Value Verbing: Theme 2012 with your Aloha Spirit

In my Makahiki letter, I’d said that I love this time of year because it is Ka lā hiki ola (the dawning of a new day) at its most pervasive moment: We human beings collaborate in self-care, and in our Ho‘ohana intentions. The whole world seems to be in sync, as we collectively look back to assess what we’ve come to know. We corral our confidences and our strengths, and then we look forward, expectantly, and with hopeful optimism knowing those confidences and strengths are packable and adjustable: They’ll remain with us, and they’ll remain useful.

What’s not to love? Aloha January!

Well, in a word, the overwhelm, especially in January’s looking-forward progression. There is a lot to sort through and make decisions about, especially if you try to mix new learning into the batch — it’ll be new learning, and so you’re essentially mixing in batches of unknowns. You’re taking some chances, and turning your resolve into another experiment.

There are two trends I’m seeing, where people are trying to self-manage, get better organized, and habit-create more effectively: Word themes and inputs.

Inputs over Outputs

I’m liking the focus on inputs (your activities: what you actually do) over outputs (the end-result outcomes, like goals and objectives).

We have more control with inputs — as the value of ‘Imi ola reminds us, we create our own destiny with each action we personally take. There are several more variables which will contribute to the success or failure of outputs, and they often have to do with other people, whose decisions (and thus actions) are ultimately out of our control. If the only inputs we can effectively direct and control well are our own, we are wise to concentrate our efforts wherever ‘me, myself, and I’ comes into play.

We may want to include others, so corroboration is a good thing. Thus wouldn’t we be wiser to focus on it as an input? How do we collaborate with others? What are the confidences and strengths of our own behavior, and how will we remain humble and open-minded (Ha‘aha‘a, the value of humility) so we become even better, and continue to grow?

Word themes

There’s no doubt about it, words are powerful. To state your choices deliberately, and then commit to them can be highly effective — as long as you actually follow through.

The potential problem I am seeing people run into, is in the choice of words they begin with. Many are outputs: health, happiness, wealth. Others are quite broad and need more description: creativity, freedom, organization. Even a word like ‘focus’ is probably too general: What are you going to focus on, and why?

You may say, “It’s a theme, and I know what I mean.” As a coach I’d challenge you on that: Wring out the details and take a good look at them. Are you giving yourself too much wishy-washy wiggle room? Will it be easy for you to abort, and shift your focus day by day? There’s a lot of noise in our world to get distracted by”

You can probably guess where I’m going with this! We all need help with our follow-through, so get your values to help you. That’s actually what they do best.

Choose Values and Verbs as your Inputs and your Words

Roll credits: As we’ve learned from Managing with Aloha, the big deal about values is that they drive our behavior by taking good direction from our self-aware sources.

Your values are the pilot lights of your human goodness, and they start the best fire (energy!) in the actions you choose to take. They are the easiest actions to follow-through with, because they are about you. Your values will reveal you, they fit you, and they celebrate you.

Knowing your personal value-drivers is self-affirming in the most extraordinary way: You learn about yourself, and what’s important to you, and why. You expose your vitality.

Why do you want this learning about you? The more you know about the wonder you are, the closer you get to knowing what you’re meant to do or create: Your Ho‘ohana (intentional work and purpose-driving) will get naturally connected to the work of your legacy.

Reading tip: If MWA has sat on your shelf for a while, open it up to chapter 17 on Nānā i ke kumu for a good review — “Look to your source” for it’s a wonderful place to be.

So do Choose your Words. Speak them often.

Be decisive so you can begin well. Seize January with both hands and with your soul.

Do choose the inputs which are the actions and activities you’ll commit to practicing daily, and allow them to gain traction, and strengthen you with more confidence.

Just be sure your words (or clarifying phrases) are active verbs, and know which of your personal values they are connected to. Beware the wiggle room, and go for that best fit your values will give you.

Fortify your own life, and begin the day-by-day work on the legacy you are meant to give to our world.

We ho‘ohana kākou, and with aloha,

Learn more about value-alignment and value-mapping here: Value Your Month to Value Your Life

Book Jacket for Value Mapping

Performance Reviews: There’s a much better way

Sat to talk story with a few managers who are currently facing their annual deadline with completing performance appraisals.

