Make Your Next Meeting More Efficient

We’ve all been in poorly planned meetings that drone on forever, lack purpose, and sap our energy.  Meetings are unavoidable, but with a little planning, you can turn them into the most productive part of your day.  Here are some simple steps for more efficient and productive meetings:

-Have a clear agenda for meetings, circulated in advance, so that you and others can come prepared.

-Organize your thoughts and supporting information in a concise manner beforehand to present information more effectively.

-In meetings, reward individuals for speaking up appropriately and sharing their thoughts, even if you do not agree with what they are saying.

-Have someone take notes at meetings and circulate them afterwards to participants.  List actions and follow-up items with accountability.

-Always end meetings on a positive note. Be careful of critical comments at the end of the meeting. Instead, express your confidence in people and thank them for their participation and for their ideas.

How to Deliver Negative Feedback

No one likes to deliver negative feedback.  It can be tempting to procrastinate or to sweep issues under the rug.  Most issues however, will never be resolved unless you address them directly. How can you motivate yourself to deliver unpleasant feedback?  Start by recognizing that most people want corrective feedback.  A recent poll suggested that employees who receive little or no feedback are even more disengaged than employees who receive negative feedback.  Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Give feedback that is specific and behavioral rather than general or judgmental.  Focus on relevant and recent observations.
  • Emphasize alternatives for the employee, helping the employee to think ahead and sort choices for behavioral action.
  • Avoid giving too much feedback at one time so that the employee is not overwhelmed-no more than a couple of things at once. One subject at a time is best.
  • Give recognition when a degree of success is achieved even when there is still room for improvement.
  • Provide encouragement and support for moving forward with new ideas and plans.


Simple Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Stress

Almost every workplace has been impacted by the recent recession.  Layoffs and budget cuts are commonplace and employees are expected to perform at continually higher levels.  While some workplace stress is normal and can even be healthy, excessive stress can impact your employees’ health and lead to lower productivity.  Workplace stress can also be “contagious”, causing others to be pulled into negative environments.

Are your employees experiencing a dangerous level of stress?  A good way to judge their stress levels is to note such things as:

-Impatience in situations

– A tendency to criticize or boss others

-Being unusually stung by negative feedback from others

-Demonstrating feelings of being “overloaded.”

Luckily there are some simple ways to ease the stress levels of your direct reports. Here are some things to try:

Discuss workloads with employees when you sense they have more to do than can be realistically accomplished.  Let them know it is okay to ask for help or to renegotiate timelines.

A good sense of humor is important. Use this when working with others to lighten up the situation. Humor is a good way to lessen tension and allow people to relax a bit during stressful periods.

Recognize that striving for perfection can create stress and cause employees to be overly critical of themselves and others. Encouraging them to strive for excellence instead of perfection is much more healthy and productive.

LISTENING: A simple way to become a better leader

Developing better listening skills is hard and it takes practice and courage. Like learning any new skill, it will seem cumbersome at first. The rewards of acquiring this new skill will be tremendous however, as you develop into a true leader.

Here are some easy tips to get you started:

Demonstrate that you are listening by restating what you hear:

Paraphrase your understanding of what is being communicated. Summarize the key points.

Establish eye contact and lean toward the person to communicate that you are actively listening.

Remember that effective listening includes asking questions.

When working with a group, you may find that your questions help others to discover better solutions that they may not have thought of otherwise.

Try to always ask clarifying questions before offering advice or voicing your opinion.

Slow everything down when you are trying to improve your listening skills.

As a leader, you are accustomed to moving quickly and reacting instantly to new information.

Slowing down your thought processes and responses will allow you to absorb important details and really connect with the other person.

If you disagree with what someone is saying, let the speaker finish before giving your opinion.

If you are really tempted to interrupt, count to four before you reply.

Although it will be difficult to change your current habits, effective listening allows you to truly connect with others, which will result in stronger working relationships.

3 Easy Coaching Tips You Can Start Using Today

1. Become more approachable in informal interactions by spending more time “wandering” in the office and treating employees like customers, asking questions, expressing ideas, sharing feelings, philosophies, values, etc., including discussions on personal hobbies or interests, so employees perceive you as more concerned and approachable.

2. Look for a teachable or coachable moment, e.g., a brief learning opportunity that might arise from an observation or a meeting that the two of you may be attending. Take a few minutes to simply debrief about the event and then move on.

3. When one of your direct reports asks for help, resist the desire to provide solutions. Instead, first listen carefully so that you have a better understanding of the situation and the issues. Second, ask non-threatening and non-challenging questions that help the employee think through the issues and find a better solution.


Time-Tested Tips For Managing Conflict

Conflict is inherent in our work and personal lives. However, if handled properly, conflict can actually be an opportunity to strengthen a work relationship.  Here are a few time-tested tips that can help you get past unproductive conflict:

When working with teams, take a brief moment to consider each individual’s frame of reference. This will really pay off if disagreements arise, as you will be able to understand where each person is coming from and how the decisions you are making will affect them. Your understanding of each individual’s perspective will also allow them to feel heard, even if they are not in complete agreement with your decisions.

When there is a problem, look for solutions without emphasis on blaming and complaining when things go wrong. Be action-oriented—where do we go from here, what is the next step?

