"horizontal mentorship"

Fri 28 February 2020
One common piece of advice I hear is that “you should work towards finding a calling”. The advice makes sense. I mean of you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top and it is easy to assume that finding a calling is consistent with achieving self-actualization.

But what if it’s not? What if we have it wrong?

I work in the space of implementing employee mentor programs for companies and I have studied extensively the correlation between aligned Work Orientation and the likelihood of successful mentor relationships. I have also studied correlations between different Work Orientations and levels of engagement at work.

Work Orientation is how one view’s their work. Some people view their work as a job (motivated by work/life balance), some people view their work as a career (motivated by professional growth), and some people view their work as a calling (motivated by personal/professional mission alignment).

My team and I learned that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning that it can change throughout one’s life. We also learned that when people don’t share a similar Work Orientation and are matched together for a mentoring relationship, that the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality diminishes significantly. 

But is there a correlation between one type of Work Orientation and being more engaged at work?

Our current research indicates no.

Our current research does break workplace engagement into 4 separate categories: emotional attachment to the work, energy received from doing the work, social connection with those whom doing the work with, and level of fulfillment from the work itself.

Our current research indicates that there is no one Work Orientation that is more engaged at work than another, but that some Work Orientations are more engaged in certain types of engagement than others.

People that are job oriented gain more workplace engagement from social connection with those whom they are doing the work than people that are career or calling oriented.

People that are career oriented gain more workplace engagement from the energy received doing the work than people that are job or calling oriented.

People that are calling oriented gain more workplace engagement from the level of fulfillment from the work itself than people that are career or job oriented.

The point is that maybe not everybody needs a calling. Everybody runs in their own lane and lives their own life and can achieve happiness and self-actualization in their own way. Assuming that everyone needs a calling may put people in uncomfortable situations and make them feel a way that they aren’t. And just because somebody doesn’t view their work as a calling right now doesn’t mean that they never will.

To adequately share the data and the other side of this point, our research also indicates that people that are career and calling oriented are more receptive to participating in employee mentor programs. Since employee mentorship - done successfully - leads to increased workplace engagement, greater collaboration across teams, and improved productivity, you could also make a counterargument.

Mon 30 March 2020
Horizontal mentorship is a mentoring relationship between employees across or within departments free from the influence of the workplace hierarchy.

Horizontal mentorship is the premier way to implement an employee mentor program.

This article serves to show the benefits of horizontal mentorship and the issues with traditional vertical mentorship.

In theory, the idea of vertical mentorship makes sense. A more experienced/knowledgeable person providing wisdom to a less experienced/knowledgeable person.

But, what vertical mentorship alone doesn’t account for is the personal drivers of each person in the relationship and its impact on the longevity and quality of that relationship over time.

Vertical mentorship opens the door for ego and ego is the biggest deterrent to successful mentoring relationships.

To show this point, let’s discuss the story of Shawn. Shawn is the CFO of a major company. He loves the idea of mentorship and believes that he has a lot of wisdom to share with somebody else. But, because Shawn is an executive, he doesn’t necessarily see the relationship being mutual. He’s fine with only providing his wisdom without any expectation of anything in return.

On the surface, this seems altruistic of Shawn…but in reality, Shawn is a nightmare for the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with.

The issue is that Shawn sees himself as an altruistic provider of information. What Shawn doesn’t realize is that his lack of willingness to listen and learn from the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with cripples the relationship. The person Shawn is in a relationship with cannot feel fully connected to Shawn because all Shawn does is spout advice. Shawn doesn’t come prepared with questions to meetings because Shawn perceives himself as a “reactive mentor” meaning that he can excuse himself from preparing for mentor meetings because his reactions to the other person’s questions should be enough to make the relationship valuable.

The result, the relationship fades away because the other person is frustrated with Shawn not being open to learning something from him while Shawn has no idea why the relationship ended and perceives the other person as being ungrateful for not taking full advantage of his wisdom.

The point is that vertical mentorship exaggerates workplace hierarchies and dehumanizes the mentoring relationship.

As opposed to the mentoring relationship being mutual where two people can give to and take from the relationship, it creates an awkward relationship where one person feels belittled and the other person feels disrespected. Vertical mentorship feels more like a transaction and less like a mutually beneficial relationship.

Horizontal mentorship leverages the inherent drives and values people have at work (Work Orientation) and matches them based on those drives.  

No matter the matches’ age, years of experience, or area of expertise, when people are matched together in horizontal mentorship, they are on a level playing field.

This means that both participants come prepared to each mentor meeting with questions for each other and stories to share. 

This means that both participants are willing to be open-minded enough to learn from somebody else regardless of their age or experience, willing to ask questions, and willing to share past mistakes.

Horizontal mentorship removes the transactional nature of vertical mentorship.

Horizontal mentorship breaks through communication barriers and creates empathy between employees at work. 

For building an employee mentor program, horizontal mentorship is the way to go. 

Even if the goal is for a junior employee to learn a skill from a senior employee, if the perception is vertical mentorship, the senior employee is going to perceive the relationship as a hassle while the junior employee is going to feel belittled. If the perception is that this type of mentor relationship is horizontal, it empowers the junior employee and gives the senior employee motivation to engage in the relationship because he now stands to gain something from the relationship.

Mon 6 April 2020
As remote work grows in popularity, the need for keeping individuals in-tune and engaged in the company culture increases substantially.

Remote work removes many of the inconveniences associated with going into work like commutes and distractions, but it takes away a key component to what makes company culture…connection!

This article serves to show a key way companies can go about maintaining and even improving the level of connectivity between employees as their work location becomes remote.

Before jumping into suggestions on maintaining and growing connectivity of employees as their work location becomes remote, let’s observe how employees connect in an office environment.

In our research on facilitating horizontal mentoring relationships for employees, we have learned that 68% of engaged employees that don’t work remotely believe that there are communication barriers between them and other employees. This is a critical statistic because this shows that even engaged employees feel that they are silo’d off from other employees, even if they work in the same office. 

Reframing this point, most people don’t know what their counterparts in other departments do for their work and the conversations they do have are typically superficial (e.g. sports, weather, fashion, family).

As more people begin to work remotely, this is going to get worse because employees are going to lose the little interaction they do have with each other. All communication is going to be work related and the emotional identity employees have of being a member of the company will soon fade.

Just to be clear, the emotional identity employees have of being a member of the company is the company’s culture! Once that is gone, there is no more culture!

One key to keeping remote employees engaged in the culture of the company is to set aside time for employees to have intentional conversations with each other.

These conversations are not superficial while also not completely about work. These conversations are free from the workplace hierarchy (e.g. title has nothing to do with what is and isn’t shared in these conversations). These conversations provide a platform for employees to share what they are working on with another employee, learn obstacles the other person is facing, ask clarifying questions that they don’t normally ask or get asked, and identify ways to find breakthroughs at work – emotionally, operationally, mentally, or physically.

These relationships create empathy between employees. These relationships breakthrough communication barriers between employees. These relationships build a greater sense of identity employees have with the company. 

This is called horizontal mentorship.

Optimal horizontal mentorship means:

·        Pairing employees together based on shared Work Orientation – or their shared workplace value system.
·        Providing meeting agendas to drive the conversations towards building rapport and being vulnerable.
·        Collecting feedback and learning what tangible outcomes were created every few months from meeting.
·        Switching mentor pairings every 6-12 months to continually build a web of connection between employees.
·        Everyone participating is willing to be open-minded enough to learn from somebody else regardless of their age or experience, willing to ask questions, and willing to share past mistakes.

When horizontal mentorship is implemented optimally, all employees, especially remote employees, feel a greater level of connectivity and identity with their company.
Mon 27 April 2020
When a company implements a new employee-to-employee horizontal mentorship program, this can feel like a big first step towards progress! However, impactful mentorship is not Field of Dreams; just because you built it, it doesn’t mean that employees will see ‘magical’ changes overnight. It takes more than a basic mentorship program to develop engaged employees and achieve the desired goals you have for the mentor program and the company as a whole. 


This article offers my perspective on the importance of semi-structured meeting agendas as a driving force for effective, impactful mentorship, regardless of the personalities of the people participating.


Our conventional wisdom tells us that “if two people are extroverted, they are naturally going to hit it off. Structured meetings will just get in the way of natural conversation!”


This conventional wisdom is wrong.


Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. We expect two extroverted people to have an easy path to conversation, but this doesn’t account for a key issue: how productive is what they are discussing? Is their discussion casual, like sports, weather, or family? Or, is their discussion about the obstacles they are facing at work and having a dialogue about how to make their work more productive and personally fulfilling?


People may be able to gain value from any conversation, true. But, more likely than not, these casual conversations are superficial and not particularly substantive. The reason for this is because people feel comfortable discussing things that they either see on a daily basis or that they don’t have control over but are generally interested in. We are used to these conversation topics. When anyone ever asks, “how are you doing?” it is typically followed by these superficial talking points. 


Casual conversations are low risk, low reward. Few people have revelations when discussing whether the Lakers will make the playoffs. These conversations are comforting and valuable, but they are simply no substitute for challenging discussions and self-reflection. 


On the flip side, deep conversations are rarer for a reason. Talking about work obstacles and challenging your fears about what’s possible in your professional career is uncomfortable! We are forced to be vulnerable. These conversations do drive profound outcomes, but without an agenda keeping people on track, we can unintentionally deviate back to those comfortable, superficial topics.  


Falling back to comfortable conversation isn’t just a risk for extroverted people; introverts can face their own challenges during a mentorship program. One might assume “if two people are introverted, they can figure out a mentor meeting without an agenda. They are professionals and their introversion will make them more comfortable.”


Again, this conventional wisdom falls flat. Ask introverts if they would feel comfortable with this and most will say no. This is typically the assumption extroverted people have about introverted people.


The issue is that the people that are most interested in starting company-wide mentor programs are typically extroverts. Introverts just typically don’t share that same type of self-sustaining drive for more social interaction; they recharge their ‘mental energy’ in different ways. 


But, this doesn’t mean that introverts are disinterested in mentorship!


Instead, when an introvert participates in a mentor program, they might be more likely to have some anxiety or skepticism about meeting somebody they (typically) have minimal interaction with. They need to feel confident and come to the meeting with a plan: How long is the meeting? What are the topics for discussion? How can they be sure that this meeting will be impactful to them? 


Meeting agendas accomplish this goal. Meeting agendas give introverted people the safety net of a plan of action. They know that the discussion will be meaningful, that the conversation won’t be open-ended without a set end time, and that the other person (their mentor) shares this plan.


Implementing a mentor program is a huge first step towards building a stronger, more positive company culture and breaking through communication barriers.


But just having a mentor program doesn’t mean that the company is accomplishing their goals. Improvement takes active effort; the communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover are not going to magically disappear overnight. Employee engagement and positive company culture doesn’t appear by flipping a switch.


Unfortunately, many companies start (and end) these efforts with the idea of “let’s start a mentor program!” and simply call it a day. They might ‘match’ employees, but randomly. They might give suggested topics, but not meeting agendas. Instead of creating an impactful mentorship program for their company, they simply checked another box for their year-end review and assumed the benefits had already materialized. 


Providing mentor meeting agendas is one very important piece of building a strong, thriving employee horizontal mentorship program that connects with every employee, regardless of personality. 



Mon 4 May 2020
Steph Curry has mentors that help him with his shot. Can you believe that? The best basketball shooter on the planet has mentors to help him shoot better!? You would think he should be mentoring other people, right? 


Steph has coaches too. And he plays on a team, meets with other players from around the NBA to discuss basketball and life. But he also has mentors.


If you are an executive reading this article, compare yourself, as a leader in your company, to Steph Curry leading his team.


You may have a coach. And you may have an executive team that advises you on company matters, and you may participate in an executive advisory group. But do you have mentors?


This is not meant to offend, but chances are that you aren’t as good of an executive as Steph Curry is a shooter. And even if you were, you should be taking every advantage you can if you want to be the best at your game. So if 2-time MVP, 3-time NBA champion, 6-time All-NBA team Steph Curry thinks he needs a mentor to achieve greatness, then you could probably use one too. 


So, what is a mentor?


A standard definition would say a mentor is simply an experienced and trusted advisor.


But there is clearly more to mentorship than that.


Does being experienced mean they must be older than you?


Does trusted mean that you have worked with them for many years?


Our research indicates that those assumptions about “experienced” and “trusted” are incorrect.


The best mentoring relationships are horizontal. Horizontal mentorships are mentoring relationships where two people are open to learning from each other and being constantly curious, giving their insight to the relationship, and approaching the personal/professional relationship as equals. In this mentorship paradigm, experience and trust are measured in more than just “years”. 


Great horizontal mentorship is built on a mutual perspective on the relationship between work and life. We call this work orientation. Some people view their work as a job (meaning their focus is on work/life balance), career (meaning their focus is on professional growth) or calling (meaning their focus is on personal/professional mission alignment). There is not a right or wrong work orientation and it is fluid, meaning it can change throughout your life.


Work orientation is an important factor in building great mentor relationships. When potential mentors are matched strictly on age, years of experience, status, or area of expertise, the likelihood that the relationship will last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality is 18%. These factors simply aren’t enough.


What if, instead of using superficial features, we matched people based on a deeper connection? When mentors are matched with aligning Work Orientations, the likelihood that the relationship will last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality jumps to 72%.


These relationships become even more successful when work orientation is combined with horizontal mentorship, particularly for company leaders and executives. Horizontal mentorship between executives is a powerful tool for improving yourself and your company. You can relate to similar decisions faced and strategies to consider – even if you are in completely different industries. You can emotionally relate to the stressors of the work and can take a smarter approach when challenging you to grow professionally. Their outside, yet equal perspective provides something that an individual executive’s team or coaches won’t (because that executive controls their pay and job status).


Why should executives have mentors?


1. Have somebody else to help balance the mental load of what an executive is normally carrying.


As an executive, you are faced with a lot of decisions and plans. Even if you are the most organized and well-planned person, your team is spending their full-time working with you in the office, and your only guidance is from your team. It’s difficult for someone to bring a new perspective to you when they are seeing the same things you see – even if they feel comfortable challenging you. Also, you have probably split your team into departments and you or a combination of you and your executives orchestrate the entire operation. Not everyone can relate and help you prioritize what is most important. Someone with a shared work orientation and has similar responsibilities in a different company/industry can help you ease the mental load of what you are facing.


2. Look at challenges from a different lens from somebody completely outside of your industry.


Success leaves clues. But it’s up to you to find them. What was successful in one industry might work in another. If you are an executive and your network is insulated and rarely expanding, you will only surround yourself with the same thinking. Finding new mentors and continuing to build relationships with current mentors will help you expand your problem-solving abilities.


3. Be able to emotionally attach and disengage.


A mentor is not a spouse. A mentor is close enough to you that they can understand and empathize but distant enough from you that you can make mistakes with what you say or how you phrase something without it backlashing. You can technically fire your spouse, but that’s a relationship that you probably don’t want to fire if you don’t have to. It is okay for you to have a mentor relationship with somebody for 6 months and then if you decide you don’t like their advice anymore begin to grow distant. You can always pick that relationship back up again if you would like. 


What are common objections from executives for why not to have mentors?


1. I don’t have the time for mentors.


Are you working in the business or on the business? Executive mentors can help you work on the business. As a leader, you need to be thinking ahead and willing to do the work now so that your job will be easier later. If your job is to cut down trees, going at it day after day with a dull axe isn’t working hard, it’s working poorly. Mentorship helps you sharpen your metaphorical axe; neglecting your toolkit means you are neglecting your work, even if you think you can’t make the time.


