How to Better Receive Negative Feedback
Though a critical skill for all managers is how to give effective performance feedback.  It is the foundation for improving the performance of your team members.  But far too few leaders and managers are skilled at how to better receive negative feedback.

Employees tell us that too many leaders and ignore, distrust or are even insulted by feedback that is at all derogatory.  They also tell us that not enough upward feedback is followed up on.  As you can imagine, this does not engender trust and commitment.

A Big Mistake
Negative reactions to negative feedback are a big mistake.  Not only are leaders modeling the wrong way to receive negative feedback, but they are missing an opportunity to have a productive conversation and, perhaps, learn something important about the way they are perceived by their team and others.

Six Tips on How to Better Receive Negative Feedback

1. Assume Good Intentions
For now, assume the negative feedback was given with the intention of helping you to be a more successful leader. Consider it a gift.

2. Be Appreciative
Demonstrate your appreciation by saying, “Thank you.” After all, the feedback giver cared enough to seek you out and risk your disapproval.

3. Seek Clarity
Ask follow-up questions. Effective feedback requires more than general comments.  Ask about specific behaviors that, presumably, need improvement.  A comment that “you don’t seem to care about how hard we work” provides little to act upon.  You need to understand when and in what context you exhibited behavior that seemed uncaring. And how does this behavior affect the giver of the feedback and the rest of the team?

4. Buy Time If You Need It
If you feel blind-sided, ask for time to think the feedback over and then set a time when you can discuss things further. You may need to think through what you’ve heard and evaluate what it means for you and your team.

5. Expand the Conversation
Try to determine if there’s something else going on. Perhaps the feedback giver feels you have slighted them in some way or they are going through a personal problem that is causing extra stress or this “uncaring attitude” is just the tip of an iceberg of more general discontent with the way you are leading the team.

6. Ask for Support
If you have decided the feedback is warranted and that your behaviors are having a toxic effect on the team and its goals, ask for help in improving the negative behavior. Show that you take the criticism seriously and that you care deeply about bonding with the team in a positive way.  Ask for timely help in identifying examples of the negative behavior and set a time to review progress.

The Bottom Line
If you as a new manager can’t accept negative feedback in a positive way, how can you expect your team members to pay attention to the feedback you give them?  It’s all about improving performance – theirs AND yours.

To learn more about how to better receive negative feedback, download 8 Reasons Why Leaders Need 360 Feedback

A More Transparent Company Culture
From police forces using body cameras to Whole Foods sharing salary information, more and more companies are looking into creating a more transparent company culture to build trust and create high levels of employee advocacy.

The Definition of Corporate Culture
A company’s culture sets the tone in so many ways.  Your workplace culture defines the boundaries for how things truly get done on a day-to-day basis.  Your culture shapes the way employees think, behave and work.

New employees must learn the cultural norms to be “accepted as a member” and effective leaders must hire, promote, and reward employees who behave in way that aligns with the desired corporate culture.

A More Transparent Company Culture
Think of a more transparent company culture as one where timely information flow is embraced, knowledge sharing is the norm, and data is available to all.  This means that every employee can access information about where the company is going, how the company is doing and where they stand.  In some companies, it includes sharing calendars (even that of the CEO’s).

What You Can Gain with a More Transparent Company Culture
For many who are more used to keeping plans, information, and finances close to the chest, such openness is at first uncomfortable.  Many things should be kept within the Executive Team or to a select group of individuals who can handle the truth, right?  But here is what an open and more transparent company culture can do for your organization.

Cultural transparency builds:

  • Trust
    Trusting coworkers and company leaders to do what they say they will do is the foundation for effective teamwork. It is the basis for workers to feel interconnected in a way that they can move together to be most effective. Trust is an essential ingredient for building high performing teams where morale and results are high.
  • Productivity
    When coworkers know clearly what each of their teammates is doing, they can be far more efficient and productive within their own realm of responsibility. There is no confusion about who owns what, no duplication of effort, and a natural feeling of respect for everyone’s contribution.
  • Performance Coaching
    Another positive of an open company culture is that feedback is welcome. The sense of cooperation breaks down silos and territorial protectiveness.  There is mutual respect and an overall desire to improve so coaching toward better performance is targeted, specific, timely, and team goal-oriented.
  • Sharing
    Communication within and between teams is a high priority in an open culture. Information is shared, questions are encouraged and answered, and new ideas are respectfully considered. Dashboards show company metrics and the company opportunities and challenges are open to discussion.  The result is that employees feel ownership and satisfaction in their ability to contribute to the company’s success.

