Putting Active Questions to the Test

A study carried out by Marshall Goldsmith and Kelly Goldsmith look at testing the effectiveness of active questions with employees who underwent training.

In short, a passive question begets a passive answer. For example, an answer to “Do you have clear goals?” might be “My manager can’t make his mind up as to what my goals should be”. In doing this the employee rarely looks to him or herself to take to responsibility and assigns blame elsewhere. By using passive questions when assessing employee engagement the company is essentially asking “What are we doing wrong?” They can also, if used exclusively, give employees implicit permission to pass the buck elsewhere and to avoid taking responsibility.

So what should we do? In short, we need to use active questions.

There is a significant difference between “Do you have clear goals?” and “Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?” The former is trying to assess the employee’s state of mind; the latter challenges the employee to describe or defend a course of action. A good example of an active question being asked was in John f. Kennedy’s memorable call to action: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

The power of active questions is that they engage the individual, they encourage the individual to think about the subject of the question, and to take responsibility for that which he or she is being asked about.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why Motivation Alone Is Not Enough & What Else You Need

The Motivation Trap

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Why motivation alone is not enough, you need more…

Imagine what would happen if your favorite football team took the field and the ONLY training they received in the last 8 months had been sitting in a room. Within the room, they’d be listening to legends of the game motivate them on what it takes to win and being shown presentations of what past champions have done by way of plays / strategies?

No practice drills, No fitness sessions, No practice games, No one-to-one coaching, No individual goals being set, No reviews of previous games and No new techniques.

Impossible task to win isn’t it. Logically it just doesn’t make sense to receive valuable motivation to change without then putting it in the right context and following it up with the hard work required to put strategies and actions in place to achieve the desired outcome.

However this is what countless businesses, teams and individuals do each day when it comes to their professional development and approach to change at present. And then they wonder why they are not getting the success they are looking for, and they continue in the same way yet expecting a different result.  As Einstein described it, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results”.

To understand why this occurs in professional development you need to look at human behavior.

At the end of the day it is much easier when it comes to professional development to be entertained by a motivational speaker (with many sitting at the back of the room responding to emails and chatting on social media these days!) than sitting down and slogging away developing clever strategies/actions in order to adapt your business. While there are terrific benefits for your professional development by listening to great speakers who provide the motivation to change and thought leadership to be innovative; the problem arises when the balance is 80% motivation and 20% strategy/action.

Many business advisors when providing advice to clients give in to this dynamic and only provide their clients what they ‘want’ – the quick fixes and magic bullet solutions. However clients need to be challenged as to what they really ‘need’ to achieve their desired objectives, and good business advisors will do this and challenge their client to ensure the thinking is robust, objective and underlying the real needs of the client.  As such the business advisor provides a balanced package where they become part consultant, part facilitator, part psychologist and part motivator as they customize their approach to deliver the outcomes their client desires.

The statistics are well known that 70% of change initiatives fail. There are countless business models on change and a myriad of great books about change such as Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Each model, book or guru essentially brings achieving successful change back to three core factors being:

  1. The right motivation / desire to do something different
  2. The clarity to your vision / direction in order to head down the right path
  3. The robustness to your strategies / actions to ensure your team can implement effectively while in the right environment for change.

At GPS we state that if you scored yourself out of 10 for each of these three factors (where 1 is very low and 10 is very high), multiplied them together and then looked at it as a percentage you need a score of at least 64% (so 640 out of 1000) to successfully make the change occur. We call this your ‘change potential’.

Reflecting back to our football analogy, imagine in that example your team scored a 10 for motivation, a 2 for vision and a 1 for strategy. Their score would be 20 out of 1000 or 2% change potential. Nothing would change.

Having balance in professional development across all three areas is critical for success. Motivation alone while easiest to obtain, won’t get you far.

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!

Why what got you here won’t get you there!

Are any of these scenarios familiar to you?

  • You’ve been recently promoted.
  • You’re in the same job you were in a year ago, but the scope is a lot bigger today than it was then.
  • You’re working in an organization where the performance bar has been raised dramatically.
  • You’re operating in a constantly changing competitive environment.

I expect you are in a position where you could easily pick two, three or four of these options.  The question is, what do they have in common?  The answer is that you are in a different situation in which you need to get different results. You can no longer do what you always did to get what you always got. In short, you need to change.

The problem with change is that we don’t always like to or want to change. Also, if we have been successful in the past then it can be difficult to change our behavior as we believe it is our past behavior that has made us successful. However, these same behaviors can now be an impediment to us with our being successful in spite of our behavior rather than because of our behavior.

In dealing with this are two things to identify:

  • What behaviors do you need to stop?
  • What behaviors do you need to change to be a more effective leader?