2. I already have mentors.


How did you find your mentors? From the circles you actively connect with and run in? If you all hear the same things, are given similar advice, and trying the same strategies, are your mentors giving you anything new? Or are they just confirming what you already know? Finding executive mentors outside of your circle will make you see your blind spots. 


3. I don’t need mentors.


This sort of response typically comes from a place of ego. Anyone who says this is conveying that they have learned everything and there is no room for them to grow. Which, paradoxically, is proof that they in fact still have plenty more to learn. The knowledge and experience gained from an executive mentor is simply irreplaceable. As I stated at the opening of this blog: chances are, you are no Steph Curry (in your field). The best of the best are that way for a reason. Success leaves clues and this one isn’t buried that deep.      


Every executive will benefit by cultivating a group of strong, diverse mentor relationships, especially ones outside of their industry and normal sphere of influence. The diversity of thought that comes from these types of relationships lead executives to make massive breakthroughs in their businesses, and within themselves mentally and emotionally. What’s your excuse?
Mon 11 May 2020
Engagement has become a popular metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and, to an extent, the health of a company’s culture.
But is engagement a truly accurate metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and company culture?
Engagement has clearly shown a correlation to greater productivity and workplace happiness, but how accurate is our method for measuring workplace engagement? Are their leading indicators that might serve as a better metric for how engagement will change?
This article outlines some of the issues with solely measuring engagement and identifies some additional metrics that may provide stronger evidence for when engagement is volatile or calm.
The three issues with only measuring engagement are as follows:
1.Engagement can change in an instant
When an engaged employee becomes disengaged, it is often instigated by one event rather than by some extended sequence of events over time. Most people enter a company excited to get to work and get started, thus are highly engaged. But as they spend more time with the company, they get to know more people and become more accustomed to the workplace. They formulate ideas and expectations about who their coworkers and bosses are and how they are expected to act, and these expectations are compared and contrasted with their own internal compass for how the workplace is expected to operate. 
But, when this new and engaged employee is confronted by someone strongly deviating from the expectations in a negative way, this negative event can muddle their expectations and disengage the employee. 
This is more than simple conjecture; I’ve heard this same story again and again. For example, a friend of mine works at a company where 1 employee (Director) became frustrated at another employee (Accountant) because the accountant consistently asked the director to redo his expense reports. The director’s frustrations stemmed from the fact that it took him 15 minutes to redo the expense reports. In all fairness, there were mistakes, but the director thought that they were immaterial and insignificant.
So, the director goes to other people in his department to share what a pain in the butt it is to redo the expense reports. He subtly inserts his frustrations into conversations to see if anyone else can relate. If somebody bites, they enter a conversation and begin venting their frustrations about the accountant.
The issue is that word travels fast. The accountant learns about these conversations and doesn’t feel comfortable approaching the director with his thoughts or feelings. He is then posed with the question, “does he do his job properly or not because he knows the director is going to complain?”
The accountant learns about his treatment and switches from engaged to disengaged in an afternoon.
2. Work status changes can temporarily impact engagement away from the average
Similarly to starting a new relationship, there is usually a brief ‘honeymoon’ period when taking up a new role or position. Whether it’s a promotion or a new job altogether, taking over new responsibilities feels awesome at first. We feel eager to learn new things, jump on tasks that need to get done, and are open-minded to the feedback we receive.
Within the first 3 months of starting this role, our engagement is artificially elevated because we are “drinking from the firehose”. There are so many amazing opportunities and interesting new responsibilities that it would be difficult to not be engaged.
If a company measures engagement every 6 months or once per year and their survey includes people within those first 3 months of starting a new role, the results are likely skewed positively. If leadership is relying on this information to make informed decisions about how to best manage their team, they are going to be relying on falsely inflated engagement scores which diminishes the need to positively develop the company. Why provide new activities for their employees when engagement is already high when instead, you could double-down on quotas and operational goals and try to squeeze some extra productivity from their “highly engaged” workforce? 
If the engagement numbers are skewed, this type of scenario could put engagement and workplace morale into a tailspin. These artificially engaged employees might become overworked. And when they leave the honeymoon stage and revert back to the mean, their dwindling engagement could reach a critical threshold because leadership pushed when they needed to support. 
3. Daily engagement measures lead to survey fatigue
Some companies may claim they eradicate the first two issues because they measure engagement daily.
However, this approach brings a new problem: survey fatigue. If employees are asked the same questions every single day, they are going to grow accustomed to consistently responding a certain way, regardless of the underlying truth. Instead of capturing their engagement, we are simply building a pointless ritual into every employee’s day: the daily survey that only truly measures how quickly they click the “moderately engaged” button.  
In this case, gathering more data does not mean necessarily gathering better data. The previous two issues, 1) engagement can change in an instant and 2) that work status changes can artificially inflate engagement are very much still a concern. In fact, daily measurements might be worse than 3 or 6 month measurements because the daily habitual answers could override honesty right up until that event that “flips” the engagement switch. 
However, there isn’t all bad news about measuring workplace engagement. As mentioned earlier in this article, there is a direct correlation to productivity and work satisfaction when engagement is high.
There are leading indicators that can help companies better understand whether or not engagement is susceptible to change.
The leading indicators our team has identified are 1) Communication Barriers between employees and 2) Dysfunctional Turnover.
We define communication barriers between employees as the lack of understanding for the obstacles another employee faces, and we define dysfunctional turnover as turnover from employees that do great work and are engaged but are susceptible to leaving because of something going on in the company (e.g. not due to personal events).
Our team has identified that 68% of engaged employees believe that there are communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work. This is critical to understand because it means that people are forming assumptions about others’ work, but only rarely get chances to find out if these assumptions are based in fact. When employees don’t understand the obstacles faced by their coworkers, they form assumptions about what other employees do. These assumptions can create a lack of empathy, and this lack of empathy creates a high susceptibility for them to become disgruntled and disengaged by someone else’s actions in coordination with their assumptions.
If you can understand how many of your employees experience communication barriers at work, you can begin to gauge how quickly engagement might change.
Dysfunctional turnover also involves communication, but as opposed to the focus being on what other people are doing outside of an employee’s control, it involves the communication an employee receives for their specific job function. When employees feel like they are not getting adequate feedback or communication from their boss, they are susceptible to becoming disengaged. Employees are also susceptible to becoming disengaged when they don’t perceive that their colleagues respect the work they do.
Measuring dysfunctional turnover is not the same as measuring the TIS (Turnover Intention Scale) as the TIS asks for feedback on pretty black and white statements like “I don’t envision myself working for this company much longer.” We measure dysfunctional turnover via factors like communication quality with colleagues and bosses during multi-person tasks and their perception of the respect they receive for the work they do.
In essence, engagement metrics do have a lot of value, but measuring engagement only shows where engagement is at now, not where it will be. Measuring leading indicators like communication barriers between employees and dysfunctional turnover can provide a lens into where engagement is going.
 

Mon 18 May 2020
I recently wrote an article about the importance of mentorship for executives, and I wanted to write another article specifically about why HR executives should have mentors.


If anybody has ever seen the American version of The Office, they may associate HR with Toby. If you haven’t seen The Office, Toby is a well-intentioned HR professional but is hated by Michael Scott, the branch manager. Their acrimonious relationship is because Michael perceives Toby as the “killer of fun” or put another way, the killer of innovation and new ideas.


We watch the show from Michael’s perspective because he is the boss and the main character, but let’s take a second to put ourselves in Toby’s shoes.


Toby is an HR team of 1 where he has to manage all of the HR functions of the entire branch. If Michael comes up with an inappropriate, or even illegal, idea and Toby doesn’t step in to stop it, the company could get sued and Toby is at fault. For comedic relief, we laugh at the antics and the angst between Michael and Toby. 


But if we put ourselves in Toby’s shoes, I think the dilemma becomes clear. How do we handle novel HR scenarios and issues without having the experience and information necessary to be sure we are choosing the right action? 


After interviewing over 50 HR executives in the past 3 months, I have learned that most companies have more HR projects that their HR team can possibly handle. Their work turns into a process of constantly taking care of what is most pressing right now while deferring an ever-growing list of lower-priority tasks for a later date “when things calm down”.


HR executives must understand what’s going on within their own company while also monitoring other companies to assess how they are doing to see if they are falling behind in any way. 


HR teams can end up isolated from other the broader HR professional network, save for the occasional SHRM conference or HR networking event. This lack of professional connection can be an obstacle to handling all of the work thrown at HR executives. An experienced network of like-minded colleagues can greatly improve your work and can help you avoid the emotional toll of not having somebody you relate and connect that can console you on how to balance the load of everything being thrown at HR executives.


So, why should HR executives have mentors?


1. Learn about what other HR executives are doing


If you are getting your guidance on what innovations you should consider pursuing at your annual SHRM conference or planning organizational changes and innovations years in advance, you are probably reacting to old advice. For example, let’s say you find a promising new Learning Management System at a conference in August. It seems valuable so you bring it up to your HR team in September, and you focus on ironing out all of the kinks in the plan before presenting the idea to the other company leaders. Now it’s December. But, budgets are approved for January in November/December meaning that now you are waiting until the following January for implementation. Now, your innovative idea from 18 months ago is finally being implemented and it’s already a bit out of date. 


With a strong network, a fellow HR executive mentor could have informed you about the Learning Management System back in March. You could have brought the idea up to your team and ironed out the kinks in preparation for the conference in August and been ready to implement it by the initial January. You’ve just cut your time-to-implementation time by half from 18 months to 9. 


2. Expand your network to other HR executives who can relate


When people don’t know each other that well, they have a tendency to only share the good things in their world – e.g. “My company was listed in the top 100 places to work”, or “we have made 30 new hires in the past month and are growing exponentially.” These conversations are pervasive at conferences or networking events. Brag fests and casual banter are fun pleasantries, but no one should mistake these for the deep, meaningful conversations that drive innovation and professional development. 


A fellow HR executive mentor from outside of one’s own company allows you to open up, share, and relate to another executive that shares your mindset, but has their own experiences. These connections, and the vulnerable conversations that occur in these mentorships, make HR executives not only better at their jobs, but most importantly, happier at work. 


3. Get advice on how to handle unfamiliar scenarios


The world changes all of the time. People are not antique toys that can be put in plastic boxes and held in place until they retire. There are actions and reactions that HR executives cannot control, and when uncertain situations strike, you have decisions to make. Here’s the most important decision: do you keep it to yourself and try to handle it alone for fear that asking for advice will make you seem ineffective at your job? 


A fellow HR executive mentor might have faced that type of situation before. At a minimum, they can ask relevant questions and share their thoughts based on what they have experienced before. And at best, they can share their wisdom and help you find the key to solving the problem. 


As an HR executive, you are whom your company turns to when they have an HR question, regardless of whether you know the answer. Mentorship provides HR executives with their own team of informal advisors, and a fellow HR executive mentor makes life easier because they provide balance, insight, and perspective that you cannot find from your current network. 

Mon 25 May 2020
One of the biggest reasons people join professional associations is for the opportunity to network and educate themselves on the most up-to-date topics in their field. Most professional associations go about delivering this value via conferences and local meet-ups by individual chapters of the association.

With COVID-19, most conferences have been canceled or postponed for a TBD date. This poses a major threat to association managers because if they aren’t able to provide networking or educational opportunities to its members, why should their members keep paying their annual dues? 

After speaking with a handful of association managers and board members, I have learned that many professional associations are losing membership because of the coronavirus and its subsequent impact.

The truth is, you can only get so much engagement through digital educational sessions and panel discussions with guest speakers on Zoom or YouTube. These activities simply can’t replicate the personal nature of having intimate, vulnerable, one-on-one conversations among colleagues. Large, digital meetings rarely lead to honest discussions about areas they want to improve and the opportunities they would like to pursue. 

One great way to keep association members engaged in educational and networking opportunities is horizontal mentorship. Horizontal mentorship means connecting two professionals together for a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship where both professionals learn from each other while sharing their personal insight.  

Traditional (or vertical) mentorship is predicated on an imbalanced mentor-to-mentee relationship which exacerbates power imbalances. Traditional mentorship embeds unequal roles into the relationship and this has negative consequences: after 6 months, only 18% of vertical mentoring relationships are considered productive and high quality by participants. Horizontal mentorship focuses on building relationships based on shared alignment of Work Orientation. This ensures that the two professionals’ value systems and reasons for working are aligned. Mentor relationships built this way are 4 times more likely to last 6 months and be rated as productive and high-quality by the participants, compared to traditional mentorship. 

This article offers 3 reasons why professional associations should engage their members virtually through a horizontal mentorship program.

  1. Horizontal mentorship develop close-ties and a localized community from a global, national, or even state-wide membership base that is relying on digital interaction

Previously, these far-flung members might not have been able to easily connect for meaningful conversations. Through horizontal mentorship, previously-distant members that might not have ever interacted one-on-one can now build strong, deep-rooted social bonds, further increasing the value they gain from their association. While these types of connections are always plausible, horizontal mentorship provides the framework for consistently building durable, valuable relationships among members. 

2. Horizontal mentorship provides a new level for members to engage with the association 

The commitment of jumping from one’s role as a general member to volunteering for the association can be significant and not every member is prepared to make that leap. Horizontal mentorship provides an opportunity for association members to deeply engage on a new level that works with their personal schedule and professional aspirations.

3. Horizontal mentorship helps members learn from each other and share experience

Providing educational content and connecting the right members together is not easy. Some educational sessions at conferences are more relevant to some people versus others. Rather than “fishing with dynamite”, horizontal mentorship creates personalized opportunities for members to learn from each other, ask questions specific to their own circumstances, and network with other members with similar perspectives on their approach to work (i.e. work orientation).

Now more than ever, associations must strive to find new, effective ways to connect members and increase engagement. Horizontal mentorship provides the opportunity for association members to engage with other members on an intimate level that works for their availability in a meaningful, virtual way. 
Mon 1 June 2020
Employee engagement is an extremely valuable metric for understanding your team. Engagement is strongly correlated with productivity, so if you are not measuring your team’s engagement, now is a good time to start. This data can tell you how your team feels about their work, offer potential insight on what you can do to make them more happy and productive, and give you some idea of whether or not your employees are likely to leave the job in the near future.


But, the issue with measuring engagement is that it is a lagging metric. By the time you identify that a certain department or team in your company is becoming disengaged, it is likely far too late. Re-engagement is very difficult; they may already be working on their way out and are unlikely to be willing to give management the benefit of the doubt by putting aside their frustrations. 


The first step towards avoiding fully disengaged employees is determining when they are most susceptible to becoming disengaged.  


We call this measure Engagement Volatility, and we use this to understand when employees are likely to be most significantly affected by a negative event at work.   


Many employees fully support and enjoy the company culture and really do enjoy their jobs. For these employees, it takes a lot to shake their confidence in the company.


There are also other people who may respond favorably to an engagement assessment today, but their beliefs in their work or company aren’t nearly as firm.


High-volatility employees can become disengaged in an instant. Whether from reading an email that seems passive-aggressive, realizing the bonus structure or compensation plan seems unfair or being forced to switch their work project or style, employees with high volatility can quickly become disenchanted with their company when dealing with frustrating events at work. 


My team and I at Ambition In Motion identified two key metrics for determining engagement volatility: communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover intentions.


Communication Barriers


Communication barriers represent the lack of understanding among employees about what other employees do for their work. For example, let’s say that John in accounting frequently must interact with Jane in sales to handle some customer accounts. How well does John actually understand what Jane does? If these two employees don’t understand each other’s work, there are communication barriers that can impact their work relationship, productivity, and engagement volatility.  


