Your Job is to Make Your Boss Look Good

I’ve always believed that my job was to make my boss look good (but, not to make his/her life easy 😉 ).

My team must believe this as well, as they are always all over this. In my job there is an enormous amount of metrics to hit. You can imagine, doing a large and ambitious project makes scorecards important.

Being a data company of tech geeks makes metrics a bit promiscuous.

My team is so outstanding that I must confess, I rarely check my metrics. I know they are great because my team is great, and they will tell me if there is an issue I should know about.

Making my boss look good is a bit more complex than meeting metrics. For him, that’s table stakes. What makes my boss look good is delivering a set of products that make people take notice. Products that deliver measurable business value. Products that inspireamaze, and highlight the unique value of his organization.

So, this is what my peers and I do — we focus on getting it right and making it happen.

Some days this lofty goal seems completely out of reach. Other days we surprise ourselves with our own success. And then there are days when we achieve a grand slam — an opportunity to make not just a boss but their boss and their boss look good. Those days are great days. Those are the days you are reminded that it was worth the fight.

Those are the days that will pay off in much bigger ways than looking good yourself.

I wish you all the joy that comes from making someone important to you look good. It rocks!

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps. 

The Leadership Cop-out, the Employee Hot Potato

Dan was talking this week about how real leaders do the right thing, even (or especially) when it means that you have to let a poor performer go. You all know that I’m a big believer in job fit. Finding a role that leverages your strengths is critical for success. For some, finding the right role can be a process of trial and error, using our failures to course correct is a part of personal growth. Sometimes coaching and role adjustment can turn a lack-luster performer into a star. But we all know that there are times when the problem is not just job fit, it is job attitude.

When an individual has a negative attitude you are dealing with a cancer that impacts the whole team. It is the job of the manager to resolve the situation quickly and fairly. Too often, weak managers resolve their situation by creating an employee hot potato. These disgruntled employees find themselves sharing (and often compounding) their negative attitudes across multiple groups as they bounce from manager to manager, each too weak to take action.

Moving performance problems around the organization is one of the worst kinds of management cop-outs. It is not honest for the individual, and it is not good for the company. It is not leadership, it’s cowardly.

I am well aware that the process of resolving performance problems takes considered thought and diligence. Even when attempting to do the right thing, it is often not black and white. We all want to make sure we have given enough chances to the employee and have done our best to coach them to improvement. I would not want anyone to take this process lightly. I would just like to encourage you all to make sure you are honest with yourselves that you are not perpetuating performance problems in other groups because you are too lazy to deal with them yourself.

If you are not sure, get help from your HR team. HR professionals can support you through the tough job of coaching the team member to acceptable performance or terminating. It is the role of HR to make sure that the process is fair for the employee, the impacted team, and the company.

Repeat after me, no more employee hot potatoes!


This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Does This Job Make My Butt Look Big?

Thanks to David for reminding me that the blog title is important. Just for the record, I am not covering that job you had that gave you an extra 15lbs by making you work 80 hours per week and feeding you ‘round-the-clock, all kinds of processed snack foods. That is a topic for another post altogether, or a therapy session (or both).

What I am talking about today is more on the idea of engagement and what I learned at a recent conference I attended. 

The session was hosted by the Conference Board and it was a preview into their 2008 engagement research. In a nutshell, they found what we here at TalentedApps have been saying for a while: the most critical element of engagement globally is a well structuredwell designedinspiring job.

This is not just having a job that provides you with growth opportunities, but also a job that fits well into your broader life, balancing the demands of both your personal and professional needs. 

What is so interesting about this study is how consistent this is across a global population. The four questions that “worked” in every geography to measure engagement were about:

  1. Variety and challenge of the work itself
  2. Interpersonal relationship with the manager
  3. Shared company values
  4. Opportunity for career growth

In the US, there was also a strong correlation between goal alignment and engagement. My personal guess is that this is evidence that the focus on strategically aligned and managed goals is beginning to take root. 

