Monthly Archives: June 2021

Yes but …

yes but

What happens when you respond with “yes, but…”?

You know when you get into conversation with someone about an emotive subject, and you’ve said your piece, and someone then says “yes, but….”? You know you are likely to be contradicted. 

And it’s all too easy to almost immediately – even if sub-consciously – to go into defence mode.

It doesn’t matter whether this is a debate with friends, complaining to a supplier, or simply discussing your wish list for your next holiday with your partner, “yes, but” has the same impact.

And it can have the same impact on your colleagues, your team and your customers. 

Earlier this month I was conducting some training on handling poor performance, for a team of junior managers. We got to talking about the language we use, and how much of a bearing that can have on the outcome of performance discussions.

It’s not an unusual reaction when one of your team makes an excuse, or request that you think is unreasonable, to listen patiently, but then respond with “yes, but…”.

Or in meetings with colleagues, when you’re not sure you buy into a suggestion, or when you have a different view or perspective.

Or when faced with a complaint – particularly when you believe it’s unjustified, or it’s not your fault.

Of course, as soon as the team member, colleague or customer hears those words, “yes, but…” they know they are likely to be contradicted, or not get what they want, and it’s easy for them to get on their defence.

So, here are 2 alternatives:

1. The But Flip

This is when you still use the word but, but you flip the structure of the sentence. So, instead of saying “I’d really like to help you with this, but it’s out of my control”, this becomes “It’s out of my control, but I’d really like to help you with this”.

What’s the difference? The first version ends the conversation, whilst the second version makes a natural transition into looking for a solution.

In essence, what you’re doing is telling the team member, colleague or customer what you can’t do first, but then what you can do.

2. Yes, and…

In this instance you are replacing the word but with the word and. (Many people are tempted to use the word however, however… if you’re anything like me when I hear the word however I still know is going to be bad news!)

Yes, but is confrontational and doesn’t get you any further forward, whereas yes, and keeps the conversation positive, and shows you are listening.

Proving the point

Here’s a fun exercise you can use with your team which demonstrates the impact of yes, but and yes, and, whilst giving them an opportunity to practise the technique.

It’s based on improvisation, which means there are no scripts and participants don’t know what they’ll say until they’ve heard the other person. To be successful they have to be present, listen carefully, and contribute freely.

These skills are obviously valuable in a customer service environment, in which adaptability is crucial.

The “Yes, and…” story telling exercise can be carried out by two people or more.

One person starts with one sentence of a story, and the next person builds on that, either bouncing back and forth between two people or circling around in a larger group.

You can take the story in any direction, as long as it builds on top of the previous sentence with a “yes, and…”

It works best with a few simple rules:

  • Don’t deny or contradict
  • Don’t ask open ended questions
  • You don’t have to be funny
  • You can look good by making your partner look good
  • Tell a story

Besides the fun of seeing the story go in the strangest directions, this exercise reinforces a few crucial customer service skills.

One is listening skills. You have to build upon what was said last. Many people – particularly when under pressure – are so focused on what they want to say whilst the other person is talking, they miss half of what’s being said.

It also teaches flexibility. Instead of going against what’s been said, the aim is to build on top of it.

So, set your team a challenge to switch to the but flip or but, and

if you only do one thing: Start with yourself and see how many times you can catch yourself saying “yes, but…” and switch that to the but flip, or “yes, and…

Here’s a short video demonstrating the yes and game: 



When I have more time

how to delegate to free up time

One of the easiest ways to gain more time is to delegate.

The reality is that we will never have more time; everyone has the same 1440 minutes in a day, and the same 168 hours in a week.

It’s what we do with that time that counts.

It’s not just how we spend our time that impacts us, but how our team spend their time, too. When they’re not being as productive as you think they should or could be it’s important to stand back and analyse why.

That’s one of the things I see often when working with inexperienced managers. They often get too bogged down in the day-to-day reactive tasks (which really should be carried out by their team members) and thus making very little headway on some of the proactive activities they should be working on to drive things forward.

I find it’s not unusual for newly appointed managers or supervisors to lack confidence in allocating or delegating tasks, for fear of losing control or in case the team member doesn’t do it as well as they would’ve done. Particularly when they have been promoted internally.

However, when they fail to delegate and trust team members to get on with things this can lead to frustration all round. The supervisor has too much to do and ends up with too little time to complete bigger picture and more proactive tasks. Their line manager is frustrated because there is little headway on these proactive activities. And the team members end up feeling undervalued.

