Category Archives: Supervisors and Managers

Why a Coaching Program Ensures Financial Stability?

Coaching and Financial Stability

Before it is possible to implement any coaching activities, the definition of a coach must be made clear. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of coaching as well as the challenges that coaches face will establish the foundation necessary for the moving forward in the process of becoming a coach for salespeople.

Be a Coach

In the business world, a coach is responsible for increasing employee and company success. The goal of coaching is to develop employees at all levels, including productivity, adaptability, satisfaction, and retention. There are professional coaching positions, but any manager can be a coach who develops the best in their employees.

Coaches are not mentors, although they share some of the same roles. Coaches work to help people discover information on their own rather than relying on direct teaching methods. In any coaching relationship, it is necessary to develop trusting relationships based on confidentiality. 

Roles

Being a good coach demands a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities that a coach must provide. These roles include:

  • Challenge assumptions – Ask team members to consider their beliefs.
  • Offer encouragement – Celebrate achievements and build confidence in times of struggle.
  • Provide education – Help team members find skills, knowledge, and expertise.
  • Act as counselor – Develop interpersonal relationships between team members and those outside the team.

These roles that a coach plays requires balance. It is important to avoid focusing so much on one role that you fail to address others.

Responsibilities

The coach is responsible for guiding and supporting the team. Responsibilities extend to specific activities such as:

  • Maintain the team’s focus on a common goal
  • Assist the team in different processes and provide support
  • Monitor progress
  • Give effective feedback diplomatically

These are not the only responsibilities that coaches have. Remember not to take on too much. Your responsibilities need to support your roles. When you go beyond this, you risk overextending yourself.

Face Challenges

There are common challenges the coaches face when they are working with their teams. Many of these challenges become risks when coaches fail to address them. We will discuss risks later in the course.

  • There is a lack of trust in relationships – Be honest and sincere in relationship building.
  • Failure of individuals to come to their own conclusions – Allow them to struggle without interfering.
  • Dependent team members – Do not allow team members to use you to solve all their problems.
  • Uncommitted team members – Have members develop goals, and cut them if they refuse to engage.
  • Lack of respect – Maintain boundaries to prevent members of the sales team from losing respect for your position.

Coaching 

Coaches need to be prepared to take on the roles and responsibilities of the job. Whether you are a coach manager or specialist, you must embrace the confidence and build the connections necessary to do the job. A successful coach will also need to communicate effectively and be able to focus in on the coaching process.

Be Confident

A coach needs to help instill confidence in others, but this is difficult to do if coaches lack confidence themselves. Confidence is an attitude that will bring success when combined with drive, focus, and enthusiasm. There are a few ways that you can build confidence:

  • Think positively and avoid negative thoughts
  • Focus on achievements
  • Commit to small goals
  • Increase goals

You have probably heard the saying, “Fake it till you make it.” There are some characteristics of confident people that you can imitate. Knowing these characteristics will also help you identify it in others and also in yourself.

Build Connections

Building connections with team members and between team members is an essential part of a coach’s job. The easiest way to build connections is through finding common ground. Common ground can be as basic as sharing the same goals or enjoying the same activities. Begin coaching relationships by telling personal stories that are not too revealing. As you find common ground, your connection with the team will grow.

Help the team build connections among themselves using similar techniques. As you grow your connections, you will develop trust and loyalty within the team. This trust will require effective communication techniques to develop.

Communicate

Coaches need to be aware of their communication styles. The most effective method of communication is active listening. This method of communication has some very specific aspects:

  • Encouragers:  Encouragers are signals that you are paying attention to the speaker. These are phrases and sounds that encourage speakers to continue. They should only be used occasionally.
  • Repeat the speaker’s key phrases: This is another way to encourage speakers to continue and to make them feel heard.
  • Paraphrase and Summarize: Restate the speaker’s key points.
  • Empathy: Offer empathy, but make sure it is genuine.
  • Pay attention: Stay in the moment and listen carefully. It might be tempting to interrupt because you’ve anticipated what else the customer is going to say.
  • Control emotions: Pay attention to the volume, tone of voice, and speed of speech. Higher volume, tone, and pace indicate not only emotion and enthusiasm but also anger, frustration, and anxiety.
  • Take notes: Write down any questions or thoughts to follow up and ask questions.
  • Open-ended questions: Open-ended questions are the opposite of close-ended questions. They are broad and encourage conversation.
  • Be genuine: Be fully present in the interaction and care about the situation and the person speaking.

Remember to pay close attention to your body language and break down any barriers to communication that you may have.

What are ways you can assign work to your employees?

General Principles

Work assignments often fall into one of three categories:

  • Orders: These leave no room for guesswork, and they typically match the dictatorial approach discussed below. These should only be used for emergencies. Example: “Shut off that tap, now!”
  • Requests: These types of assignments leave the employee some room for interpretation. These are the work descriptions you will want to use most often. Example: “John, please turn off that water.”
  • Suggestions: These types of work assignments leave the most room for interpretation and should only be used if you don’t care how the work gets done, or if it’s a low priority task. Example: “Susan, it would be nice if we could come up with a different format for that report.”

