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Take Training Seriously and Maximize Employee Performance!

Posted by on June 13, 2012

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Maximize Employee PerformanceManagers achieve their objectives through the efforts of their team—so in most organizations, an important aspect of the annual performance review is the assessment of development needs in order to ensure that the skills and behaviors of individuals are at a level that allows them to deliver on their objectives. Most managers take the performance review process very seriously. So I find myself wondering why managers often don’t put the same effort into supporting their employees before and after attending a training course. After all, training should directly support the goals of employees and managers alike.

As a Trainer and Coach with almost twenty years’ experience, I am often dismayed by the lack of support and, in some instances, distinct lack of interest shown by managers when they send an employee on a training course. At its worst, it can mean that participants do not even know why they are attending a workshop and have not had a pre-course conversation to discuss the objectives of the development they are seeking to achieve. Even if a pre-course discussion has taken place, the majority of attendees don’t have a post-training meeting with their manager. So, what are the best practices for pre- and post-training manager-employee discussions?

Pre-Training: Best Practices

Assuming that an employee’s development need has been accurately identified by their manager and mutually agreed upon, the next step is to select the best method to develop the skill or behaviours. Keep in mind that a training course may not always be the best option; coaching, on-the-job training, online training, and even reading can be excellent methods of development. However, once it has been determined that a group training course is the best option for a particular employee, the next steps are:

  • Target areas of development and identify how these align with the course objectives
  • Be specific about expectations and explore how these skills should enhance employee performance
  • Discuss any concerns or limitations which the employee may have
  • Decide how you will each assess the impact of the training
  • Discuss whether the employee has to collect feedback or complete pre-work prior to the course, and if so, discuss how that process works

During Training: Best Practices

With the training scheduled, the pre-course discussion finished, and pre-work completed, how can you best support the participant during the training? There’s only one rule:

  • Ensure that the employee has the opportunity to participate in the training course without interruption by agreeing upon how their role will be covered while they are away from their job
    • The advent of the mobile device and email means that we are never truly “away from work,” but managers can encourage their employees to put an out of office message on their email and only deal with extremely urgent issues during the training
    • Managers can also demonstrate support and commitment to employees’ development by not contacting them and resisting the urge to ask employees to deal with work during the course

I have seen all types of interruptions from the managers themselves, up to and including calling employees to meetings or conference calls during workshops! This is not only disruptive to their learning, but also that of other participants. It’s vital that managers should resist the urge to interrupt their employees’ training experience.

Post-Training: Best Practices

And now for arguably the most important role you can play in maximizing the development of an employee: post-training support. Unfortunately, statistics show that only 14% of participants have any follow-up discussion with their manager post-training! This is a huge wasted opportunity, since a post-training meeting demonstrates that you are taking their development seriously and gives an added impetus to the consolidation and application of learning. While the exact nature of the conversation will depend on the type of training undertaken, the areas to be covered should include:

  • What were the key learning points?
  • How can the key learning points be put into action?
  • What support is required?
  • How will the impact of the learning be measured on an ongoing basis?

Taking the time to demonstrate an interest in employees’ development before, during and after training is essential to maximizing your training investment. It’s part of a good manager’s role. As Calvin Coolidge so aptly said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

Angela Steatham is a highly experienced facilitator, coach and OD consultant and a CGWA expert trainer. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.

Get Your Confidence On! Overcoming Insecurity at Work

Posted by on April 18, 2012

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Overcoming Insecurity

The vast majority of people probably feel that they do an above average or excellent job in their job. Unfortunately, in most cases, we don’t get to decide the issue. Instead, a series of supervisors—some good and some bad—decide for you. This can lead to a fair amount of job insecurity.

It need not be so. Most managers would agree that being worried about whether or not you are doing a good job is the first sign that you are, indeed, doing a good job. Concerns about performance and overcoming insecurity are key traits of successful employees everywhere.

Still, measuring your success with the people you work with requires an understanding of the coworkers surrounding you. There are three distinct types of people when it comes to inter-office relationships, and each possesses a different standard to determine whether or not you are fulfilling your role competently.

Understanding the needs and motivations of these three types will inevitably lead to improved communication, performance of your job, and of course, to more confidence!

