"people management"

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.

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.

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. 
Sun 8 August 2021
Over the past 2 months, I have interviewed over 50 senior-level leaders and CEOs of companies in the Louisville and Indianapolis communities, and this article shares their perspectives on the key trends and challenges facing local industries and businesses. This article omits specific names and companies to keep the focus on the industries, trends, and challenges facing our community.

Below are the industries and types of companies interviewed:

 | Industry | Company Types
| Recruitment  | IT, medical, sales, and manufacturing
 | Media  | AV, Entertainment
 | Sanitation  | Janitorial Services, PPE
 | Healthcare  | Telehealth, Pharma, Community-Based Healthcare, COVID Testing/Vaccine Rollout, Physical Therapy
 | Manufacturing  | Legacy and Startup
 | Hospitality  | Hair Care, Hotels, Restaurants, Theme Parks, Online Food Ordering,
 | Logistics  | Legacy and Startup
 | Banking & Finance  | Collections Agencies, Credit Unions, Banks, Title Companies, Insurance/Financial Management
 | Technology  | Development, Software, Hardware
 | Government  | Local Government, Criminal Justice System
 | Real estate | Commercial & Residential
| Consulting  | Management, Technology, HR
 | Marketing  | Legacy Mail Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media
 | Key Challenges | labor shortages, inflation/raising prices, supply chain/inventory management, workspace management, finding new ways to sell
 
From the diverse perspectives of these industries and companies, there were 5 key challenges that emerged from these interviews: 1) Labor shortages, 2) Inflation and rising prices, 3) Supply chain and inventory management, 4) Workspace management, and 5) Finding new ways to sell.

This article will focus on these key challenges and share stories on how different types of companies reacted to these challenges and are creating opportunities from them. 


Labor Shortages
The number one challenge posed by the executives I interviewed was labor shortages.

From blue collar to white collar, from entry-level to highly experienced roles, finding the right people to fill those roles has become a challenge for many companies.

Two questions become apparent: 1) Why did this happen? and 2) What did the most successful teams do to keep their teams?

When the pandemic first hit, many companies laid off their less-essential employees because of the uncertainty as to what would happen next. Some companies were able to get creative, and they found ways to pay people hourly and retain their benefits for their employees, but the most common response was to either furlough their employees or let them go. 

Other companies kept their entire team on-staff and full-time, despite the reduced demand. Those companies definitely took a financial hit, but the stability and continuity paid off when business turned back around and they were ready to go.

However, the teams that thrived during the past 18 months were the ones that completely leaned in to the necessary changes and rapidly pivoted at the onset of the pandemic. Some companies fundamentally changed their business model and were able to successfully deploy their teams and leverage their skillsets into a different vertical. Some of those pivoting efforts became total successes – i.e., creating entirely new business lines and driving strong revenues. Others saw ephemeral successes that temporarily worked but eventually fizzled out (e.g., distilleries changing from making spirits to  hand sanitizer during shortages). There are also other pivot-stories that didn’t work out but provided great lessons and helped exercise their innovative muscles for pivoting, changing, and thinking creatively. Compared to stagnant companies that were caught flat-footed, even the unsuccessful pivots had long-term benefits on the companies that sought to adapt to the new challenges. 

Trend Observed: If you are a leader and you are ever faced with an existential scenario where your core business has completely fallen off, the businesses that thrive in these conditions are the ones that accept the need to pivot immediately and start trying new things, while the stagnant or stubborn companies get stuck in the churn that accompanies momentous change.

Most teams did not pivot immediately, and nor could they afford to hold steady, so most teams ended up with furloughed or laid off employees.

Paired with strong unemployment benefits during this time period and the lapse in hiring new employees from April through November of 2020 (for many companies), that 8-month gap disrupted the typical job turnover and growth cycle and led many to delay going back to work.

For companies that hire recent graduates, finding hires has been a struggle as well because of how many students delayed or altered their college education plans due to COVID. With fewer students graduating and a strong need to hire out of college, being attractive to candidates has become crucial for getting the best candidates.

For companies seeking to hire highly experienced (high salary) roles, finding and identifying the right person has been difficult because of the lack of in-person interviewing and onboarding. Most companies have found ways to make virtual onboarding work (and some even thrive), but when it comes to hiring for a highly sought-after role, some companies have become more risk-averse towards making a hire with less experience because of the high expense of making a mistake. Plus, with it being so difficult to fill less experienced roles with an organization, the promotional track for some companies’ employees have been delayed because companies need continuity for these key functions during this chaotic period.

However, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! There are companies that have filled all or most of their hiring needs during this time without substantially raising their wages offered. Two of my interviewees found a way to successfully attract great candidates to their firms. One company was a management consulting firm, the other, a large hospitality company, but both used similar tactics. Their secret: focus on the brand and making the brand fun, enjoyable, and attractive. They observed that their benefits weren’t terribly different from comparable firms with similar hiring needs. However, these firms leaned their marketing resources, internal communications, and overall brand statement towards having fun and doing good work, they were able to fulfill all or most of their hiring needs. One other interesting observation about both of these companies was that they both also provided opportunities for either temporary work or changing work. For example, the hospitality company hired their employees with the expectation that they would only work for the summer. For these employees, this was great because they had a very clear end-date for their employment with the company which caused them to feel like they weren’t making a massive commitment by starting work with the company. For the management consulting firm, they constantly switch their new employees on the type of working they are doing (e.g. a rotation). So, the employees knew that if they didn’t like the work they were doing, they were going to switch in a few weeks and if they did like it, they knew that they could always come back to that work.

Trend Observed: The (usually) unstated precept from leadership to employees that “You should be grateful to have a job” is gone. In fact, in many ways it has inverted to become “You should be grateful to have me.” People’s motivations have shifted away from simply working to get a paycheck. For many people, work is an outlet to socialize, collaborate with great teammates, use their brain in fulfilling ways, and get some time away from the house. If you are a leader and you are struggling to hire and are feeling pressure to raise your wages and benefits past what is feasible, you might find greater success in attracting candidates by developing your company culture to be more fun in the eyes of your current and prospective employees.


Inflation and Rising Prices
Since many companies are struggling to make the right hires, or in some cases just hire enough employees to do the work, companies are following the logical conclusion and raising wages.

Paying for wages is the largest expense for most companies. Therefore, when wages rise, margins rapidly diminish. So, the only major way for companies to get back to their previous margins is by raising the prices for their goods and services.

Make no mistake about it – this is inflation.

Inflation isn’t necessarily horrible, but it can be if you don’t know how to handle it or if you are in an industry that regulates how you handle it.

For example, there were many small business owners that I interviewed that were apprehensive to raise their prices to avoid offending their legacy customers with sticker shock. Many small business owners also have fewer resources for determining when or by how much to raise their prices.

With inflation reaching a peak compared to the previous 15 years, it might be difficult to determine when the right time is to raise prices and project how inflation will change in future years. 

If you are a business owner and you are trying to figure out how to keep your salaries competitive, retain margin, and not offend your customers with price increases, you are not alone. Some ways business owners have handled this situation is by assessing how often they will adjust prices. By increasing the frequency of price adjustments, you can decrease the effects of sticker-shock that may coincide with increasing prices. If you are apprehensive to changing your prices frequently, then you need to project inflation’s trends and bake in extra margin now to buy time for once the margin dwindles over time.

There are some industries that don’t have the luxury of easily adjusting their prices. For example, in healthcare, many insurance companies have already determined the price of certain procedures and medications. Hospitals and healthcare companies are then forced to work their business model around the predetermined prices. This model works well when there is little to no inflation, but when inflation weakens the value of a previously competitive salary, companies must choose between more difficult hiring, or reducing their margins by offering higher salaries.

One question that comes up frequently around this topic is: What happens when the unemployment benefits end and all of these people flood the market seeking a job?

Most of these open roles will likely be filled, but it is unlikely that the companies will be able to drop their salaries back to where they used to be. At the start of the pandemic, some companies were able to get away with “hero pay” in which employees were temporarily paid a higher salary. It was mutually understood by both parties that the salaries would eventually revert. However, most companies have already adjusted their wages, some by 20-30%, and they are not branding this wage as “hero pay” or any other form of temporary high pay based on need, meaning that these salaries are here to stay – but so is the inflation that comes with it.