 

The Dictatorial Approach

The easiest short-term work assignment method is to simply assign tasks to individuals. However, this generates the least job satisfaction and independence.

This method should be used when a task needs to be completed urgently, or if it is a task that no one wants to take on.

For best results, make sure that you explain the importance of the task and the rewards to the individual, the department, and the organization.

 

The Apple-Picking Approach

This method gives employees more freedom in choosing their tasks, although it does not emphasize team problem solving or collaboration. The basic idea is that the team member chooses a project that they would like to work on from a list of departmental tasks.

This is a good method to use when there is a small group of tasks to be assigned, a very small group of employees, and not enough time for a meeting. In this case, make sure that the tasks are equal in value and workload. This method can also be used when the department has a list of low-priority “fillers” and an employee needs a short term project.

Be careful when using this method if there are just as many tasks as people, as employees’ choices will be reduced as you move through the team members.

The Collaborative Approach

With this method, the team has a meeting to decide who completes which task. The list of tasks is posted on flip chart or whiteboard. For maximum effectiveness, all team members help establish objectives and deadlines for each tasks.

This is the most effective method because giving team members a say in the way the work is distributed, and giving them the opportunity to choose more meaningful tasks, will enable you to get more out of your employees and to help them grow and develop.

However, this method is not appropriate for a list of menial tasks, or if a task needs to be urgently completed. It is most effective when used with a mature team (a team that has worked together for six months or more).

 

What is the Best Defense Against Hackers?

”The best defense is a good offense”. Rather than reacting to attacks once they’ve occurred, a wise strategy is to prepare proactive measures, so that if the time comes, you can completely bypass the attack or lessen the blow of it.

 

Cryptography

Cryptography is basically defined as a secret method of writing. This is done so that only authorized parties are able to interpret the message.

It is used in various industries, such as banking and health to protect the privacy and security of companies and customers’/patients’ information.

Examples of encryption methods include:

  • International Data Encryption Method (IDEA)
  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
  • Data Encryption Standard (DES)

 

Digital Forensics

By many, computer systems have become a tool for committing various crimes. Because of this, law enforcement officials have decided to use this very tool to counteract the criminals’ use of computers to commit online and offline crimes. In essence, they have decided to “Fight fire with fire”.

In digital forensics, law enforcement collects and analyzes the data in such a way that it can be used in court against the perpetrator.

Examples of cases where digital forensics was used:

  • BTK Killer: Dennis Rader was convicted of a string of serial killings that occurred over a period of sixteen years. Towards the end of this period, Rader sent letters to the police on a floppy disk. Metadata within the documents implicated an author named “Dennis” at “Christ Lutheran Church”; this evidence helped lead to Rader’s arrest.
  • Joseph E. Duncan III: A spreadsheet recovered from Duncan’s computer contained evidence that showed him planning his crimes. Prosecutors used this to show premeditation and secure the death penalty.
  • Sharon Lopatka: Hundreds of emails on Lopatka’s computer lead investigators to her killer, Robert Glass.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_forensics

 

 

Intrusion Detection

Intrusion detection is a vital asset to a computer system. Intrusion detection systems (IDSs) inform the administrator or a security information and event management system of unauthorized programs or people on the network. There are a variety of IDSs to choose from.

When looking to invest in an IDS, there are several questions to ask yourself.

  • What does our business need in an IDS?
  • Will our network support the IDS system?
  • Can we afford an IDS?
  • What do we do if something goes wrong with the IDS?
  • As our business grows, we can still use this IDS?

Some manufacturers of IDSs include:

  • Dakota Alert, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Linear, LLC
  • PureTech Systems, Inc.
  • Telguard

 

Legal Recourse

The majority of computer hacking crimes are punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. §1030). There may be additional penalties under state law.

Under this act, there are penalties for committing the following offenses involving computer:

  • Obtaining National Security Information
  • Accessing a Computer and Obtaining Information
  • Trespassing in a Government Computer
  • Accessing a Computer to Defraud & Obtain Value
  • Intentionally Damaging by Knowing Transmission
  • Recklessly Damaging by Intentional Access
  • Negligently Causing Damage & Loss by Intentional Access
  • Trafficking in Passwords
  • Extortion Involving Computers

Penalties may include monetary and/or prison sentences. For example, an individual who is found guilty of a first offense of illegally obtaining national security information can serve up to 10 years in prison.

 

Software Solutions

According to an article by  Neil J. Rubenking  in PC MNagazine the best software program would be Bitdefender Total Security 2018.

 

https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/354226/the-best-malware-removal-and-protection-tools

 

He states that the bottom line is If you want every security component in a single well-integrated package, plus bonus features, Bitdefender’s Total Security mega-suite is what you need.

 

Of course there are software packages that claim to do the job also.

But I am using the Bitdefender right now, and it seems to work good on my personal computer.

 

On my wordpress platform I use the Wordfence plugin.  It does an excellent job

Why is cybersecurity important for you?

Cybersecurity Fundamentals

Before developing and implementing security measures to prevent cyberattacks, you must understand basic concepts associated with cybersecurity and what cyberattacks are. The method(s) of cybersecurity that a company uses should be tailored to fit the needs of the organization.