Communication barriers don’t necessarily tell us that the two people don’t like each other. It just means that they don’t understand what the other person does for their work and the obstacles they face.


How does this lead to engagement volatility?


Communication barriers force people to formulate assumptions about what other people do. These assumptions then lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, especially during frustrating work events. When a small miscommunication about some work task blows up, this creates an opening for people to become disengaged. It creates an opportunity to feel like they are getting taken advantage of or that the grass could be greener on the other side.


For example, let’s go back to John (accounting) and Jane (sales). John sees that Jane spent $200 on a lunch with a client and thinks to himself, “who spends $200 on a lunch?!?!” He is certain that he could have made that same sale and only spent $100 on lunch, but instead, he has to adjust budgets to fit this extra expense and his frustration grows. By discounting all of the work and skills necessary to be a great salesperson, he begins to assume (likely incorrectly) that he could do her job. This subtle frustration can grow, leading John to bring up Jane’s work ethic in casual conversations with people at the office to learn their thoughts. Once he finds somebody that happens to agree with him, it confirms his belief that he could do her job, and now he feels frustrated that she is getting bonuses and commissions on sales he is certain could have easily made. When Jane, unknowing of John’s frustrations with her, emails John, he responds passive-aggressively. He assumes that Jane knows he is frustrated and considers her lazy and inefficient. Meanwhile, Jane has no clue why his emails have become so strange, and her frustration with her work environment begin to simmer.


And the domino effect goes on and on from there…


Our team identified that 68% of engaged employees still feel communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work (e.g. they feel they don’t understand what other people do for their work). Even engaged, productive employees encounter these frustrating events, and these can lead directly to high engagement volatility. 


Dysfunctional Turnover Intentions


There are 4 types of turnover for employees at work: variable, invariable, functional and dysfunctional. Variable, invariable, and functional turnover are types of uncontrollable turnover. They are based on factors outside of a company’s control – e.g. a spouse getting a job in a different city and the employee moving with their spouse, the employee being bad at their job and getting fired, or an employee receiving an offer for significantly more money from another company and the current employer being unwilling or unable to match the salary. 


Dysfunctional turnover is the type of turnover a company can control. Dysfunctional turnover is based on two key factors: the clarity of their job responsibilities and purpose within the company, and their perceived respect level from their colleagues and supervisor(s).


When employees are unclear about what they are doing or why they are doing it, they are highly susceptible to becoming disengaged because the work becomes purposeless. They have no idea if what they are doing is correct, and they have no idea about how their work plays into the larger picture of the company. Lack of purpose and value at work drags down engagement and productivity.


70% of employees avoid difficult conversations (like asking for clarity on their role or task) with their boss, colleagues, or direct reports, according to a Bravely study. Essentially, people fear or feel uncomfortable asking for clarity. This contributes to their engagement volatility and if the “what” and “why” of their work isn’t clarified quickly, they could become disengaged.


The perception of respect is the other critical factor to dysfunctional turnover intentions. When employees don’t feel respected by their colleagues or supervisor, they will have high engagement volatility. 


The perception of respect is the key. 


To be clear, respect is important, but the effects are not directly based on whether or not colleagues or supervisors actually respect the employee’s work. It is based on whether the employee perceives that their work is respected. If they don’t feel like they are appreciated for their contribution or that the feedback they receive is sincere, they quickly become disengaged.


Solution


One way to better understand your team’s engagement volatility is by sending your team Ambition In Motion Engagement Volatility Assessment. It takes roughly 5 minutes to complete and can provide great insight into your team’s likelihood of becoming disengaged. You can break it down by department so you can better understand if there are some departments that have higher/lower engagement volatility than others.


Once you understand your team’s engagement volatility, you can work towards identifying what steps you should take to ease your team’s volatility and stabilize your employee engagement.


One great way to accomplish this is by implementing a Horizontal Mentorship Program. Horizontal mentorship helps your team break through employee communication barriers, improve clarity of your employees’ roles and responsibilities, and build empathy and respect across your team.

Wed 8 July 2020
Successful companies hold candid conversations, explore areas of innovation, and refine strategy on a regular cadence. Why not you?

In the last month, have you asked yourself: Who you are and what you have? What you do? Who do you help? How you help? How they know you and how you deliver? How you interact? Who helps you? What you get? And what you give? If yes, that is great! If not, it is a great time to start!

Let’s focus on: Who you are? This core area encompasses three topics: interests, personality, and personal skills and abilities. 

Your engagement and overall satisfaction, whether at home or at work, is directly linked to your interest in the things you do. This is slightly different than one’s passion as it is focused more on a micro level. 

Your personality is undoubtedly the staple of: Who you are? However, this is far greater than the typical responses of: I’m an introvert. I enjoy being around others. Your personality in essence is a combination of DNA + life experiences. It represents your strengths, your weakness, your blind spots, your preferred work and life environments, and your competencies.

Your skills and abilities are shaped by life (or learned) experiences. Further, this area is the most flexible of the three (3) areas. Skills can be learned, lost, or refined. Abilities, on the other hand, are less elastic. Think about numerical reasoning or critical reading and writing. Certainly one can improve in those areas but those themes, and others, are often embedded intrinsically. 

You will notice that: Who you are and what you have? is the first in a series of important questions to fully understand yourself and provides a trajectory towards personal optimization. 

It is critical to start this journey with a sound, valued partner – a mentor or one who can hold the mirror and ask targeted questions as you reflect. Mentors come in all different ‘sizes and shapes.’ Colleagues. Family members. Book authors. Business partners. Ambition In Motion's Horizontal Mentoring program offers a new, fresh approach to the mentor-mentee relationship. Rather than the traditional top-down approach, Ambition In Motion’s methodology is based on the science of work orientation allowing for deep, horizontal relationships to form. Think about an engineer paired with a marketing manager or a customer service representative matched with an IT analyst. Imagine how these interesting combinations could jolt your insight not only within your organization but within yourself. 
Tue 30 June 2020
Although I was very excited to begin this program, I can say that there was a certain degree of skepticism and apprehension when it came to meeting my Peer-Mentor for our first 1-on-1 session.   Not only are we from two different organizations, and two different work environments, but honestly from two different fields.  My career has largely been focused on Training/Development, with a strong tie to the HR field, while my Peer-Mentor has had a long career in HR Management.

To say that our initial meeting/work session was a success would be an understatement.  We were able to connect on multiple topics and the communication was very fluid and relaxed.  I truly believe that we will both value significantly from this networking opportunity and I look forward to our next few sessions.
Mon 20 July 2020
Change in your business is inevitable.

Whether impetus for change is internal like a new business insight that causes you to move in a new direction, or external like a global pandemic that forces you to rethink the way you do business, change always happens.

As a leader for your business, you may find that adapting to change seems easier for you than it is for your people. This could be due to you having a higher risk tolerance than your staff or that you were part of the decision for the change while your people are asked to follow along after hearing about it from you or somebody else second-hand.

Regardless, the key point is that change happens and some people will handle it better than others. While this process can be tough, what is important is that the people that are able to change with you, will also be able to grow with you.

According to ClearRock Inc, 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their basic goals. 

However, if you can get the right people around you, people that are willing and able to change with you and be happy about it, you are significantly more likely to successfully navigate this change.

This article sheds light on an effective way to enact change in your company while maintaining culture.

In 2003, Evan Williams sold blogger.com to Google. Blogger was one of the first dedicated websites for what we know as the blog today.

By 2004, Evan was already cooking up new plans and finding ways to change the game. He asked, “What if we could implement blogs, but with audio?” and began working. He called this new company Odeo. 

This was a brand new medium for media consumption and Evan thought he had another big opportunity on his hands. But in 2005, something big happened that would change his world forever.

In 2005, Apple decided that they were going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a new form of media that was strikingly similar to audio blogs. This surprised Evan Williams because at this moment, these “audio blogs” as Evan referred to them barely had any traction.

Apple called this component of their business “podcasts”. 

While Odeo started garnering some traction, it was definitely not a market leader and when Apple flooded the market with podcasts, Odeo was left to fend for the scraps.

Suddenly time was running out for Evan. He was backed into a corner, hemorrhaging funds and rapidly approaching a decision he was loath to consider: closing the company. That’s when he made the bold decision to do something interesting.

Evan decided to be vulnerable.

As opposed to telling his team that everything would be okay and to keep pushing in the direction he knew was a losing battle, Evan was open and honest.

As opposed to just him and his executive team determining what to do next, he involved his entire team to be a part of the solution. 

Their initial idea was to have a hackathon where all of their employees could work individually or in small groups to come up with ideas about how they could pivot and transition. The hackathon was a success and they were able to scrape some good ideas from the event (alongside some team-building for good measure). 

Two of Evan’s employees, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, came up with this idea leveraging their prior experience with Evan at Blogger. As opposed to long, free-form blogs meant for longer reads, what about a blogging site built around short text snippets that people could skim? 

As they began testing the idea, it took off in popularity. They were able to get famous celebrities on the site by providing a way for these celebrities to get their message out to a wide audience without the barriers of traditional media. 

This hackathon idea became what we know today as Twitter.

Evan Williams was able to transition the majority of his Odeo team to fully focus on Twitter. He successfully accomplished this because he was vulnerable with his team and allowed them to be a part of the decision-making process, thus ensuring that every member of his team had buy-in for the tough work ahead. 

To recap: 

·        Change is inevitable
·        Effectively implementing change is hard
·        Some people handle change better than others
·        To maintain your culture through the change, be vulnerable with your team
·        And include your people in the decision-making process

Coming to this conclusion isn’t easy. As a leader, it requires admitting that you may have made a mistake and that you may not know the best path forward. Having a fellow executive mentor can help unlock your vulnerability and improve your performance as a leader. Executive Mentorship isn’t a group of executives meeting afterhours to discuss work and it’s not coaching either. An executive mentoring relationship is a 1-on-1 relationship with another executive who can relate to your situation, help you understand your weaknesses, and provide a safe space for you to be vulnerable.

Wed 15 July 2020
How does one define leadership? In many ways it is a concept that is difficult to define. Difficult to understand. Difficult to execute. And difficult to replicate. Consider how many books, articles, seminars, and case studies have been offered over the decades – not to mention the ability to earn a PhD in Leadership! As such, leadership comes in many models often formed by personal experiences and successes and failures of others.

At the fundamental level, at least in business, leadership can be defined as simply making better decisions than your competition. How does one develop this capability? An executive noted, “Make a lot of bad decisions that don’t kill you.” It is true that one’s experience is, in many cases, a result of trial and error and observation of others. Unfortunately, experience alone is no panacea; thus, a leader must be aware of their blind spots and recognition – or lack thereof – becomes more critical as one moves up the corporate ladder.

Blind spots represent an unrecognized weakness or hazard that has the potential to undercut a leader’s success. Blind spots can be found on numerous levels: how you view yourself and your impact on others, the strengths and weaknesses of your team and organization, and the forces operating in the markets in which you compete. Fortunately, blind spots can be identified and managed if one looks for them. Given such, carefully select valued sounding boards who push you, question you, and assist you in recognizing the areas that may undermine your success and that of your organization. 

Programs such as those offered by Ambition In Motion can illuminate leadership blind spots. This is vital as blind spots are not just cases of failing to see ourselves or our actions accurately. They are evident in the way we view our teams, organizations, and markets. 

Executives and senior leaders, get started today: https://rb.gy/5luuqj 



Wed 22 July 2020
In my discussion with my mentor this month, we talked about challenging ourselves and setting tangible goals. It’s common knowledge that the best way to succeed at anything is to set goals and objectives and measure yourself against them. It’s not always so easy to actually do it, or even remember that you should. It is very easy to get lost in the business of daily life and work and forget to set goals for yourself. It’s also easy to make excuses that allow you to put them off. 

For me personally, there’s a level of fear in setting goals as well. If I go through the process of setting a goal, then that means I could fail. If I don’t set any goals, I can never technically fail. That’s not really a useful way to accomplish anything though, which is why having a mentor is so helpful. Among many other things, a mentor can be an accountability partner. This partnership is a powerful tool for both creating and reaching goals, which is exactly what we talked about in our last meeting. 

My mentor and I helped each other create some goals for the next few months. My goals were created as a result of my most recent peer review. My self-ratings were pretty well in-line with those of my peers, however my own scores were slightly lower than my peers’. With some insight from Garrett Mintz of Ambition in Motion, we figured out that this means I’m likely able to ask a little more from my colleagues. My mentor and I took that idea and created a goal from it. My goal is to make at least three asks per week that I normally wouldn’t. This may seem simple, but it’s a confidence building exercise. It’s a stepping stone on my way to larger, greater goals as well. My mentor has his own goals too, and we’ll be checking in with each other weekly to see if we’ve followed through, that’s where the accountability comes in. I’m excited to get started and see where we go next!


Wed 29 July 2020
My latest executive peer mentoring session examined each of our core values and why we do what we do. Some of the questions posed were: What is your core focus for why you work? Why do you exist? What impact do you want to have? What is your strategy for getting others to help you achieve this impact? We were encouraged to brainstorm what that impact will that look like in 10 years... 3 years… How about in one year?
 
These are facilitated by Ambition In Motion (https://ambition-in-motion.com).
 
I usually look for one or two Big Ideas to take away (sometimes I come up with more, believe me!). Two that really stood from our time last week are:
 
  1. The power of impact
I routinely coach clients to look at the IMPACT they have. What is a pattern of results that they have accomplished, over time? What do they do consistently, repeatedly, naturally? This represents the impact they have on their surroundings – and it can take a variety of forms. For a salesperson, it can be consistently overachieving their quota/revenue objectives. For a manager, it might be achieving unit/department/area results – and how many people they have helped to develop or mentor along the way. It may be areas or processes they have helped to improve.
 
Most often, the impact we have usually flows from our exercising the core strengths we have, consistent with working and living out our own core values. It’s an outgrowth of who we are.
 
Want to see an illustration? Think of someone you know pretty well - pull up their LinkedIn profile. Scroll down to any Recommendations that others have written about them. The chances are that you’ll see this at work.
 
Working with clients in developing them in their career, I routinely ask them a lot of questions to pull this out. I strongly encourage them to articulate their impact in the first half-page of their resume, and in the Summary of their LinkedIn profile.

2. The power of reflection
My mentor Geoff shared one of John Maxwell’s practices. He is a consummate journal-maker, taking notes of actions, reactions, and results daily. He takes a few days at the end of each year to re-read his diary and reflect. Geoff challenged the two of us to independently plan a couple of days at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, to re-read notes, recap goals, and savor accomplishments. And, how about reflecting on key actions and causes behind the accomplishments? How about those goals or actions that were inadvertently “left behind”?
 
I make monthly goals, then weekly goals. I don’t journal in notebooks hardcopy much, certainly not like I used to. But I do keep track of those goals and have them available. Note to self: Block out 1-2 days in December for intentional reflection.
 
We just passed mid-year in the midst of a pandemic, forcing us to spend more time by ourselves. Maye now is a good time to reflect. Or, look ahead and intentionally plan for that.
 
How about you - What’s YOUR impact?
 
Mon 3 August 2020
As a business, you must be constantly setting new goals and working towards accomplishing your current goals. The goals you aim for need to be big enough to ensure consistent growth while remaining tangible, realistic, and achievable.  

But goals also need to be flexible. Managing how your team goes about accomplishing those goals requires you to be open to suggestions and improvements or else risk falling behind the pack. 

Oftentimes, there will be an aspirational quantifiable goal that your team is working towards accomplishing. For example, reaching $1 million in annual revenue. While there are many different ways you can accomplish this goal, the conventional wisdom is usually to follow the same methods that lead you here and keep progressing along the same path towards that goal.