Of course, this all has a knock-on effect on the customer too. Even if they don’t sense the frustration amongst the team, they will undoubtedly end up not receiving the best service possible.

If your supervisors are struggling to let go and not sure how to delegate here are 7 ideas and points to review with them.

  1. Get them to identify what they are here for; what things wouldn’t happen if the job didn’t exist. Most people will give you a list of the tasks or activities that won’t get completed. Let them give you this list but then go back and get them to identify the outcomes of those activities. For example: an activity might be conducting monthly 1:1 meetings with each of their team members, one of the outcomes of which is for team members to feel valued, ultimately contributing to their level of engagement and productivity.
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  2. Ask them to track and then analyse a day’s activity. Of all of the activities they completed during the day how many of these and what proportion of time was spent on things that only they could do, and that contributed to what they’re there for. Then get them to identify all the things that in a perfect world could be delegated to somebody else. See if there are any activities left, that really don’t need to be done at all.
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  3. Explain to them the difference between importance and urgency (ref: Stephen R. Covey ~ The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People). Help them identify examples of tasks which are non-urgent but important (QII activities). Then get them to break down these activities into the smallest possible denominator, so they can identify which tasks could be delegated, and schedule in the rest, so they can be chipping away at these QII activities.
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  4. Ask them to identify what holds them back with delegating; for them to be as honest as possible. Their responses might include: fear of losing control, reluctance to give up the tasks they enjoy, thinking it will be quicker to do it themselves, they’re not confident team members are capable, they’re afraid they’re going to get a negative response when they ask, they don’t want to overburden anyone.
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  5. Help them identify what can be gained if they were to delegate more tasks: free up time for proactive tasks, develop and/or stretch team members, the job might get done more quickly, more cheaply, and maybe even done better!
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  6. Before delegating anything, get them to prepare, by thinking through the purpose of the task, how it will be measured, what this person will need to carry it out effectively, and how it will be followed up. Here’s a delegation checklist I use with inexperienced managers and supervisors to help them to delegate by really thinking it through in advance. They won’t need this every time, but it helps focus their mind on what they need to consider beforehand.
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  7. Monitoring and measurement is an area where you might have extremes. Some newly appointed managers are so nervous about letting go, they hover the whole time and never give the person a chance to get on with it. But at the other end of the spectrum, you might have managers who simply make the assumption that everything is on track, and don’t do enough to monitor or follow-up that the task of been completed, as requested.

Letting go is a gradual process, and any inexperienced manager or supervisor will need time to build up their confidence before they will trust their team members to get on with the task in hand. So, in the same way you would expect them to review and follow-up with tasks they have allocated, you’ll need to do the same with them to build up their confidence and skill.

If you only do one thing: Observe your managers and supervisors for an hour and see how many tasks they perform which could easily be done by someone else in their team, and discuss with them one task or activity they could delegate to give them more time.

p.s. If you’d like some help training your first line managers how to delegate set up a call with me here, via my online diary


Team Development

Team development

Doesn’t every manager have a responsibility for team development?

As recruitment continues to be a challenge, I make no apologies for continuing this week with my theme of team development.

When I worked in the corporate world as head of training I was really proud of the training and development we offered. We had a dedicated residential training centre set in 7 acres, with fabulous facilities for chefs’ training and management development, which demonstrated our commitment to investing in people. But just because we had the training centre didn’t mean that was the only opportunities for development.

I had responsibility for a team who supported the training and development of over 55,000 employees. There was no way we were going to be able to touch all those people directly, or that everyone would have a chance to come to the training centre in Surrey.

Probably over 90% of training took place on job or supported by activity on job. And this is the reality in most businesses. Just because you don’t have a dedicated training team or training centre doesn’t mean training goes by the wayside. Far from it.

I believe every line manager has a responsibility towards their team’s development, whether that is on job coaching or simply identifying what training and development they need, so that team members feel valued. Even if their long term future isn’t with your business, if you have done everything you can to support that person get where they want to be, at least when the time comes for them to move on, they will leave with a good impression of your business, and become an ambassador.

Here are some considerations that every manager should be able to fulfil.

Development discussions

How do they see their role & contribution, now or in the future? They may have a different idea of how their role contributes to the business or how it could evolve. You may have one idea of their next role, but they may have aspirations in other areas (just look at how some people have taken on new projects during lockdown).