In doing this you cannot depend on your own intuition.  An interesting piece of research found that leaders, when comparing themselves to their peers, consistently over-rated their contribution with 80% of all leaders surveyed seeing themselves in the top 20% of performers, and 70% seeing themselves in the top 10% of all performers.  To get a realistic understanding of what you need to improve on as a leader you need to objective input from your stakeholders. These are the people who are involved with you and impacted by your behavior – your boss, your peers and your reports.

To find out more how you can do this email Andrew Cooke and find out more about the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centred Coaching process for executive coaches and successful leaders.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Risks of Conforming, The

Doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor. 

We often look at how hard we work as a measure of the quality of our work. But this is wrong. When you are looking at the quality of the outcomes you or your team produce you need to consider two elements:

  • Effort – how hard you work at getting the work done.
  • Rigor – how well you adhere to the process of getting the work done.

To be efficient and effective in your work you need to be high in terms of both the effort and the rigor which you apply.

An effort is focused on doing the best with the inputs (the tasks), it is about being efficient. Rigour is about focusing on the process of getting the work done, doing it consistently in the manner which has already been determined – this is about being effective.  You need to do both to produce long-term quality work outputs. As you can see in the matrix below the level of rigor and effort you make will largely affect your work outcomes.

The Rigor/Effort Matrix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Low Effort/Low Rigor – this is the worst situation where people, make little effort in getting the work done and when they do, they tend to do it in an ad hoc manner.  Processes and/or guidelines tend to be ignored, or not followed properly, and the work produced is poor quality, substandard, and costly (especially as work will need to be either redone or people in this quadrant will need a higher level of management oversight).
  • Low Effort/High Rigor – here people, make little effort in getting the work done, however, they do tend to follow the processes/guidelines that are in place.  So, although the work produced is of a suitable quality or standard, the work completed or produced does not meet expectations in terms of what need to be done or which has been planned.  Again this can result in further costs to the business as either more people are required to produce the necessary volumes, or those who are high producers are put under greater pressure as they pick up the slack.  This can lead to them being overworked, stressed and potentially more likely to want to leave for a less stressful job.  This can result in a business losing its best people and retaining the worst.
  • High Effort/Low Rigor – people make a lot of effort but do it in an ad hoc manner.  This can result in a lot of substandard or poor quality work being produced as they do not follow processes or guidelines. This can lead to a lot of waste, rework and may necessitate a lot of investment in quality control to try and manage the symptoms of low rigor.
  • High Effort/High Rigor – here people make a considerable effort, are engaged, and do good work on a consistent basis.  This produces great work for customers, improving customer retention, reducing costs, and improving revenue and profits.

Use this tool to assess where the individuals in your team are.  Assess their level of effort (1=very low, 10-very high), and the level of rigor they demonstrate (1=very low, 10-very high). From this plot them on the chart.

For each individual then determine where you want them to be and identify three actions that they can take that will help them bridge the gap.

So make the effort and be rigorous in doing it! Remember, doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps for Taking Responsibility

Take Responsibility to Gain Momentum

Freeing yourself and others to gain traction and action.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Take Responsibility

How often have you waited for work or input from someone else in order to get your work done, or to actually start the process.  It’s not your fault you are delayed, but what can you do about it?

In short, the answer is to grow up and take the initiative!

We are inculcated into a culture of blame which, in turn we use to abrogate responsibility and for blaming others – this creates a vicious cycle.  Furthermore, we are afraid of taking the initiative in case we fail, and then how will we look to others.  So we stay there, sitting on our hands, not wanting to take the risk of trying and failing, and worried that we might not look good if we do so; and we are happy to do so, because if we don’t move we can’t do anything wrong.  For some reason we assume that because we have not made a decision, then no decision has been made; we forget that no decision is a decision in itself and has its own set of consequences.

Breaking the Cycle – Taking Responsibility

If you want to things to improve, to overcome inertia and to gain momentum then the responsibility for doing so starts with you.  There is no cavalry charging over the hill to rescue you – they are too busy sitting on their own hands.  You have to take action and be the catalyst regardless of your position or role – you are taking on responsibility and accountability for what needs to be done and yourself.

We all want to work with people who are energized, take the initiative and have drive.  Yet we are surprised when they don’t exhibit these qualities – simply because we fail to exemplify it in what we do and how we behave, and people follow our example.

3 Key Actions To Take

To liberate yourself and others do three things:p

  1. Recognize the difference between fault and responsibility – there is a significant difference between them.  As a leader you may be responsible for a situation, even if you are not at fault – the blame is irrelevant and counter-productive. Fault is backward-looking, and responsibility is forward-looking.
  2. Take ownership – this frees us to take action and drive results.
  3. Own the problem and take action – this helps both ourselves and others; we create a virtuous cycle by providing the necessary avatar for others, and help to unblock their blockages.

So what are you going to do and how will you help your people – your reports, your peers and your bosses? The responsibility for this lies with you.