Sometimes, the plans that got you here are not the plans that will lead you to your ultimate goal. Let’s continue with the quantity goal of achieving $1 million in revenue. Now let’s say you are collecting monthly payments on your product or service, and your sales team is growing sales at 10% month-over-month: it looks like you are well on your way! But you might be missing crucial factors. You might not notice until it’s too late that your product isn’t high enough quality to retain those clients and now you are losing 20% of clients after three months. Now you are stuck in a situation that is essentially just pouring water to a leaky bucket.

The cost to make the quality adjustments might be really expensive…but the cost of consistently losing business is usually going to be worse. If there aren’t quality controls in place, it’s going to make achieving your $1 million in revenue goal harder and make the next important milestone even more difficult to achieve if you don’t change your things up. 

Word spreads quickly and first impressions are incredibly important! If word spreads that your quality is inconsistent, you will saturate the market with a negative reputation and eventually find it very difficult to garner new customers.

Essentially, the cost of consistently putting out a bad product becomes more and more expensive as word spreads. This cost to reputation quickly grows to be significantly greater than the cost of doing nothing.

A story that does a great job of conveying this is the story of Pixar Animation Studios and the story of Toy Story 2. In the 1980’s, Steve Jobs (after getting let go by the board of Apple) bought Pixar from Lucas Film, and in the early 1990’s the Walt Disney Company hired Pixar to make 1 full-length, completely computer-animated movie.

At the time, there had never been a full-length completely computer animated movie. It had never been done. Pixar had done shorts before (and actually won an Oscar in 1988 for Tin Toy), but they had never made a full-length movie before. The agreement was that the Walt Disney Company would pay for the entire cost of producing the film but would receive 100% of the royalties. 

Steve Jobs and the Pixar management team knew that this was not necessarily the greatest deal for them. They knew that if the movie was a hit and Disney kept all of the royalties, they would have Pixar hamstrung and forced into this type of deal for the future because their profit on this deal was minimal.

Therefore, right before Pixar’s first movie with Disney went live to theaters, they made a bold move. They decided to have an Initial Public Offering (IPO). This was risky because if their first movie flopped, the company would be out of business. But, if it was a success, they knew Disney would come back to them to make more films and the additional funds from IPO would allow them to cover their half of the production cost and take a half of the royalties. 

Their first movie: Toy Story. 

What else needs to be said? But just in case you need a refresher: Toy Story was a smash success and won an Oscar in 1995.

The Walt Disney Company agreed to a deal to cover half of the production cost for two more movies and split the royalties with Pixar. This was still a relatively risky spot for Pixar because if any of these movies flopped, they would be on the hook for it. 

Pixar’s next movie was A Bug’s Life. Not only was it another great box office success and instant classic, but the production of the film went off without a hitch. 

Their second movie was Toy Story 2, and the production of the much-anticipated sequel was not nearly as smooth as A Bug’s Life or even the original Toy Story. In fact, Toy Story 2 almost ended up never being released…twice! 

Because Pixar was a young and quickly growing company, they hadn’t really established the type of quality protocol and procedures necessary when making films. Like most startups, they were flying by the seat of their pants. 

Since they were making A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 at the same time, they had to split their teams to focus on each respective movie and hired an outside film director to direct Toy Story 2. 

The Pixar team was so focused on releasing A Bug’s Life that they gave essentially free reign to this new director to direct Toy Story 2. By the time Toy Story 2 was “ready” for a final review, Pixar encountered a huge problem: the movie just wasn’t very good. It simply wasn’t emotionally gripping or well-put together. 

The Pixar team had to make a choice: keep this sub-par film that they invested millions of dollars into, or scrap the entire film and start over (and risk upsetting everyone that worked on the original Toy Story 2).

The short-term risk was losing the millions of dollars they spent producing the film. The long-term risk was losing the Walt Disney Company as a financial and commercial partner, leaving them having to go off on their own and figure out distribution channels, promotion, and everything else that Disney brought to the table that made their involvement so valuable.

So, Pixar decided to pivot. They scrapped the entire first draft of the movie (losing millions of dollars) and started over. 

Production was going well: great story, great characters, great emotion. But, right before Toy Story 2 (the second version) was ready to be released, something happened. The developers at Pixar were working on improving some small visual features and that involved writing over the code in some folder. But, they used the wrong command: ask a programmer and they will let you know that this is easy to do! So, when they went to delete and replace the folder, the command instead started deleting every file it encountered. And…a developer accidentally entered that command. After a moment, they started seeing files disappearing and realized what was happening.

Everything was deleted. Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potatohead, everything! They scrapped millions of dollars on the first movie and then accidentally deleted the entire second go-around of this movie. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone knows to backup important work, right? Except the backups were untested, and failed when they tried to retrieve their work. All seemed lost. 

However, they had a lifeline. One of their employees who was pregnant was granted the opportunity to work from home (back when working from home wasn’t the norm). Every week, she would back up the entire movie on her home hard drive. After they realized this, they dashed to her house to find out whether or not their entire project was truly gone. 

The Pixar team drove to her house, picked up her hard drive and…it was all there! 

The movie released and was a total success and laid the groundwork for Pixar to create: Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and so many other movies that became instant classics.

Pixar had an original goal: to make 2 movies with Disney. They could have stuck to the original version of Toy Story 2, but that could have led to lost business and opportunities down the line (the equivalent of a leaky bucket). 

Pixar chose to pivot in the face of adversity for the opportunity to set themselves up in the long-term.

They created the Brain Trust which is a quality control team that meets with directors weekly to ensure that the movies they are directing are on track and quality.

They also implemented technical systems that prevented employees from losing everything in their system, and ensuring that their work is backed up, that their backups are backed up, and that those are backed up too! 

Technically, Pixar didn’t need to make either of those pivots to make 2 movies. But to make 2 high quality movies that would sustain the success of their business for years to come, these pivots were absolutely necessary.

The point: having goals is a great first step. But to maintain your success, you are going to need to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that what you are doing now isn’t perfect and will be improved. There are some activities that may not directly drive your outcome in the short-term, but will absolutely lead you to success over the long term. Knowing when, how, and just being open to pivoting is critical to your success as a leader and as a company.

Wed 5 August 2020
This week I had my second meeting with my Peer Mentor and it was another good one.   Each time we meet Garrett has a recommended agenda that ensures each meeting will be productive and avoids the “So, what do you want to talk about today” condition that can be stifling.  However, he always gives us permission to deviate from “the script” and go wherever the moment takes us. The topic was “Collaboration” and this time we stuck to the agenda.  We were asked to share the biggest challenge facing us currently, but that wasn’t all.  We were supposed to ask our mentor to assist us with the challenge – not just give advice on how to deal with it.  

When I first read that I thought, “Since my biggest challenge is something I need to do at/for work and Mike can’t work on that, I better pick some other challenge that he can help with.”   Then, when I shared this thought with Garrett he pushed back.  “Why limit Mike and possibly miss a great opportunity for him to collaborate with you?”   That’s when I realized that this sort of pre-qualifying others for their help is something that I do a lot.   How many times at work, at home, at church, or elsewhere have I faced a situation that I could use some help but I tell myself, “(that person) can’t help you with that”, so I never ask.   Even when that person is there to help!   

I don’t know if this is function of pride (I don’t really need the help), or trying to save the other person from having to say, “Sorry, I can’t help with that”, or being afraid that they may reject me and refuse to help.   Whatever it is, I’m sure that it has cost me many many hours and dollars trying to struggle on my own.  Further, how many people have I denied the opportunity to be helpful to me.  When I do that it is truly lose-lose. 

After this session, I’ve decided that I would be more open with those around me who may have abilities that I’m unaware of that would be perfect for my present challenge.   Who is in your circle that would be happy to help you in ways that you didn’t even know they could?

Wed 12 August 2020
Over the course of my career, there has been an increasing focus on making work “easier”.  This initiative has taken many forms over the years, ranging from process improvements and documentation, to streamlining meetings, to improved electronic platforms, etc.  As I began to get involved with the Ambition in Motion program, my personal workload began to increase as well, and more than ever the need for an “easy” application was essential.

 I can comfortably say that this program is very easy, with a clearly defined structure, easy to follow instructions, and continued touchpoints and follow-up from the program administrators.  In addition to the regular Mentorship sessions, there as many other opportunities for personal growth.  I can honestly say that the most difficult portion of this program is personally finding the time to take full advantage of what is offered.  I am very excited to see how this continues to grow and evolve.



Mon 17 August 2020
I am in a mentoring relationship with another CEO who has been having some people issues at this company. The focus of our most recent conversation was how to handle these types of situations without harming company culture and morale.

The issue he is focused on right now is with his controller (or lead accountant). His controller is a really nice guy, everybody loves him, and from a company culture perspective, he brings positivity to the workplace. But, he just isn’t getting his work done on time, and he is often a bottle-neck for the entire company. 

My CEO mentor recognizes this and doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t want to fire him because people genuinely like him and he has positive attributes that make the work environment rewarding. But he can’t let the whole company be hamstrung because of one person’s delayed work.

3 weeks earlier, this CEO mentor of mine had a similar issue with a couple of his salespeople. They were nice employees and people liked them, but they also weren’t getting the job done. In that situation, the CEO essentially gave his salespeople an ultimatum: “If you don’t increase your performance, we are going to have to move in a different direction.”

The result…both salespeople took his suggestion, moved in a different direction, and left with a sour taste in their mouth of their working experience.

It didn’t stop there either. Additional costs for the company and my CEO mentor were significant because he now needed to recruit, hire, and train 2 new salespeople, all the while losing out on the sales from the 2 former employees. This all set him back on accomplishing other business goals that he set his company.

The CEO decided that he wanted a different outcome with his controller. My mentor realized that the ideal outcome would be to transition him to a different role without the employee taking this as a personal affront.

Neither he nor I knew if that could be possible, but my CEO mentor knew there had to be a different, and better, strategy than the “my way or the highway” approach.

One thing that he brought up to me in our conversation was Marshall Rosenberg’s idea of Nonviolent Communication.

Nonviolent Communication is a series of steps that help de-escalate a potentially contentious situation by stating the facts, removing emotional generalizations (e.g. because I hate when you do that, or because it wasn’t fair for me), and provides a clear, tangible next step that is ideally reasonable and accepted.

The steps to nonviolent communication are: observation, feeling, need, and request.

Observation is an unequivocal fact that can’t be disagreed with. When conveying the observation, there shouldn’t be a positive or negative tone in the voice of the person stating the observation. It is merely a statement of fact.

Feeling is the feeling that the person initiating Nonviolent Communication is feeling. This is ONLY THE FEELING. Anything else that comes with the feeling is irrelevant. Feelings include: mad, sad, angry, frustrated, and anxious. Avoid insults and anything that starts with “I think”. Also, it can be easy to fall into the trap of mistaking insults for feelings (e.g., “You do this on purpose to be a jerk”). 

Need is a need that everyone can agree to. A need is not “I need you to do xyz things”. A need is a higher level notion that is aspirational and is something that EVERYONE can work towards. It holds the person conveying Nonviolent Communication, the person receiving it, and anyone else involved accountable to this need. An example could include “my need is a work environment where people are respected, they get their work done, and they can find joy in the workplace.” Most people can agree that they would consider this a need for their work environment. 

Request is a specific, tangible, ideally measurable request that is reasonably achievable. If it is vague, it will be difficult to know if it was achieved and if it is unreasonable, it will create resentment. A bad example of a request would be “my request is that you never interrupt me again.” This is a bad example because it requests for somebody to change actions instantaneously and without margin for error. An employee might develop some minor habit of inadvertently interrupting you but not realize it frustrates you so much. So, when you finally decide to bring it up to them and ask (order!) them to never do it again, you are presenting an unrealistic request and not seeking to understand the person. A better request would be:

“My request is that when we have a conversation, you try practicing reflective listening, meaning that when we have a conversation, you take a pause after I am done speaking to reflect on what I just said before jumping in with what you are going to say. I recognize that this might take time to practice and implement, but my request is that you give it a chance and are intentional about practicing it in conversations.”

You could potentially add in a specific number of times that would be acceptable for that person to interrupt you to be measurable, but that may sound condescending for this situation. The key difference is that the request is much more likely to be adopted than the original bad example. By practicing Nonviolent Communication and working with the person, you are working together to find the best solution for all parties.

So, my CEO mentor decided to apply Nonviolent Communication to his situation with his controller to see if it might be able to achieve his desired goal of getting him to work on a different task while showing him respect and maintaining his dignity.

His observation: The accounting work that was due on June 20th came in on July 1st. This has happened each of the past 3 months, and we have had several conversations about the importance of timely accounting work over the past 3 months.

His feelings: He feels frustrated and anxious. 

His need: A work environment where people are respected, they get their work done, and they can find joy in the workplace.

His request: “Would you be open to helping onboard a new controller over the next 3 weeks, and then transitioning your work to the marketing department afterwards?”

The result…his controller was open to it! The CEO mentor of mine may not have perfectly implemented the keys to Nonviolent Communication, but he did them well enough to achieve his desired goal. This part is important: you won’t get it perfect on your first try. But practice makes perfect, and even imperfect execution can help you solve your people problems. 

His controller, now marketing assistant, helped onboard the new controller, and because he was so well-liked by others at the company, his transition to marketing was smooth. So far, he is getting his work done on time and finding a greater passion for his work in marketing compared to accounting.

As business leaders, we may scoff at the idea of showing emotion at work and sharing our feelings. And if we do, they may come out as massive generalizations that can be hurtful and negative to culture. In this example, this CEO mentor of mine showed emotion, vulnerability, and subsequently leadership and was able to accomplish his goals and his company goals. 

Mon 30 November 2020
When work engagement stats are brought up inside a company, employee engagement levels are typically correlated to the impact engagement has on retention, employee productivity, minimized sick days, overall team morale, and how it impacts a company’s culture.

Naturally, when most executives learn about the importance of monitoring and improving engagement they typically invest in these services for their employees. They want to know their team’s engagement score and work on pursuing activities that can improve their engagement.

But what about measuring engagement for the executives?

This may seem like an odd thing to measure for an executive because, as an executive, you would naturally think that your fellow executives aren’t going anywhere (especially if they are the founder or CEO). Furthermore, often their compensation is tied to their performance so they are economically incentivized to perform at their best.

The issue with this train of thought is that it fails to properly understand what engagement is. So much research has used engagement and its downstream effects to show how it impacts the bottom line.  As there are fewer people at the top of an organizational chart and more people lower in the hierarchy, you might think that this is the most cost-effective way to apply engagement because it would directly affect the greatest number of people.

Therefore, it would make sense that when executives learn about this research, they are interested in measuring it for those employees that work for them and are less interested in measuring it for themselves–executives should have no economic reason to rack up sick days, be less productive, or leave. 

But this is simply not the case. Instead, this is a blind spot for executives! I’ll explain more below, but first, let’s take it up a level. 

What is engagement?

Engagement is the culmination of emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment employees (including executives!) have at work. Executives are employees too! 

I run an executive Horizontal Mentorship program where I pair two executives from different companies (and typically industries) together for Horizontal Mentorship. If you aren’t familiar, Horizontal Mentorship flips the script on classic mentorship programs by creating mutually beneficial mentor partnerships instead of hierarchical, top-down mentor-mentee relationships. I also run corporate Horizontal Mentor programs where I pair employees within a company together for mentorship.

When I started the first executive mentor program, I made a mistake when sending out the initial assessment. I accidentally forgot to take off the engagement questions that are originally meant for the corporate Horizontal Mentor programs that I run. 