If you’re in corporate life you probably know the drill:
Performance reviews are conducted annually in one-on-one manager/employee appraisal meetings (and mandated), and managers are required to use a format designed by an HR office or some consultant, so consistent performance ratings can be used throughout the company for supposed equity in compensation levels — a poor reason for a bad process.

Employees hate it, and managers hate it, and yet scores of companies continue to uphold the practice. Pure yuck.

As you might guess from my tone so far, we don’t use that system in any of my Managing with Aloha-modeled businesses (we don’t have Job Position Descriptions either; we co-write individual Ho‘ohana Statements).

Do we review performance? Of course! The difference is that we do it constantly, coaching and mentoring on the job as the best possible context for having those conversations: Working on our Ho‘ohana is an everyday thing (and compensation is handled in another way as well). Thanks to opportunities furnished by The Daily 5 Minutes and our value-mapping practices, business partners (i.e. employees) are often the ones to initiate conversations on their performance with managers.

However I know that many managers have no choice but to comply with mandates, and like those I just coached, they have to work within the system they have until they are able to change it. Well, you CAN make improvements, making them work for you right now. Embrace your Systems Thinker: As we have learned, people can fix broken processes. Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.

Here is what I advise.

Keep the good, get rid of the bad

In short: Turn your mandates into a positive and highly useful process.

  • Start with the basics of what you are required to do,
  • Improve the quality of those basics when done by your hand, and then
  • Build new improvements from there.

Here’s how.

1. Learn everything there is to know about your mandate. Good managers never wing it or fake it when it comes to putting anything in writing in regard to the performance of another human being. If you’re feeling somewhat powerless at this point in changing anything about the system as it now stands, imagine how your employees feel! They are counting on you: Hold yourself accountable for what is a profound responsibility.

Put your own manager or HR department to work for you, and get their coaching. Ask all your questions, and be crystal clear on the domino effect created by any appraisal form you complete: forms largely exist to expedite other processes.

2. Do your homework. If you’re working within a mandated system, you’re not alone. Chances are the employees in your charge have been reviewed before, and by others: Learn their history. I don’t necessarily recommend you use it (each situation is likely to have different variables requiring your judgment), but you should definitely be aware of it: you can’t build a new house (and culture of Aloha) without a solid foundation.

Second, put your feelers out for other managers who have a good reputation in your company (managing and leading with Aloha), and ask them to share any of their lessons learned with you: You may be pleasantly surprised in discovering great workarounds (legal ones) which already exist in your company culture.

3. Add some heart to add good energy. I cannot emphasize this enough: In “starting with the basics of what you are required to do” make the ‘official’ annual appraisal meeting a positive experience, helping without hurting. Do what you have to (more on this in the next section on timing) but be absolutely sure the annual appraisal itself ends on a high note: Positive and useful.

How can it be useful? Do have the appraisal focus on Ho‘ohana goal-setting, with action-specific goals that are achievable week to week (not year to year). Hō‘imi: Lay the groundwork for a near future flush with positive expectancy. Always remember that the energy of your people will fuel their capacity to perform magnificently going forward, and thus, it’s your greatest resource too: All other business assets flow from the performance energy of human beings. Your job as manager is to light those fires, not put them out.

4. Ace your timing. Until you can change the system itself, do whatever is required of you, by doing what you have to at the best possible time. If you have to deal with some negativity and have a conversation about poor performance, do so and do not avoid it. Be a good boss: Never shy from your opportunities to teach, facilitate, coach and mentor.

Corrective conversations do NOT have to occur during an annual appraisal: They should happen before then, and in their best context on the job. Alaka‘i managers will create a coaching m.o. where they deal with any messes first, and then use the annual appraisal as yet another time to celebrate a sweet victory with having done so. Give that victory to the employee whose performance you are coaching and mentoring as a win you can log during the ‘official’ review.

5. Keep conversation as the construct of each working relationship. Annual appraisals are a pain when you only do them annually. What I’m suggesting to you is that whatever is required becomes the culmination of better practices you’ve adopted day in, and day out. We talk about conversation so much here because it’s easy, enjoyable, and effective.

Work with Ho‘ohana initiatives to fuel performance energies in your workplace group huddles. Do the Daily 5 Minutes ® and you will have a wealth of one on one conversations:

I need to be crystal clear about something:
If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes ®
you’re not Managing with Aloha „¢

Turn up the Volume, and Manage Loudly:
Don’t give up too soon. Enjoy the music of managing well.

