With experience or being around a long time, you get to see lots of programs come and go. One of those programs that seem to change frequently are incentive programs. Wikipedia puts, “an incentive program as a formal scheme used to promote or encourage specific actions or behavior by a specific group of people during a defined period of time. Incentive programs are particularly used in business management to motivate employees, and in sales to attract and retain customers.” Can you think of some? I know quite a few (well, lots). It is one of those tools to help the organization to instill a continuous improvement in performance. Think back on those programs, did they work? How did they make you feel?
When I look over the many incentive programs that I have experience with there are some common themes of those that have been successful.
- The incentive program was well thought out. Answering the questions of what behavior are we going to reward. That behavior has to be above the expectation of all employees. Going after the top of the class. Hopefully inspiring others to what to reach the top.
- The program awarded past performance. The program has a timeframe that is long enough to help develop a better picture of a sustained performance.
- The reward is timely, specific and impactful. What is the award that is given? Debate around money, plaques, pat on the back and public recognition need to be considered before implementation. Setting the award will be critical in how well the program is received by the employees.
Let’s face it, this is a touchy area that managers have to navigate carefully. I have seen many a program start off with the best intentions, but fail shortly after implementation. Why? The list is long. The critical ones that pop up quickly are the incentive program is not focused on top performance. Many programs are focused on getting “all” to do what their expectations are normally (attendance). Some programs are set up that the employees can work the system to be eligible for. This has a huge effect on the employee base, as they will “see” the gaming going on and the program could demotivate many folks. Lastly, the award has to be meaningful. Some expects say that money should not be a motivator, that just the recognition should be enough.
Over the last couple of years, I am seeing some new incentive programs that will be interesting to see how well they will work. Those are the incentive programs for lowering health insurance costs. Those particular incentives to be healthy. Helping add money to the flex spending accounts for employees that are not overweight. For employees that attend health seminars or complete a company sponsored information session. There are many examples. With the raising cost of health care, these incentive programs are popping up everywhere. Is it too early to tell if they are working? Are they fair? Time will tell.. I know for me, I got healthier by increasing my exercise and diet, so that I could get some additional funds to help offset my health care costs.
Do you think incentive programs work? As a manager, I know I spent more time dealing with the incentive program than maybe the organization planned. Please share the good, bad and ugly…
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, New To Management
, Leading Teams
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There are many things that I have learned over the years that I have shared here and one on one. The one item that everyone always agrees on is if you measure it, it will get attention and get done. I was helping out an organization the other day and we were discussing that fact on some employee feedback that they received. The leadership team was struggling with the all of their measurable matrix were not to goal. Employee feedback were pointing that the goals are unrealistic. For me, the underlying problem that they were trying to address was the employee base felt like their was a disconnect between the workers and management. How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that?
Throughout my career I have encountered that same feeling of disconnect. It was either with me and my upper management. Or the feedback was coming from my team to me. It happens to the best of us. There are times that everyone is too busy to be paying attention to the little things that really matter. Whatever the excuse is. All you need to do is listen and act. When I am faced with connecting (or reconnecting), I remind myself of those little items that matter.
My list of items that matter! My 3 S’s if you will.
- Stand up and own your mistakes. There are times that you will make a mistake. I have yet to meet that perfect person that has not made a mistake. How you react to the mistake will either have you lose credibility with your team or win them over. Yes, it takes a strong person to admit to their mistakes. Being vulnerable will make you strong.
- Share your time. I know we all think that we are busy. Your are their leader, you have to make your team a priority. Give of your time as much as possible. Time is what you make of it. I am not saying that you need to schedule “time” with your team. I am saying that you need to be approachable and available. Another term I liked to use is management by walking around. Get out of the office. Talk to you team (in the hall, their workstation, café, networking events and everywhere they are).
- Share your thoughts. Communication is key and sharing what you know (what you can) will go a long way to connecting to your team. Start a discussion or put out a topic that the team can really relate to. Once people start talking, they start connecting. Watching your team getting together and sharing will have a huge impact on the work.
When I first was leading my team, I was pretty good at getting amazing results. I wasn’t sure why? It took me sometime to understand that I was really connecting to them on a personal and team level. That connecting came easy to me. I wanted to connect, no matter what. It was just part of my DNA, so I just did it naturally. I really started to understand the workings, when I was given the opportunity to do something that I had no knowledge of. I was overwhelmed with learning the job and was a little slow on connecting to the team. I realized quickly, that I was not following my normal operating procedures. Reflecting back, made me hone in those 3 S’s…
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How best do you learn? When I am coaching my hockey players, I like to use demonstrations of what is expected. Learning from examples are probably the easiest way to get your point across. I learn better from both good and bad examples. The bad examples are much easier to point out the mistake. When it comes to collaboration and leadership… All we have to do is watch the news on any given night and we get to see how “NOT” to do things. Collaboration is totally necessary when you want to be a good leader. You have to be able to get your team together and work for a common goal. Something that our leadership in Washington, DC failed to learn or chooses not to do. So, we will use their example as to not follow when we are doing our own work.
When you think of working together for a common goal (minus Washington), everyone has to really want to meet the goal by accomplishing to their best of their ability by working together. You don’t have to be best buds or like each other. You just have to check your personal agenda at the door and get to getting stuff done, well. As the leader of a team, it is necessary for you to set the example of how the team will work together (or not – in the case of Washington).
I have always learned more from failure than from success. Failure means that I have to take a deep, hard and long look into the overall failure. I usually learn a lot about what to do better, next time. So, use the failures of our government on how they collaborate and learn from them.
- Check your agenda at the door.
- Work together for the common goal.