I assumed that executives didn’t need to measure their engagement and that it would just take extra time on their assessment. But, by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late and the executives had taken the assessment in its entirety. They were good sports about the length of the assessment, so I might have been wrong twice in one assessment!  

When it came time to collect the follow-up data after 6 months of their Horizontal Mentor relationship, I figured if we already had the original assessment with the engagement questions, we might as well reassess with those exact same questions.

Here is what I learned:

The average executive improved their engagement score by 5% in 6 months!

This is fascinating for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that work engagement for executives is malleable, just like other employees. When we break down engagement into its components (emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment), it is clear how an executive can be impacted by these factors. Now let’s look at each component in a bit more detail. 

Emotional Attachment: We learned that executives, when talking with the same people, doing similar actions, and pursuing similar outcomes – over time – can reduce their emotional attachment to what they are working on.

Energy: We learned that executives need a break as well. When somebody spends too much time working on one thing and talking to the same people, they are eventually going to burn out unless something changes.

Camaraderie: We learned that executives need new, fresh perspectives in their world and if they aren’t seeking that out, they can’t appreciate the relationships they have at their own company.

Work Fulfillment: We learned that work becomes less fulfilling when executives are stuck in their own echo chamber, but becomes more fulfilling when they can learn about what somebody outside of their network (that they can relate to) is going through.

Second, it highlights how easy it is for an executive to get stuck. When first entering this executive Horizontal Mentorship program, their engagement scores weren’t alarming, but clearly there was another gear these executives simply weren’t hitting before their mentor experience.

Third, it demonstrates the need, and importance, for executives to have somebody that can see the forest from the trees and help them get outside of their bubble. Learning another’s perspective clearly sheds light on how executives can improve in their own world and gives them invaluable perspective. 

If you are an executive reading this article, you might be able to relate to some of the points brought up about engagement. You might feel that you are losing the emotional attachment to your work, starting to feel burnt out, appreciating those you work with less, or just not finding your work as fulfilling as you used to. 

If you can relate to any of those common feelings, that is great as that means you can start the process of doing something about it. And if those feelings seem alien to you, then that is normal as well. Most of the executives in our executive Horizontal Mentorship program never mentioned concerns with their engagement at work, but they showed improved engagement scores as well! 

The point is that executives should absolutely be monitoring their own engagement levels. Engagement, for executives, doesn’t typically become a conscious concern until it gets really bad. This is because of all of the economic incentives companies have for performance – e.g. “if I am making more money or creating more value for my shares of stock in the company then I can push through this without any help.” 

Everyone faces ebbs and flows of their engagement at work, and the engagement of executives is especially important because how executives treat their coworkers will ripple outward and impact the engagement of everyone they interact with. 

These engagement levels should be monitored and actions should be taken to enhance engagement because ignoring them only leads to work (and eventually personal life) getting worse.

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 22 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.

People Management

People Management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learning more.

If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your people management abilities, this can indicate a lack of confidence/clarity about what you do that helps your colleagues, a higher level of excellence at work, or a lack of trust.

Lack of confidence/clarity about what you do that helps your colleagues

If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your people management abilities, that would indicate that your colleagues feel like you are stronger at people management than you believe you are. They may think you are great at building and maintaining work relationships, being helpful to others’ work, and being open to constructive criticism than your own assessment would suggest. This indicates a lack of confidence/clarity because if you felt confident and clear about how you help others and provide a safe place for others to give you constructive input, you likely would have scored yourself higher.

A Higher Level of Excellence at work

Just because your colleagues report your people management skills favorably, that doesn’t mean that you believe it. This may indicate that you set a higher level of excellence at work because, similar to lack of confidence, if you felt like you were engaged on all of these tasks, then you likely would have scored yourself higher. An example of this occurs in the popular Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambit. Essentially, the show is about a woman who is an incredible chess player and is unrelenting with her standard of excellence. For example, after winning her first state-wide chess competition she immediately set her eye on the next prize: being the best chess player in the country. Rather than settling for being the best in her state, she chooses to rededicate herself towards a higher goal. The point is that she wasn’t satisfied at the level she began at, but she made strides to improve her performance over time and her excellence followed suit.

Lack of trust

This reason primarily revolves around the topic of openness to receiving constructive feedback. If you don’t feel like people are open and honest when offering constructive feedback, then when they do offer feedback (positive or otherwise), you might dismiss its validity because “they must be holding back their honest assessment”. If you believe people are holding back their full feedback then the implication is that you don’t trust everything they are saying. This could be accurate as some people “fluff” their feedback for fear of being confrontational, but if your colleagues report via an anonymous assessment that you are open to receiving constructive feedback, that should hopefully be a signal that you can trust that they aren’t holding back when offering you feedback.

Here are a few solutions to closing the gap in one’s people management abilities. One is simply to ask your colleagues how your actions support their work so you can get a better understanding of your impact. You can also try thinking about how your work is helpful to your colleagues via introspection and spending more time asking clarifying questions when receiving constructive feedback.

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.

Sat 23 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.

Innovation

Innovation is a critical skill to possess in any working environment, even (and probably especially) if your role requires you to follow strict protocols and procedures. Innovation stretches across one’s willingness to pursue new activities or actions that can drive different results, ability to incorporate others in the innovation process, and propensity to challenge conventional thinking.

If you gave yourself a lower score on your ability to innovate than your colleagues then that could indicate a lack of confidence, a lack of communication, or lack of feedback.

Lack of confidence

When people rate themselves lower than their colleagues in their innovation, it might be because they feel that they just aren’t innovative. For example, one of the colleagues I worked with in the past frequently said things like “I’m not techy” and “I’m not innovative”. This left me a bit surprised because, from my perspective, her innovative approach to our workplace was self-evident! Before working with us, she was a stay-at-home mom who volunteered with multiple nonprofits and taught yoga, and in her mind, she just assumed that people like her weren’t innovative and that’s just how it goes. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Shoot, the reason why our 360-degree assessments and associated reports have improved so much since we first started providing them is that she was willing to challenge the status quo, ask tough questions, and pursue useful solutions. The point is that oftentimes we underestimate our ability to innovate because we are conditioned to believe that our backstory or the role we are in isn’t conducive to innovation; this simply isn’t an accurate assessment of our own potential. If our colleagues believe we are innovative–more innovative than we believe ourselves to be–then clearly, we are doing something right and our colleagues see something in us that we may not see in ourselves.

Lack of communication/feedback

The other reason why people rate themselves lower than their colleagues in their innovation is because of a lack of good communication or feedback. Essentially, they simply have no idea that what they are doing is innovative, or that their work helping others in the business has led to consistent improvements. When people don’t have an understanding of why their actions were helpful to another person or a client, it can be difficult to comprehend whether or not one’s actions are innovative.

A few solutions to help close the gap in one’s innovation is to journal and write down all the new and different things you have tried over the past year (even if they didn’t work). You must give yourself credit just for trying because trying something new (even in failure) is an act of innovation. Give yourself permission to keep trying new things, even if you can’t fully predict their impact (and oftentimes no news is positive news!).

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 24 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.

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.
If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your leadership ability, that could indicate a lack of awareness for your own effects on the workplace or a lack of understanding of what is expected of great leaders compared to your own ability.

Lack of awareness

When seemingly great leaders (according to their colleagues) rate themselves lower than expected, they tend to do so because they are unsure which actions convey strong leadership in the eyes of their colleagues. To some, it’s the humble superhero sentiment of “anyone would have done what I did if they were in my shoes.” But the reality is that everyone has their own style when taking on the tasks that embody a leader and your colleagues seem to have noticed your abilities. 

Lack of understanding what is expected

The other major reason why somebody gives themselves a lower score on their leadership abilities compared to their colleagues is that they believe what is expected of them to be a leader is greater than the way they have performed up until this point. Similar to lack of awareness, typically this person doesn’t know what is expected from the leader and they tend to set the bar of what they believe a leader is way too high. They still fulfill the role of leader, but might not realize it. Or they think that they could be doing better and don’t give themselves enough credit. Similar to the dissatisfaction Michael Jordan had during the peak of his NBA career with his own game (and wanting to always make improvements), people in this category set an unattainable bar of leadership that is impossible to achieve.

There are several possible solutions to help close the gap in one’s leadership ability. The first is to contemplate and think about the possible reasons why your team considers you to be a strong leader. You might not give yourself credit for it, but your colleagues do! So, try learning to trust their judgment by considering what exactly your team sees that you don’t. You can also try creating a list of all of the times this past year where you stepped up and helped your team as a leader (even if you think anyone would have done it). You need to give yourself credit for the times you stepped up as a leader and try to create some form of celebration (no celebration is too small) for when you practice effective leadership and step up to the plate.

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.

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.

Tue 26 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.

Financial Management

Financial management is a skill that is often overlooked but can have a large impact on the company. Financial management is based on one’s ability to manage the resources they oversee (including their time and the way they are spending their time at work), a company budget, and others’ perception of a person being fiscally responsible.

If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues did on your financial management, that could indicate that your team is unaware of the way you are spending resources or that you don’t trust yourself as much as your team trusts you with financial management.

Your team is unaware of the way you are spending resources

If you are in charge of a budget and the only thing your team sees is whether or not you are able to pay for things (e.g. their pay stubs and other amenities around work), it can be easy to understand why your team would think that you are managing the funds optimally. When teams are left in the dark, all they can formulate is their perception of what is going. If you put on a good face and they consistently get their check, they may feel like there is nothing to worry about. If you feel like you have made some poor financial choices, your team could be completely unaware of these choices (or their effects). If you aren’t directly in charge of a budget, you could be wasting time or resources at work. If everyone sees you at work and it seems like you are working hard, most people won’t question whether you are putting in an optimum effort. If you know that you could be more efficient or productive at work and others don’t know, that could be a reason for a gap between self-perception and colleague perception.

You don’t trust yourself as much as your team trusts you with finances

In school, many people get stuck in the rut of being “naturally just bad at math”, and they let this label hinder their ability to grow their math skills. In the professional world, a similar issue can arise with Financial Management skills. Many people have been conditioned to believe that they just aren’t great at managing finances because of things that have happened in their own or their family’s past.

Here are a few solutions to help close the gap in one’s financial management. Ask your colleagues why they believe you are so strong in financial management. Try to find out what specific tasks you do and actions you take that give them that impression. Share your expenses with your team and try to find out whether you could be better at managing them. Be sure to listen to their feedback and incorporate useful ideas into your own methods. And if you manage your team’s budget, create incentives that encourage cost-consciousness. If you don’t manage your team’s budget, ask the person who does which parts of your work are the most prone to waste and ask for feedback on how you can be more efficient.

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.

Thu 28 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. 

People Management

People Management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learn more.

If you gave yourself a people management score that aligns with your colleagues, we can consider two types of outcomes depending on how well you rated your performance. 

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If you gave yourself a relatively low score and your colleagues agree with you, the reason why this isn’t a good thing should be immediately apparent. You perhaps gave yourself a low score because you don’t believe that people management is one of your strengths. Of course, acknowledging your shortcomings is the first step to improvement, however, the fact that your colleagues agree with you is concerning because that means they feel it as well.

One option is to just shrug it off and think to yourself “I am not in a role that requires me to manage people so my performance in this area doesn’t really matter.”

If you feel this way, I want to challenge that thinking. Whether you are relatively low on your company’s org chart, are a solopreneur and don’t have any direct reports, or are in pretty much any scenario where you don’t think you are managing people, I can make an argument that there is some form of people management going on.

If you are relatively low on your company’s org chart, that does not mean that you can’t manage up. Managing up is the notion that we, as employees, control our work environment and outcomes just as much as our managers do, and we have the capabilities to communicate our goals, roles, and what we are comfortable with in a way that allows for us to be productive while protecting our boundaries.

If you are not able to manage up, you may end up entirely at the mercy of your manager or other stakeholders. For example, if you are a full-stack developer but prefer to work on front-end design work and your boss keeps assigning you to back-end data tasks, without managing up, you are going to be frustrated/bored with the work you do. Either your leadership will keep asking you to do things because they are assuming that you will tell them when enough is enough or you will get the same tasks over and over again and feel the strain of monotony. Either way, the inability to people manage will create stress on your life.

If you are a solopreneur without any direct reports, you still report to your clients. People management is the ultimate in setting expectations and delivering results. Your clients could end up “firing” you if you can’t properly set and communicate expectations, or you could burn yourself out by working yourself ragged meeting trying to meet and achieve an impossible goal that a client demands. By practicing people management, you could change those outcomes by creating a shared perspective on the tasks ahead or even helping your client avoid an impossible expectation without causing them offense. 

If you are in any other scenario where you don’t feel like you should improve your people management abilities, challenge yourself with the following questions:

·        Am I enjoying my work?
·        If I continue doing my work like this with the same people for the next 5 years, will I still continue to enjoy my work and get compensated in a way that satisfies me?
·        Will I feel like I am growing in my career in 5 years if things stay the same?

If you answered yes to all 3 questions, then there is nothing you need to change. But, we find that the vast majority of people say no to at least one of these questions and that necessitates interacting with others and managing those relationships.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you gave yourself a relatively high score for your people management ability and your colleagues agree with you, that is a great thing.

But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for growth!

Here is a story that I believe exemplifies this. I have a cousin named Xavier. Xavier loves to play basketball. When Xavier plays basketball with his friends that live in his neighborhood, he crushes them and they think he is a great player. But, when Xavier plays against kids at his high school, he gets beat. Unsurprisingly, Xavier loves the comfort of playing against kids in his neighborhood and doesn’t love getting beat (so Xavier doesn’t bring it up to them). Since the kids in his neighborhood never get to see him getting beat, they still believe Xavier is the best player they have ever played against.

The point: oftentimes at work we lose objectivity.

We don’t have a work version of “high school basketball” where we can compare our skills. All we have is our insulated work environment. So, all our colleagues know is our current work environment and their past work environments to compare it to. Without additional experience, they might not realize your potential for growth, even with a high rating. 

The question you have to ask yourself is: “Am I really the Michael Jordan of people management? Or am I more like Xavier?” 

More likely than not, you are more like Xavier. 

This isn’t a bad thing. It is awesome that you have the respect and admiration of those you work with. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. And honestly, even Michael Jordan would realize that his personal best is only his best so far if he keeps improving. 

What you can do to improve

Ask - If you would like to know how you can be more helpful to your colleagues - Spend more time intentionally asking your colleagues how you can help support their work. 

Introspect - If you would like to start being more helpful to your colleagues on your own - Take more time to consider what you could do to be more helpful for your colleagues. Be sure to check with them if that would be helpful to them.

Manage - If you would like to be more approachable for constructive feedback - Spend more time asking your colleagues for areas in which you can improve and communicating you want this feedback so you can improve yourself as a professional.

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.

Fri 29 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. 

Innovation

Innovation is a critical skill to possess in any working environment, even (and probably especially) if your role requires you to follow strict protocols and procedures. Innovation stretches across one’s willingness to pursue new activities or actions that can drive different results, ability to incorporate others in the innovation process, and propensity to challenge conventional thinking.

If your score was self-aware with your colleagues, it can mean that you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues agreed or you gave yourself a low score and your colleagues agreed.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

Innovation is an interesting component to work with because there is a relatively wide gap between being innovative and others knowing that you are innovative.

The reason for this is because innovation is time-intensive, difficult, and requires persistence. And to put it simply, not everyone is willing to put in the work needed to innovate.

For this reason, if we choose to stick with a problem and try to identify a better solution, sometimes we can ostracize ourselves from others because we may fear that they won’t be as motivated as we are to focus on identifying the solution. 