Trend Observed: If you have the freedom to adjust your prices, it is probably best to rip that band-aid early and have a plan around how often you are willing to adjust your prices and clearly communicate that to your team. Your team needs to be in the loop on the plan or they may become frustrated at being stuck in the dark regarding the changing prices. If you don’t have the freedom to adjust your prices (e.g. in an industry that has regulation), you need to begin lobbying and having the conversation around having more flexibility around adjusting those prices. This will likely take a very long time to happen, but what alternative do you have? You either get to a point where your staff is completely overworked and underpaid (compared to other work opportunities), and either your people leave or you eat the losses because the business is losing money (to keep wages competitive) for the hope that one day the prices will adjust.

Supply Chain and Inventory Management

The pandemic has put to the test the just-in-time inventory management system. Just-in-time inventory management is the notion that companies hold inventory for the least number of days before the item is shipped to the customer. By limiting the amount of time inventory sits in a warehouse, waste from spoilage, breaking, and mismanagement is significantly diminished, and this allows companies in supply chain and logistics to work more efficiently. 

But what happens when you have one part that is missing? You have a car that consists of hundreds of different parts and is completely assembled, but it is missing 1 semiconductor chip. What happens? The answer is that you have thousands of cars sitting, unable to be shipped because they are missing 1 part out of hundreds.

Why is it so difficult to get one measly semiconductor chip (or any other product or material that is leveraged in just-in-time inventory)? Aren’t there competing manufacturing companies that can find the part they need?

The answer is complicated. With the world economy opening up and allowing for companies to procure materials from anywhere at the cheapest price, the supply chain is growing more complex. Combined with just-in-time inventory management, this means that manufacturing companies hold only for their immediate needs. When a global pandemic hits, different countries are impacted in diverse ways. Some countries can’t let raw materials get shipped out, or some countries can’t get raw materials in for their factories. Others can’t operate at maximum capacity because people are sick. This all makes the seemingly brief delays pile up, turning an interstate into a traffic jam. 

Another massive issue in all of this is the overall lack of organization of many of the ports in the US. Many ports in the US, before the pandemic, were operating in a way where some shipping containers would never get processed and left in potential space available for unloading new boats. That extra space was taken for granted and containers just kept getting stacked up over years. Well, when the pandemic came, not only were boats still arriving in US ports, but the people to operate those ports weren’t coming to work because of COVID. Essentially, this giant game of catch-up for unloading cargo becomes exacerbated because the decreased workforce around the ports means that parts come into the US more slowly (or not at all) and the entire supply chain becomes compromised.

One supply chain CEO I interviewed was able to project what was about to happen and benefit from his forward thinking. He observed what was going on in China in January 2020 and decided to stock up on the raw materials he needed for him to provide his products, and this gave him an advantage later.

Most inventory management systems observe low demand (e.g. March, April, and May of 2020) as a sign to order less in subsequent months. When demand drastically swung back, companies were caught on their back foot trying to catch up. The supply chain CEO I spoke with projected this would happen, went to his clients to inform them of what was going to happen, and was able to get his clients to pay early for materials for the rest of the year based on this projection.

Trend Observed: Most inventory management systems focus on microeconomic, short-term factors for making inventory decisions. And although this works 95% of the time, it is extremely important to project for macroeconomic factors that could have a long-term impact on inventory and supply chain management overall. 

Trend Observed: The other trend observed was the importance of diversifying sources for raw materials. Obviously quality control, price, and a drive for simplicity play a factor in business decisions, but if your business is solely reliant on one provider for your raw materials, you are leaving yourself liable to changes in their market conditions which inevitably impact your business. 

Workspace Management

Work from home, hybrid, or the traditional office set up. Which is best? 

The answer is that it depends on your company and your work situation.

Every leader I spoke with had to adjust their working situation some way or another. Some leaders went to their employees and took a vote of what they would like to do. Some leaders immediately started having their teams work remotely. And some leaders had to implement sanitation and safety measures to keep their teams working at the office. 

Now that people are starting to feel more comfortable opening up socially, many companies are starting to come back to the office, but not all in the same ways.

Some companies are directly coming back to the office and generally returning to the status quo. However, many other companies are finding creative ways to either get out of or diminish their leases. For example, one executive that I interviewed partitioned off half of his office and is now leasing out that space to drive some additional income and allow his staff to continue hybrid work – partly from home and partly from the office setting. Other companies are simply letting their lease lapse and partially converting that funding to support coworking spaces for sales conversations or board rooms for big meetings, but otherwise allowing everyone to work from home. 