Think strategically in conflict situations. Recognize the difference between what you can change, what you cannot allow, and what you must accept in order to reach a solution.

Managing conflict does not mean everyone agrees. Sometimes as a manager, you need to ask for individual’s help even if they do not agree with the plan of action.

Are You Prepared For Tomorrow’s Workplace?

Young Businessman Thinking and Wondering While Writing a Paper
Because the workforce is changing so rapidly, it’s not surprising that a recent study by Oxford Economics determined that the top concern for employees today is having their position change or become obsolete.  How can you minimize the danger of becoming obsolete? Start by focusing on the following competencies:

Filling the leadership gap
10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, leaving a large leadership gap.  Although organizations tend to be flatter these days, there is still a need for individuals that can inspire and persuade others and provide a vision for the organization. Think about how you can minimize the resistance to change in your staff.  In addition to providing educational opportunities, you will need to provide constant communication and feedback in order to obtain buy-in for the inevitable changes ahead.

The pace of technological change keeps increasing
Prior to 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. Currently, that rate is at about 12 months.  It’s possible with the proliferation of the “internet of things”, that human knowledge could eventually double every 12 hours!  We are in a change or die environment. You should aim to keep up-to-date not only with emerging technologies in your own area of expertise, but also in a broader sense. Take steps now to integrate a constant growth mindset into your personality.

The fastest growing economies are in Asia
The workplace is becoming an increasingly diverse environment.  It is not enough to focus on individual personality differences with co-workers and colleagues.  You must take the time to educate yourself about cultural differences.  Even subtle differences in communication patterns can be extremely important in your business dealings, so take every opportunity you can to meet diverse individuals and learn about their cultures.

An increasing focus on STEM and other technical skills has lead to a neglect of “people skills”
Of course your technical skills are important.  Your skill set is probably the main reason why you were hired and it’s difficult to be successful without serious depth in your discipline.  But in order to advance in your career, you are going to need to collaborate with others and navigate the sometimes tricky world of organizational politics. To be an effective leader in today’s diverse and global environment, you must strengthen your interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

Big Data has become the air we breathe
According to a recent Deloitte report, “analytics is becoming both the air that we breathe  – and the ocean in which we swim”.  While you may not need to be a serious “number cruncher”, you will need to a basic understanding of analytics to make sound business decisions.  Don’t rely on the excuse that you are “not mathematically oriented”.  Take an online course or partner with someone in your office that has a natural inclination toward analytics.

Hold On to Your Talent!

Advantages of a Comprehensive Talent  Development Program

A recent study reported in the Harvard Business Review stated that a high percentage of top young managers are in a non-stop job search. Dissatisfaction with development, training, mentoring, and coaching are important reasons why many of these young professionals make early exits. Many younger managers and professionals expect continuous learning opportunities, both formal and informal, as part of their motivation for continuing to work for their employers (Hamori et al., 2012). Don’t let this happen at your company.  You can retain your best performers through a comprehensive talent development program that ties in to achieving your business goals.

  1. Talent development works best when it is integrated into the organization’s strategic business goals and plans.  It helps to develop a competency model for your current and future leaders that incorporates important skills, behaviors and corporate values that drive business success. For more details, go to              .
  2. Talent development begins with examining the skills and behavioral competencies that the individual and the organization will need in order to achieve their goals now and in the future.  This includes not only knowledge-based learning, but self-awareness of how the individual’s personal style helps or hinders their success in achieving work goals.
  3. Once a competency model is developed for organizational success, it is important to measure how effectively your existing talent is in demonstrating these competencies. Organizations often utilize PSP’s standardized assessments to benchmark capabilities and the PSP 360 Surveys for internal review.  The results of these assessments provide a gap analysis that gives an accurate view of both the individual’s and the group’s strengths and weaknesses.  It points out concretely what is required for each person’s development to be in tune with the company’s competency success model for achieving business results.
  4. One of the biggest challenges in employee development is helping individuals recognize the importance of continuous personal learning with the recognition of how their behavioral skills help and sometimes hinder their achieving success.  The PSP coaching feedback interview helps employees increase their self-awareness and, as appropriate, address the need for personal change.
  5. Developmental success is increased by creating customized individual development training plans.  These plans are based on information from individual assessments and 360 Surveys integrated with the company’s competency model and the employee’s specific job challenges.  The development plan acts a guide for the employee by targeting each employee’s needs, providing specific behavioral suggestions, as well as resources (coaching, articles, webinars, etc.).  It is also helpful to create Management Coaching Plans for the individual’s direct supervisor to help guide them in mentoring and coaching each individual.
  6. It is important for senior managers and executives to hold direct discussions with employees and reinforce the importance of development.  It’s all part of managing change and effectively communicating the employee’s role in the company’s success. Senior managers can also provide on-the-job experiences such as special projects that help employees develop needed skills and competencies.  Often smaller, but meaningful projects can provide valuable training experience for employees while also advancing the organization’s business goals.
  7. Employee development ultimately rests on individual accountability.  Progressing as a leader is all about growing into the role and continually adapting to change. Successful leaders learn to recognize that personal change is often required in order to achieve organizational change. Talent development provides a means of identifying high-potential employees who have the competencies and the learning mindset to progress further for future leadership.