If this is the case, others have no idea that what we are doing is innovative.

Another common characteristic of those that are innovative is humility. Innovation is a never-ending pursuit. Because of that, many people who are innovative at heart will rate themselves low on innovation. Instead, they may focus more on where they want to be rather than where they are now.

You may be on the other side of this coin where you actually don’t believe you are innovative. You might think that you don’t invest the time, hard work, and persistence necessary to come up with innovative solutions at work. This could be because of lack of opportunity, lack of knowing what to do, or just lack of interest.

If you lack interest in being innovative, there probably isn’t much here that is of interest to you. And that could be totally fine because some roles don’t require constant innovation. Instead, these types of roles demand consistency and perfection for crucial, yet repetitive, tasks. And this type of work can allow the person to live the life they want to live outside of work and not have to invest their limited time on the next big breakthrough.

But if you feel like you lack opportunities or are unsure of what to do, becoming more innovative starts with you putting in the effort. Take a moment to jot down all the components of your work that frustrate you or your colleagues. Imagine an ideal world where your boss immediately implements your ideas and gives you the budget to follow through – how would you alleviate those frustrations? Once you have identified the ideal version of the solution, take a step closer to reality and think about how that idea or an idea similar to that idea and achieves a similar result could be done on a minimal budget. Once you have identified the minimal budget idea that would minimize frustrations, take one more step closer and think about how that idea could be implemented in a way that has minimum impact on the way your team or boss does their work. Finally, now comes the part where you must take a chance: testing out your idea. You should (usually) ask your boss for permission if you feel it is required, but the dirty little secret here is that the preferred method is just taking the plunge and going for it. Most change initiatives are met with reflexive resistance, and sometimes you will need to be decisive to innovate. If it works you are a hero and if it doesn’t, what is the worst that could happen? If you think the worst thing that could happen is really bad - like getting fired or hurting somebody, ask for permission. But if the worst that could happen is a lecture about why you shouldn’t have done that, I would give it a shot.

Once you start getting into the practice of innovating, invite others to join you in the innovation process. By including others, you empower them to be innovative and build upon your shared experience and perspective, reducing the chance that a blind spot will turn your innovative ideas into creative disasters. As an additional benefit, humans are social creatures, and collaboration makes the team more supportive of innovative thinking.

One example of this was when I studied abroad in China. I have always been fascinated by business and entrepreneurship and I loved (and still love) to discuss entrepreneurship with my friends (and really anyone who was willing to engage with me in conversation). Many of my friends that I studied abroad with in China had wealthy parents who had expat friends living in China. My friends knew that these expat friends were going to talk about business and entrepreneurship when they took them out for dinners. So, when my friends attended those dinners with these expat venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, I was the friend they invited to tag along because they knew that I would chat about entrepreneurship with them. 

The point of this story is that what you put out you receive back (law of attraction). If you put out that you are interested in innovating on components of work that are frustrating, others will approach you to innovate AND consider you a more innovative person.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you gave yourself a relatively high score for your innovation and your colleagues agreed with you, that is great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t room for growth.

People can only base their perception of somebody or something based on what they have already experienced. If they are used to work styles that aren’t conducive to innovation, they might have an overly generous view of your own innovativeness. That is not to say that your actions aren’t innovative, but it does mean that you should question and challenge yourself to see if you can be more innovative.

Innovation is not a destiny, it is a journey. To convey this point, I like a story Tony Robbins has shared. Tony Robbins is a popular motivational speaker and at one of his events, one of his attendees mentioned to him “In 3 years, I am going to be where you are at!”

Tony’s response was “That may be true, but when that time comes you will be where I was 3 years ago!”

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.

Sat 30 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. 

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.

If you gave yourself a score that was consistent with what your colleagues said of you, it can mean that you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues agreed with you or you gave yourself a low score and your colleagues agreed with you.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If you gave yourself a relatively low score on your leadership ability and your colleagues agreed with you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad leader and your colleagues have confirmed it. Oftentimes, we give ourselves a low score on our leadership ability out of humility and recognition that leadership is a trait that can always be improved. However, when our colleagues feel like we aren’t strong at leadership either, this can typically be attributed to our ability to communicate.

People tend to perceive others as lacking leadership abilities NOT because of their inability to speak up, but more often because when one does speak up, it is perceived as self-centered and only benefiting the person making the request. Simply, leadership for yourself instead of for the team.

Here is an example of this situation. Many years ago, I was a server and bartender at a restaurant. My manager was a well-intentioned guy who read all the leadership books and constantly talked about how he wanted to improve his leadership abilities. I didn’t give him a 360-degree assessment, but I would imagine that his self-rating on leadership ability would be somewhat low because he recognized that there were areas for growth in his leadership repertoire. The issue was, although he understood the theory and high-level ideas from his books, his implementation of information was off. He never had a pulse for how we, the people who reported to him, felt about his management style and the processes he wanted to implement. To convey the importance of organizational citizenship and helping fellow servers and bartenders, he told all of us a story of a time that he pulled over to help somebody fix a flat tire. His goal was to convey that helping others is the right thing to do and can have a positive impact on the team. However, we noticed that the story was just about him. To us, it felt like he was just patting himself on the back, and because he never gave a resolution (e.g., the person he helped never spoke with him again), it was relatively unclear as to why helping others can have a positive impact on the rest of the team. 

The point is that sometimes we can be educated about the theory of what it means to be a leader, but our efforts to implement those leadership strategies may not fully resonate with those we work with unless we ask for feedback and be open to making adjustments after learning the feedback.

Another reason you may have given yourself a low leadership score (and your colleagues agreed with you) could be because you don’t actually believe you are a strong leader and your role doesn’t necessitate that you be a leader. 

But being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a placard or title labeled leader. Leadership abilities can include helping set expectations for your work with those you work with, taking accountability for mistakes that may happen, and giving acknowledgement to others when they have helped you.

Leadership ability transcends titles and enters into the realm of just being a good professional to work with. Thinking you aren’t good at these skills and then having your colleagues confirm these beliefs can be tough. But it’s no help if you start thinking there is nothing you can or need to do about it. If you don’t work on these components of your professionalism, you become an energy-taker instead of an energy-giver. People will resent working with you because they will perceive you as being selfish and uninterested in the outcome of the team. And if you are actually selfish and uninterested in the outcome of the team, then perhaps it makes sense to reflect on yourself and on your time to figure out the best use of it. There are plenty of jobs out there. If you are working at a company with a team, or just doing work that is uninteresting to you, then perhaps it is time to consider another line of work because the time you are spending doing your current work doesn’t appear to be serving you or those you work with.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you have a relatively high leadership ability score and your colleagues agree with you, that is excellent, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have achieved the pinnacle of leadership ability. 

Leadership ability is an interesting concept because the ultimate measure of success as a leader is both: how does my team feel about working with me AND what outcomes are we achieving as a team.

If you rated yourself highly and your team agrees with you, you can check off half of the box. However, how is your performance? Finding the right balance between output and keeping people satisfied, both doing the work and in your leadership ability, is the key to being the best leader you can be.

Therefore, when it comes to the question of output, you must assess comfort versus optimization. In terms of comfort, the question is: are you and your team achieving a performance level in which 1) the business can operate effectively, and 2) people are satisfied with their compensation? If the answer to either part is no, then you have a big problem. This means you are a supportive leader and your leadership style is appreciated, but it also means that you haven’t set the bar high enough. Something needs to change so the business can run at a level where everyone is comfortable.

There is a tv show on Hulu called Ramy. It is an interesting show about a man in his late 20’s trying to figure out his life. At the beginning of season 1, Ramy is working at a startup. He and his colleagues recognize that they aren’t paid the best, but they believe in the mission and they like the people they work with. Unfortunately, the company performance leaves much to be desired. Eventually, the company isn’t able to drive the revenue or fundraising it needs to survive and everyone gets fired.

This is a small story within the tv show, but it shows that Ramy appreciated the founders of the startup at one point in time (e.g. would have given a high leadership score to the founders), but once the company started to fail and everyone was fired, they all left with a salty taste in their mouth about the entire experience. 

There are many factors for why a business eventually fails, but sometimes for fear of being perceived as a bad or overly aggressive leader to our team, we set lower bars for those we work with, even if it means the business can’t run comfortably. 

However, if your work exists comfortably (either from a leadership perspective or as an individual contributor), and your leadership ratings are mutually high, then you have to ask yourself if your work is running optimally.

If you are an individual contributor, the incentive may not be as clear as to why you would question this or pursue improvement to the optimum level. You are not necessarily getting compensated any more to make these improvements. As a leader, the motivation for this is pretty obvious – e.g. the better your team performs, the more valuable you are to the company.

But as an individual contributor, a big reason for wanting to improve your output to an optimum level, while maintaining a high level of respect from your colleagues as they perceive your leadership abilities, is control and autonomy. If you show a desire to push the status quo and improve the company’s output, you become substantially more valuable to the company. Being able to identify more efficient and innovative methods while keeping it easy for your colleagues to work with you because you set proper expectations and help them see opportunities that they may not have already seen, you become substantially more valuable to the company.  If your company can’t live without you, you will have the control and autonomy to try new things that the company would not trust others to try. 

If you ever had a shared family car growing up, this would be like always making sure you return the car to your parents with a full tank of gas (and occasionally a car wash) after you borrow it. Later, when it comes to borrowing the car for a concert 4 hours away, you have a track record of responsibility and respect for your parent’s car. 

The key to getting performance to an optimum level is not sacrificing the way your team feels about your leadership ability. The real key to being the best leader you can be is finding the balance between optimum performance and having the respect and support of your colleagues.

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.

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.

Mon 1 February 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. 

Financial Management

Financial management is a skill that is often overlooked but can have a large impact on the company. Financial management is based on one’s ability to manage the resources they oversee (including their time and the way they are spending their time at work), a company budget, and others’ perception of a person being fiscally responsible. 

If your colleagues' assessment of your financial management abilities is aligned with your own, that can be a very good thing or an opportunity for growth – depending on whether or not the score was high or low.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If you rated yourself low in your ability to manage finances and your colleagues agree with you, this can be a major opportunity for growth. 

Before diving into the implications behind why this is an opportunity for growth, it is probably wise to assess, internally, the reasons for your low self-rating and why your colleagues would also rate you low.

In terms of yourself, why would you rate yourself low on your ability to manage your finances? Are you taking (or have taken) actions that are financially detrimental to the company? If so, did you learn and alter your actions from the circumstance? Or do you think that you simply could be doing more or doing better overall?  

One of the largest expenses for a company is human capital. Some managers will rate themselves low in financial management because they are unwilling to have difficult conversations with colleagues about productivity, and those colleagues don’t realize the implications that their actions may have on the financial viability of the company.

This is the type of outcome many tech startups find themselves in. Essentially, they will raise money with the anticipation that by the time the money runs out, they will have garnered enough traction to justify a follow-on round of investment or have enough revenue to cover expenses. The area that most startup founders struggle with is managing the finances. More often than not, they believe they have a strong idea that requires strong employees (with high salaries) to implement the idea. The ultimate balance is between quality talent (and the funds used to pay them) compared to what they produce and the relative difference in outcomes between a top-paid team and a lower-paid group of professionals. Analyzing which aspects of the business require top caliber salaries is crucial because the drop off between the top-caliber and a solid hire but with less pay can be extensive in terms of the effect on the company’s bottom line. 

If you don’t manage a team, you might think to yourself “I don’t manage a budget therefore my ability to manage finances doesn’t really matter.”

I am going to make the argument that this notion is not correct at all.

If you are paid a salary (or hourly) for the time you put in at work, you manage finances – that being the time you spend working and how effective you are in the time you do spend at work. In some cases there are egregious misuses of time like taking actions detrimental to the business like working on non-work tasks while on the clock, spreading rumors or negative gossip about other employees, and clocking in late or early. 

There is also the contemplation of whether you are optimally using your work time. For example, if you know your brain is optimally effective in the morning, you should be considering that with your daily schedule. If you choose to pursue social tasks or tasks that don’t require deep thinking in the morning, you could be squandering your brain’s daily threshold of deep mental focus. If you have open office hours or are expected to have your emails checked and responded to within an hour, you are diminishing your ability to complete any task that requires focus because you are constantly having to check your email.

Think of your salary as a budget your company allocates to you to be optimally effective at work. Are there components to this budget that are misused or could time be reallocated in a way that is leveraged more effectively? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself, but once you get to a point where you feel like you are optimally leveraging your time at work, you can start to see improvements in your ability to manage the most important budget your company entrusts you with, your salary/time.

The biggest counterpoint I hear about why not be optimally effective with your work time is “everyone else clocks out early or takes breaks more frequently than advised. There doesn’t seem to be a financial incentive to perform any more optimally, so why should I work on optimizing this?”

The answer is that how others work should not affect how you work. Back to the analogy of considering your salary like a budget your company entrusts you with. If somebody mismanages their budget, does that justify that you should mismanage your own? 

Of course not! But this is a trap that people fall into all the time.

If you gave yourself a low score for your financial management abilities and your colleagues agree with you, that is a sign that you can improve yourself.

The best way to improve your abilities in this area is to research methods for best managing your time and creating a schedule for yourself that allows you to get the optimum amount of work done in a day given your unique set of responsibilities. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution as everyone has different work tasks. If your role requires you to frequently check emails, perhaps creating a space in time once or twice a day set aside for checking your emails. You could even create a “vacation” response informing senders when you will be checking your emails next so they can anticipate a response. Of course, this would need to account for specific time-sensitive requests if necessary. 

If you are willing to take action to start improving your efficiency at work (and encouraging your team as well, if necessary) you can start to measure whether what you tried worked or didn’t work. The best way to achieve improvement is to try things you haven’t tried before.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you rated yourself relatively high on your financial management abilities and your colleagues agreed with you, that is excellent. That is a positive sign that you are properly managing the time you are paid for both in terms of your salary and (if applicable) the budgets you have responsibility over. 

However, this is not necessarily something to get caught up in because there could be factors contributing to your colleagues' (potentially generous) rating or a lack of self-awareness causing you to rate yourself high. This may not be the case, but it is important to point out examples of these types of situations so you can assess whether they hold any weight.

For those who manage a budget, oftentimes their team will rate their financial management abilities high because as long as they receive their paycheck every two weeks, nothing else really matters. Many teams are completely unaware of which activities are the most expensive to the business. Most employees don’t understand the relative dollars they generate from their work and the specifics of why paying their specific salary is a financially responsible decision. 

Let’s use a pizza restaurant as an example. Say there are 3 people working inside the pizza place each making $10/hour and an additional manager making $20/hour. On top of that, the cost of running the ovens and the electricity comes out to roughly $5 per hour. If each pizza costs $10 and the company on average sells 10 pizzas every hour, they are driving an average net profit of $45 per hour. If the employees of the pizza place understand this, they can work on ways to try and sell more pizzas in the same hour to improve their own performance and the performance of the company – making them more valuable to the company.

Some leaders might read this story and start playing the “what if” game (e.g. what if my employee's demand raises because they understand the financial impact of their work?), coming up with every bad possible outcome if their employees knew their financial value to the company. But these old thought patterns should be reconsidered with new research.

In research from companies that leverage Open Book Management, companies in which the employees have a greater understanding of the financial implications of the company’s decisions perform better and are more profitable than companies who don’t. Conversations around raises and relative improvements to the business become substantially more tangible and objective when there is hard data justifying and showing how one person’s improved efficiency deserves greater compensation, especially compared to the “everyone gets a raise just because!” method of giving raises.

If you are an individual contributor for your company and you don’t manage a budget, per se, you still manage your time. If you consider your salary as a budget your company has entrusted you to manage, are you optimally using that budget?

One way to make improvements in this area is to identify potential opportunities for you to become more efficient at work. You could ask your boss or co-workers for feedback on ways you can be more efficient at work. And you could also provide some (ideally research or evidence-backed) suggestions for ways you have identified to help make yourself more efficient at work. Your manager will likely appreciate your drive for improvement and the fact that you came prepared with research-backed suggestions on ways you could improve your own efficiency and work output.

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.

Wed 17 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.

Financial Management

Financial management is a skill that is often overlooked but can have a large impact on the company. Financial management is based on one’s ability to manage the resources they oversee (including their time and the way they are spending their time at work), a company budget, and others’ perception of a person being fiscally responsible.

If you have overestimated your financial management abilities, you have either given yourself a moderate score and your colleagues rated you low or you gave yourself and high score and your colleagues rated you moderately or low.

You rated yourself moderately

If you rated yourself moderately in terms of your financial management, there are a few possible explanations. Perhaps you aren’t in charge of a budget, or maybe you don’t think that managing finances is that critical to your role. 

If your colleagues rated you low for financial management then that is a sign that there is an opportunity for growth for your abilities.

This is also typically a sign that others believe you could be more effective or efficient with your work. Even if you aren’t in charge of a formal budget, you are responsible for your time and how effective you are with the time you spend at work. 

By giving yourself a moderate score, you might think that you are doing enough to get by and do the “normal” amount of work compared to your colleagues. But if your colleagues rated you low, they clearly do not see it that way.

Your colleagues' low score indicates that you are either spending either company dollars or company time on things that aren’t helpful to the business. We aren’t robots; everyone does this to some degree, but once your colleagues start to notice, that’s a strong sign that you need to do better.

Dr. Robert Cialdini has a concept called “what is focal is causal” meaning that what people see is what they perceive and internalize as important or significant. If people are giving you a low score on your financial management ability, they perceive you as lazy, or looking for ways to get out of work, or as someone who spends money recklessly; no matter which way they perceive it, they end up realizing that you shouldn’t be trusted with a budget.

Before getting your results on a 360-Degree Assessment, you may think others aren’t noticing, or that others in the company are way more wasteful than you. However, clearly in the perception of your colleagues, that is not the case and you have been put on notice.

You rated yourself highly

If you rated yourself high on your financial management abilities but your colleagues gave you a low or moderate score, it indicates that you aren’t as strong of a financial manager (in the perspective of your team) as you think you are.

This typically stems from a lack of communication. If you manage a budget and your team sees you spending money on things that seem lavish and unnecessary (from their perspective), this can cause them to feel like you aren’t managing your company’s finances appropriately. This feeling is magnified if they feel underpaid while seeing this. If you don’t manage a budget and your team gave you a low or moderate financial management score, it means that they don’t believe that you spend your time at work effectively or that you are overpaid for your work. If salaries aren’t public information, people make assumptions for income based on your lifestyle, and if your lifestyle appears to be better than others, especially if they see you doing the same or less work than them, they will notice.

If people at your work are staying late and getting in early, and meanwhile they see you working the base 9 to 5, then that may cause them to become frustrated. They might think that either you are lazy, or that you are expecting more from them than is fair. What they may not realize is that your work responsibilities might be deeply analytical and have a compounding impact on the business, or they might not see the parts of your job that take place outside the office. For example, some work directly correlates time with output – essentially the company can get a certain number of tasks done by an employee for every hour they are at work; this is called linear productivity. On the other hand, there is work that, with intentional deep thinking, has an exponential impact on output in shorter bursts, but with increasingly marginal returns over a long period of time; this is called exponential productivity. Not every job has the same types of tasks and productivity needs; but without your open communication with your team, you can end up looking like a slacker. 

The point is that until the truth is communicated to those you work with, they will form assumptions to fill in the gaps as to why things are happening the way that they are. Unfortunately, many of these assumptions are negative.

The best thing you can do to improve your financial management abilities, both for you and for how your team perceives you, is to communicate and learn. New innovations are constantly happening to make our work more efficient and effective. If we are open to learning about these tools and resources, we can ensure we are up to date on what needs to be done to be most effective at work – both for managing a budget and managing our time at work. Communicating effectively to those we work with allows them to know how we are spending our budget and our time. The more we can loop our team in on budget decisions and decisions about how to best spend our time, the more aware they will be as to what we are doing and how that is impacting the business. The best-run companies did not end up that way by accident; they intentionally fostered a company culture of honesty, hard work, and accountability from the top down and that pays dividends when everyone is brought into the fold.

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. 

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. 

Fri 19 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.

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.

If you overestimated your leadership abilities, it means that you gave yourself a moderate score while your colleagues rated you low or you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues rated you moderate to low.

You rated yourself moderately

You may think that if you aren’t in a leadership role that you don’t need to focus on your leadership ability. However, leadership ability goes beyond your title.

You may have thought that if you perform as expected that you could justify giving yourself a moderate leadership ability score. However, if your colleagues rated you low, they clearly disagree, and this is an important opportunity for growth.

Leadership ability is all about transparency, accountability, and the ability to give credit to others.

The reason why possessing a leadership title is not necessary to possess strong leadership abilities is because great leadership is about being a great colleague to work with. 

Have you ever worked with somebody whose work you relied on, but you were unclear on what they would deliver, when they would deliver it, or how they would deliver it? What about somebody that’s full to the brim with excuses? Anytime anything goes wrong, they immediately blame others or come up with excuses for why it didn’t work out. Or have you ever worked with somebody that consistently takes all of the credit and doesn’t mention you or anyone else on your team who worked hard? You don’t want to be that person! Just because others do it, doesn’t mean you should too.

Think about how most people act in their first 2 weeks at a new job. They are probably excited to throw themselves at the work in front of them, and they are open to taking accountability when things go wrong because they have the fair excuse of being new. They will likely set (potentially over-optimistic) expectations about their work with everyone and because they don’t want to let anyone down, make a strong effort to meet those expectations. They also will be focused on giving credit to those they work with when things go well because they want to make positive first impressions. What they lack in experience at the workplace is made up for in earnest commitment to doing good work with their coworkers. 

Being a strong leader is being like that…just all the time and not just in the first two weeks at a new job. People like that are much more enjoyable to work with, give others less anxiety, and have confidence because they have earned the credibility and respect of those they work with.

You rated yourself highly

If you rated yourself highly in your leadership abilities and your colleagues rated you moderately or low, you are probably not as strong of a leader as you think you are. 

People in this situation typically have read leadership books, have gone to seminars, and have seen motivational speakers. They, theoretically, know all of the keys to be a strong leader, but when it comes to the application of those theories, their efforts simply aren’t ringing true with those they work with. And when it comes down to it, that’s the only part that matters. 

Because they have the knowledge of what it means to be a strong leader, they tend to rate themselves highly. But, when there is a gap and their colleagues disagree with their self-assessment, it is natural to feel defensive about this disparity.

The question one needs to ask themselves if they are faced with this situation is “why is there this gap?”. Or put another way “what am I doing that I feel is exuding strong leadership traits?” and then “How could my colleagues not perceive those actions in the way I am perceiving them?”.

In some cases, people feel like they are showing strong leadership abilities, but their colleagues perceive those efforts as the standard tasks that anyone would do. If this is the case then a discussion around expectations needs to be had between the professional and their colleagues. If you feel like you are going out of your way to being a strong leader, but others perceive those efforts as standard operating procedures, you probably need to update your expectations. Instead of treating those actions as “above and beyond” (because maybe they were “above and beyond” at a previous employer), try to trust your colleagues and trust their assessment. That means finding new ways to demonstrate your leadership abilities that make a difference in the work being done by your colleagues.  

In other cases, people feel like they are showcasing leadership abilities with their actions, but nobody is noticing. This is a difficult argument to make because leadership is an inherently public task. Essentially, when something goes wrong and you take accountability, you should be taking accountability publicly and fairly with others to view and observe. If you are taking accountability “quietly”, you aren’t really taking accountability because the nature of accountability is ownership over the responsibility so others know who they are counting on, for better or for worse. If you are giving credit “behind the scenes”, you are giving credit, but not in a way that fully exemplifies your leadership ability. Your willingness to praise publicly and fairly means that you are willing to put your reputation on the line in front of an audience to give credit to someone else. If you are setting your expectations on a case-by-case basis for the exact same work from different people, you are opening yourself to favoritism (intentional or not) and building a reputation for inconsistency. Your willingness to set consistent, public, and fair expectations both for your own work and from others’ work demonstrates that you hold yourself and others to the same standards.

Therefore, leadership ability should be a very noticeable activity, and if people aren’t noticing, then you aren’t leading. If that’s the case, you need to work to make sure that people notice without you incidentally seeming pompous or outlandish in your actions. This will take some work, and you may have some missteps, but the key is to keep trying to improve each day.

To improve your leadership ability, focus on immediately taking accountability when things go wrong (even if it isn’t directly your fault). If you had anything to do with something not going right, you can take accountability for it publicly. 

Focus on setting clear expectations for others for what you expect from their work and what they should expect from yours. You can set clear timelines for when others should expect your work to be finished and provide useful details so they can know what to expect. This will help build trust and ensure that your colleagues know what to expect from you, which then can mean that you know what to expect from their work as well. 

Set aside time to think about who has been working hard and accomplishing difficult tasks (even if they aren’t publicly recognized) and give credit, publicly, to those people for working so hard. For example, oftentimes in sales, we give a lot of credit to those making the sale, but those people in supply chain, operations, or account management don’t get the credit they deserve for implementing the delivery of the product. 

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. 
Sat 20 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.

Innovation

Innovation is a critical skill to possess in any working environment, even (and probably especially) if your role requires you to follow strict protocols and procedures. Innovation stretches across one’s willingness to pursue new activities or actions that can drive different results, ability to incorporate others in the innovation process, and propensity to challenge conventional thinking.

If you have overestimated your innovation score, that means that either you gave yourself a moderate innovation score and your colleagues gave you a low score or you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues gave a low to moderate score.

You gave yourself a moderate score

You may think that your work doesn’t require you to be all that innovative. You gave yourself a moderate score because perhaps you think you do your work adequately and that you try about as many new things as anyone else at work does. 

What you might not have realized was that your colleagues don’t view you as someone willing to try new things or take an innovative approach to your work.

They may perceive you as somebody who is comfortable and either unwilling or disinterested in pushing the envelope because of that comfort. However, comfort is the enemy of innovation. All things considered, it’s pretty tough to maintain that comfort and also focus on making important changes at the same time. Innovation requires being willing to try something new at the expense of comfort now.

As humans, we constantly seek comfort and our ability to innovate allows us to be more comfortable.

But comfort also leads to boredom, stagnation, and eventual decline.

By conveying to your colleagues that you aren’t innovative, you are communicating that you aren’t willing to try something new today so you can be more comfortable in the future. In this case, that future comfort could mean that your team has finally mastered a new tool that takes care of their most tedious tasks, or it could mean that a bold company culture initiative finally begins showing its positive effects after a rocky start. 

Instead, you are communicating that you are going to ride out this comfort wave until you retire, or until you become uncomfortable (e.g. you get fired, your company declines in business, or you quit because of boredom). 

The issue with communicating this to others is that you are inadvertently contributing to a stale, uninspired culture. If you are riding out this comfort wave, others may think “I am going to ride out this comfort wave too.” And once everyone at your company is too comfortable, eventually, another company that is willing to innovate is going to come along and run you out of business (e.g. Blockbuster) forcing you to be uncomfortable and have to start innovating again.

Essentially, I am writing that by neglecting your ability to innovate, you are being a freeloader on your company’s culture. You also aren’t exercising your “innovation muscles”, which leaves you less equipped to handle an uncomfortable situation when it presents itself. 

This even makes sense from a pure self-preservation perspective, even if you don’t care about making work more interesting or being better at your job. You should want to be more innovative at work because it encourages others to follow suit (and not be freeloaders themselves). This allows you to preserve the level of comfort you have with your job (because ideally, every person is pursuing some semblance of innovation at work), and also allows you to flex your “innovation muscles” and be prepared for the inevitable uncomfortable situations that will arise. It is really difficult to predict getting fired or facing a business decline (otherwise you might “pull a hammy” and go unemployed for over a year because your work and skill set has become obsolete).

You gave yourself a high score

If you gave yourself a high score for your innovation, but your colleagues gave you a low or moderate score, this almost always stems from a lack of effective communication.

People who are innovative tend to innovate on their own. Sometimes this is because a lack of trust (e.g. I don’t want others to find out what I am working on or I don’t trust that others will work as hard as me so I don’t share with them) or a lack of confidence with failure (e.g. if I tell people and it fails, people will think negatively of me).

If it is a lack of trust, why is that? Sometimes it requires some soul-searching and reflecting on some scars to get down to the root of this lack of trust. You could have been burned in the past by people that you relied on that didn’t come through for you. Or you could have had ideas stolen and others taking credit for your plans.

Once you have identified the reason for this lack of trust, ask yourself, have the people you are working with currently done anything to cause you to not trust them?

If the answer is no, then it is critical to separate those past scars from the current opportunity of people you get to work with.

The reason this is so critical is that people like being included in innovative processes. Your current circumstances are different from the past, and you need to be fair to the people around you. People like being included in the innovation process because innovating is like a super-fertilizer for fostering a feeling of purpose at work. There is this notion called the “IKEA Affect” in which people feel much more connected to the furniture that they build (like most of the furniture from IKEA) than the furniture that comes pre-made. When people feel part of an innovation process, they are much more likely to support the idea’s success and find greater satisfaction within their own work because they have found a new application of their skills and perspective. Finally, this also lets others know that you are somebody they can approach when they have an innovative idea or want to try something new.

The other big reason people overestimate their innovation score and score themselves highly is because of a lack of confidence with failure. This stems from the goal of perfectionism. Studies have been done on high school Valedictorians and their likelihood of achieving similar high marks in their careers. The unfortunate results are that Valedictorians rarely achieve similar high marks and accomplishments in their careers. The researchers theorize that the reason for this is the drive for perfection. Because these Valedictorians were instilled to be perfect from such a young age, it may stunt their ability to try new things because they don’t want to risk that “4.0 GPA”.  

Failure is a part of growth and innovation. There is never a perfect time to innovate, and there is never a perfect solution for our issues. However, the more things we try and sometimes fail at doing and sharing with others, the closer we will be to achieving a solution that improves on our current situation. As Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn says, “If you aren’t embarrassed by what you put out 3 months after launching it, you released too late.”

To be more innovative, the key is being willing to try new things to make your work more efficient and effective. Innovation is the process of taking temporary discomfort now to be more comfortable later. Incorporating others is critical to being more innovative. Alone, your ideas will only reach a fraction of your potential. But, your ideas with the feedback of others can make a monumental impact. 

However, one final concern is with gathering feedback. There is a critical mass to feedback, especially if you are soliciting feedback from a group. The more people you have in a conversation, the worse your feedback will be. This is caused by a combination of groupthink and the conscious and subconscious concerns people have about sharing in front of a group. To make this point, in a traditional classroom, roughly 10% of students will consistently raise their hands to ask or answer questions. Is this because only 10% of students have questions or know the answer? No. It is because others aren’t comfortable with bringing up questions or drawing attention to themselves in front of an audience. Or the cost of drawing this attention doesn’t outweigh the reward of finding out the answer. Therefore, get feedback from many people, but in smaller groups or individually. 

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. 
Sun 21 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.

People Management

People management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learning more.

