"employee feedback"

Wed 29 January 2020
If intimate relationships have Love Languages, should we also have Love Languages in our management style?

To rephrase that question, are there certain management incentives that motivate some employees that don’t motivate other employees?

If so, then we shouldn’t have the same management incentives for every employee, right?

For example, if I know a direct report is really motivated by professional advancement, extending her vacation days wouldn’t be optimally motivating to her because her goal is professional advancement. A better incentive might be to provide her with the opportunity to gain a new credential or learn a new skill.

Here are 3 keys you can leverage to encourage your team properly.

Understand your Direct Reports’ work motivations

Understanding your direct reports’ work motivations is critical. If you take time to identify what their goals are, you can work on brainstorming and identifying incentives that would motivate them. If you are struggling to identify your direct reports’ work motivations, you can try using Ambition In Motion’s Work Orientation Assessment – https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Be willing to alter and change your management style based on the individual

Having a one-size-fits-all management philosophy does not work. What it will do is surround you with other people that are just like you. This lack of diversity will create blind spots and turn away potentially great collaborators to your team. If you are willing to alter your management style, you can allow your direct reports to thrive and grow in the way that motivates them.

Encourage an open and honest dialogue to gain feedback on the style you have implemented

Radical candor is critical to knowing if what you are doing is working. If your direct reports fear you or your response to their honesty…they won’t be honest with you. If you can’t have honest feedback, you will have no idea if what you are doing is working and you will likely revert to old, bad habits.

Growing the engagement and the productivity of your team is not easy, but it is possible. If you are willing to understand what motivates your team, act on it, and accept feedback, you will be well on your way to achieving great outcomes.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Mon 22 July 2019
What is the line between constructive criticism and getting berated? I think that all depends on the listener.


Throughout life, you are going to be offered advice…warranted and unwarranted. How do you handle that advice, especially when it comes in the form of criticism? When you are young and in your teenage years, you are more inclined to rebel and learn for yourself and not want to be told what to do or how you are doing it wrong. When you are old, you feel as if you have had enough life experience to know that what somebody is telling you is not anything new and that you are pretty sure you are right about what you are doing. But there is a sweet spot in the middle, when people are most open to change and taking advice. These are your wisest years because these years allow you to learn from others, try new things, make mistakes, and grow from those mistakes. The longer you can prolong this mentality, the wiser you will be.


I left off my last blog detailing how AIM began connecting students with mentors. Once we started charging students $90 to connect with mentors, we received wild success. Every student received internships, follow up meetings with their mentor, recommendations to meet other professionals in their field or a combination of those outcomes.


It was awesome to feel that AIM was truly making a positive impact on these college students. My only issue was that AIM was not making nearly enough money to sustain a business and I needed to discover a way to make AIM sustainable.


Having the realization and acceptance that your current business plan is unsustainable is not easy to accept. I met with an Indiana University alumnus who was a former investment banker and recruiter for JP Morgan Chase. He ripped my business model apart…to shreds…no mercy. I could have gotten angry and hung up the phone, but I realized there was a silver lining.


First, I learned that most people are not inherently mean and their goal is not to berate you. Second, in every conversation, there is always a nugget of beneficial information that can be learned.


What this alumnus mentioned was that despite mentorship being beneficial, AIM would not be sustainable and that most college graduates entering the business world lacked soft skills and emotional intelligence (which he argued were as important as mentorship). He said that if a company could figure out a way to teach these skills and include a mentoring aspect that JP Morgan Chase and most other companies would be very intrigued in paying money to connect with the students AIM helped.


In essence, I learned a way to monetize AIM outside of the students and not purely that my current business plan sucked. I learned that despite Indiana University’s best efforts to teach soft skills and emotional intelligence, those are just skills that are very personal and difficult to measure with grades. It also requires a certain motivation level and desire of the student to want to learn and develop these skills too.


When these courses that teach soft skills and emotional intelligence are required, the motivation of the student diminishes significantly because they never had a choice of whether or not to take the class.


AIM pivoted to provide students who voluntarily purchased access to enroll in workshops that taught soft skills and emotional intelligence, connected students with mentors, and then with employment opportunities after they understood themselves well enough to gauge a better idea of what they wanted out of their career.


Most people don’t voluntarily try to bring others down. Most people inherently want to help others out because they derive the pleasure of feeling valued and special when they can share their wisdom. Realize that when others are criticizing you, they may have a point, so don’t take it as a personal attack, but rather embrace it, learn from it, and maybe build a positive relationship.