Type 1: Those Who Rely on Your Abilities to Ease Their Own Burden

Every workplace has these types of employees, and they are easily identified. They are the ones who appear most concerned but actually do the least when a problem surfaces. Their answer to every problem is to lay it on someone else’s doorstep. We all know who these people are!

This “syndrome” is not limited to any one job function or team. You probably know from experience that there are lots of employees out there who are, themselves, insecure. Their solution is to simply shunt their responsibility onto others. An ambitious person (I’m talking about you here!) can and should take advantage of this fact. Done right, this can be an opportunity to shine and ease any lingering insecurities about your own job performance.

Type 2: Those Who Test Your Abilities Due to Their Own Insecurities

On the other end of the spectrum is the coworker who is an “expert” in every field. Their modus operandi is to relentlessly question every action that you take and evaluate it against their (mostly uninformed) opinion. This makes for an incredibly frustrating relationship.

Successfully negotiating a truce with these experts while also solving the problems they lay at your feet is the real challenge in this case. But if you can pull it off, you will build your own security quotient. You may even find that this challenging person becomes a “friend for life”!

Type 3: Those Who Simply Need and Trust Your Abilities

By far, the most difficult type of coworker to deal with is the one who trusts you and expects you to properly perform your job duties. This type of coworker is usually your supervisor or someone you report directly to. Supervisors have many responsibilities of their own, and they expect a certain level of competence from you.

Identifying and satisfying the needs of this class of coworker leads to the greatest and longest lasting feelings of job security. You should maintain constant, relevant communication—but don’t overdo it! Your supervisor should not expect you to read his mind, but instead assume that once the responsibilities have been described, you should be able to perform them with a degree of independence.

Figure out how to meet the needs of your supervisor, and everybody wins! Your confidence will shoot through the roof.

The End Product

Overcoming insecurity at work is a job in itself. It does not necessarily require its own task list, but it should include an accurate, constantly updated self-appraisal of your work. This is the first step in overcoming job insecurity, and it will guide you on the path to superior performance!

Crucial Conversations: Performance Coaching

Posted by on February 29, 2012

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Performance CoachingIf you’re a manager, you probably know that performance coaching is often seen by employees as a form of punishment. From their perspective, “coaching” equals “discipline.” Frankly, in business environments that use this approach, that perception is accurate. However, if handled in a rewarding and supportive manner, fear and resentment will automatically disppear from the coaching process. The importance of handling it properly cannot be underestimated. When coaching is fully understood and trusted, it can then become the positive force it is intended to be.

Management Responsibility

Since coaching is within the jurisdiction of management, managers naturally set the expectations of employees throughout the process. As a manager, it is imperative that you demonstrate that coaching sessions are intended to help the employee further their career and not as an indication of dissatisfaction with the employee’s overall performance.

All employees, regardless of tenure or performance, should undergo the performance coaching process. To ensure maximum effectiveness and develop trust, coaching methods should incorporate positive advice and feedback, not negative criticism.

The Essence of Coaching

Coaching is a journey, not a checkbox on a form. Employees can intuitively feel when their manager is just “going through the motions.” Simply complying with corporate policy on performance coaching is probably more detrimental to the morale of the organization than merely ignoring it as it fosters contempt for every other corporate initiative.

In fact, coaching is fundamental to the optimum functioning of an organization. Instead of merely informing, it is essential that a coach ask the right questions to help others understand their current thinking and behaviors. Armed with this knowledge, an employee can improve themselves.

Coaching Styles

None of this is to say that there is one ideal method of coaching. There are as many successful styles of performance coaching as there are successful managers. Many managers still ascribe to the “command and control” formula. In this paradigm, the manager does the thinking, designs the game plan and enforces its execution. This might work well if your coach is an Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs, but can suffer with other personality types.

A more proactive method of performance coaching involves the AOLA method; Awareness, Ownership andLearning. Once a problem or opportunity is identified, ownership is assigned and accountability follows later. The most beneficial aspect of this method is that both the manager and the managed learn.

At CGWA, we believe that our Coaching for Improved Performance workshop should be part of your Professional Development toolbox. Through the application of our unique coaching model, targeted case studies, and face-to-face feedback, managers are able to achieve resounding success with their employees. Although we know the classroom experience is priceless, we don’t want you to leave this blog without a free tool you can use today. Use it as your springboard to coaching greatness!