If you gave yourself a greater score than colleagues on your people management abilities, there is clearly a gap. This could mean that either you are not as skilled as you believe, or that the people you work with don’t realize the effort you put into being a good people manager. The first step to reducing that gap is purposefully reflecting and trying to understand what is causing the gap. 

Not as good as you believe you are

This can be a tough pill to swallow. You may not be as good of a people manager as you thought you were. If you gave yourself a moderate score and your colleagues gave you a lower score, this typically is a product of stagnation: sitting still means falling behind in the long run. You might not think highly of your people management ability, but in your perception, you do enough to get the work done but you aren’t that bad. 

You gave yourself a moderate score

This is a fork in the road. One option is to accept being a bad/mediocre people manager, which means operating under the assumption that this skill is not crucial for your own career trajectory or happiness. This is a risky move! Humans are naturally social, whether we realize it or not, and poor people management abilities will have unforeseen costs. But if that’s how you decide, perhaps you can skip the rest of this segment. 

On the other hand, if you want to grow your People Management abilities, then keep reading. 

Being a strong people manager is all about being willing to help others and contribute positively to the workplace culture; we call this “Organizational Citizenship”. I like to refer to being a strong people manager as the Tim Duncan award. Tim Duncan is a retired professional basketball player who played for the San Antonio Spurs and won 5 NBA championships with them. Tim was consistently the best player on the floor, but he had a secret weapon. Tim’s playstyle was special because he deferred to his team and played to their strengths to amplify his team’s ability to win. Tim consistently ceded the spotlight to his teammates, even though he was the best player on his team for most of those championships. By helping build up those around him, even if it didn’t get him the stats, recognition, or pay that other superstars demand, he helped push his team towards victory. 

Now, I don’t know Tim Duncan personally. But, I would imagine that his professional basketball career was very satisfying: 5 NBA Championship Rings speaks for itself. He also avoided drama with his contract or playtime or coach, and his teammates took notice. When the best player on the team cares so deeply about building up his teammates and avoiding the BS, the rest of the team follows his lead because they are invested in reaching their team’s potential. 

If you are reading this, you are probably not a professional basketball player – most work environments don’t have a pinnacle moment that they work up to every year similar to a national championship. But, you do have a long “regular season”, even if your “championship” is only your annual review at the end of the year. And dominating your personal regular season can sometimes mean pulling your team together to avoid the drama and put in the hard work, game after game. 

Everyone wants to work in an environment in which they feel happy, respected, and clear about what and why they do their work. You probably also want a work environment with other people that also feel happy, respected, and clear about what and why they do their work. Regardless of whether you have people management in your job description, working on improving your people management abilities will help keep you and your team thrive and become happier at work. 

You gave yourself a high score

The other side of this people management coin is that you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues gave you a moderate or a low score.

This is typically a sign of a person who is well informed on what it means to be a strong people manager – e.g. you have read the books, maybe you have motivational quotes on your wall or posted on social media, maybe you’ve even written out what it means to be a good people manager.

You, theoretically, understand what it means to be a strong people manager, but in real life have not been able to effectively apply what you have learned.

Just to be abundantly clear, this is on YOU. Sure, you can find some mitigating factors or excuses, but in the end, good People Management will mean adapting to your environment. It’s not your team’s fault that your methods for being a strong people manager haven’t been impactful to them. It is up to you to listen to feedback, reflect on it, and then try something different to be better. And if you have tried multiple times to be a better people manager and it still isn’t working, it means you haven’t tried enough things. It took Thomas Edison 1,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. If you have studied people management tactics AND you have tried 1,000 different ways to be a better people manager but still are having trouble, you are probably just extremely unlucky. But just like in so many other parts of life, take some comfort in knowing that all you need to do is keep learning and trying new things.  

Keep in mind that people management is an ever-evolving process. In the 1980s, Jack Welch of General Electric slashed the bottom 10% of earners every year at the company, and at the time people lauded him for it. Now, GE’s stock is all over the place and a cutthroat culture ensued because nobody felt safe.  The point is that what is considered a strong people management strategy now may not be considered a strong people management strategy in the future. Keep an open mind for the innovation in People Management. 

Strategies to improve your people management

To begin, always ask for feedback. Performance reviews shouldn’t be some annual tradition; gathering feedback is the crucial final step when somebody has tried something new at work and they need to know if it was effective. And reviews shouldn’t just be between the manager and direct report. Anyone who is affected by your work should have their feedback incorporated when you seek to make improvements.

Being a strong people manager is about your ability to help others do their best work. Put another way, how can you be the best Robin to their Batman? If you can think of yourself as the sidekick to help those you work with be the hero in their own story, you will make incredible strides at being a better people manager.

Therefore, the first step is understanding where those you are working with would like to go. Have you ever helped someone and then felt that they weren’t grateful for your help? Oftentimes it is because what you thought would be helpful to them wasn’t what they needed. You assumed that going out of your way to perform some task would be what they were looking for, but you skipped past communicating and stepped on their toes. This might be because they wanted to experience doing the task themselves and your help seemed more like you didn’t trust them. Or, it could be because your assumption about what they want is incorrect, so by jumping in and taking over, you were really just forcing your personal style onto their own decisions.  

So, the best thing for being a better people manager is asking those you are working with what their biggest challenges are and finding the clarifying details that will help you truly understand the issue. Without that information, you can’t start the next step: working collaboratively to find new ideas to support them and ensuring achieving these new outcomes will work for the people involved. 

Notice how I didn’t write “performing these new tasks” but instead wrote “achieving these new outcomes”. This is critical to distinguish because you completing random tasks is not enough to be considered a strong people manager. You have to help the people achieve the outcomes that you all have agreed are important. If I lose my dog and you say that you will help me find my dog, I will be grateful if you help search but my pain is not alleviated until my dog is found. 

Thus, commit to clear, achievable outcomes that directly support your colleagues and ensure that achieving those specific outcomes will be, in fact, helpful.

Once you achieve that outcome, ask for feedback on how that outcome helped them with their work and how it made them more efficient or effective at work.

This may seem like a lot, but this is the type of work that is necessary to be a truly impactful and strong people manager.

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. 
Tue 30 March 2021
I lead an Executive Horizontal Mentorship Program and part of what I do is facilitate group sessions where all the executives come together to share their insights, questions, and thoughts on a new topic each session.
   
Our most recent group conversation focused on innovation and how we would like to become more innovative with our work. As with most meetings, I lay out the topic, but the executives can take the conversation in any direction the group chooses.

I hypothesized a few ways I thought the discussion would go. I expected it to revolve around people management. We would discuss ways to be a better leader, how to foster psychological safety with direct reports, or how to improve a specific skill and perform their role better (all of which are great topics!).

Instead, many of the group sessions went in a very different direction when discussing innovation.

In this case, the conversation revolved around priorities, balancing our values, and discussing what we find most important in our lives.

An exchange between two executives sticks with me: one executive mentioned, “If I spent time innovating in my family life like I do my work life, I would be much happier and have greater balance.”

To which another executive chimed in: “If you ask me for my priority list, I would say family comes first, then work. But, if you were to ask me the amount of time and emotional energy I put into my work compared to family life, it wouldn’t even be close to a relevant comparison”.

A third executive jumped in to reply: “But our work allows us to live the family life we want to have. But, I will admit that I struggle to enjoy my family time when the majority of my focus and energy is on work.”

This was a really interesting and unexpected direction for this conversation to go. There is a shift in work mentality from the old school bragging about how many hours one has worked in a week (the notion of asking about or even mentioning how many hours one has worked in a given week indicates this). Instead of leveraging the response of “busy” as the default response to ‘how are you?’, the mentality is trending where family life is starting to be conscientiously prioritized above work.

Based on this group discussion, we still aren’t there yet. But the fact that this stemmed from a conversation on innovation shows where we are headed: there is beginning to be a conscious push to have more balance between work and home.

The overarching question that arose from the discussion is “can we innovate in our work in a way that reduces the amount of time and emotional energy required to get the same amount of work done?” AND, instead of replacing that time with more work, can we instead divert that time and mental/emotional energy to family? 

The open question here is: can this be done?

Based on the feedback from the executives in this group meeting, yes, it can be done. People become more efficient and effective in their roles all the time. Whether through new technologies or improved prioritization of time and tasks, improving the efficiency of both time and mental inputs for work can definitely be accomplished without sacrificing work quality.

The second question is: if this can be done, why do we fill that extra time with more work versus family?

There is a natural drive to keep pushing the needle forward; it manifests as a growing fear that if I am not working hard, the next person in line could be working harder and eventually take my spot. 

This drive also leads to a natural tendency for executives to not fully celebrate wins, and instead simply move onto the next task. When we don’t give ourselves credit for hitting a milestone, we rob ourselves of the deserved reward that we crave for getting the job done. And the people around you notice this: “If my boss can’t take a break to reward himself for a job well done, why would I deserve a reward?” This might be motivating for some people in the short term, but eventually, that kind of ambivalence to success drains the satisfaction in a job well done. 

Lastly, most executives justify more work as an effort to help their families live better lives. A perfect example of this is from the television show Breaking Bad. If you haven’t seen the show, Breaking Bad follows a high school science teacher who is recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. After realizing that he can’t afford the treatment, he decides to start cooking and selling meth to cover the cost. He justifies sacrificing his time, his emotional well-being, and even his morals into this endeavor because it is going to be “better for his family” (something he determined without their input!). Eventually, he comes to realize that he was lying to himself: it wasn’t about supporting his family; it was about his greed masquerading as providing for his family. I doubt many of your situations will end quite as dramatically, but I’m sure many will recognize some familiarity with that example. 

Most executives don’t want an outcome like this! The fact that they are consciously aware that they are spending too much time and mental/emotional energy on work and not enough time on their family is the first step to creating more balance.

So the third question is: what can executives do to ensure that their newly found time and energy doesn’t simply get used with more work?

Create Standard Operating Procedures around work and life

As executives, one way we grow our impact and scale our performance is by creating SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for our team. So why can’t we do that for ourselves when distinguishing between work and life?

Oftentimes executives choose not to commit to this type of action because it “deters flexibility when emergencies happen”. And this is a fair point. But just like creating SOPs for a work team, you can build in caveats for emergencies. AND most executives know that this excuse is pretty flimsy: if there weren’t any SOP’s in other cases, inconsistency and quality control issues would be endless. 

Therefore, if we, as executives, don’t set SOP’s for when we are working versus when we are with family, then we are always working. Why? Because family time is a longer-term drive. There rarely are deadlines that occur with family time, but because work is typically filled with short-term deadlines, we prioritize those over the longer-term rewards from spending time with family. 

SOP’s help take the emotion out of the decision of how best to distribute your time. An SOP is like a computer; it will do what you tell it to do – no more, no less. If you are firm with your work and life SOP, you will not have to worry about circumstantial judgment calls. It either fits into your SOP or it doesn’t.

Devote specific time to family 

This is more like action 1A as it falls within the work and life SOP. Time with family is powerful. You could be doing absolutely nothing, but the fact that you are there with family is what counts. This sounds like an obvious point, but if it were so obvious, this article wouldn’t be relevant. It is easy to quantify work output and less easy to quantify family time output. You don’t earn “points” for attending your daughter’s soccer match or your son’s recital. You do it because it makes you happy. Even if you don’t have any plans on the docket for your family time, that isn’t an excuse for getting back into work during the time that you have already decided is for family. 

Devote specific mental and emotional energy to family

This is more like action 1B as it falls within the work and life SOP. Simply spending time with family is not enough for that time to be meaningful. Our executives clearly distinguished between both time and mental and emotional energy. If you are physically “with” your family, but you are mentally and emotionally “checked out”, can you really consider that time valuable?

Family time deserves as much mental and emotional intention as we are willing to put into our work. And it probably deserves more! 

If executives can begin to implement these actions into their lives, they will become substantially happier and aligned between their work and family time value system – at least according to our executives in our group meeting.



Mon 10 May 2021
I lead an Executive Horizontal Mentorship Program and part of what I do is facilitate group sessions where all the executives come together to share their insights, questions, and thoughts on a new topic each session.

For our March group meeting, the topic was leadership and how we can improve our ability to lead at our companies. These meetings tend to start with one topic, but eventually lead to fruitful, wide-ranging conversations that might not obviously connect to our initial topic. For this meeting, we eventually started discussing psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished for making a mistake. 

And then, one of the executives in our group brought up the point:

“It seems that progress and gratitude are in conflict with each other. If I am grateful, I am celebrating something that existed in the past. But if I am focused on progress, I am quickly dismissing the wins to move onto the next challenge.”

This is a fascinating point that I’ve been ruminating on for the past few weeks. There is a lot of research on the power of gratitude and its correlation with happiness. As a simple demonstration, really try to be grateful and angry at the same time and notice the contradiction between those feelings. 

There is also a lot of research validating the power of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals to achieve progress. 

Being grateful necessitates focusing on your past; being goal-oriented necessitates focusing on your future.

Can these mindsets work together?

This article is going to assess the merits of both practicing gratitude and goal-setting. I’ll consider their respective implications on business outcomes and analyze whether or not they are truly incompatible.

Gratitude

Gratitude is the public and private act of conscientiously and deliberately acknowledging something that has positively affected you. In a work setting, gratitude can inform your team of a job well done or show how much your team’s efforts meant to you. Gratitude gives your team purpose, a sense of pride, and a sense of belonging. It is an important signal showing the impact of their work and it shows that their work is respected and appreciated.

When frequently expressing gratitude for specific, meaningful actions is ingrained in the fabric of a culture, people tend to be happier and more likely to reach out to a coworker when something negative happens. A culture of gratitude helps build up rapport and unity across people and across teams.

People are also less likely to mistake feedback for criticism. When gratitude is an active part of the culture, it fosters emotional resilience for negative news because they know that there is no malice from the other person when receiving feedback. 

The point is gratitude helps build emotional resilience. And a culture of gratitude for specific, meaningful actions helps deflate passive-aggressive mindsets or people omitting information for fear of hurt feelings. A culture of gratitude supports open, honest communication, resilient mindsets, and high-quality work. 

Goal Setting

SMART goal-setting means setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound activities (SMART) for achieving your goals. This helps you identify a specific vision and create a measurable and achievable plan for something you intend to accomplish. SMART goal-setting helps teams plan for the future, improve performance, and identify specific issues and solutions for the problems they encounter. 

SMART goal setting improves the efficiency and effectiveness of teams. It empowers people to envision what they would like to accomplish and helps them create a specific step-by-step plan that will accomplish that outcome. 

Can gratitude and goal setting work together?

 The Executive Horizontal Mentorship group that started this discussion seems to think that they are compatible, and I am inclined to agree. As mentioned previously, a culture of gratitude can boost the emotional resiliency of teammates, and this makes the identification of challenges faster and finding solutions easier. 

When teams don’t have a culture of gratitude, issues start popping up all over the place: an employee trying to solve a tough problem alone; a coworker spending too much time crafting their feedback to avoid hurt feelings; a teammate happy to criticize problems without caring to offer solutions. These brief examples are only the tip of the iceberg.  

The ability to identify these challenges and properly communicate them with the team helps support the work of setting SMART goals to solve the issues at hand. Open, honest, grateful communication helps your team look into the future, and SMART goals help your team leverage the present to improve the future. 

Taking intentional time for gratitude on a consistent basis creates pathways and lines of communication that make problem-solving and SMART goal setting more effective. So, while the two ideas of Progress and Gratitude seemed to be in contradiction at first glance, hopefully, I’ve shown you how that is simply not the case. Instead, Progress and Gratitude build off each other to create a strong, productive, and engaged workplace. 

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.

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