This need not be overwhelming:
Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%
Scroll down to the footnote tags and see how much this relates to!

Bonus Idea: One of the practices we incorporate in the ‘Ohana in Business Model ® is the Annual Nānā i ke kumu Interview: We literally re-interview all our business partners (including our vendors and suppliers) to strengthen our relationships with the knowledge of any life shifts which have occurred over the past year. It’s a time we revisit innate talents, strength activities, and sense of place well-being as we purposely catch up with each other. Why do so many managers only do this when they first hire people?

Will this be enough for you?

Finally, please do question your own influence: Stretch and grow it, and do not underestimate what you are capable of. What can you do to effect change in the larger system? How can you be a change agent where you work so a bad system goes away forever?

I think of what I’ve just outlined for you in this post as managing well: As I love to say, managing and leading are verbs. Will you be satisfied with this, or will you now lead? One problem with leadership, is simply that we don’t have enough of it.

As I mentioned before, the obstacle faced is usually your company’s compensation structure if that’s what ratings are tied to: Break the ties which bind by offering to help them create a much better solution.


Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

The phrase, Don’t Just Add, Replace is probably one of the best productivity tips I have been able to give crazy-busy managers over the years. I recently mentioned it within the discussion we had on the challenges when you adopt the D5M: Can you fail with The Daily Five Minutes?

In wrapping my arms around the Big Picture thinking all managers must embrace, percentages have always appealed to me. I first wrote about the strategy of owning the 100% in a posting I had done for several years ago. Here is a reprint for our Talking Story reference.

Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

Here’s a sample snippet of a coaching conversation I have often had with executives. To set the scene for you, it usually happens after we’ve discussed a project or strategic initiative and its value alignment for their organization.

Exec: “This is terrific; I can see how it will make a big difference for us. I’m anxious to get started; we could probably introduce the plan at our next staff meeting.”

Me: “I agree, it is a terrific plan. However let me ask you something before you move on to how you’ll communicate it, or to the campaign you’ll subsequently run with it. What are you assuming this additional project will replace in your existing operation?”

Exec: “What will it replace? Well, the old way we’ve been approaching things; we all agree that our present tactics aren’t all that effective.”

Me: “When you say ‘present tactics,’ how much are you referring to? Are you completely confident that everyone will make the same assumptions you are, and not continue trying to handle both the old and the new? What are the reasons they might want to hold on to the comfortable, tried and true way they’ve always approached this?”

Exec: “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing. I’m sure they can figure it out.”

Another potential stress factor lobbed into the organization. Unless” we continue the conversation to figure out how without micromanaging, the Exec can articulate some suggestions whereby he gives them the gift of reasonableness, not adding to their sense of overwhelm.

You may be underestimating your influence

The reality of most organizations, is that pleasing the boss, in handling directives both old and new, contributes to the significant, and rampant proliferation of auto-pilot, sacred cows, stressful overload, and productivity slowdowns. Like it or not, and whether you want to admit it or not, when you are the boss, people are very selective about the questions they’ll ask you, fearing they are exposing their own shortcomings or lack of self-confidence. If they perceive “the old way” was one of your once-favored pet projects, they’ll hold on to their practice of it, even when they might think better of it otherwise.

When you are about to add to someone’s workload, you should own the 100%. What I mean by that, is that the responsible thing to do, is to own the productivity equilibrium in the operation when you contribute to it.

The one assumption you should make, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is that everyone is already working at 100% of what they feel they can handle. If you add another 10%, you can’t expect them to be equally productive now at 110%. Thus, 10% somewhere else has got to go, and suggestions from you on what that old stuff you are expecting to (or willing to) replace, can really help.

This doesn’t just apply to executives, but to leaders and managers at every level of an organization. Adding versus replacing is contributing to workplace overwhelm every day, and in small ways that add up to BIG drags on overall productivity.

When I coach clients to do audits for process duplication within their organizations, it is amazing how much they find, and how much “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing” turns into “I can’t believe we still do this!”

Even with unanimous agreement on its breakthrough merits, no matter how extraordinary your new idea or captivating project might be, it will add to workload. Excitement dims quickly when the pep rally is over, and reality sets in. You’ve got to reckon with the domino effect any new project or strategic initiative can create, by always seeking to replace, and not just add. Own the 100% and help your organization realize the full benefit of your breakthrough ideas.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew B. on Flickr)

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