Guidance on leadership development & strategic planning.

Criticizing Your Team Without Demeaning Them

By Leadership Resources 04/09/2019
Leadership Resources critical group discussion

Most of us don’t like receiving criticism. But when we look back on our lives, we often find that our most significant moments of growth were driven by feedback and advice from others. We’ve already discussed the problems with being your own coach. Indeed, sometimes we need an external push to point us in the right direction. If you’re in charge of team management, part of your job is to evaluate its performance and dole out criticism that can help get everyone back on track.

Mastering this communication and performance management is easier said than done, however. On one hand, you don’t want to water down your comments or avoid confronting imminent issues. On the other hand, you don’t want to make your team uncomfortable by singling out members or acting rudely. There is an area between these poles that allows you to criticize your team without demeaning them. Let’s explore this area, how to find it, and how to navigate it properly.

How to Properly Criticize Your Employees

Deconstructing Constructive Criticism

Most of us have heard the term “constructive criticism” before. In fact, it’s one of those terms that loses its meaning after a while due to how frequently it’s used. Still, this is a relevant concept that’s worth truly understanding, as it defines the area between weak feedback and bullying mentioned above.

Constructive criticism isn’t necessarily easy to swallow or even “nice.” Rather, it’s honest feedback given in good faith designed to improve the organization. The feedback given must have the ultimate purpose of improving the individual, team, and/or behavior moving forward. Without this aim in mind, criticism lacks initiative, and may even be given in bad faith. This is why leadership communication is so vital when delivering feedback. If you fail to clearly communicate why a problem needs fixing and how it might be fixed, you’re likely to encounter the problem again.

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The Lame Blame Game

Anyone who grew up with siblings has probably partaken in the blame game before, whether that blame was warranted or not. It’s true that we’re responsible for our own actions, and when we make mistakes it’s best to own up to them as soon as possible. However, playing the blame game is not an effective way to manage your team.

When someone makes a mistake, it affects the whole team. Even if a single person made an error, this mistake serves as a learning opportunity for everyone including that individual, of course. The key here is that the problem gets addressed, not that the individual gets singled out. If you do point the finger, plenty of new issues can arise. For one thing, the finger may get pointed back at you or other team members, quickly creating fissures in the company culture. Also, blaming an individual in front of the team can make that person feel ostracized, which may decrease their productivity and willingness to work.

Some mistakes are more serious than others, of course. If a team member does something hurtful, dangerous, disingenuous, or illegal, you will have to address this person directly. However, it’s often best to have a one-on-one conversation with said person rather than single them out in the group.

Reiterate Unity and Vision

Ultimately, the best way to criticize your team without demeaning them is to frequently remind everyone of their shared purpose. You and your team are in this together. There are bound to be mistakes along the way, and they all must be addressed. But it all must come back to the unified vision so every team member can regroup and get back out there better than before. It isn’t personal.

If you’re still new to leading a team, it’s worthwhile to invest in any available communication training for managers. These programs will help you become a better leader, listener, and bearer of constructive criticism. If you want to learn more about how to manage your team effectively, look no further than Leadership Resources.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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Is Your Team Unclear on Your Message? Know the Signs of Disconnect

By Leadership Resources 03/13/2019

Communication is one of the most powerful aspects of an organization. Strong communication keeps staff members accountable and helps maintain clarity. Poor communication can muddy the waters on every level. Without good leadership communication skills, your team might not know what to do next, or why they should do it. And if they fail to give you honest feedback, you might not even know that your message is unclear. This is a negative feedback loop that stifles productivity.

To get ahead of this potential confusion, it’s important to know some of the warning signs that suggest a disconnect in understanding. Here we’ll take a look at some of these signs and outline a few ways to course correct.

How to Tell Your Team Isn’t Getting Your Message

Lack of Engagement

We’ve all been told that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Still, most of us don’t like being the first or only one to ask for clarification on something. If a team member isn’t grasping a message or a concept, they might hold still and wait for someone else to do it instead. The problem here is that this sometimes results in no one asking common questions at all. The leader in charge of team management is then unaware of the confusion that several team members might be feeling.

If your team isn’t super responsive or seems hesitant to ask questions, take this as a sign that something is unclear. To remedy this disengagement, try asking specific team members what they think the goal or task is about. If they can’t do this, they’ll most likely ask for further instruction rather than pretend to know the answer.

