Do You Know How to Conduct Effective Leadership Team Meetings?
While most work meetings are considered a waste of valuable time and energy, your ability to conduct effective leadership team meetings is essential to moving a team forward and carving out time for strategic, complex, systemic, and cross-team issues.

The Cost of Ineffective Leadership Team Meetings
The cost of wasted leadership time together is high. In addition to the obvious frustrations associated with wasteful meetings, an unaligned leadership team creates distorted assumptions, shallow and silo thinking, misinformed decisions, and disengagement.  And more importantly, ineffective leadership meetings create an insidious downward spiral of cancelled or unattended meetings that decrease the amount of time that leadership teams collectively discuss issues and solve problems.

  1. Set a Clear Purpose and Agenda
    Sadly, one recent survey found that 95% of leaders rated their process for focusing senior management’s time on the most important issues as weak or non-existent.   Without a clear meeting purpose and agenda focused on the most strategic areas, the “urgent” tends to crowd out the “important.”  You should not hold any meeting that does not have a clear agenda and purpose that makes sense.
  2. Focus Only on Moving Strategic Items Forward
    Too many leadership meetings end up being a combination of reporting status, discussing tactical issues, or rehashing previous discussions.  While it is alluring to discuss urgent matters, if you want to conduct effective leadership team meetings, ruthlessly use the time only on areas that are directly related to moving your key strategic initiatives forward and that need to involve the entire leadership team.  Use other meetings and other people to take care of tactical, operational, and functional items.
  3. Identify Clear Roles
    For any meeting to be successful, each attendee should have a clear role.  Leadership meetings are no different.  Make sure that you are clear about each of the following roles: owner, facilitator, time keeper, scribe, action-tracker, and value-keeper (the person responsible for making sure that only strategic, complex, systemic, and cross-team issues are being discussed at all times).
  4. Focus on Making Important Decisions
    While we believe that leadership team meetings are a great forum to create common assumptions and context, the fundamental purpose of leadership team meetings should be to make important, difficult, and collective decisions.  In order to support effective decision making, all pertinent information should be shared well in advance.
  5. Cascade the Meeting
    In order to make sure that strategies, context, assumptions, information, and decisions are being shared across the organization, it is imperative that leaders follow the same meeting format with their teams on a consistent basis.  At first, most leaders find that a weekly cadence works best until top management is ready and able to conduct effective leadership team meetings.

An Example Agenda
One recent high tech client used the following agenda sections to improve their ability to conduct leadership meetings so they could move their strategic priorities forward and create greater levels of team alignment throughout the organization.  Make sure that you create a leadership meeting agenda and cadence that works for your unique situation.

  • Context and Implications
    The purpose of this section is to ensure that the entire leadership team is on the same page and able to accurately share important market, business, competitive, industry, and strategy context and implications with their direct reports.  This includes being able to answer questions from your team.
  • Performance Status Dashboard
    The purpose of this section is to make sure everyone knows where they stand in terms of achieving key success metrics and strategic imperatives.   Keep the discussion at a strategic level with “Red” for areas that are off target, “Green” for areas that are on target, and “Yellow” for areas that are in between.  Then only discuss related issues that involve the entire team – otherwise use a different meeting.  Ideally the performance dashboard would be sent out to the team prior to the meeting.
  • Other Stuff Everyone Needs to Know About or Decide
    The purpose of this section is to share major accomplishments since the last meeting, inform everyone of new big upcoming actions, and make any other strategic decisions that were not previously addressed.
  • Issues or Hassles
    The purpose of this section is to uncover and resolve any team-wide issues or hassles that are impeding team success and that need to be discussed and resolved at the leadership team level.  Done right, this allows leaders to identify and resolve important issues before they fester.
  • Action and Decision List
    The purpose of this section is explicitly agreed upon and communicates the actions and decisions from the meeting.
  • Plus / Delta Feedback
    In order to spur continuous improvement, use this section is to gather feedback on the meeting regarding what worked well and what could be improved for next time.

The Bottom Line
How leaders spend their time with their teams is one of a company’s most precious and influential resources.  Get your leadership meetings right to ensure that every leadership team focuses on what matters most and that they stay on the same page. You will know you are headed in the right direction when your leadership team meetings are worth the time and you are making better decisions faster.