Strengths

Last week we discussed building on strengths. What do you see as their greatest talent, or when do you see them working really well? What are the things that they love to do? And if you don’t know the answer to this question, you need to ask! What do you/others like or value about them? Maybe they have some talent, or a flare for something that they aren’t even aware of.

Regular feedback

To build on strengths, continue to give feedback and recognition, and discuss how to make things even better.

Spot on job opportunities

There are always opportunities all around, but you and they will only spot these if you know what your objectives are. Such as

  • Cross train – Job swaps – Delegate
  • Buddying
  • Staff champions – Mentoring others
  • Supplier support
  • Daily activity ~ daily briefings ~ debriefs
  • Learning from mistakes & successes
  • Projects

Make a plan

Ensure everyone in your team has a development plan. It doesn’t have to be grand; simple small projects and activities making incremental improvements all add up, and help people feel as if they are being stretched. Let the team member come up with their ideas and suggestions to meet their development needs; they may suggest things you hadn’t thought of, and the chances are if they suggest it, it’s something they will feel comfortable with, so it’s more likely to happen.
The key headings are: What ~ why ~ how ~ where ~ when ~ who

Ownership

The number one person who loses out if their development doesn’t happen is the team member themselves. Give them ownership, and trust them to make sure it happens. That doesn’t mean you abandon them, they will still need support and to be reviewed, but if they’ve been involved with drawing up the plan they will hopefully already be bought in and committed to it.

So you really don’t need to have a swanky training centre or a dedicated training team to demonstrate your commitment to training. You and your line managers all have their part to play in ensuring your team have opportunities to develop so they feel valued

If you only do one towards your team’s development:

Get your diary out and set dates to meet with each of your team to discuss their ongoing development, and ask your managers and supervisors to follow suit.

Why development matters video

 


Planning Development

planning developmentPlanning Development based on strengths and stretch

Most managers think of staff training and team development to achieve one of two things:

  • to fix someone’s weaknesses
  • as a way of grooming somebody for promotion

Although both of these are relevant in their own way, they can leave you and your team wanting.

So here’s an alternative way to approach your team’s development…

Seeing strengths versus fixing faults

It’s all too easy to end up with everybody becoming a “Jack of all trades and master of none”.

Whilst it’s good to cross train your team so you make cover easy, you don’t want to end up everyone mediocre in everything, but expert in nothing.

Imagine what would happen if you were to focus on people’s strengths instead – in the same way you might expect an athlete or members of a football team to hone their skills in areas where they already perform well. You could help them go from a strong performance to real excellence in their areas of greatest ability.  How much more motivated would team members be if they could focus on what they’re best at?

Everyone has skills, it’s just that different jobs require different skills. It takes a certain type of skill to organise an hectic event, to calm down an irate customer, to clean a room to a high standard inside 25 minutes.

Often these are skills employees don’t necessarily recognise themselves, as they take these things for granted.  When you recognise these strengths it can boost confidence, and often the tasks they’re good at are those they enjoy more, so it helps to keep them engaged.

Of course, in reality we can’t always let people just do what they’re best at, but we can at least make sure that they’re not always under pressure to improve what they’re worst at! But by focusing on individuals’ strengths you can balance your team so they complement potential shortcomings in others, so you can bridge any gaps you have elsewhere.

Stagnate versus stretch

Not everyone wants to progress, but that doesn’t mean you let them stagnate.

We often think of development as grooming people for promotion. This might be one outcome or intention, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of development. Even those who you believe have reached the limits of their capability or have no desire for more responsibility shouldn’t be left to stagnate.

After all, a bored employee is unlikely to shine and even less likely to wow you or your customers!

Look for opportunities to set new challenges within people’s current responsibilities. How can you add variety or stretch them further in areas where they’re already strong?

For example:

– asking them to find ways to make efficiencies or refine a process

– giving them responsibility for training others

– allocating ownership of specific procedures

By giving individuals ownership of particular tasks you create a sense of pride and responsibility.

You’ll be amazed what people can achieve when their strengths are recognised, and they’re given the authority to apply them.

This can also take the pressure off you as that person then becomes the go to person.

Sadly, it’s often only when people leave that we miss what they bring to the team. (….could that lack of recognition be the very reason they leave?)

