Wednesday December 4, 2013
I am a real proponent of the management philosophy that you help people continue to develop their strengths rather than trying to help them develop their weaknesses. This theory was proposed by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently (compare prices) as a result of the Gallup organization's interviews with 80,000 managers. On top of trying to get the daily work completed and the annual goals achieved, I don't see how anyone has time for both.
In my case, I'm good with people, not very good with mathematical story problems. No matter what, I will never be good at solving complex mathematical problems. Could I get better? Probably. But, why not spend my time honing my strengths? I'll bet you have a parallel in your life. Why not share it in comments?
In a more middle of the road personal story, I have always been a good writer. But, strengthening that skill over the past 12 years, writing online and for publications, has made me a better writer and a faster writer. Writing is definitely a skill, once I started doing it every single day, with hours of practice and a deliberate commitment to growth, that I continued to develop.
And, sure enough, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, authors of Freakonomics (compare prices), weigh in at the Freakonomics blog with these thoughts:
"A while ago, we wrote a New York Times Magazine column about talent -- what it is, how it's acquired, etc. The gist of the column was that 'raw talent,' as it's often called, is vastly overrated, and that people who become very good at something, whether it's sports, music, or medicine, generally do so through a great deal of 'deliberate practice,' a phrase used by the Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and his merry band of fellow scholars who study expert performers in many fields."
In the column cited in the quote above, Dubner and Levitt conclude that:
"...the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers -- whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming -- are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
"Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love -- because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't 'good' at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better."
So, it seems there is truth in the power of developing your strengths and deliberately practicing the areas you want to improve. This never comes home to me with such power as when I watch the athletes compete in the Olympics. Sure, many of these athletes have physical characteristics that assist them to excel in their chosen sport - think Michael Phelps, the winner of a record eight gold medals in a single Olympics. But, every athlete competing in the Olympics spent years in deliberate practice to develop both their physical characteristics, their mental focus, and their skill in their chosen sport.
I also liked the plug for love your work in the article, a concept you hear me talking about frequently. Do you agree - about the deliberate practice or the love?
Image Copyright Barbara Henry
More About Goal Setting and Development
Wednesday December 4, 2013
Dr. Barbara Brown says that if you want to improve employee performance, think about your daily conversations with employees. No better opportunity exists to reinforce and help refine excellent employee performance. You discuss new projects, talk about overdue assignments, give updates about completed tasks, and more.
Use these conversations to reinforce the importance of doing a great job. How? Link the employee performance to a workplace result.
Her thoughts have a lot in common with my often repeated thoughts about employee recognition. Provide recognition because you genuinely want to reward and recognize employee contributions. But, at the same time, understand the power of recognition in shaping positive employee performance.
If you want to see a particular performance from an employee, nothing is as powerful as recognition. Daily conversations and your effective performance development process help, too.
Image Copyright Pando Hall / Getty Images
Tuesday December 3, 2013
A reader asks an interesting question and many readers responded. Is it wise to rehire a fired employee? Do any of you have a different point of view, knowledge of trends, or the experience of rehiring an employee you fired?
"I am looking for your point of view on trends from the employers' perspective to rehire someone whom they fired. Do you have any posts or details on this subject?
"Specifically, are employers concerned that there would be resentment on the employees' part, the psychological aspect of it? The internal politics
with employees and how the employer would be 'viewed' rehiring a fired employee? Is this a problem? I am based in Shanghai, China and finding HR experts is tough."
I would not rehire someone I have fired. This is because I follow all of my recommended steps before I would fire someone. That means that the former employee had every chance to improve. They did not and they are not suitable for my organization, for whatever reason.
People don't change that much. If you are prepared to overlook the reasons you fired the individual in the first place, the same reasons won't go away but, possibly, the firing was not totally justified.
I'd rather train and mentor someone new. And, yes, there will be anger and resentment and the other employees will question management's judgment if you rehire someone you fired. But, mostly, the reasons for which you fired the person have usually not gone away. I recognize that laws and other considerations in your region may be different.
This is what I believe. I am not aware of trends or research. I have not written on this topic as I don't believe it should happen, except under a rare circumstance. I can't really think of any that would qualify. Let's give other readers the opportunity to chime in.
I'm curious about what other readers think? Many of you have taken the time to share your thoughts.
Image Copyright Diego Cervo
More About How to Fire an Employee
Monday December 2, 2013
I have mentored, for years in some cases, a number of women over the course of my career all of whom are doing very well in the professions of their choice. So, when Kim Yorio of The Girl's Guide ... and YC Media fame contacted me for an interview about team work, I was happy to talk with her.
In addition to the team work questions, she asked questions about why women appear to have lower scores in areas such as leadership, problem solving, inspirational behavior, and more when male and female employees are surveyed.
My position is that, while business has not always been, and is still not, in many cases, female-friendly, many of the reasons involve behaviors and attitudes that women can do something about. At this point, there are still too few women in executive positions, but I can also speculate several reasons why.
First of all, women are much more likely to interrupt their careers with time away from work for tasks such as raising children. This interferes with their ability to remain in the manager pipeline that is feeding into the executive positions. Second, women are not majoring in, studying, or obtaining degrees in several of the high need, high growth areas of employment such as technology, engineering, math, and science.
Third, women need to be cognizant of the language they use. For example, recently, a VP at a client company came to me to reject several female candidates for an executive role because they had not "accomplished anything" as far as he could tell.
I asked how he had reached this conclusion when I believed they were highly qualified for the role. It was a language thing. The male candidates said things such as, "I expanded sales in the division by fifty%." The women candidates said, "The team grew the business by fifty%." and "We accomplished this."
Finally, according to Judith Lindenberger, women need to work in the line organization, in jobs in which they have profit and loss responsibility. Line success adds significant credibility to a woman's career progression possibilities.
I have not done a lot of research in this area, but the interview with Kim certainly got my attention. So did this: Women who wear short skirts that display a lot of leg may be overlooked for promotion and pay increases. So says a recent study conducted by Tulane University. Overt sexual behavior at work, whether men and women are consciously aware of it, or not, can submarine your career.
More Resources for the Workplace
Image © Kelly Young