To learn more about how to create greater levels of leadership team alignment, download How Leaders Break Down Silos and Resolve Cross-Unit Conflicts

Employee Exit Interview Flaws – Not Getting The Full Story
Employee exit interview flaws are standard protocol in most corporate workplaces. Though the reasoning for them is sound, most organizations’ attempts at employee exit interviews are pretty worthless. Organizations are leaving valuable information on the table about how to improve the workplace and better retain employees.

Don’t Waste the Opportunity to Listen and Learn
Here are five employee exit interview flaws – things you’re not likely to learn from your exit interviews – and then five tips on how to fully leverage these processes so you can gain valuable insights from outgoing employees for future exit interviews.

5 Things You’re Not Learning From Your Exit Interviews

  1. The Truth About Why They’re Leaving
    Most employees have one goal in an exit interview: don’t burn any bridges on the way out. Employees are generally smart enough to want to leave on good terms. They feel there is little to be gained from lambasting the organization – it will only ruin relationships and potentially impact their next chance at employment. Consequently, employees tend to sugarcoat their experience or flat out lie about why they’re leaving. They fear that, even if they bring authentic feedback to the table, leaders will write off their issues as one disgruntled employee’s opinion. It’s easier and less painful to smile, get through the exit interview, and move on with their career.
  2. The Truth About Whether It’s a Loss
    Not all employee attrition is created equal. While it’s generally not a good thing when an employee moves on, sometimes it makes sense for both parties.  An employee may have been a poor fit for their role or didn’t mesh with the culture of the organization. Maybe they were competent at their job, but their personality caused rifts in the workplace. Whatever the reason, the exit interview probably isn’t the place to learn this information. Look for other sources to determine the nature of the turnover. Take a look at HR records and talk with the departing employee’s manager. Also speak with the employees’ coworkers and ask if they think the loss will hurt the company.
  3. The Truth About Whether It Could Have Been Prevented
    Does the following conversation sound familiar?  Interviewer, “Is there anything we could have done to get you to stay?” Exiting Employee, “Oh no, this is just too good an opportunity for me to pass up.” There are certainly times when employees are approached about a new position from an outside source or a great situation arises organically. But for the most part, employees find new jobs because they’re displeased in their current role and are actively searching for a new opportunity. People are generally resistant to change and will only leave if they’re truly unhappy. It’s important for you to understand the true source of that displeasure so you can address it.
  4. The Truth About What Needs to Be Fixed to Retain Current Employees
    If you notice a trend with employees leaving, you need to get to the root of the exodus. As previously stated, this information is unlikely to come from interviews with exiting employees who just want to get out without any further friction. If you want to get serious about keeping employees, talk to those who are still around. Try to uncover their pain points and why their peers are seeking new opportunities.
  5. The Truth About Turnover Trends in Your Organization
    How are you using the information gained from exit interviews? If the files are simply shoved into a folder to never again see the light of day, they’re a waste of time. Your goal should be to use information from departing employees as a source for promoting change in your organization. You need analytics, not anecdotes.

5 Ideas to Improve Your Exit Interview Strategy

  1. Have a Third Party Conduct Exit Interviews
    Many organizations have the manager or a member of HR conduct the exit interview. But the exiting employee has a relationship with that person and won’t want to burn bridges on the way out. The employee will paint a rosier picture of their experience instead of giving real, actionable input. Having a third party interview the employee removes that barrier and allows the employee to be honest. They’re more likely to open up and be real with someone with whom they don’t have a prior relationship.
  2. Gather Peer Feedback to Tell the Whole Story
    Managers and HR see part of the picture when an employee leaves, but they aren’t used to interacting with them on an hourly basis. This is where peer feedback is so important. Use employee exit surveys to tap into the team members who were around the exiting employee most. Anonymous external exit surveys can gather feedback from multiple sources – intra-team peers, cross-team peers, managers, direct reports, and other key stakeholders – and provide the added benefit of showing current employees that leadership is committed to understanding and improving the workplace.
  3. Gather Feedback Before They Decide to Leave
    Once employees are sitting across from you in an exit interview, it’s too late to retain them. That door is closed. You should constantly be gathering employee feedback to improve engagement and performance. Use employee engagement surveys, 1-on-1 meetings, and team gatherings to ensure you’re getting updates on where your employees stand.
  4. Use Linkage Analysis Between Turnover and Engagement
    The result of any turnover/engagement linkage analysis will show the same thing: high turnover areas have lower engagement. Linking your engagement data to your turnover data can help leaders and managers understand the importance of improving employee engagement and the cost of ignoring it. Employee engagement survey results can also be used to predict and prevent turnover. By identifying the areas of low engagement in your organization, you can double down on efforts to improve those areas and proactively turn employees around who might be headed out the door.
  5. Use Aggregate Turnover Analysis to Understand Trends
    Often, the data collected from exit interviews is not aggregated to uncover major turnover trends. Transforming qualitative data from an open-ended answer format into something measurable is often time-consuming and tricky.  Try using an exit survey in addition to, or in place of, exit interviews. A survey can provide quantitative data that is more easily aggregated. Including feedback from exiting employees’ peers can give you even more data. Data from five or more people per turnover is far more impactful than just relying on the voice of one.

The Bottom Line
Gathering exit feedback should be an integral part of your talent management strategy to attract, engage, develop, and retain the top talent you need to be successful.  Just make sure you have a plan and process to use the data to make things better for your people and your business.

To learn more about how to engage and retain top talent, download 2 Steps for Every CHRO to Retain Top Performers

Impact of Managers on the Transfer of Training
What is the true impact of managers on the transfer of training?  While we have always believed that managers have a big impact on the transfer of training from the classroom to the job, our recent study of 121 professionals and their managers at a major North American financial services firm amplifies the impact of managers on the transfer of training.

1.  20% Higher Skill Adoption
Manager coaching is directly linked to skill application on-the-job.   We compared 61 participants average proficiency score across 38 skills who received individual coaching to 47 control group participants who did NOT get individual coaching.  The Coached Group scores were nearly 20% higher than those who did not receive coaching from their manager.

Are your managers providing reinforcement coaching for your critical initiatives?  It could make a 20% difference.

2. 2x Greater Performance
Manager coaching is also directly linked to on-the-job performance.  Each participant was asked for one example of how “coaching conversations with your manager have made a significant difference in a sales situation.” These were verified to include the situation, specific coaching, and results over the last three months.

Our training measurement found that the Coached Group created 2x more new revenue over the same time period as the Control Group.  Are your sales managers coaching their direct reports to help meet revenue targets? It could double your revenue.

3. 72% Difference
How do those being coached feel?  We asked, “What difference did the coaching conversations with your manager make in your success?  The rating scale ranged from 100% “made all the difference” to 0% “made no difference” (your manager did not have any impact or played no role in your success).

Participants in the coached group said their manager “made a significant difference” (72%) compared to “a little difference” (33%) for the non-coached group.  it worth a manager’s time to coach? Just ask those who benefit most.

The Bottom Line
Coaching and reinforcement form managers has a significant impact on skill adoption and performance.  If you want employees to use new skills and improve their performance, make sure you involve your managers before, during and after your workshops in a way that makes sense.  Otherwise, your training investment is most likely nothing more than wishful thinking.

To learn more about how to measure and improve the impact of your training initiatives, download Training Measurement Best Practices – 5 Practical Steps to Make it Happen 

How to Climb the Corporate Ladder as a New Manager
If you are like most new managers, you welcome your management position as the first of many rungs on the corporate ladder. Your hope is to prove your abilities in this role so that you are promoted to the next more responsible position and so on up the leadership ladder. What are the smart ways for new managers to climb the corporate ladder of success?

3 Smart Ways for New Managers to Climb the Corporate Ladder
Follow the tried and true advice of new manager training experts:

1. Know Thyself
Be sure that your personal strengths and weaknesses are consistent with what it takes to be a great manager and leader. Check in with colleagues, utilize a leadership 360 or conduct your own self-assessment by asking questions like: Do I typically…

  • Understand and support the overall company strategy?
  • Create a positive working environment for others?
  • Excel at attracting and retaining top talent?
  • Enjoy working with others?
  • Offer to coach others and receive positive feedback when I do?
  • Lead groups that I join?
  • Step up when there are difficult problems to solve?
  • Handle stress well?
  • Take a bigger picture view of issues?
  • Give credit to others when or where it is due?
  • Create and foster clear goals and roles?
  • Enjoy informing others about developments that may affect them?
  • Set personal examples for others to follow?
  • Keep commitments to others?
  • Challenge and continually improve processes and productivity?
  • Promote and utilize diverse viewpoints and styles?
  • Exemplify continuous learning and adaptation?
  • Behave authentically and with integrity?