- Be a part of the solution, not pointing out what is not working. Best to offer complete solutions rather than your own one-sided view.
- Listen to each other. It is amazing how one persons half-baked idea will pair up with another persons idea. Making it a complete idea… Other folks may call this a “third alternative” solution.
- Celebrate as a team. Not this side or that side of the team. The complete team! Getting great work done, takes everyone.
Just remember, you can control yourself and set the example of how things should and could go. Don’t wait for someone else. Or you can have the same overall effect that our government leaders are having on their collaborating together – nothing. You want to be successful? Well, you have a great example of how not to do it!
How many times have you been involved in team building exercises? When someone says we are going to do a team building activity, what are your first thoughts? For the most part, I bet everyone is thinking, here we go again… I have seen data that says about 65% or higher feel they are a waste of time and money. About 25% thought they are effective with the right exercise. For me, I lean towards team building activities can be effective if we put the right exercise with what the teams needs are…
You have to know what you want to accomplish, so that you can insure the right results. There are three major categories – see below.
- Recreational Team Building: Change the way people feel (to entertain, re-energize, socialize, teach and learn new skills)
- Educational Team Building: Change the way people feel and think (to gain awareness of needs, to add knowledge, to understand new ways to look at old or familiar concepts differently)
- Developmental Team Building: Change the way people feel, think, and behave (by increasing positive functional behavior, by improving interpersonal relationships)
We all know that there are struggles with team building. So, why do a lot of team building programs not work?
- Lack of reflection = this defeats awareness. Think back to your last team building exercise, do you all talk about what happened, what could have gone better, what you learned and how it can apply back at the office?
- The presence of resistance = if you go into the exercise with not wanting to do it - you are defeating intent. Going through the motions is not going to help you learn and grow.
- Roadblocks to moving forward = with any team building exercise, it all goes back to how everything applies back at the office. If there are roadblocks that exist to moving forward, you are not going to be successful.
Making team building effective is not easy. How can you make team building work for you.
- Spend time really evaluating your team for its level of teamwork and needs. Doing team building to put a check in your teams objectives is not going to work. If you can’t self assess your team, ask the team or ask your key customers what their impressions are.
- Pick the right activity for your assessment of what you want to work on.
- Set up the team with the what, who and why of team building… Make sure that your team is prepared to participate.
- Get someone to facilitate the activity. You should be in the activity with them, not looking over them.
- Reflect at the end.. Ask those open-ended questions, what happened, what could have been better, how does this apply back at the office and so on. Make sure to circle back on the what and why’s that you attempted to accomplish in the first place.
- Document and share the results. Always good to capture the reflections and share them with your team. Especially on those items that the team wants to take back to the office.
I have done a lot of team building over the years. Some where really good exercises with some really good results. Others were not so good. Team building should not be a “here we go again” first thought. Team building should be exciting and the team wants to do.
Workplace conflict is always a popular topic to discuss, but one that is sometimes is left untouched. I know people are making money teaching principles of dealing with workplace conflict. Fact – When people work together there will always be conflict. It is part of doing business. Fact – Conflict can not be avoided. It all centers on how you approach the conflict. From my over 30 years managing workplace teams, I have seen my share of conflicts and have developed my best known method of dealing with it. I want to share those thoughts and tactics with you.
From my experiences, there are many reasons for conflict but overall there are some primary causes that I want to point out.
- Poor Communication: There are many different communication styles which can lead to misunderstandings between employees or between employee and manager. Sometimes there is even a lack of communication which usually drives conflict “underground”.
- Different Values: The workplace is made up of individuals, each one of those individuals sees the world differently. We all come with our own set of core values. We all know we should values each ones differences, but… Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and/or understanding of these differences.
- Differing Interests or Agenda’s: The one agenda that everyone should follow is the organizations, but we are human and have our own as well. Conflict occurs when individual workers ‘fight’ for their personal goals, over the organizational goals and organizational well-being.
- Personality Clashes: All work environments are made up of differing personalities. Unless colleagues understand and accept each other’s approach to work and problem-solving, conflict will occur.
- Poor Performance: There will be one or more individuals within a team that are not performing – not working up to potential – and if this is not addressed, conflict is inevitable.
There are primary five ways to address workplace conflict:
- Avoidance: Hoping that conflict will go away.
- Collaboration: Working together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
- Compromise: Finding the middle ground.
- Competing: May the ”best” person win.
- Accommodation: Surrendering our own needs and wishes to please the other person.
For most, they would work towards collaboration or compromise to get a more successful working together relationship. The others really don’t solve the conflict in most cases they could easily escalate the situation further.
The goals is to get to a successful resolution of the conflict. From my experiences, you must make sure to do the following:
- Clearly articulate the causes of the conflict – openly acknowledging there will be differing perceptions of the problem(s).
- Make a clear statement of why you want the conflict resolved and reasons to work on conflict.
- Communication of how you want the conflict resolved.
- Address the issues face-to-face (notes, email correspondence, memos are not a productive way to resolve differences). If your team members do not happen to be in the same location, at the very least use video conferencing to make sure that everyone “sees” each other.
- Stick to the issues. Many times the discussion will get derailed to “other” items, name calling or someone else said. Watch closely for that and make sure to circle back to just way you all are here.
- Take time out if necessary. In the resolution of a conflict, emotions may interfere with arriving at that productive resolution. If this happens, take a time-out and resume resolving the conflict at another designated time.
Conflict will happen! Avoiding conflict is often the easiest way to deal with it. It does not however make it go away but rather pushes it underground, only to have it resurface in a new form. By actively resolving conflict when it occurs, you can create a more positive work environment for everyone.
Category: New To Management
, Leading Teams
, performance management
, team dynamics