Mon 13 July 2020
As a leader, your goal is to empower your people to operate optimally and enjoy the work they are doing. One key skill for achieving that goal is the ability to promote active listening and communication among your team

In the past, managers tried to get their teams to listen by micromanaging, providing constant reminders, and having frequent check-ins. All of these nit-picky activities cost time and energy for everyone involved.

As it turns out, it really doesn’t pay off. Instead, they ended up with a culture of mindless rule-following and stymied innovation. Those cultures are predicated on “what has always been done in the past.”

In these scenarios, leaders stress out because they perceive their teams’ lack of performance as a lack of listening, both to leadership and to each other. However, what happens, in reality, is that the culture of “do what I say” creates employees that are trained to not speak openly about problems and solutions with the team when the boss doesn’t allow it. It’s not that they can’t think on their own; they choose not to for fear of rejection or repercussions. 

How can you tell if you are building this type of repressive team culture?

Ask yourself, how often do your people challenge your ideas? Do they ever question you face-to-face?

If the answer is minimally or never, you are building a culture that stymies listening and communication, and subsequently, leads to loss of innovative thinking on your team. 

If this sounds like your team, fear not! You are not stuck in this position forever! You can start making progress today on improving your team’s cohesion, listening skills, and innovation. 

Humans are social animals by nature. That makes us perceptive, and we react to what we are sensing from the people we are around, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. 

We can learn from other highly social animals as well. For example, a few weeks ago my dog Sunni was recently attacked by another dog. 

After getting attacked, my fiancé, understandably, was nervous taking Sunni to the dog park. While my fiancé wanted Sunni to play and exercise at the park, Sunni seemed too anxious and refused to get more than a few feet away from her. Sunni could sense her nerves and blatantly disobeyed her requests for Sunni to go and play. Even though Sunni could probably tell my fiancé was saying to go play, she picked up on her owner’s anxiety and chose to ignore the commands and stay close.

The point is that just like Sunni picks up on her owner’s feelings and responds accordingly, your people will pick up on your feelings and respond to those, even if what you are saying is different.

Unfortunately, you can’t just order your people to “come up with innovative ideas” or ask them to start questioning your decisions. Feelings and body language are much more powerful than words. If your people don’t sense you are being authentic when you ask to have a more open, inclusive, innovative, and attentive culture, the message will fall on deaf ears.

Your people can tell when you are stressed out, and your stress doesn’t make them work any faster or better. In fact, it is likely to make them worse because, as a leader, your stress is shared with the team. Your people may not respond or act the way you want them to because their fear of stressing you out even more, all of which creates a feedback loop chock full of stressed-out bosses, unproductive employees, communication barriers…which unsurprisingly makes you more stressed.

The best remedy for this is vulnerability

Share with them what is on your mind and what concerns you may have. Nine times out of ten, fear of the unknown outweighs the fear of the known. When you keep it to yourself, and your people sense you are stressed, they will come up with their own thoughts on what might be stressing you out, which is its own novel source of stress.  

When you make your concerns and stressors known, you invite others to empathize with you and help you rally around the problem at hand. 

If you are vulnerable with your people, they are much more likely to reciprocate and be open with you. Your understanding of their challenges will help you build empathy for their work. 

Eventually, your people will build a greater understanding of why you are saying what you are saying and more willing to ask you questions if they are confused. Empathetic, effective communication is the key to building a strong team, and vulnerability will help you build trust and listening skills all across your team.

Sun 3 January 2021
Exactly how much confidence should you have in your own leadership abilities? This may seem like an odd question, but try entertaining it for the moment.

Now think of a leader whom you respect. How do you think they would rate their own leadership abilities? 

On a scale of 1-100, where do you think a leader you respect would put her/his leadership abilities?

I find this question fascinating because there is no perfect answer.

If you rate yourself too high, you may seem naïve; how could any great leader believe they have achieved the pinnacle of leadership?

A popular example of this could be the interview with LeBron James from ESPN. As he is retelling the story of him winning the NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he pauses in the middle and proclaims himself the greatest basketball player ever. 

But, merely the act of proclaiming yourself as the best at anything beg the question: you certainly are great, but are you really the greatest of all time?  

On the other hand, if somebody rates themselves too low it can cause one to question their competence.

Examples of this are common. It could be any person who doesn’t take the shot because they are afraid to miss and have “wasted” their time.