Repeated Questions

On the opposite end of this spectrum, you may receive too many questions, some of which echo questions you’ve already answered. This is a big red flag for team culture, too, as it suggests that team members aren’t listening well to each other and that they’re having a hard time grasping your message.

Repeated questions may derive from a flaw in your communication, however. Perhaps similar questions keep popping up because your answers lack clarity. Take these repetitive questions as a sign that you need to step back and explain yourself more clearly.

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Overlapping Tasks

Once a project is in motion, there are a number of signs that indicate team members aren’t fully clear on the task at hand. The most glaring of these is when staff members assigned distinct tasks end up overlapping. For instance, one team member may be in charge of taking research notes while another is tasked with reaching out to contacts. If either person ends up doing something that’s in the others’ jurisdiction, there is probably need for better communication and performance management.

If you notice this happening, go back to the drawing board and reassign clearly distinguished tasks to your team members. Make sure everyone is clear on what they should be doing, how to report on it, etc.

Goals Aren’t Being Met and Productivity is Suffering

This final warning sign stems from the previous one. When team members fail to do their job or accidentally do someone else’s, productivity suffers. Failing to meet goals and deadlines can occur for a number of reasons, but it’s most commonly from miscommunication and lack of understanding. People struggle to achieve goals if they’re not sure what those goals are, or why they matter. One of the most important leadership qualities is knowing how to set and frame goals so that every team member can get on board.

Knowing how to manage communication in teams is easier said than done. For one thing, every team is different, and within each team are unique individuals with various strengths and weaknesses. It takes time to learn the subtle cues of each team member and recognize when your team is veering off course. Leadership Resources provides tools for leadership development that can help better equip you to handle these situations and get your team back on track. For instance, our team includes certified implementers of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)®, a system which promotes clarity and cohesion in organizations.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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3 Innovative Ways Your Team Can Test a New Product Idea

By Leadership Resources 03/11/2019

If you’re in the business of developing new products, it’s not always easy to know if an idea will be a winner. In fact, you can’t really know if a new product will sell until it’s out in the market and the numbers start rolling in. This is why it’s so important to thoroughly test an idea before sending it out into the world for public consumption. After all, you wouldn’t drive or walk across a bridge that hadn’t been stress tested beforehand.

But how exactly should you go about testing an idea? Let’s look at 3 innovative ways you and your team can test a new product idea.

How to Test a Product Idea

1. Ask Your Team: What Problem is Being Solved?

A successful product tends to solve a common problem, no matter how small. Therefore, this should be the starting point of your discussion with your project management team. Hold a brainstorming session where each team member individually writes down what problem they think the product will solve. Then, discuss each team member’s answers to see if there are any glaring differences. If one or more team members can’t come up with an answer, there may be a problem with the product idea itself.

Running this team management exercise will help foster a productive discussion that can help hone in on the product’s main function and trim its fat. A product may, in fact, be useful for solving multiple problems. But it’s important to know this beforehand so the marketing team can craft a strategy that touches on all of these aspects.

2. Hire a Focus Group

Ultimately, you want your product to appeal to a wide group of people once it’s on the market. Holding several meetings with your team is great for cultivating a team culture, but it’s not enough to get a sense of how consumers will feel about your product. Hiring a focus group can be a powerful way to get objective, external feedback on your new product idea.

Focus groups come in all shapes and sizes. They might be made up of a random selection of people, or they might be a more targeted group based on the product’s ideal market demographic. Those in the group can learn about the product, test it out, and give direct feedback to a moderator. Participants are also often encouraged to speak with one another about their experience. These conversations can reveal powerful insights into a product’s shortcomings and strong points.

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3. Test it in the Field

Focus groups provide one way to let several people try out your new product idea in a controlled setting. But why not also take your product out of the office and out into the world? Nothing is stopping you from going up to people and asking them if they’d like to try a sample of something or play around with a product for a little bit. You can even incentivize them with discounts or other offers. This is also a good exercise in sales leadership training.

If a product hasn’t been built yet and is still in the design phase, you can still test the idea by asking people if they would be interested in such a product. If enough people show interest, it’s a good indicator that the idea has value. You might then move forward with an online presale campaign that allows consumers to invest in the idea and receive the product once completed.

