Performance Metrics for the Enlightened Professional

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMoney. It's everywhere. It's involved in almost every part of our lives, and there is so much energy around it that it can define what we do, who we are, and how we spend our days.

If you are over the age of 17 or so, I'm sure you've been asked these kinds of questions numerous times by well-meaning adults:

How will you make a living?

How will you support yourself?

What will you do with that degree/trade/job/idea?

The word goddess Cheryl Strayed has a beautiful response to the pressure so many of us feel to have the "right" answer to these questions:

You don't have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don't have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don't have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don't have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you've got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.

But that's all. 

How would your life change if you simply focused on paying your bills, being kind, giving it all you've got, and loving truly?

I don't know about you, but that kind of life sounds pretty appealing to me, even though the socialized part of me clamors and clings to old ideas of "success."

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a mentor who helps me get real about money and my business, and when he asked me (like he usually does) about setting strategic monetary goals, I hit a wall. I told him how sick I was of focusing on the money. I told him that it felt yucky and gnarly, and like a poor use of energy. These were hard things to say to a financial mentor, but he was kind and gracious, and he met me where I was.

Instead of focusing on money, we agreed I'd set new goals - ones that felt good to me and that kept me going in the direction of where I want to go. This has changed the way I measure what I do each day, and it feels awesome. Instead of limiting myself to regular performance metrics like revenue and website traffic, I'm focused on two more enlightened ones:

How much fun am I having?

- and -

How much connection am I creating?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

Now, the importance of money is not lost on me. I know how much it matters, and frankly, I want more of it in my life. But I don't want money guiding my worklife - I want it to be an outcome of the fun I'm having and the connection I'm creating with and for others.

How would your career shift if you focused more on fun and connection?

When we're having fun and connecting with others in an authentic way, our work can actually heal and enliven us.

When I look at the things I'm having fun with and creating connection through, like the Facebook group and A Wild New Work course, I involuntary smile and feel so grateful to be doing this work. To me, that's a definite sign that I'm succeeding and performing at a level I'm proud of.

Forget about "how will you make a living?" for a minute and imagine what would make you feel more fun and connected. Do you see the value of those things?

Do you see how they support and nurture your success?



The Value of a Mentor

This is a guest post from a friend and former colleague of mine, Bob Hastings, who is one of the most kind-hearted people I know. Bob currently mentors individuals and consults for organizations in the business of creating a more sustainable built environment. His expertise includes business development, culture creation, growth, and finding purpose. You can learn more about him on his LinkedIn profile. Enjoy!  bow-tie-businessman-fashion-man

I was selling high efficiency residential windows when the company I worked for decided to bring on a sales manager to improve results. I loathed the idea… “They’re going to bring in this pompous, high-pressure, surly, hot-head on board to tell me what to do?!” I was sure that it wouldn’t work out and that I would be the victor. I’d just have to wait it out and let this guy run his course and see himself out the same door he walked in through. My plan was to act cool, so I did.

Craig Leary was hired as the sales manager. That’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know that he was drastically over-qualified to be a sales manager (especially for our team of two sales people) but that he took the opportunity because he believed in the potential of the company and in his own abilities to transform our performance enough to justify a huge step down in his career to position himself for new growth. I didn’t know that he had a wealth of industry and behavioral science knowledge that I could learn from if I’d only open my eyes and ears – and I didn’t quite care. “Act cool, he’ll be gone in a month” – I pretended he didn’t exist. I was in the field most of the time anyway, while he was in the office…at first.

Craig was rapidly hiring and training more sales staff, organizing a call center, and teaching the company about marketing and customer acquisition. He was turning the division into a functional machine and generating excitement. Meanwhile, I was in the field running my “free advice” business into the ground – until Craig was able to turn his attention to me.

It began with him coming with me to one of my appointments. This made me uncomfortable, but I refused to behave any differently because of his presence, so I gave my free advice and the appointment ended amicably but, unsurprisingly, without a sale.

Craig had two decisions to make after shadowing me that first time. The first was to determine if I was worth keeping on the team. The easy decision, which I believe most people in his position would have made, would have been to remove me from the picture. He could have done this quickly and painlessly. I often think about how my life would be different today if this had happened and what potential he saw in me that prevented him from taking that action.