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How to Motivate Your Team More Effectively

A different approach that produced results

Do you struggle to motivate your team? Could your team be more productive and more effective? Do you have people who are not performing to their potential? If so, then you are not alone. Like many other leaders, great and small, you are making the same mistake: assuming that the answer to these questions lies with others (your team), when in fact it lies with you (the leader).

The problem is that our normal reaction is to see this as a problem. Firstly, the way we are biologically geared to think is that we look out for potential threats and to move away from them strongly. At the same time, we are less prone to looking for the rewards or upside, and we are also naturally less likely to move towards them.

This underpins our natural tendency to be loss-averse – we would rather avoid a loss than making an equivalent gain.

Secondly, the problem is that we tend to judge ourselves by our actions and to judge others by their behavior. So, if the team is not performing we attribute the poor performance to their behavior and attitude.

Thirdly, what you focus on expands – this is important as it affects your confidence, and confidence is the number one variable affecting a person’s performance. Think about it – if a person focuses on her shortcomings, her confidence will naturally be low. Whereas if she can get herself more focused on what she is doing well, her confidence will improve, thus leading to increased ability and potential on other tasks and activities. People with high confidence are much more coachable, and they make improvements much more efficiently.

Let me share a story about a sales manager; let’s call him David, who lead a team of ten salespeople.  He was suffering a two-pronged problem: firstly, he was struggling to find ways to motivate his team and, secondly, he was receiving complaints that he wasn’t recognizing his team’s contribution (both on an individual and a collective basis) to the company.

When asked how often he was recognizing things that the individuals on his team were doing well, he responded, “Whenever they do something well, I give them positive feedback. The problem is that they don’t often do what I need them to do.” He went on to say, “If they were performing better, I would recognize it. There are still so many problems with the way they are doing things.”

Obviously there is a disconnect between the expectations of David and his team. His team feels they should be recognized more, and David feels they should be doing more to earn the recognition. The reality is that both sides are probably correct. Being correct in this situation, unfortunately, does nothing for the productivity of the team.

David is reacting like any normal, rational human by expecting that his team actually do great work to be recognized for doing great work. The problem is that promoting the maximum effectiveness of his team requires him to think abnormally. Expectancy theory states, that which you focus on expands. If David continues to do what is normal and focus on the negative, there will be more negative. However, if he can re-focus himself and his team onto what is being done well, the positive will expand.

Expectancy theory is powerful because of the role it plays on confidence. Research confirms that confidence is the number one variable affecting a person’s performance. Think about it – if a person allows his mind to focus on the shortcomings, confidence will naturally be low. Whereas if he can get himself more focused on what he is doing well, confidence will improve, thus leading to increased ability and potential on other tasks and activities. People with high confidence are much more coachable, and they make improvements much more efficiently.

“Normal” Thought Processes

People have a problem-centric approach, which is we tend to recognize the problems in a situation first. Again, this is the normal course of thought for people. When faced with good and bad aspects of a situation, the bad aspects stand out like a sore thumb, while the good are harder to identify. This comes in handy when we need to identify the speeding car plowing through a red light or the bear running at us through the trees, but when it comes to leadership, this norm can be devastating to a team’s productivity.

David sees his team as having a lot of work to do to earn more recognition. He sees where they are falling short, which, in his mind, does not warrant much positive feedback. In his mind, the focus of his team needs to be on where they should be making improvements. He naturally sees and focuses on what is not working well.

“Abnormal” Thought Processes

With David, he started making a conscious effort to recognize at least one “done-well” for a member of his team every day. Instead of waiting for something to stand out to him, he would need to put in the effort to look for it in order to reach his daily quota. At first he was reluctant because he felt that he would be “celebrating mediocrity,” but what he found was that his team started to gradually perform better and better. Eventually, they were doing things that David actually found worthy of recognizing. It became easier for him to find things to celebrate.

Set a reminder either in your phone or in your calendar to recognize one “done-well” per day. It is important to schedule these recognitions because, again, they will not come naturally to you. It is abnormal to have a constant radar for “what is working well” because your radar is naturally set to “what is not working well.” It will take conscious effort to overcome this tendency. Your team will feel valued, and their work will start to reflect this.

A focus on what people are doing well results in people doing even more things well. This is a snowball effect that great leaders absolutely use to their advantage.

We grow best by building on our strengths, not by constantly trying to correct our “weaknesses.” That’s the essence of positive psychology. Yet the overwhelming feedback we receive – even when solicited – is about correcting some failing. Often we take the feedback to heart, and we spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure where we went wrong. But should we? Do you really have a problem?

So what can we learn from this?  There are three things.  Firstly, good performance by a leader requires good performance by the team; however, the reverse – good team performance means you have a good leader – is not necessarily true.Secondly, a leader cannot motivate anyone else but himself or herself. All the leader can do is create an environment in which people can easily motivate and align themselves in achieving the goals. Finally, the more time we spend trying to get our team to “correct” what we deem inadequate, the less time they have to invest in exploiting their own significant potential.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.