If you’re not around enough people to test out your product or answer your questions, try calling and emailing potential leads, asking them if they would be interested in receiving a product from you free of charge. In exchange, you can ask them to send back their thoughts on the product. Combining this feedback with your focus group results will give you the optimal pool of data to improve or change your product idea.

New product ideas are improved over time with the help of many people, both internally and externally. A large part of leadership development is understanding the importance of this additional input. Even if you’re in charge of overseeing the new product idea, it takes more than one person to bring that idea to its fullest potential.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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Is Your Goal-Setting Strategy Setting You Up for Failure?

By Leadership Resources 01/25/2019

Individuals and businesses should always strive to improve, learn, and grow. This process often occurs naturally as we gain experience and deal with adversity. However, progress can become stunted if we don’t know where we’re headed, or why. By setting goals for ourselves and our business, we can dot a path that helps us navigate our progress and keep better track of it.

But the goals we choose to set and the way in which we set these goals matters. If a goal is meaningless, arbitrary, or practically unattainable, it doesn’t matter if we reach the goal or not. If your goal-setting strategy seems to be broken, consider these potential problems.

Your Goals aren’t Concrete Enough

It feels good to set goals. This, however, can lead to problems if you aren’t careful in choosing what these goals are. Many people fall into the trap of setting broad, lofty goals that look great on paper, but cannot truly be achieved. And if they are achievable, the way forward is foggy. In other words, the goal is nebulous and not actionable. For business leaders, this makes team management difficult since no one has any clear direction.

If you find that your goals aren’t concrete enough, consider setting several smaller, actionable goals that can lead or add up to the broader goal or vision. This will leave you with a larger number of goals, but they will be easier to grasp and act upon, greatly reducing leadership stress and getting you where you want to go more effectively.

Unlock The Leadership Potential Within Your Organization. Download this whitepaper.

You Have Too Many or Too Few Goals

There is, of course, a caveat of setting too many goals: it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Additionally, placing a myriad of goalposts along the path can create a false sense of progress, like checking off “take a shower” on your daily to-do list. Sure, it counts, but it doesn’t hold much value. Each goal must be meaningful, worthy, and related to improving the company culture.

Conversely, setting too few goals can leave you and your team feeling lost and directionless. There should always be a clear goal ahead. Striking the Goldilocks balance between too many and not enough goals is key to staying on track and growing steadily.

You Have Trouble Setting New Goals

Of all the leadership skills one should have, being able to set new goals is among the most important. This is how you revitalize your team, shake things up, and keep the business dynamic and alive. However, you might find yourself a bit lost after finally crossing the finish line of some major goals, asking yourself, what comes next?

One way to avoid this stagnation is to always set one or a few goals ahead of the goal you’re most closely facing. Again, you don’t want to set too many goals, but you always want to be moving toward something. Stay focused on the task at hand, but know that there’s always another level after you’ve beaten the current one. The goals you set should always be related to a greater vision or purpose. Use each goal as a springboard for the next one you set.

Enhance Your Goal-Setting Strategy with Accelerate

In today’s digital age, we can rely on technology to help us create, organize, measure, and react to goals. Leadership Resources’ proprietary software Accelerate helps businesses set, manage, and track goals in real time. This program separates goals into categories: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. After being categorized, each goal can be defined and optimized with specific information and steps that will lead toward reaching it.

Team members can give and receive updates on these goals and specific tasks within them, increasing accountability. Reporting occurs in real-time, so everyone can stay up to date on a specific goal’s current progress via percentages and graphs. Leaders can see which members are falling short, where goals are heading off track, and which behavioral changes may be necessary for a reset. By putting goals into visual, tangible terms, Accelerate makes the goal-setting more transparent and navigable.

If your goal-setting strategy isn’t cutting it for you or your business, you might be running into one of these roadblocks. If your goals are too broad, break them up into smaller, tangible chunks. If you’re facing too many or too few goals, find a digestible medium. And if you’re running out of goals to set, think of the big picture.

Leadership Resources, with the aid of Accelerate, can help you reset your goal-setting strategy and achieve those goals. We would love to play a part in your continued leadership development. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and why.

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