 

What is Cyberspace?

Cyberspace is the environment where computer transactions take place. This specifically refers to computer-to-computer activity. Although there is no “physical” space that makes up cyberspace, with the stroke of a few keys on a keyboard, one can connect with others around the world.

Examples of items included in cyberspace are:

  • Networks
  • Devices
  • Software
  • Processes
  • Information storage
  • Applications

 

 

What is Cybersecurity?

As previously mentioned, cybersecurity is the implementation of methods to prevent attacks on a company’s information systems. This is done to avoid disruption of the company’s productivity. Not only does cybersecurity include controlling physical access to the system’s hardware, it protects from danger that may come via network access or the injection of code.

 

 

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is crucial to a business for a myriad of reasons. The two this section will focus on are data security breaches and sabotage. Both can have dire effects on a company and/or its clients.

Data security breaches can compromise secure information such as:

  • Names and social security numbers
  • Credit card and bank details
  • Trade secrets
  • Intellectual property

Computer sabotage serves to disable a company’s computers or network to impede the company’s ability to conduct business.

 

 

What is a Hacker?

In simple terms, a hacker is an individual or group of individuals who use their knowledge of technology to break into computer systems and networks, using a variety of tools to gain access to and utilize other people’s data for devious reasons.

There are 3 main types of hackers. They are:

Grey hats: These hackers do so “for the fun of it”.

Black hats: These hackers have malevolent reasons for doing so, such as stealing and/or selling data for monetary gain.

White hats: These hackers are employed by companies to hack into systems to find where the company is vulnerable, with the intention of ensuring the safety of the data from hackers with ill intentions.

Types of Malware

”Malware” is the shortened form for malicious software, which is intrusive software, used to perform actions such as interrupting computer operations and obtaining sensitive information. Acquiring access to private computer systems and brandishing unsolicited advertising are also characteristic of Malware.

 

Worms

A computer worm is an independent malware program that reproduces itself to infect other computers. It can spread to other computers without having to attach to an existing program, but still causes some form of damage to the network.

Damage done by worms includes:

  • Bandwidth consumption
  • Stopping active anti-malware service
  • Immobilizing Safe Mode
  • Hindering Windows auto update

 

Viruses

A computer virus is a program that hides within a harmless program that reproduces itself to perform actions such as destroying data. It can infect files and when the file is opened, spread the virus throughout your computer. The virus will further spread if the infected file is shared with others.

Damage done by viruses includes:

  • Corrupting files
  • Computer slowdown
  • Taking over basic functions of the operating system

 

Spyware

The main purpose of Spyware is to obtain information about an individual or company without their knowledge or consent. The data gathered from this act of “spying” is sometimes sent to another entity. It can also be used to gain control over one’s computer without the user realizing it. It is commonly used to track the user’s movements and bombard him/her with pop-up ads.

Damage done by spyware includes:

  • Collecting personal information
  • Installing unsolicited software
  • Redirecting web browsers
  • Changing computer settings
  • Slowing down Internet connection

 

Trojans

Trojans gain access into computers by misleading users of what it is truly meant to do. They spread in sneaky ways. For example, a user may receive an email attachment that appears to be legitimate, but when he/she opens it, it in fact gives the attacker the opportunity to obtain the user’s personal information, such as banking details and passwords.

Damage done by Trojans includes:

  • Crashing the computer
  • Deleting files
  • Corrupting data
  • Logging keystrokes

 

Cyber Security Breaches

Cyber security breaches are the result of secure information being released to a treacherous environment. Whether the data is released intentionally or unintentionally, the consequences can have long-lasting effects, from harassment to identity theft.

 

 

Phishing

Cybercriminals who use phishing scams aim to obtain personal information by appearing to be a legitimate source. Many times, they masquerade as a major company, such as a bank, appealing to your desire to keep your information safe.

For example, they may send an email that says, “We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”

Clicking the link or responding to the email can take you to a website that looks authentic, but is in fact a spoof site that serves to steal your information and use it for malicious purposes, such as commit crimes using your name or using your bank information for personal gain.

 

Identity Theft

Identity theft can be considered one of the worst case scenarios when it comes to cyber security breaches. Whether hacking into a company’s computer system to assume the identity of the company or doing so to steal the identities of the company’s customers / clients, the end result can be disastrous.

Those who seek to steal another’s identity typically do so and move on quickly, making it difficult to track and prosecute the perpetrator. This is why “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

There are many ways to help prevent identity theft. Some examples are:

  • Be mindful of phishing websites
  • Utilize an Anti-virus / Anti-malware program
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for secure information

 

Harassment

Cyberbullying is not just limited to individuals. Cyberbullies can use their vices to ruin the reputation of a company as well. Many companies have social media accounts that allow the general public to post comments, complaints, and suggestions. Some use this opportunity to post cruel and negative comments, or even threats.

What are some ways to handle cyberbullies?