Here’s an exercise you can carry out with your team to recognise their strengths to take into account before development planning.

Take Action

If you only do one thing towards planning development: take a step back and identify one strength – however small – for each one of your team members, and let them know you value this.

Planning development video

Photo credit: alysha-rosly



Barriers to Development

Barriers to Development

Last week’s blog focused on the importance of team development, and I promised to continue the theme this week by sharing with you the second topic I covered on last week’s Hoteliers’ Forum, which was barriers to development.

Having made a commitment to invest in your team’s development it can be frustrating when it doesn’t pan out the way you’d hoped. So let’s explore some of the barriers to development; the things that can lead to wasted time and effort, or worse, leaving your team members feeling undervalued.

Here are just 7 barriers to development I see, but this list is by no means exhaustive.

1. Too busy

If you’ve only recently reopened or your team members have only just returned to the workplace you’re probably thinking this isn’t a priority right now. Development, either for your team or your own personal development is one of those things that’s so easy to push down the priority list. This is probably the biggest barrier to development; if nothing happens today towards it, it’s not the end of the world, But, when it gets put off time and again it could leave you in limbo.

One of the reasons this happens is because we see it as a big task. But it doesn’t have to be. The majority of development takes place on the job, so providing you have a plan there will be opportunities nearly every day. But you won’t spot these opportunities unless you know what you’re looking for!

Schedule time in your calendar right now to sit down with each of your team to discuss their development. Even if this doesn’t take place until July or August, if they know there is a date in the diary it demonstrates your commitment to their development and gives them time to think about what they want and need.

2. No goals/direction

Development activities can be haphazard and wasteful if you don’t have clear expectations and a defined goal. That goal might be small, but always ask yourself (and the employee) what’s the outcome either of you are looking for as a result of that development activity.

If you both know the outcome it’s so much easier to determine what’s needed and to measure the result.

Set some mini goals now, so everyone has something to work towards, however small, until such time as you can sit down for a more in depth discussion with each of your team to discuss their development.

3. Don’t see the relevance

Maybe you have decided something would be good for someone’s development, but unless you involve them in this decision they may not see the relevance, particularly if it doesn’t fit in with their idea of what they need.

If people fail to see the relevance, you won’t get any buy in or commitment to any of the development activities you plan for them. You won’t always need to spell it out for them, particularly if they already have a personal development plan, but sometimes you’ll need to help people see how any development activities can make their job easier, more enjoyable, support colleagues, get them one step nearer to their dream job or promotion, anything that has a positive outcome for them.

4. Expecting instant results

Sometimes you, the team member or colleagues have high expectations. Be realistic with everyone concerned as to how long it might take for someone to get to a point where they are fully competent and feel confident. It takes time to absorb new learning and takes practise, with the opportunity to ask questions and experiment.

The sooner people can put things into practice the easier the transition to the workplace.

Schedule time for, and help people spot the opportunities to practise in a safe environment, where it won’t matter if they make a mistake. Don’t expect perfection and allow more time.

5. Don’t feel trusted

When people come to put new learning into practice, they need to have the authority and freedom to do this. Nobody wants their boss or another colleague breathing down their neck!

For example, if you put someone to work alongside another team member, but that team member won’t allow that person to do anything for fear they will not do it to standard, then they will never get to learn.

If people don’t feel trusted by others they will then start to doubt their own ability. And if they are fearful of making a mistake they will be unwilling to take that risk.

6. Lack of resources

Not being able to implement learning through lack of opportunity is one thing, But not having the right resources, such as the tools for the job, or the authority can be very frustrating for all parties concerned.

The most important resource is time. Time to implement their new skill or knowledge whilst it is still fresh in their mind.

7. Little or poor support

This is probably the second biggest barrier to development. When line managers don’t have the skills to give effective feedback or to coach others this reduces the opportunity to learn on job.

If not given the right encouragement and on-going support, progress will be slow, or even take a backwards step. People need to recognise what works. And if not working, to analyse why, and importantly, how to correct.

Anyone in a position where they need to help and support others’ development should have, at the very least, basic coaching skills.

 

If you only do one thing to avoid these barriers to development: Spot when they are there!

All of these barriers are avoidable once you recognise them. Look back over the past 2 weeks and ask yourself – have any of these barriers impacted your team’s development or led to missed potential development opportunities?

Related video, Conscious incompetence