As we look at strategies for getting the most from ourselves and our teams, we must focus closely on how we define and measure jobs. That, to me, should be the strategic agenda of anyone interested in turning the employee engagement focus from a fad to a result.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Why Are We Smarter About Puppies Than Humans?

While before I was talking about feedback in general, today I want to talk specifically about positive feedback and the merits of praise. 

Just coming back from The Conference Board’s Employee Engagement and Retention Conference last week, I was struck by just how far we have to go in this area. One point that summed it up for me was the following set of questions and responses.

When asked, “do you need encouragement to do your best at work?”

20% replied yes. 

When asked, “when you get encouragement, does it motivate you to do your best?”

90% replied yes.

We all read this and think “of course,” we know this. So I ask you, when was the last time you said thanks?

Does your team make it a standard practice to recognize the contributions in an authentic and timely way? Why do we understand so easily when training puppies that rewarding good behavior causes them to behave, but with people we focus on “constructive feedback” (and maybe once a year?!) and expect that to yield results.

I would encourage you to consider making a serious [focused] effort to say thank you more often. Not only will it help someone be motivated to continue to do their best, it might also help you to always look on the bright side of life.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.  

Sincerely Yours

We are always hearing people complain that performance evaluations require a lot of work and always seem to miss the mark. Those of us who are looking to help automate the process absolutely agree that the systems today are too complex and we are, of course, looking to ease that pain point, but even when the paperwork is simple that still won’t be enough.

The biggest problem here is not a software problem. Nor is it really the fault of the desire of HR to put down a repeatable system of measurement. Where the process breaks down is, of course, that it often lacks honesty, I mean real honesty.

I like the way Debora Dunn expressed this in the HBR article: 

“I feel there is no greater disrespect you can do to a person than to let them hang out in a job where they are not respected by their peers, not viewed as successful, and probably losing their self-esteem. To do that under the guise of respect for people, is, to me, ridiculous.”

Maybe it is just that I have always been well aware of my weaknesses, that I find myself surprised that often people are not aware of where they are strong and where they are weak. I probably have to thank my family who were so quick to provide me with early feedback. 

You are a crybaby, a snob, a wimp, a bad dresser, a geek, stubborn, opinionated, always think you are right, and so on…

Why is it that our families are able to tell us these things and never have us doubt that they like us anyway? Maybe it is that these types of phrases were followed up with things like, “oh, and can I borrow some money?” I guess when you have mutually assured destruction you build an alliance that transcends brutally honest feedback.

Of course, some of my flaws have softened over time, in fact, I’m pretty sure few really know that I’m a crybaby anymore. I have also managed to build elaborate systems to work around some of my other flaws. For instance, my lack of fashion sense is currently solved by having a style coach and personal shopper on my team. While I didn’t actually post the job description that way, I did change the job requirements based on the skills of the individual.

Still, lots of my core flaws remain and have produced quotable feedback items like: 

Meg does not suffer fools gladly” or “sometimes a more tactful approach is appropriate.”

In fact, as far as I can see, there is really only one character flaw that was not first identified by my family. The reason is, that they are to blame. In my family the only way to get a word in any conversation is to quickly jump in during a pause. Turns out, in the “real” world, people see this as interrupting. Who knew?

So, what is a manager to do here?

  1. Realize that honest feedback is not mean, lack of feedback is mean.
  2. Recognize that feedback is not just constructive. In fact, the best feedback is pointing out those traits that you want to continue. It works with puppy training and it also works with humans. Yes, you heard it here first. Positive feedback works better. Try it.
  3. Remind people that they will make more progress if they play to their strengths and get support for their weaknesses. When possible, help move people into roles that play to their strengths.
  4. Understand that feedback has the most impact when it is timely. When you observe a behavior that warrants a comment, give it, as soon as you can.
  5. Finally, be sincere. Sincere in your motivation about why you are giving feedback and sincere about the content of the feedback you give. If you really care about the people who work for you, then you want to help them. You are not filling out the form because HR is forcing you to, you are providing feedback because you want the person to benefit.


This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Yes, the topic today is “Talent Mobility.” 

But Meg, you say, Mark already covered this topic a few weeks ago. Yes, I know he did, but I’ve made a career out of repeating what Mark has to say, I don’t see why I should stop doing that now that I have a blog goal of an entry every week

So the question is, how do managers deal with the conflicting priorities of wanting to succeed against their own objectives vs. the goals of their team members for career development? Especially when the next career progression for an individual is not an opportunity that the manager has on their team? How does an HR group encourage the idea of individual career development if they have managers who are incented to hoard talent? 

One of the first problems to address is how you incent your managers. If their incentives are exclusively project based and not based on growing their people you are probably going to have limited success in driving the kind of employee engagement that we have been talking about here at TalentedApps.

Another key factor will be showing talent mobility as a core value. Are those managers who develop and share talent known in your organization? Does your organization see these managers as more valuable? They should. Managers who are able to develop and share talent are going to provide more long-term value to your company than those managers who are only concerned with their own personal objectives. In addition, those managers who are good at spreading talent across your organization are probably those managers who have a more effective network in the organization, certainly a more loyal one.

So, as you look to set your own objectives this January think about how putting opportunities for those who work for you ahead of opportunities for yourself. Not only does the golden rule tell you to do this, but in the end, you and your company will benefit more as a result. 

Also, consider thanking someone who was influential in your own career by helping you achieve your own career goals, especially when that involved being open to the idea of you working somewhere else if that was necessary. To that end, I would like to thank my last two bosses (you know who you are and are probably thrilled to have me mention you publicly) who have made personal sacrifices to help me grow professionally. This, in addition to having to put up with me as an employee, certainly disserves a good karmic return. 

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Is Employee Engagement a Manager’s Job?

We’ve been talking about Employee Engagement for some time. How do we engage people, why do we need to engage people – all that touchy/feely stuff that causes some of us to feel warm and fuzzy, and others of us to hold back a gag reflex.

I’ve also been thinking about a manager’s role in the overall Talent story for some time. I think that to really do innovative things in Talent you not only need software and an HR vision, but you also really need solid line managers. Initiatives like building, sharing, and retaining talent fall down quickly with bad managers. As the saying goes, people join a company, but they quit their manager.

I’ve read a few things lately that are food for thought for those of us who are managers. Now, I do not intend to suggest that we as individuals yield our own responsibility to define, nurture, and grow our own careers, but for those of us who are managers, it can’t hurt to check in and see if we could be doing more.

Here is a quick article that talks about employee engagement and how “managing with a human touch” is a necessary ingredient for that to happen. 

I also recently read The Three Signs of a Miserable Job and found an interesting assertion on the responsibility of a manager. This book focuses on how a manager is responsible to make the job of their employees something that they can feel positive about. The most interesting thing that he points out is that the work is not really the most significant factor. In other words, a movie star, a super model, or a professional athlete can be less engaged in their job than a cashier, a janitor, or a factory worker. His core points were that: 

  1. People need to be recognized – he used the word anonymity as the problem. Managers need to engage with their teams as people first and employees second. Yes, here is where the touchy/feely part comes in – if it makes you squirm as a manager then guess what? Maybe you shouldn’t be in management. People often confuse what is not legal to ask in an interview process with what they should not ask an employee. So, the question is: do you like your team? Do you know them? Do you care about them as people? 
  2. People need to be able to measure their work (immeasurement) – if you can’t measure what you do, or worse, if you are measured on something that has no clear connection with what you do, then you are probably less satisfied with your job. 
  3. People need to see a value in their contribution (irrelevance) – people want/need to know that they make a difference in the lives of others with their contributions. One very interesting point he raised is that managers are often not comfortable being clear to their teams that they need them. So, in case there is any doubt for my team – ohmygod do I need you guys 😉

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.