The other decision Craig had to make at the time was what feedback to give me and how to deliver it. As you might deduce, I was not open to his coaching. I don’t remember exactly how he opened me up to this advice, but I’m fairly sure it started with a compliment about my ability to build rapport (compliments usually go a long way with me). After he paid the compliment, there was no critique, just a simple request: “I want you to try something. See if you can engage the customer more with their hands. Have them physically help you with your assessment of their home. Would you try that and let me know how it goes?” So I agreed, and I “accidentally” had a couple of sales that week.

The value of a mentorIn the weeks and months following that first shadow, Craig did a lot more asking than telling. He wanted to understand what made me tick, what I cared about, what concerned me, and what my beliefs were. Through his willingness to learn from me, Craig understood what my apprehensions were about learning from him. He was able to carefully show me that sales didn’t have to be sleazy. He showed me that selling can be a vehicle for a worthy cause, and should always and only be done with the customers’ best interests at heart. In my second month reporting to Craig, my sales doubled. In my third month, they doubled again. The best part: I still got to run my free advice business and provide exceptional service, just with much better results that allowed me to advance my career.

Going back to that first shadow, I know now that Craig could have given me a list of at least 50 things to do differently. I also know that if he did that, it would have only damaged our relationship further. A list of tips is only as useful as the one tip that actually gets implemented. Craig knows this. So, over the years, his advice has come to me at times when I have been truly ready to receive it, implement it, and grow from it.

Even today, years since reporting to Craig professionally, he is still my mentor. He still pushes me to challenge myself, play big, and think big. I know that I can count on him to listen to me explain layers upon layers of complex dilemmas, and then he will ask me one question that will somehow cause my dilemmas to implode, put everything into perspective, and ignite a fire under me.

The value of a mentorThis is what great mentors do: they break down your walls and open you up to coaching.

And when you trust them, they tell you something that might hurt to hear, but that you need to listen to. They push you out of your comfort zone and force you to grow. And they do it because they care about you.

Leadership expert Dov Baron said something I believe in a profound way: “…the mentor helps you create a vision that’s far bigger than anything you’ve ever imagined and then holds your feet to the fire to get there. Your mentor calls you out every single step of the way. Your mentor is not your buddy.”

Who are you grateful for in your life that has pushed you out of your comfort zone? Have you thanked them?

Who have you helped to grow? Have you recognized how rewarding it is?

Know someone who has mentored you or who wants to become a better mentor? Consider passing this post along to them!

Receiving Feedback: Absorbing What Helps and Tossing Aside What Doesn't

This is the second of a two-part series on giving and receiving feedback in the workplace. This series came about because of a reader's request; if there are workplace topics you want to hear about, you can always let us know! Receiving feedback positively is all about studying and appreciating your inner self.

Receiving critical feedback is hard for many of us because it can reinforce the painful stories we tell ourselves. If you have a dialogue in your head that goes something like "I'm not smart enough to lead this project team," then it can really sting when your boss tells you she doesn't think you're ready to lead a project team right now. Even if that's true and you know it, unfortunately, your brain drops that piece of feedback right into the irrational "I'm not smart enough" bucket even though it should go into the more realistic "I still have more to learn, but I can lead a project team one day" bucket.

Not only is it hard to receive feedback because of what's going on inside of us, but then we have to discern whether or not the person giving the feedback has the right motivations, is correct, et cetera. It can be a lot to manage, but by getting real with yourself first, it becomes easier to absorb what you actually do need to hear and discard anything that's just noise. It's incredibly helpful to learn how to receive critical feedback, because it can be transformative and support your personal and professional growth.

Here are 5 ideas for how to absorb feedback that helps and toss aside what doesn't:

1. Know your stories. One of my stories - the things I tell myself are true - is that I'm not charismatic or interesting enough. At its worst, I didn't like talking about myself with strangers because I was convinced they'd walk away mid-sentence out of sheer boredom. So a few years ago, it really, really stung when someone at work told me that a presentation I did was flat and monotone and that I needed to "pump myself up" more before I did another one. That was probably useful feedback, but it would have helped to know back then that it hurt more because it reinforced something I told myself was true about me. Just by being aware of your stories, you can begin to notice which types of feedback affect you differently, which leads me to point #2...

2. Notice what you feel defensive about. When that person told me that my presentation was flat, I politely accepted his feedback and then proceeded to imagine chewing him out with the most creative combination of swear words I could think of. I felt defensive. I wanted to protect myself. Now, this person may not have had the best intentions when he gave me feedback, but the only thing I can manage is what happens inside of me. When you get feedback that causes your heart rate to increase or your face to feel hot, pause and notice that. Notice what you feel defensive about, because I bet it has more to do with the stories you tell yourself than the person giving the feedback.

3. Ask for clarification and a container. Like we talked about in my last post on giving feedback, most people aren't very good at it. It's tough to do. So if you're on the receiving end of someone who is trying but not succeeding, ask for clarification. You have every right to ask for concrete examples of what s/he is talking about so that you can better understand what's there for you to learn. You can also ask for a container: limits around when and how you receive feedback. I used to work with a woman who would run up to me as soon as I got to my desk in the morning with questions or tasks she needed done, and that was not okay with me. I asked her (in nicer words) to let me put my bag down, get some coffee and have 15 minutes to settle in before she came to talk to me about work. You have the right to ask for what you need, especially from the person who is there to support you: your boss.

4. Ask for time to digest if you need it. Here's another story in my head that I bet most of you can relate to: I feel the need to be agreeable. Sometimes I'll find myself nodding in a conversation with someone I actually disagree with. Or I'll walk away from a conversation thinking "that was nice," only to realize a day or two later that the person was being totally patronizing. If that's ever happened to you, it might make sense to receive the feedback, not say anything, and ask for some time to mull it over before meeting with the person again. In our turbo-paced society, it might feel awkward to ask for a day or two to think, but it will create the space you need to digest it and allow you to move on to step #5.

5. Toss aside anything that isn't helpful or is just about them. If you take the time to notice how feedback affects you and tease out the pieces that you actually need to hear, you'll be able to discern what to toss aside. By being aware of your own stories and how they impact your actions, you'll be able to see when others are acting out of their own stories and giving feedback that's really just about them. Even if the feedback is coming from your boss, it may not all be true and valuable, because it's still passing through the lens of your boss's experiences and stories. There's not a lot of objective data out there with which to give feedback, so take a close look at what resonates with you, be grateful for it, and absorb what's going to help you grow. Imagine crumpling up the feedback that isn't helpful and tossing it into your garbage can.

It's important to learn how to do your job well, but it's so much more important to learn about your inner landscape: the stories you tell about yourself, what resonates with you, and how you want to be in the world. If you're firmly grounded in who you are, you can turn any feedback -- even if it's delivered poorly -- into a catalyst for growth.

Giving Feedback that Makes the Workplace Better

This is the first of a two-part series on giving and receiving feedback in the workplace. This series came about because of a reader's request; if there are workplace topics you want to hear about, you can always let us know! Giving others great feedback can help them grow.

We all know the difference between working with someone who gives helpful, constructive feedback and someone who just tears us apart. We all know how it feels to have a manager sandwich a critique between a lot of praise, and I bet a lot of us know how it feels to be criticized by someone who is technically your boss but who has never invested in a relationship with you.

The internet is bubbling over with webinars, articles, and trainings on how to give effective feedback in the workplace. It's a pillar of management theory, and the multi-million dollar executive coaching industry focuses a lot on how to motivate members of an organization. And yet, for many of us, it's still so hard to give any, nevermind effective, feedback to others. Giving feedback is a natural part of working with people, and it has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for growth and change.

So, here are 5 tips that I hope will help you do the inevitable, but in a way that feels more authentic and uplifting:

1. Start with a lot of positive feedback. Management and relationship research shows that it takes 5 positive statements to prevent the harm that can be caused by 1 negative critique. That said, bombarding someone with 5 seemingly frivolous or fake compliments before you throw down a really harsh criticism is not the answer. Anyone you're in a position to give feedback to should be someone you work with frequently enough that there are lots of opportunities to shower him/her with praise. Focus on what they're doing well and build them up so that when there is a learning opportunity for them, it feels like one and not an attack.

2. Recognize emotional contagion. Research shows that when someone in your environment (even if you can't see them!) is stressed, you can take on that toxic energy as well and start to feel anxious, angry, or uncomfortable. If you're trying to give constructive feedback to someone who is totally stressed out, you should a) think about whether there might be a better time or place to chat, or b) recognize that you might be taking on some of their stress, imagine yourself using that energy to do even better, and take a deep belly breath to re-engage. If you're the one totally stressed out, do yourself and the other person a favor and take care of your needs before trying to coach him or her.