So with those edge-cases in mind, what do you think is the optimal score?

Fortunately, we at Ambition In Motion have started to study this area in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

One measure is a 360-Degree Assessment where we compare self-ratings to how your colleague’s rate your performance across several categories. We asked executives and their colleagues to rate each executive’s leadership abilities and their ability to set proper expectations:

70% of executives rated themselves LOWER at these skills than the ratings from their colleagues. 

On a scale of 1-100, the average executive self-ratings for their own leadership abilities were 59.7/100.

Compared to other components of the 360-Degree Assessment (people management, innovation, communication skills, and financial management), leadership ability had the lowest self-reported score by far, and the most instances of executives rating themselves worse than their colleagues’ perceptions of their leadership abilities.

While I have written another article on my perspective on why these numbers are so low for the executives in our program, for this article, I want to focus on the before and after snapshot of what changed after having an Executive Horizontal Mentor.

After 6 months, the average executive in our program gave themselves a score of 75/100 for their leadership abilities. That’s a 15.3% increase per person over the span of 6 months!

How could this outcome happen? Below are 3 observations from the executives in our program after interviewing them.

The type of executive interested in Horizontal Mentorship

I have spoken with hundreds of executives about participating in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program. The majority of those conversations don’t end up with them signing up for the program. Whether it be that they don’t have the time, or don’t believe in investing money into a relationship like this, or they already have colleagues they go to for guidance, etc. 

But, the type of executive interested in Horizontal Mentorship realizes they have a gap between where they are and where they want to be. If they didn’t have this gap, the reasons listed above would be more than enough to say no. But instead, they choose to say yes because they are at a position in life where they can be vulnerable. They are vulnerable enough to recognize they want help and humble enough to know that their personal status quo simply isn’t cutting it anymore.

Having this executive mentor, if anything else, gives them the confidence to make decisions that they might not have made previously. The executive mentor helps fill that gap and gives them the confidence to know that they are heading in the right direction.

Which leads to the next point…

The power of learning what you don’t know

One of the biggest insights an executive seeks from a Horizontal Mentor is a new, outside perspective. As leaders, we often get used to the routine of being surrounded by a silo of people that we have grown comfortable with.

Leaders in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program recognized that the only way for them to grow as a leader is by learning to be okay with being uncomfortable. They recognize that their current network gives them consistent feedback and the only way for them to grow is to get out of their comfort zone and build new, deep, intentional mentor relationships.

Before joining the program, their consciousness of this fact played a role in their low self-score. The knowledge they gained, learning how to know what you don’t know, gave them the confidence and insight to know they are moving in a positive direction.

But part of that learning comes with being challenged, which leads to the next point…

The value of objectivity

Objectivity is the single most important contributor to an executive making big strides in their leadership ability. Having a fellow executive who can share insights and a perspective built from experience will save you immeasurable time and frustration, because they may have gone through similar experiences and can share their wisdom.

Being challenged is part of receiving that objectivity. It isn’t comfortable at first, and it is easy to get defensive immediately. But, after reflection and contemplation, these insights and passed-on knowledge can be the most powerful tools for leaders to improve their abilities. 

Mentors make leaders better by mining the vulnerability and humility they share and turning that into knowledge, confidence, and grit. The process isn’t easy – the more uncomfortable you are the more painful it is – but with pain comes growth. 

Fri 5 March 2021
As a Chief People Officer, I found the loss in having a leader to bounce ideas off, guide me in my continuous learning journey, and provide unique perspectives. 

Others now look to me to play this role, and I found myself seeking other channels to ensure I am not losing sight of my learning journey to continue to be a source of fresh perspective and insight for those that report to me and whom I mentor.  

I fear becoming a rigid HR professional who becomes obsolete and irrelevant. HR professionals can positively impact their organizations, resulting in a ripple effect that flows into an employee’s home life, communities, and personal interactions.  

When you look at the sphere of influence in total, it becomes quite large.  During a recent Friday conversation with a direct report in which he realized the power of an aligned purpose-driven organization, he exclaimed this was now a “Fired Up Friday.”  

What if every employee felt that way?  Can you imagine the incredible outcomes?  

As an HR professional, I want to continue to make “Fired Up Fridays” possible for everyone.  That is why the peer mentoring program intrigued me.  

After one conversation with my pair mentor, I could see the possibilities. I can see how our conversations will challenge and sharpen each other and keep our perspectives fresh. It is indeed a “Fired Up Friday”!

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers