Tag Archive

Tag Archives for " employee disengagement "

Socratic Delegation? Whaaaatttt…?

Do you know how each of  your team members thinks about and approaches his/her work?

Do you have an in-depth understanding of each staff member’s capabilities?

Do you know how to empower your team?

Communication solutions and mind control with a group of communicating human heads on a labyrinth or maze pattern with a laser light connecticn the thinking network of two brains.

One of your most important roles as a Leader is to understand the core competencies and capacity of your team.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you are familiar with the Vulcan Mind-Meld a touch technique that allows a Vulcan (Mr. Spock) to merge his or her mind with the essence of another’s mind.

As a leader within your organization, it would be useful for you to be able to do your own mind-meld. The more you are aware of how your team members think—how they plan to carry out the tasks and projects you assign them—the more impact you can have on the results achieved.

A quick and effective way to achieve this is through the process of delegation using the Socratic method. I call it Socratic Delegation.

When you delegate using the time worn “command and control” method, it does little to increase your understanding of what your team is thinking and capable of doing nor does it increase their ability to think for themselves or problem-solve.

One of our readers, Dean, responding to a blog I’d written on this topic put it best:

“Awesome! What a timely reminder for me not to over-manage. I’m constantly railing about how people learn by doing—not by being told or reading. Yet I continue to leap into problems because (my ego) knows how to fix it. I can’t teach empowerment to marionettes.”

When you utilize Socratic Delegation, you begin to develop your knowledge of each team member’s thought processes when it comes to work and achieving results.

What exactly is Socratic Delegation? Here is the process:

Socratic Delegation 101

Step #1 – Identify the task or project

Step #2 – Clearly identify the measurable result or outcome. (By the way, this is often the culprit of problems. If you don’t clearly define how to measure success, how is your employee to know?)

Step #3 – Meet with the employee or team to whom you are delegating and have the following conversation:

  • “Here is the end result I am looking for __________ and here is the date I need it _______.”
  • “Would you walk me through how you think it should be done?” (Or “how we should approach it?”)
  • Listen and only listen until the end. Take notes.
    • If you identify a problem and interrupt to mention it, you may also interrupt the employee’s thought process.
    • It could be that the employee will, while talking the task through, identify the very problem you noticed and correct it.

Step # 4 – Fine tune

  • If, while the employee was outlining his plan you noticed any potential concerns, bring them up. Use questions:
    • How will you get to that point?
    • Where are those resources coming from?
    • Help me understand…
    • What tools are you planning to use?
    • What obstacles might stand in the way of getting this done on time?
  • This fine-tuning process is your opportunity to coach the employee and develop his skill level.
  • It’s also an opportunity for you to learn some approaches you hadn’t thought of yourself.
  • It allows you the perfect reason to acknowledge the team or employee for their critical thinking.

As you lead your team be certain that YOU are clear about Steps 1 and 2. Each step is crucial to achieving success.

Whether you are a C-Suite executive or line manager, your role as a leader is to produce results through people.

Delegation is a core competency and something that, once you master it, will make you one of the few rather than one of the many. Start with Socratic Delegation as outlined above and hone it to fit your team culture—and watch as results increase and mistakes decrease.

As always I appreciate all feedback you provide. Send me your comments and stories. You and I are working together to change the work world. Your input is part of my Socratic Method.

Click here for a PDF of this article


Promote (don’t crush) Employee Engagement

Feedback: Key to Employee EngagementWhen I work with organizations I am often surprised by how few leaders know how to give feedback that is constructive and energizing. There seems to be a black or white quality to the feedback. Either employees hear what they did wrong or we’re cheerleading them when they did something right, all without providing guiding details. Or worse, we don’t provide feedback at all and they are left floundering, wondering if they’re getting things right or about to be fired. None of these approaches lead to more employee engagement—quite the opposite—they all lead to employee disengagement. Yes, lacking specific details, even positive feedback can be a detriment to employee engagement. Employees don’t want cheerleading—they want to know specifics about their performance (don’t you?)

It is a rare leader who understands and can provide the kind of feedback that creates an opportunity for improvement of employees’ skills, boosts morale, and results in employees’ taking responsibility for their results.

Happily, there is a feedback process that builds employee engagement specifically because the employees critique their own performance.

Feedback, in its purest essence is neither positive nor negative; it is merely data. The person providing the data cannot control how it is perceived; that is controlled completely by the recipient. When the provider and the recipient of feedback are one and the same (i.e., self-critique), it can become very interesting.

By adding the following process to your toolkit your employees will begin to participate in their own development and become more engaged in their work.

The LB/NT Process

The process is called The LB/NT Process. Here is how it works:

When a task or project is completed, you ask your team member, “What did you like best (LB) about what you did, and what would you do differently next time (NT)?” This process is useful for both individual and project team feedback.

Once the self-critique is completed, you will have less to say than if you had been the only one delivering feedback. In fact, sometimes your input won’t even be necessary, your employees will cover everything you intended to say. However, it will support their process to let them know which parts of their assessment you agree with and which you do not. You may have an opportunity to say, “I think you’re being a little hard on yourself,” if, in fact, that’s true. And if there is feedback you wanted to give that they didn’t cover, you can guide the conversation in that specific direction. “What did you like best about _______________and what would you do differently next time?”

Here are some key advantages to using this process:

  • (LB) You may learn something you hadn’t even noticed, giving you an opportunity to provide positive feedback. For example, you might learn that the project was delivered a week ahead of time. This gives you the chance to express how much you appreciate it (they don’t ever have to know you didn’t notice).
  • (NT) Employees take responsibility. By taking an objective look at their work they can see the opportunities for making improvements. Because the employees identified those areas themselves, they are significantly more likely to make those corrections in the future.
  • (LB) It encourages a feeling of satisfaction for what was done well. A major component of employee disengagement is the feeling that they are not making progress. (Don’t you sometimes feel the same?) Acknowledgement of “wins” is sorely lacking. (For more empirical evidence on why a feeling of progress is important to employee engagement, I highly recommend the book The Progress Principle – Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.)
  • (NT) It eliminates your role as “the bearer of bad news.” When you consistently use the LB/NT process with employees, you are no longer regarded as being overly critical, difficult to please, or other “not fit for print” labels employees make up when they receive negative feedback.
  • (LB/NT) It increases productivity and energy. Too often we move from task to task without acknowledging that things are getting done. When the LB/NT process is utilized you are acknowledging the completion of a task or project. Completion generates energy and we are infinitely more productive when energetic.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the linchpin that makes the LB/NT process work beautifully: once you ask, ‘what did you like best?” and, “what, if anything, would you do differently next time,” SHUT UP! Stop talking! Do not offer suggestions (leading the witness); do not fidget in your chair (due to your discomfort with silence), JUST WAIT.

I promise, as you get better at this, and you will, you will be amazed by what your employees offer and how much easier your job becomes. At first, it may be awkward. Employees might worry that these are trick questions. If so, reassure them that their input is a valuable component to a new approach you just discovered and are applying. Employees are glad to know you don’t have it all figured out; it makes you human.

Once your employees see this in action and understand that this is the new feedback process (i.e., it’s not going away), they will come to meetings prepared with their LBs and NTs. The benefit to everyone is that it will take less time and be more productive than traditional feedback sessions where they may often have felt defensive, unappreciated and beaten up. They may also choose to incorporate this practice into tasks and projects they’ve completed for which your feedback is not necessary, making them more self-reliant and efficient in their work.

Finally, ahem (small cough), if I may suggest? This is an excellent process for you to use when reviewing your own work.

Click here for a PDF of this article


The Thrill is Gone – Re-igniting Passion at Work

overwhelmed young man with piles of work

Everyone is beyond busy. There is more work to do than time to do it. It’s one of the primary reasons employee engagement is at an all time low. We are not the only ones under constant time pressure. Our co-workers feel it and so do the bosses. If you’re a boss or the boss, your tension is coming from many angles.

It’s no wonder we become disengaged; it’s an ages-old defense mechanism called fight or flight. Disengagement is a form of detaching or running away. Unfortunately, it never feels as good as we hope it will and it often robs us of enjoying our work.

Action cancels fear – every time.

Disengagement at work is a response to fear. “What if I can’t keep up?” “What if this job really IS impossible to do?” “What if the boss finds out I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing?” These questions are all based on deep-seated anxiety and can paralyze us.

Work Night Insomnia

Beginning in the sixth grade, I suffered from school night insomnia. Does this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve traded it for work night insomnia. Once homework assignments became part of my education, I would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, obsessing about what would happen the next day when the teacher discovered I hadn’t done my homework.

I remember sneaking into the bathroom at 3am to read books (another form of disengaging). I would examine my face in the mirror for hours, count the tiles on the floor in every direction, finding any distraction to avoid facing my fear. One time I even rearranged my Dad’s medicine cabinet alphabetically. He was not as grateful as you might think.

In all the years I suffered from school night insomnia, it never once occurred to me to sneak into the bathroom and (fill in the blank) ______________. That’s right! DO MY HOMEWORK! (Apparently, my teachers were all correct: not doing one’s homework DOES atrophy the brain.)

Later, as an adult my habits of procrastination began to have some very negative repercussions. I was fired from one job for being consistently late. At other jobs I lived in constant fear that my boss would ask for something I hadn’t yet gotten to or didn’t understand and had been afraid to ask. It was a miserable existence. What would you do? That’s right! You’d look for a solution. I became determined to stop this self-defeating behavior.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion..Newton's Cradle

A body in motion….Newton’s Cradle

What I eventually learned is that action cancels fear—every time! If you are frozen in fear about a task or a project, identify the easiest part of it, tackle that and you will be in action. You will have taken the first step to displacing the fear and what may be hindering any progress. Remember what you learned in physics? A body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Once you’ve tackled an easy task, you’re already working—just keep going!

The more you’re in motion the less fear can dominate your mind.

The Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on.” When you focus on, “I can’t do this,” guess what? You’ll be right! When you are constantly fearful, you attract more circumstances that only substantiate the fear.

If instead you are focused on action, and another word for action is solution, your fear subsides and you begin to attract more solutions.

Solving problems is why we enjoy work in the first place. Don’t you love solving problems? At the very core of our being we are problem-solvers.

Jump into action, solve what’s in front of you and one morning or afternoon, you may just realize that the fear has been replaced with renewed passion for your work.

The thrill is back and so are you.

Let me know how you have overcome your fears and put yourself back into motion!

Click here for a PDF of this article