3. Prioritize the relationship. Projects, papers, workplaces initiatives - rarely do any of our "outputs" impact us more than the relationships we have with others in the workplace. So many of us have bought into this utilitarian idea that our co-workers are just commodities, that we're all just here to color in-between the lines and make sure the work gets done. People who see the value in working well but prioritize relationships just do better across the board. When you have to tell Sally that she's missed the mark on performance for the third month in a row, remember to see her as a whole person who, in one way or another, you are in relationship with.

4. Create a container. For managers especially, it's immensely helpful to set up a weekly one on one meeting with the folks you support. This creates a container around feedback so that there's a clear time and place in which the employee can reflect and grow. By creating a container, you take some of the heaviness out of giving feedback and can just do it in real time, in a low-key way. As a manager or as a co-worker, you can ask how the other person likes to receive feedback - do they want you to be blunt? gentle? somewhere in-between? Be thoughtful about what happens in this container and do what you can to make it a positive, collaborative experience.

5. Reflect and acknowledge. After you've given feedback to someone, pause to imagine what that interaction may have looked like to an outsider. Reflect on how the other person might have felt, and how you felt delivering it. If it didn't go well, acknowledge that - to yourself and, if you feel like it's appropriate, to the other person. Try to be mindful of the ways you're getting better at giving feedback and the things that are still tough for you. And remember, that 5:1 positivity/negativity ratio should apply to what you tell yourself, too!

The Ickiness of "Progressive Discipline"

suit-673697_1280 Like so many well-intentioned HR professionals, I'm schooled in the steps of what's called "progressive discipline": verbal warning, written warning, suspension/demotion, and termination.

That system (and even the word "discipline") of treating employees like wayward robots who need to be set straight feels pretty icky to me, and it always has. That method comes from a perceived need to protect a company from litigation (reactive), not from a place of truly wanting to lift the organization up (proactive).

When I've written warnings or termination letters for employees, I've had to hit "pause" on the part of me that is compassionate and humane. Most employees don't sue their employers, and yet, we design policies tailored to the few who may want to take action against an organization.

Why do we think we have the right to "discipline" grown adults who are giving us the gifts of their time and expertise in the first place?

Have you ever been "disciplined" by your employer?

Did it make you want to thrive and do your best work? Probably not. People do well when they have ownership over their work and are encouraged to bring their best selves forward.

If an organization feels like it has to warn and suspend its employees, that's probably because it's either a) not making an effort to hire grown adults who can manage a job, and/or b) too afraid to loosen the reins of control.

Running an organization like a branch of the military won't keep litigation costs down, and it won't solicit the best from the humans who make it run.

The patronizing employer-employee relationship of the past needs to be set aside. It's time for organizational leaders to wake up to a workforce that wants to be treated like the complex, capable adults they are.

Needing & Solving Employee Turnover at the Same Time!

Contrary to popular opinion you need employee turnover.shutterstock_134225549Turnover is a complex issue for sure, but there are two sides to the turnover conversation. There is positive turnover, which should be a component of every culture, and there is negative turnover, which some industries and companies simply don’t address because they believe it’s just a cost of doing business. I beg to differ, and here’s why. Turnover is a function of job fit, of which there are many components, such as: salary, personality, geography and company culture. Positive turnover is related to company culture, and negative turnover relates to the other three listed because those areas can be pre-determined and managed prior to hiring someone.

Let’s start with Positive Turnover

Every company should be defining their culture strongly enough that employees who aren’t the right fit either opt out themselves or management makes the decision to offboard them. Cultures with strong core values, key work ethics, and cultural norms must encourage positive turnover. This means that it’s ok for an employee who is recently hired or has been at the company for long enough to identify the culture to say “this isn’t for me.” That’s not a poor reflection on anyone, it simply makes it safe for employees aware and brave enough to opt out of a culture that’s not going to work for them.

It’s harder for management to accomplish positive turnover because it has legal and best-practice implications; however, a strong and quantifiable probationary period where management is actively reviewing and determining whether the employee fits the culture in addition to performance reviews can help foster positive turnover. When positive turnover is a component of your company, you know your values and mission statement is working and the opportunity to leave is not a negative reflection on the business but a positive reflection of its culture.

Negative Turnover

Negative turnover is expensive! It is estimated that turnover in a front-line position that turns over is estimated to cost about 75% of the employee’s salary. So, if your front-line position pays $30,000 annually, the turnover cost would be $22,500. This number is made up of several costs: training, reduced production time, increased overtime to cover for the loss, and other soft costs. If you turn over an average of 50 front-line employees annually, you’re looking at an annual cost of $1,125,000.00. The question then becomes: how do you impact negative turnover?

First, on-boarding new employees usually involves an orientation to the company policies and training on the actual job and procedures. It’s also an opportunity to build relationships that engage the new employee and embed them in the organization. We know that if you introduce and involve someone in six to eight relationships over his/her first six months in the organization, they’re more likely to become an engaged, productive employee.

This reminds me of the business truism that says “it’s harder to leave people than it is to leave a company”. Many of the on-boarding processes inside of companies leave out any relationship-building in their process of bringing in new employees, and no, assigning a mentor doesn’t count. Many HR professionals believe that relationship-building within the employee’s first six months is something that will just happen on its own, without any intervention, which is true for maybe 25% of the population. For the other 75% of new employees, however, the first six months is a time of wading through a plethora of new information and just trying to survive in a new environment. Excellent companies foster relationships and don’t wait for them to happen for their new employees, thus ensuring the first step of the retention solution, which is developing strong relationships.

The second solution is understanding what process(es) employees go through when they are hired. New employees look at several items before taking a new job. The first is salary and benefits: “Can I live my current lifestyle or better on what you are going to pay me?” Second is progression: “Can I progress in my responsibilities, pay and stature?” Third is training: “What training and development can I have access to here?” Fourth: “What is it like to work here?” And last: “What can I give back to the company?” The first three questions occur pre-hire, the last two happen post-hire. The more quickly you introduce the third and fourth into the new hire’s experience, the stronger you solidify the integration into the company and its culture and the tighter you close the turnover door.

Finally, the last suggestion is “fit” -- the concept that you can hire someone whose core personality traits match the organization’s culture and the needs of the position. I’ve worked with personality assessment for the last 23 years and have helped companies recruit and hire employees in a way that reduces negative turnover. Identifying and determining the personality traits that are held in common by high-performing, engaged employees is of the utmost importance and a passion of mine. I’ve found that identifying high performers’ traits and matching recruiting efforts to those traits can dramatically impact and reduce turnover.

Here is how it works. You identify the top performers in the job,(those are people you would hire again and would like to duplicate). We then administer a profile to those employees to identify what are common traits that we could look for in new employees. Simultaneously we will seek out management’s opinion about what traits are critical in the job for success. This is always important to determine whether or not management’s expectations line up with what is really succeeding in the job?

By combining effective on-boarding techniques and employee buy-in processes with cognitive and behavioral science, you can create a sound method by which to reduce turnover. If you could save 75% of the turnover costs you’re facing, in our little example, that would be $843,750.00 -- not a bad contribution to the company’s bottom-line and future!

So you want KPI's (Key Performance Indicators)‬?‬‬

shutterstock_148262060Performance indicators have been a talked-about component of every business since time began, but they’ve become a hot topic again recently. Here are some tips that cut through the noise and can help you develop, use, and maintain relevant KPIs. 1. Make sure the KPI is tied to the organizational value it's trying to measure and define.

Many times, KPIs are not connected to core values, and when it’s implementation time, they can actually reinforce the opposite of what your core values are. Take the case of reduced returns: if your KPI is to reduce returned merchandise or refunds, and you make it more difficult for customers to do so, this could lead to a difficult and unpleasant return experience for your customer. Which in turn, would negatively impact your KPI of improved customer satisfaction.

2. Focus on leading indicators (proactive), not lagging ones (reactive).

Making sure you develop indicators that show you where you’re going, not just where you have been, is the toughest of all KPI work. Make sure you devote time to identifying relevant indicators that have a predictive nature to them so that you have KPIs that act as steering wheels rather than rearview mirrors. An example of a predictive indicator would be the current sales opportunity and qualified pipeline your sales teams have in place as an indicator of potential and realistic closings for business growth.

3. Make them relevant to those responsible for meeting or implementing them.

As a manager, you can’t meet all of the KPIs yourself - you need your team. Making sure they see and experience the relevance of what the KPIs are and how to use them will ensure full buy-in to the process.

4. Measure customer experience specifically.

It’s important to have KPIs measure customer experience specifically so that the company can predict, prevent and manage the potential negative customer experience(s). These KPIs would be like some of the ones below:

‪Can our customers easily connect with service/support?

‪Is it easy for our customers to do business with us?

‪Is the administration of warranty work easy and seamless?

‪Is the customer interaction simple and relevant?

KPIs are excellent tools by which you can focus your business to achieve better than average results, so take the time and energy to do them well.