We know the list is long.  Welcome to managing others!  “Yes” answers indicate that you have the basic qualities necessary and the motivation to become an effective manager. “No” answer highlight areas for improvement if you want new managers to climb the corporate ladder of success.

2. Be Eager to Learn and Develop Your Talents
The best managers are always open to new and challenging experiences that they can learn from. Seek out the advice of others on how you can improve and then act upon it. Experience will be your teacher…learn by doing, by observing and by working with others.

Give yourself the opportunity to reflect on inevitable missteps—what went wrong and how you could handle it better the next time. Be willing to work on yourself and hone your skills. The self-satisfied new manager will never advance very far.

3. Welcome New Leadership Challenges
Be ready to volunteer for tough jobs but be smart about which ones you choose to take on. You want to foster a reputation for someone who is confident (and able) to take on difficult assignments. You can learn much from stretch goals but beware of the risks.

Assess carefully what development opportunities the new position has to offer and how good a fit it is with who you are and what you want. Take on a job where your strengths are really needed but where your weaknesses will not create problems. In general, if you cannot show positive results within 6 months, the new job will not be one that moves you up the ladder. Look for another challenge that suits you and the organization better.

The Bottom Line
While there are some nuanced differences between being a manager and a leader, there are significant differences between being an individual contributor and a new manager of people. Individual contributors are responsible for their own success and development while managers are responsible for the collective success of others.   If you want to move up the ladder of success, know your strengths and weaknesses, be eager to learn, and proactively take on new challenges.

To learn more about how to be a successful new manager, download 5 Unnecessary Misperceptions that Slip Up Too Many New Managers

Why Measure Training?
Are corporate training metrics simply an exercise in futility that pleases training experts and HR but otherwise has no meaningful value to the business?  Yes!  If you are only measuring training satisfaction, hours, costs, participants, programs etc.

The Value of Training Measurement
Successful companies have learned that corporate training metrics have tremendous value in three areas:

  • Helping to evaluate what matters (where to focus your efforts)
  • Tracking progress (what is working and not working)
  • Increasing accountability

A Golf Analogy
Take the game of golf. It used to be that putting was the more valued skill in terms of what it could earn a golfer. Nowadays, driving is the more lucrative skill. What happened? PGA courses have been changed. Fairways are longer and grass in the rough is being cut shorter.

A study cited in the Harvard Business Review by Baugher and Day of Western Illinois University and Burford Jr. of Junior’s Shaft Shack in Forest, Virginia state that “a 1-standard-deviation increase in driving distance would have boosted a player’s earnings by an average of $671,779.15 in 2013, whereas the same relative increase in putting skills would have raised his earnings by just $510,195.91.”

In other words, on average a golfer who improves driving skills stands to earn more than one who improves putting skills. The environment changed and the golfer who could understand how it changed and who could adjust to the changes emerged with the advantage.

In Business
The same is true in the corporate environment. Without an understanding of what skills matter most in your workplace, how do you know where your training efforts should focus?

For instance, let’s say you train your sales force on improving their pre-call planning skills but what actually determines sales success in your business and industry is, instead, better business acumen and executive level presentation skills. Your training did not target the skills that would give your team the competitive advantage.

To make a difference, you need to know what competencies are most critical for your team to succeed both now and in the future. And then you have to build or buy them to remain competitive. This requires effective training measurement of:

  1. Adoption: Are they using it?
  2. Proficiency: How good are they at it?
  3. Impact: Is it making a difference?

And again, back to the golf analogy, without consistently measuring the marketplace and your customers, how will you know what adjustments to make in the skills and knowledge of your workforce to meet new and evolving challenges? The savvy golfer shifted with the course changes and worked more on driving than putting. Savvy companies keep a close eye on the changes that could affect their business and realign their training priorities to meet the shifting environment.

The Bottom Line
Learn from consistent measurement whether, as a professional golfer, you should focus on driving or putting. And learn from measurement, as a business manager, exactly what critical few competencies matter most for your team to succeed.

To learn more about corporate training metrics, download 5 Steps to Smarter Training Measurement

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