The Bottom Line
How trusting is your company culture?  You will know you are moving in the right direction when your employees believe that:

  • Communication is good throughout our organization.
  • Company leadership has communicated a vision of the future that motivates them.
  • They are well informed about issues going on within the company.
  • They have enough information and resources to do their job well.
  • The company listens to and takes employee ideas seriously.
  • Feedback to management is well received and followed up on.
  • There is cooperation between their department and other departments they work with.

To learn more about how to create a more transparent company culture, download 29 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust as a Leader

Go Slow to Grow Fast 
Ready to scale your company?Of course leaders should take advantage of opportunity and momentum by ramping up production and sales when customers are eager to buy.  But a recent MIT study found that 25% of high growth companies fail within six years.

Our Advice
Go slow to grow fast and don’t let your enthusiasm for early success cloud your vision and take your good sense on a risky or shortsighted detour.  Many leaders have fallen short because they did not do the careful analysis of which strategic growth move to make when.  How many businesses like Webvan, eToys and Zynga have you seen bite the dust or struggle because they tried to grow too fast?

Three High Growth Pitfalls to Avoid
Here are three high growth pitfalls you will want to avoid as you strategically grow your business:

1. Hiring Too Many Employees Too Fast
We know. You don’t want to get caught short-handed and the right talent can take a while to find.  But you also don’t want to grow your workforce before you have the bandwidth to develop, engage and retain  And most of all you don’t want to hire under the kind of pressure that promotes bringing sub-standard employees aboard.

Hire the right people when you need them and when you can accommodate them properly – not before.

2. Misunderstanding Who Your Customers Are
Too many high growth companies don’t really know who their ideal target customers are or how to differentiate themselves from the competition over the long haul. The early adopters may have brought you early success, but they may not be the long-term loyal customers you can count on to create profitable growth at the right trajectory.

Make sure you can identify the ideal target clients where you are most likely to win the majority of the time and what sets you apart from the competition in their eyes.  Then calculate the total available market for your specific offerings to see if your growth projections make sense.  Then ruthlessly focus on marketing and selling to those target customers.

3. Assuming What Worked at First Will Continue to Work
This third pitfall may be the trickiest. Too many leaders flush with success neglect the hard work of continually assessing the health of the business and making the changes needed to keep thriving.  A business with a staff of 500 will need to adopt new strategies, structures, systems and technologies if it wants to grow to several thousand employees.

Prepare for growth by looking ahead and adjusting your strategy and talent management plans as needed.

The Bottom Line
Enjoy and celebrate the opportunity for high growth but don’t fall into the traps that lie in wait for leaders who grow their companies too quickly.  Know your customers and what sets you apart, pace and monitor your hiring to only select top talent, and be flexible as you adjust your business strategy.

To learn more about how to go slow to grow fast, download 4 Steps to Ideal Target Client Definition to Accelerate Growth

Employee Engagement Declines with Tenure
Unfortunately decreased engagement for tenured employees is the norm.  Our latest employee engagement trends report showed engagement tends to decline with tenure.  Longer-term employees are, on average, less engaged than your newer employees.

Why Newer Employees are More Engaged
A new job can be both exhausting and exhilarating. On the one hand, new employees are struggling to understand the performance expectations, working step-by-step up a daunting learning curve, and trying to start off on the right foot.  On the positive side, new employees report feeling welcomed by new colleagues, excited to meet new challenges, and thrilled to learn new skills.  From an employee engagement perspective, a new job offers heightened possibilities to feel wanted, needed and appreciated – the very foundation of workplace engagement.

The Honeymoon Period
But how long does this so-called new job honeymoon last for new employees?  Far too short according to the over 500,000 employee engagement survey responses we review each and every year.  In fact, for most companies the level of employee engagement falls significantly after the first year on the job regardless of industry, size or geography.

Four Ways to Avoid Decreased Engagement for Tenured Employees
Decreased engagement for tenured employees that second or third year need not be inevitable.  There are ways to keep your new-ish employees fully committed to their job throughout by:

1. Providing Continued Training and Development
Once your new employee has “learned the ropes,” don’t let their job go stale. Continue to help them improve their skills and learn new ones that will increase their job efficiency and satisfaction.  Ask for their ideas on how the job could be done better.  As they improve, add bit-by-bit to their responsibilities to give them a real sense of their value to the enterprise.

2. Creating New Growth Opportunities
Besides supporting their growth in the current job, give them opportunities to learn about the company from different perspectives. Invite them to upper level meetings, give them time to attend industry conferences, ask for their help in designing plans for the future.  In short, expand their thinking around new ways to contribute and add welcome variety to their day-to-day routine.

3. Conduct Meaningful One-on-Ones
Are your one-on-one meetings becoming so unvaried in their structure and content that they are lacking real value? Think about what you can do to spark more meaningful conversations – conversations that focus not just on the employee’s performance but on their overall goals and aspirations.  The more you can take advantage of an employee’s true motivators and talents, the happier that employee will be.

4. Give Satisfying Recognition
It’s no secret that a major piece of high employee engagement is emotionally satisfying and meaningful recognition. That means that you can’t simply keep thanking your employee in the same, repetitive way.  Change up the way you express your appreciation – in front of the team, in the employee newsletter, with a pizza lunch in their honor, by an excused late morning arrival, or with a favored parking space.

Use your imagination and keep employee recognition specific, proportionate and meaningful.

The Bottom Line
Do you sense that those employees you hired a year or so ago are losing motivation?  Then try the tips above to keep them on target and engaged.

To learn more about how to engage and retain top talent, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Sales Negotiation Traps that Make the Difference between Success and Failure
Sales negotiation traps can trip you up. No one wants to lose an important sales negotiation, but unless you are either very experienced or careful to avoid four common sales negotiation traps, you may emerge as less than a winner.  And it has always been our contention that when there is an uneven conclusion or, worse, a clear loser, the sales negotiation has failed and will eventually have negative consequences for both sides.

Five Sales Negotiation Traps to Avoid
Based upon over 30 years of sales negotiations and research across nineteen countries, here are five sales negotiation traps to avoid at all costs:

1. The” First Offer” Trap
It used to be accepted that you should never make the first offer during a sales negotiation because it would tip off the other side to what you really want or need. However, in our experience, making the first offer can give you an advantage in leading the subsequent talks. You present a framework for the discussion that follows.  Our recommendation?  When you feel confident that you are fully prepared with pertinent information, it may make sense to lead with your preferred plan.

A second part of this “first offer” sales negotiation trap is that it is easy to fall into the trap of accepting the other side’s offer too fast.  In fact, it’s always best to pace yourself.  As eager as you are to reach an agreement, hasty moves are almost always regretted.

Just think of how unsatisfying it can feel if you are the party whose offer has been too quickly accepted.  You can’t help but wonder what you unnecessarily gave away.  It’s all about the so-called subjective value – how you feel about the negotiation is often more important in the long term than the specific economic value.

2. The Trap of Inflexibility
You should never enter a sales negotiation without a clear idea of what would be the best outcome for both parties.  And yet, sales negotiations are dynamic; you can’t fully predict what will be on the table.  Don’t fall into the trap of holding on too tight to your bias of an ideal result.  There may be something even more to your advantage as the discussion unfolds.

3. The Trap of False Assumptions
Beware of assuming you know the motivations of the other party simply by what they do or say.  If you really want a satisfactory result for both sides, you need to find out what is behind the moves the other side is making.  Why are they unwilling to consider your request to extend the payment schedule?

Perhaps they have had a bad experience in the past where they didn’t get fully paid.  Or their cash flow is a problem.  Or there’s someone in procurement blocking any discussion of payments over time – it’s upfront now or else.  Only when you fully understand the big picture, can you negotiate more effectively.

4. The Trap of the Short vs. Long Term Approach
Be clear about what type of sales negotiation you are in.  Will the agreement be effective in the short or long term?  Your sales negotiation tactics should be different for each.  For long-term negotiations to succeed, you need the other side to be successful for the duration of the agreement.  Think through your moves and their consequences thoroughly before you sign the deal.

5. The Trap of Pre-Conceived Notions
You’ve done careful preparation, but you still cannot fully know the other party’s situation.  Do not assume you know what the other side truly wants and values.  Finding out what matters most is the art of a successful sales negotiation.  You will need to listen carefully, question and probe to fill in the blanks so you have maximum wiggle room to obtain a satisfactory two-sided agreement.

The Bottom Line
We negotiate every day – with our partner over who should do the dishes, with our teenager who wants to stay out after curfew, with our boss for more money, with our landlord for a better rent.  Especially in a sales negotiation, practice, prepare, and avoid the common pitfalls above.  Good luck!

To learn more about sales negotiations, download The 2 Most Common Sales Negotiation Tactics to Prepare For

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