  • Do not immediately respond. When one feels attacked, the immediate tendency is to respond out of emotion. Doing so could escalate the issue, so take some time to process the information and compose yourself before dealing with the issue.
  • Tell the cyberbully to stop. Granted, this may not always work, but sometimes being told that the behavior is not acceptable is all one needs in order to cease.
  • Get the authorities involved. Contact the police. The police many times have the necessary tools to track down the culprit and help put a stop to the behavior.

Cyber Stalking

Cyberstalking a company can include acts such as false accusations and defamation, which can affect the standing of the company in the community. The cyber stalkers’ intention is typically to intimidate or in some way influence the victim. Cyberstalking is a criminal offense that is punishable under the anti-stalking laws.

Being found guilty of cyberstalking could lead to penalties from a restraining order against the assailant to the assailant serving jail time.

Anti-Stalking Tips:

  • Be sure you always have physical access control over your computer, to prevent the stalker from gaining that control without your knowledge.
  • Always log out of programs before stepping away from your desk. Utilize a screensaver and password.
  • Protect your passwords. Do not share them. Change them often.
  • Keep your security software updated.

 

Cyber attacks are orchestrated by individuals or groups to destroy the information systems, networks, etc. of others. From installing Spyware on a computer to obliterating a company’s entire infrastructure, cyber-attacks can have devastating effects on many.

 

 

Password Attacks

Passwords are intended to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts, so it’s important to use passwords that are strong in order to prevent threats against the privacy and security of the data associated with your company and customers.

Why is it important to use a strong password?

There is software available to hackers that will allow them to try various passwords in an attempt crack the code of and infiltrate your system.

How to protect your business:

  • Create a password that is easy for you to remember but difficult for someone else to figure out
  • Include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols
  • Craft a password that is long
  • Regularly update your password

 

Denial of Service Attacks

Denial of service attacks are just as its name states. Its goal is to make a network unavailable to its intended users. This type of attack can be used against individuals where they consecutively enter the wrong password enough times that they are locked out of their account. It can also manifest as a network being so overloaded that no one can get in.

Damage caused by denial of service attacks:

  • Network performs slowly
  • A specific website is inaccessible
  • No websites are accessible
  • Receiving a large amount of spam emails

 

Passive Attack

A passive attack is conducted to simply find the vulnerabilities of system, but not change any data at that time. Think of it in terms of a conversation that two people are having and the passive attacker is eavesdropping in on the conversation. Although it may seem like a harmless act at the time, if the intruder is able to obtain the “right” information, he/she can use that in the future to cause irreparable damage.

A passive attack is different from an active attack, which aims to change data of the system at the time of the attack.

 

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can be a positive tool for an organization. It is done to unearth the vulnerabilities of a computer system, then take advantage of those vulnerabilities to get an idea of the impact an actual attack will have on the system.

There are many reasons why a company would utilize penetration testing. Some of these include:

  • Establish the likelihood of a specific attack occurring
  • Detect high risk vulnerabilities that can result from a grouping of low risk vulnerabilities that take place in a particular pattern
  • Determine the bearing an attack will have on a company
  • Assess the company’s network risk management capabilities

 

 

Next Post:  Ways to counteract cyberattacks.

When is Intervention Necessary to Ensure a Group’s Productivity?

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About Intervention

In general, facilitators neither inject themselves in issues nor direct the flow of discussion; they merely go where the group wants to go. There are occasions, however, when stronger responses are needed to make the group more functional and productive. In this module, we will discuss what these stronger responses are, why they are necessary, and when is it appropriate to use them.

 

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Why Intervention May Be Necessary

Facilitators are part of a group for a reason: to help the group achieve their goals in the most democratic and cooperative way possible. Ideally, groups should have cooperative members with knowledge, skill, and personality to assist this process. However, in the real world, groups are much more complicated. Indeed, even well-meaning group members can create dysfunctional teams. For this reason, intervention may be necessary.

An intervention is an injection of one’s self in the process in pursuit of a specific goal. Interventions are what separate a facilitator from a mere participant— the participant’s statements are contributions, whereas a facilitators’ statements are interventions.

Technically, anything that a facilitator does, both verbally and non-verbally, in the course of his or her role in a group is an “intervention.” However, the term intervention is usually reserved to relatively stronger interference in a group’s natural way of doing things.

The following are some of the reasons why intervention may be necessary:
To help the group achieve their goals. If an on-going dynamic in the group is keeping the entire team from reaching their objective, then it’s time to intervene. For example: if a coalition exists in members, decision-making might get skewed to one side of the issue.
To protect group process. If the integrity of the chosen methodology in getting results is being compromised, then a facilitator must intervene.
To prevent the escalation of an issue. Generally, facilitators should let the group handle things on their own. But some hot issues are better nipped in the bud, or they might blow up into a larger issue can create serious damage.
To sample “skills” to the group. In some occasions, group members lack the skills to deal with a group issue, e.g. two conflicting issues. In these cases, intervention may be necessary to expose the group on more functional processes.

When to Intervene
The following are some situations when intervention may be necessary:
• The group is stuck. This means that the process is not producing results, or the process is not progressing to the next level.
• The group is about to move on to the next agenda without realizing that an important aspect of the discussion is unresolved or unaddressed.
• The group continues to follow a negative pattern despite soft interventions. (We will discuss levels of interventions in the next section.)
• Something unethical is going on in the group, like a personal attack or subtle/blatant intimidation.
• Group process is being hampered by a dominant person or clique.
• Group members are misunderstanding each other.
• The facilitator perceives tension and suspiciousness in the group.

Levels of Intervention
There is a guiding principle in medicine that goes: don’t prescribe strong medicine when a milder one will do. Similarly, interventions in facilitation range from non-directive to directive, subtle to explicit, non-intrusive to very intrusive. It helps to know what the levels of intervention are in order to decide what response to give to different situations in a group.

The following are the different levels of intervention:
No intervention. Unless there is a pressing concern that requires a facilitator’s intervention, the first level of response is to do nothing. By not responding to a concern, a facilitator is effectively letting the group take care of the problem, and implement their own solution. Note though that even if a facilitator is not directly responding to the problem, he or she may be actively gathering information about the group and how they process their own issues.
Reflective Technique. The first few levels of intervention are geared towards increasing awareness within the group that a problematic situation is in place. One way to do this is to objectively state what you notice is going on. Note that you are not supposed to voice out your opinions or evaluations of the group dynamic; merely bring to awareness something that the group may not have noticed. The group is left to confirm or refute the facilitator’s observations. Either way, the result may be further clarification.
Example: “I noticed that four of you had been very quiet since we started.”
Solicit the Group’s Observations. As much as possible, let the group members identify themselves what is happening within the group. One way to do this is to solicit feedback through general leads. Example: “Jane. What can you say about what is happening right now?”
If general leads are not working, you can use direct leads. Example: “Jane, what can you say about the way the discussion about (subject) is going?
Interpret observations. This becomes necessary when the group has difficulty seeing the implications of what is going on in the process. NOTE: always phrase your interpretations in tentative fashion, as if seeking confirmation from the group if your observations are correct or incorrect.
Example: “I’m noticing that the energy is low? Are we focusing on the right issue? Or is there something else that we have more energy for?”
Suggest solutions. If the group seems to be stuck, suggest a way to deal with the problem. Note: suggest only process changes. And always get the approval of the group. Example: “We seem to be stuck, would you like to try a different approach?”
Restructure the process or an aspect of it. Change the group process by re-organizing the structure of dialogue (dyads, small groups, etc.), using problem solving processes, inserting a “process break” or changing the original agenda.
Confront. This is directly mentioning the problem, or the difficult individual. Note that confrontation is a very strong intervention, and must be used only as a last resort, when all other softer interventions have been exhausted.
Example: “I noticed that you are always encouraging the other members of the group to leave the meeting prematurely. And twice now it has disrupted the process. May I know what the reason why you’re doing this is?”

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Intervention Techniques
In the previous module, we introduced intervention and the different levels of intervention. In this module, we will focus on particular intervention techniques: use of processes, boomerang it back, and ICE it.

Using Your Processes
As process experts, the best way a facilitator can intervene in an unproductive or dysfunctional group is by introducing a process that would directly address the problem or issue.
For example, if a group’s problem is the monopoly of the floor by certain members, a facilitator can introduce the round robin discussion to ensure that everyone gets their turn to speak.
If the problem is the lack of information about the issue in contention, the facilitator can make presentation part of the agenda.
If the problem is a lack of understanding between management and staff, the facilitator can break the group into pairs of management and staff.

Boomerang it Back
To “boomerang” an issue back is to present an issue back to the group for them to resolve. The reflective technique (discussed in the previous module) is one of the basic ways of mirroring an issue to a group.
Another way to do this is to rephrase a group’s concern into a question addressed to the group. For example, when a group member says “maybe we are just too tired to think of a new idea for this project”, a facilitator can simply say “do you think you are too tired?”
Or if a group member asks a facilitator a question, the facilitator can just bounce the question back. Example: if a group member asks “should we continue this project?” the facilitator can simply reply “What do you think? Should you?”

ICE It: Identify, Check for Agreement, Evaluate How to Resolve
Another way to intervene is to use the ICE technique.
ICE stands for:
• Identify
• Check for Agreement
• Evaluate How to Resolve.
When you ICE it, you surface what the problem is, verify with the group its accuracy (or at least their agreement), and then start the process of looking for solutions.
Example: “What do you think is going on in the group right now? So, if I understand correctly, this is what is happening? Is this correct? How do we go about addressing this problem?”

What Meaningful Questions Can Gauge Employee Happiness?

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In the end, employee reviews lead to happier employees. Happier employees mean better productivity for your company. What are some of the ways to help keep your employees happy?

Ask Questions Frequently
Just as you want your employees to feel like they can ask you questions, you need to be able to do the same. Asking questions is the best way to get the answers you’re seeking. It seems so simple, right? Making it a practice to frequently ask your employees questions about all aspects of their job helps you gauge employee engagement. Asking questions also helps you understand any problems your employees are having, and allows you to fix any issues you can.

How Transparent is Management?
Another way to keep happy employees is to ask, how transparent is management? When employees feel like management is hiding information, they can start feeling disengaged. No one wants to be lied to, or feel like they are being left out of the ‘loop.’ Employees have a right to know what is going on within the company, and that knowledge will only make them work harder for you and your company. When you don’t include employees in knowing what is going on with the company, they start to feel like their contributions are not important. Your job turnover rate will increase, while productivity declines.

Rate Quality of Facility?
The next question to ask your staff is for them to rate the quality of the facility. It sounds a little odd, but you have to remember that most of us spend an average 40 hours or more per week at work. That is a lot of time to spend in one place! If the facility is not up to par, that could make your employees feel like they are not important. Keeping the facility clean and in good working order is important. Making sure that you have a place for employees to go to that they feel safe in, is even more important. While those are two criteria for a workplace, you should also factor in aesthetics. If the beige wall color is making people feel depressed, why not change it to a calming green? Ask your employees what they would like, or what would make them feel better about showing up to work. A lot of changes are simple and inexpensive, but will give you better productivity and more profits.

Contributing Factors to Work Easier?
Hopefully as a supervisor you understand what goes into your employees’ jobs. While that knowledge is important, if you don’t do the job every day, you are lacking insight. Many companies hire someone to come in and give suggestions on how to make work easier and more efficient. That may be helpful, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you will get better results by asking your employees. Asking your employees what contributing factors they suggest that would make work easier is an easy way to gain insight into their jobs. Your employees do this job every day. They can tell you what in the processes are and aren’t working. They can suggest better programs, procedures, electronic devices, etc. If the work is easier, then the productivity can increase.

What makes you Productive?
Often times as supervisors, we rack our brains about how to increase productivity. Sometimes we even have third party consultants come in to give suggestions on how to increase productivity. Those consultants have their merit, but can be a big expense to the company. It seems silly to incur such an expense when the answer could be right in front of you. It’s important to remember that your employees are your most prized resource. Who better to know what motivates them, than the employees? Take the time to ask your employees what makes them productive. They can be very effective in coming up with ideas, and different ways to raise productivity.

Recognition?
We all know how important employee recognition is. Employee recognition helps keep your employees happy, and engaged in their jobs. When you have happy employees, you have healthy profits! One of the easiest, and best ways to check if your employees are receiving good recognition is to ask them. You can run fancy reports, but it’s easier and quicker to just ask the question. Typically, employees will gladly tell you if they feel like they are being recognized for good performance.

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Opportunities to Grow and Advance?
Another question to ask your employees is if they feel like you have given them opportunities to grow and advance in their careers. Not many people want to stay in the same job for the rest of their lives. Most of us want to ‘climb up the ladder’ and strive for advanced success. Opportunities for growth and advancement can mean many different things. Here are a few different types of opportunities you could offer:
• Additional job training
• Cross training
• Paying for an employee to obtain a certificate
• Paying for an employee to obtain a college degree
• Allowing an employee to advance to another career

Confidence in Leadership?
Last, but not least, ask your employees if they have confidence in the leadership. We talk a lot about giving employees feedback, and how it’s important. Feedback helps employees know what they are doing well and what they need to work on. Asking your employees if they are confident in their leadership helps you understand what they want from their leadership team. You can use their suggestions to become a better supervisor. When you have reached your full potential as a boss, employees feel safe. Job safety helps retain employment, which reduces job turnover costs, saving the company a lot of money. Just as you want your employees to do their best, they want you to do your best. Your job is to keep them happy and productive, and it can be a major issue if you are unsuccessful. You are their boss, yes, but you can improve just as they can.

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What are Common Mistakes Managers Make when Conducting Employee Reviews

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Contrast Effect

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We have all been affected on some level by the contrast effect, though we may not have known the term for it. Contrast effect means using one employee’s standards to gauge another employee, instead of using the preset goals. Your company sets reasonable goals and standards for its employees. While one employee is able to produce at a faster rate, that doesn’t mean another is.

When conducting an annual review, you have to stick to the goals and guidelines set forth from your company. For example, telling an employee they are getting a low score because they don’t answer as many calls per hour as Suzie, is not acceptable.

Telling an employee that the minimum standard of calls answered per hour is 15, and giving them a low score because their calls per hour is 8, is acceptable.

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Similar-to-me Effect
The next pitfall to watch out for is the similar-to-me effect. The similar-to-me effect means showing favoritism to individuals who share the same background or similarities with you, the reviewer. Favoritism and the workplace are never a good mix. So what happens when there is favoritism in the workplace?

• Respect for the supervisor is decreased.
• Work satisfaction is decreased.
• Camaraderie is decreased.
• Co-workers resent favored employees.
• Productivity is decreased.
• Job turnover is increased.
• Employee engagement is decreased.

Halo (or horn) Effect
Next we will learn about the halo (or horn) effect. The halo (or horn) effect means that a reviewer focuses only on a narrow set of goals to determine the overall rating, in an unfair manner. In an annual review, the final overall rating is determined by the summation of all of the categories. An annual review would cover all aspects of an employee’s job. With the halo (or horn) effect, the reviewer bases the overall score because on one or a few of the categories in the annual review. The score should be determined by the whole review, not just some of the sections. An example of this would be if a reviewer gave an employee a poor evaluation score because of not scoring high in one category. The employee scored high, and even exceled in all other categories, but ended up with a low overall score.

Central Tendency
Central tendency is another pitfall to watch out for. Central tendency means taking the average of the entire score for everyone within the team and assigning to each individual on the team, irrespective of their accomplishments during the specified period. As we discussed before, teamwork is important in any company. Teamwork doesn’t mean that the individual’s accomplishments and attributes are not valid. Just because the team collectively does a good job, doesn’t mean all of the individuals involved in the team did, and vice versa.

Leniency/Desire to Please
Leniency, or desire to please, is a huge pitfall of employee reviews. Leniency, or desire to please, means giving a favorable rating to an undeserving employee just to avoid conflict. Giving constructive criticism is never easy. No one wants to make an employee upset. Even though the employee may not be thrilled by the constructive criticism you’re giving, they still need to hear it. Here are some ways to give constructive criticism:
• Be specific.
• Sandwich criticism between compliments.
• Offer solutions to problems.
• Don’t overwhelm employee with too much criticism.
• Be direct.
• Show them that you care and understand.

First Impression Bias
Another thing to watch out for is first impression bias. We have all been there, had a bad day, and made a poor first impression on someone. First impression bias means allowing a prior impression of an individual to cloud all future decisions. An annual review should consist of the employee’s full year, not just a first impression.

Rater Bias
Rater bias means rating an employee based on personal feelings instead of actual facts. It’s easy to let your personal feelings cloud your judgment. Regardless of if your bias is in favor or not in favor of your employee, it’s wrong to let your personal feelings effect an employee’s review. Annual reviews need to be based on an employee’s performance only. Your personal feelings are not valid in this arena.

Recency Effect
When giving annual employee reviews, you also will want to avoid the Recency Effect. The Recency Effect is allowing the most recently concluded evaluation rating to skew the rater’s judgment with regards to the present performance evaluation. Have you heard that saying “I’m only human?” As humans, we are prone to error, but also have the ability to learn and adapt.

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Employee reviews help employees learn what they need to improve. Having previous performance reviews in mind while doing one’s current review doesn’t allow them to grow.

The point of an annual review is to show the employee what it is they need to work on, and what they are doing well. If you don’t take into account their growth, they will only become disengaged from the whole process.

Creative Problem Solving – Step 6

Planning Your Next Steps
Once you have selected one or more solutions to the problem, it is time to implement them. This module looks at identifying tasks and resources, and re-evaluating the solution and adapting as necessary.

Identifying Tasks
This part of the creative problem solving process is the time to think about the steps for making the solution become reality. What steps are necessary to put the solution into place?

Brainstorm with people involved with the problem to determine the specific steps necessary to make the solution become a reality. At this stage of the process, working with a smaller group may be more effective, unless you need approval from a large group. While making that list, identify any tasks that are critical to the timing of the solution implementation. Critical tasks are items that will delay the entire implementation schedule if they are not completed on time. Non-critical tasks are items that can be done as time and resources permit.

Identifying Resources
This part of the creative problem solving process is the time to think about the resources for making the solution become reality. What else is necessary to put the solution into place?

The types of resources that may be involved are listed below, along with some questions to think about to assign resources to the project of implementing the solution.

Time: How will you schedule the project? When would you like the solution completed? How much time will each task identified take?
Personnel: Who will complete each identified task?
Equipment: Is there any special equipment required to implement the task? Does the equipment exist or need to be obtained?
Money: How much will the solution cost? Where will the money come from?
Information: Is any additional information required to implement the solution? Who will obtain it? How?

Implementing, Evaluating, and Adapting
Once you have determined the tasks and the resources necessary to implement the solution, take action! Now is the time to use your project management skills to keep the solution implementation on track.

As part of the implementation process, you will also continue to evaluate the solution(s). It is important to be flexible and adapt the solutions as necessary, based on the evaluation of the solution’s effectiveness at solving the problem. You may need to make adjustments to the plan as new information about the solution comes to light.

Recording Lessons Learned
Once you have solved the problem successfully, it is time to apply what you have learned to make solving future problems easier.

Planning the Follow-Up Meeting
Have a follow-up meeting after the solution has been implemented. Here are some things to consider when planning this meeting:

Make sure you have a clear agenda for the meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to conduct a final evaluation of the problem, the selected solution, and the implementation project. Use the follow up meeting to find out if any of the team members still have frustrations about the problem or its solution. It is also time to celebrate successes and identify improvements, discussed in the next two topics.

Make sure to invite all of the team members involved with the creative problem solving process and the solution implementation.

Make sure to consider the meeting arrangements, such as refreshments and equipment needed.

Invite the participants in plenty of time, to make sure that all key members can be present for the meeting. Make such each participant knows the purpose of the meeting so that all have the appropriate incentive to attend.

 

Celebrating Successes
After the problem has been solved, take the time to celebrate the things that went well in the problem solving process. Try to recognize each person for their contributions and accomplishments

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You can celebrate successes by recognizing the contributions of the team members in the follow-up meeting. Alternatively, you can have a party or other form of celebration. A good activity just needs to help the team celebrate a job well done in coming up with all the solutions, evaluating them, and finally implementing a solution effectively.

Identifying Improvements
There have probably been some bumps along the road in the creative problem solving process. Take the time to identify lessons learned and ways to make improvements so that the next problem solved will be even better.

Meeting with team members and stakeholders to identify improvements is a valuable exercise for several reasons.
It ensures everyone is aware of the challenges encountered and what was done to resolve them.

If something is learned from a mistake or failed endeavor, then the effort put into the task is not entirely wasted.

Participants can apply these lessons to future problems and be more successful.

 

Creative Problem Solving – Step 5

Selecting a Solution
The next step in the process is to select one or more solutions from the possibilities. In the previous step, you will have eliminated many of the possibilities. With a short list of possibilities, you can do a final analysis to come up with one or more of the best solutions to the problem. This module discusses that final analysis, as well as a tool for selecting a solution called Paired Comparison Analysis. It also discusses analyzing potential problems that may arise with a selected solution.

 

Doing a Final Analysis
In the previous stage of the process, you performed a cost/benefit analysis. However, since we cannot always know all of the potential variables, this analysis should not be the only one you perform.

For each potential solution, you must weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages. Consider the compatibility with your priorities and values. Consider how much risk the solution involves.

Finally, consider the practicality of the solution. It may be helpful to create a map for each solution that addresses all of the relevant issues.

Consider the potential results of each solution, both the immediate results and the long-term possibilities.

In the final analysis, you will refine your shortlist and keep re-refining it until you determine the most effective solution.

 

Paired Comparison Analysis
The Paired Comparison Analysis tool is a method of prioritizing a small number of workable solutions. The first step for using this tool is to list all of the possible solutions. Label each potential solution with a letter or number.

Next, compare the solutions in pairs. Decide only between those two which solution is preferable. Assign a number to indicate the strength of the preference for each option. For example, problem solvers could assign a “3” to items they strongly prefer, a “2” to a moderate preference, or a “1” to a mild preference.

This first round continues two at a time until all of the solutions are ranked. Then all the ranks are added together to obtain a priority score for each item. The top score is the preferred solution.

For example, imagine that a group of children are deciding which fairy tale to perform in a school play. They have listed six favorites:
A) Sleeping Beauty B) Cinderella C) Snow White
D) Jack and the Beanstalk E) Hansel and Gretel F) The Three Little Pigs

Their chart might look like this:

step 5

In this example, the clear winner is choice D, or Jack and the Beanstalk.

Analyzing Potential Problems
Think forward to the solution implementation. Ask how, when, who, what, and where in relation to implementing the solution. Does the imagined future state with this problem solution match the desired state developed earlier in the process?

Brainstorm for potential problems related to the solution. Consider how likely potential problems might occur and how serious they are. These potential issues can then be evaluated as needs and wants along with the other criteria for evaluating the solution.

Sometimes this analysis can uncover a potential hardship or opportunity that changes the criteria, problem definition, or other aspects of the problem solving process. Remember to be flexible and revisit the other stages of the process when necessary.

 

Creative Problem Solving – Step 4

Analyzing Solutions
With many different solutions in hand, the problem solvers need to analyze those solutions to determine the effectiveness of each one. This module helps participants consider is the criteria or goals for solving the problem, as well as distinguishing between wants and needs. This module also introduces the cost/benefit analysis as a method of analyzing solutions.

Developing Criteria
Return to the information generated when defining the problem. Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem.

When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also consider the following:
• Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome for the problem resolution.
• Think about what you want the solution to do or not do.
• Think about what values should be considered.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for your goals or problem-solving criteria.
Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:
Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for delaying action?
Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
Impact – Is the problem serious?
It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem.

Analyzing Wants and Needs
The creative problem solving process is a fluid process, with some steps overlapping each other. Sometimes as the process provides additional information, problem solvers need to go back and refine the problem statement or gather additional information in order to effectively solve the problem.

Wants and needs seem like a fundamental aspect of defining the problem. However, in order to analyze the potential solutions, the wants and needs for the desired state after the problem is solved must be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, you can disregard it from further analyzing.

Wants are nice to have items. You can provide a weight to each item to indicate its importance. For each potential solution, you can provide a rating for how well the solution addresses the selected want. Multiply the rating by the weight of the want to score the potential solution.

With scores for each item, it is an easy matter to rank the potential solutions in order of preference.

Using Cost/Benefit Analysis
Cost – benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.
It is important to include ALL of the benefits and costs. This can be tricky, especially with intangible benefits (or costs). Some benefits or costs may be obvious, but others may take a little digging to uncover. For example, imagine you want to replace three employees with a machine that makes stamps. A hidden benefit is that you may be able to use large feed stock instead of individual sheets, saving materials costs. In the same example, you would not only consider the salaries of the employees, but the total cost for those employees, including benefits and overhead.
The value assigned to the costs and benefits must be the same unit, which is why monetary value is suggested. The valuations assigned should represent what the involved parties would actually spend on the benefit or cost. For example, if people are always willing to save five minutes and spend an extra 50 cents on parking closer, they are demonstrating that time is worth more than 10 cents per minute. The considerations should also include the time value of money, or the value of money spent or earned now