If you own commercial real estate, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is an opportunity in supply chain. As mentioned in the previous segment, this notion of just in time inventory is falling out of favor meaning that manufacturing companies and companies that work with raw materials are starting to buy larger warehouses to store more raw materials. Some large logistics companies are even looking at leasing or buying old malls and converting them into warehouses and supply chain centers.

Trend Observed: Companies are finding unique ways to optimally deploy their teams into work environments that are efficient and work for them, and there isn’t just one trend everyone is following for finding the best working situation for their team.

But back to the original question as to what is best: working from home, a hybrid model, or at the office. The jury is still out. However, I have found it strange how many CEOs are clinging onto anecdotes and feelings when deciding between working in the office versus remote or a hybrid.

There is a lot of data that has shown that working remotely has led to greater productivity from teams, particularly for output and qualitative data around satisfaction at work. Remote work hasn’t led to greater productivity for every team, but between my interviews with executives and the research articles I’ve read on this topic, most teams were more productive working remotely.

However, many CEOs and leaders that I have interviewed have taken their team back to the office. I believe that the data on best practices for determining work location will become clearer in the future, but I have only seen a limited amount of data showing the advantages of in-person over remote. When I have interviewed CEOs that have taken their teams back to the office, the traditional response I have heard is “this working situation works best for us” or “everyone seems much happier at the office compared to at home” or “we have been able to collaborate much better at the office”. Like I mentioned before, I believe the data could come, but none of the CEOs that I interviewed referenced any sort of comparative analysis on productivity differences between remote-work versus in person. 

For the most part, this ends up being just conjecture and feelings and not rooted in metrics. My biggest surprise is how many of these CEOs dove fully into working from the office without offering a hybrid model to ease this transition. 

Trend Observed: If you are transitioning back from working remotely to the office, it is really critical that you consider some metrics you can measure to assess whether one works better for you. If your team is currently working remotely and you are contemplating coming back to the office, you must have a system in place for measuring productivity, so you can understand what happens when you come back to the office.  

Finding new ways to sell

Finding a new way to sell was critical for many companies to stay alive during the pandemic. From restaurants transitioning from legacy ordering via a server to online orders, to companies expanding delivery to include curb-side drop-offs right into one’s car, companies have had to completely transition the way they operate and sell their goods and services.

Here are some of the most interesting stories about how companies have had to change the way they sell.

One of the executives I interviewed works for a large pharmaceutical company. One of the biggest challenges she faced was retaining her high-level account executives who sold their medicines into doctors’ offices.

Since many doctors embraced telehealth, they left their medical offices and started working from home. For small pharmaceutical companies who relied heavily on in-person meetings with doctors to sell their medicines when doctors have a free moment to chat, they now had to find alternative ways to get their voices heard. Therefore, they started poaching account executives from larger, established pharmaceutical companies to harvest their rolodex of relationships and for the opportunity to drive business from those account executives. 

This forced these larger pharmaceutical companies to focus more heavily on the doctor experience and having multiple points of relationship with their company, not just one individual account executive who might convince the doctor to take their business elsewhere.

Another executive I interviewed creates software and learning programs for governments working on educating and rehabilitating people after they have been arrested for a crime. Most of these classes were in-person and expensive for local governments to run. Since most local governments have limited budgets for this type of work, and they must keep offering these services, they were in a bind. This executive decided to offer his software and learning programming to governments for free with the caveat that those who were arrested would pay for the classes. He was able to help these governments get COVID-compliant, continue offering these services to their citizens and still save money.

Other executives I interviewed decided to take full accountability of the entire process of their service. For example, one executive whose company helps roll out the COVID vaccine and testing in low-income areas. This executive’s work went beyond providing the vaccine and the tests, but also renting the portable facilities to create a comfortable environment for their clients to get tested and vaccinated. Another executive in the consulting space provided free consulting to businesses and startups trying to find traction in the pandemic, because he realized that he could boost his brand and name recognition by being helpful to others that may want his services but couldn’t afford them (yet!).  

Trend Observed: Never waste a pandemic! When consumer behaviors are changing rapidly, there are opportunities to solve problems and build relationships with people that could become fruitful both immediately and over time. If you are a leader, it is critical to take time to step back and observe the trends that are happening so you can leverage your team’s skillset and product to help solve a challenge faced by the constant changes in consumer behavior. If you don’t, you may miss out on an opportunity, or worse, get left behind.

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

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

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

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

What is 1:1?

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

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

What does an effective 1:1 look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

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

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers