance their skills, on-site training, conference options or promotions, and/or extra benefits or perks.
 
How to retain your employees
If you want to keep more high-performing employees in-house, it’s important to start by creating an effective employee retention strategy.
In this article, we discuss the importance of employee retention and offer 8 effective employee retention strategies for leaders. 
 
1. Create an engaging onboarding process
During the onboarding process, take the opportunity to make a positive first impression on a new employee. Create a process where new employees get comfortably acclimated to the workplace. Do this by creating straightforward training materials, offering support and guidance, and explaining how the company operates.
Introducing new employees to others in the office can help them feel like they are a part of the team right away. Taking them out for a team lunch is another way to make new hires feel welcome and help them get to know their coworkers quickly.
 
2. Pair with a mentor
A strategy to pair an employee with a mentor can start with the onboarding process. It’s a good way to help new employees feel welcomed and know they have someone to turn to. However, mentorship shouldn’t be offered to just new employees. Everyone can benefit from a horizontal mentor relationship whether by helping others or knowing that they are supported by more experienced teammates.
 
3. Schedule employee performance reviews
Employee performance reviews are a great way for employees to grow in their roles. Meet periodically to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. By learning their goals, you can help them continue to advance in the company. 
Offering positive feedback during this meeting can help employees feel valued and more satisfied at work. If the budget allows, use the performance review as a time to offer the employee a raise or a bonus.
 
4. Show your appreciation
When an employee is doing a good job or has recently earned a big achievement, recognize their hard work. You can show your appreciation by saying it directly to them or making a company-wide announcement. When employees feel their efforts are noticed, they are more likely to continue to work hard and stay with the company.
 
5. Encourage a work-life balance
A healthy work-life balance is when employees can effectively manage their work and home lives and feel like they have enough time and energy for both. This element has become increasingly important to many employees.
You can help employees achieve a more balanced work-life experience by giving staff more flexibility with their schedules. Consider allowing employees to come in late and make up their work if they need to leave for an appointment. If possible, give employees the option to work remotely. Employees who are feeling sick but can still work or those with a long commute may appreciate the opportunity to work from home occasionally.
Helping employees maintain a work-life balance shows that you value their well-being. They are more likely to stay with the company when they feel like they have a manager who cares about them.
 
6. Offer professional development opportunities
Helping employees meet their professional goals may influence them to stay with the company because they see it as a place with many opportunities. You can help them by spending time coaching and mentoring team members. Offer your team additional training or education opportunities, such as funding certifications, sending them to conferences, or providing education stipends. Update equipment so coworkers can learn and produce using the latest technology.
And when possible, promote from within. By investing in your team, they can develop their skills and take on more responsibilities, both of which can lead to improved employee retention.
 
7. Provide competitive compensation and benefits
In a competitive job market, it’s essential that you reward your employees with adequate compensation and benefits when you can. If you can’t afford salary adjustments, consider giving some type of bonus, adding a retirement plan, or improving health care benefits. 
You might offer reimbursement for fitness classes or schedule talks on stress management or retirement planning services. All will help raise employees’ job satisfaction and encourage them to stay with your company.
 
8. Keep communication lines open
Maintaining an open-door policy lets employees know they can come to managers with ideas, questions, and concerns at any time. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure your team, whether on-site or remote, feels a connection to the company and each other. The feeling of belonging and being heard can go a long way toward retaining employees.

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