Coronavirus Tips: How to work from home when your kids are home too

Kid reading for school lying on floor at home

With schools closing down and workplaces going online, many of us are finding ourselves in uncharted territory.  It’s not just that we have to work from home, but we have to do it with our kids running around the house.  The fact is you’re going to be more distracted working from home over the next few weeks when the whole family is home with you.  But there are best practices to help you stay focused without ruining your relationships with your spouse and children.

  • Get privacy. If you have a separate office in your house, use it and close the door.  If you don’t, create a temporary office in a separate room where you can close the door and have quiet.  It may mean taking over the dining room table or bedroom during the day and cleaning up your work materials at the close of the day.  Privacy is not only for you, it’s for your colleagues and clients, and it will help the kids adjust better too.
  • Set boundaries. No doubt kids will see being at home with you as an opportunity to spend more time with you (unless you have teens or college age kids, which may require creating more space).  It will be up to you to set the boundaries early on and stay disciplined.  They will likely try every trick in the book to get your attention at first, but if you stick to a routine, they will adjust.
  • Personalize your plan. You know what works best for you and your family.  If you Family lying outdoors smilingneed to take a lot of breaks to check on the kids or to maintain your own sanity, do it.  Set your plan to work for 1 hour then take 10 minutes off to socialize, get coffee, stretch your legs, or whatever you need.  But set a timer and get back to work.  If you know that saying good-bye to your kids will trigger a huge separation issue, plan to see them only at lunchtime and the end of the day.  If you need to trade off childcare responsibilities, figure out a plan that works for you and your partner.  It may take a few tries to get it right.
  • Be flexible and forgiving. Adjusting to working from home takes time and experimenting.  Be patient with yourself, with your colleagues, and with your family.  Plan ahead for mitigating and resolving frustrations.  That may include creating “safe words” to use with your family or boss to compassionately tell them to back off.  Humor can be of use for this.  For example, if you choose a safety phrase of “purple dinosaur,” you could say to your 5-year-old that you need to meet with a purple dinosaur to mean that you need to step out of the room and calm down.  Respect them when they say it too.  With your boss, it could simply be, “I need to take a quick personal break and I’ll call you right back.”

The last word for this time of the Coronavirus crisis is that it is only temporary.  You can set up routines that won’t last forever, like giving your kids more screen time or shifting your work to the evenings or playing tag in the yard at lunchtime or calling your coworkers just to chat.  We’re all on edge with the ambiguity of the illness and the effects of cabin fever.  Treat yourself and others with compassion during this period of time.  Think about how you will want to look back on it.

Coronavirus Workplace Tips: Manage a Virtual Team

Man sitting at desk working from home on laptopHow do you lead your employees who work from home?  How do you manage a virtual team?  What are the best virtual communication hacks?

Two important challenges arise when we ask our employees to work from home.  First is the technology challenge and second is the leadership challenge.  To keep your team members productive, make sure they have the technology they need, are trained on how to use it, and have quick access to IT help to solve tech problems.  This should be delegated to your IT department or service provider.  You do not want to have to shift your role to IT support to keep your team up and running.

What you will need to do as a virtual leader is to shift your management style.  No matter what your leadership philosophy is, going virtual will impact it.  If you are normally hands on, for example, you will need to make peace with the idea your team working without you when they are working from home.  If you are normally more hands off, you will need to find ways to check in more with your team to make sure things are going smoothly.

Working virtually is not fundamentally different than working in the office, but leadership challenges tend to amplify in virtual teams.  Communication, trust, and engagement are three areas that are impacted the most.  Here are some tips on managing virtual communication.

Make a Communication Plan

Set the expectations of how often and by which method you want to communicate with your team.  Questions to consider:

  • For what types of issues should they call you? Each other?  Send a text?  Email?
  • What is a reasonable response time for each mode of communication? Hours, days?
  • How do you want to be able to reach them? Should they have their phone ringers on?
  • Should they send out a message or set a flag in your chat room when they are taking a break, like for lunch?
  • Would it be useful to set up some group chats or channels for specific projects or issues to reach multiple people at once?
  • What should they update you on and how often?

Use Effective Virtual Communication Techniques

Recommendations:

  • Choose the right modality. Use voice or video for any emotionally charged interactions, like performance feedback, disagreements, and sensitive issues.  If text-based interactions seem to be going down an emotional path, immediately pick up the phone or open a video channel.
  • Practice active listening. Ask others to summarize what they heard and understood to make sure you are on the same page.  Similarly, summarize what they tell you to make sure you understand what they are saying.
  • Communicate the same message more than once and in multiple modalities, such as verbally, followed up by an email.  Ask for confirmations for receipt of text-based messages.
  • Assume the best of others. When someone does not respond in a timely manner, don’t make up a dozen reasons why they are ignoring you.  Check in with them.    Ask if they got the message.  More often than not, they didn’t see it or they got tied up and meant to get back to you.

To see more tips on building and maintaining trust in virtual teams, and engaging employees on virtual teams, stay tuned.  Here are tips on running virtual meetings.

The truth about using personality tests for hiring

DispleasureShould I use a personality test for hiring?  Are personality tests legal for hiring?  What are the pros and cons of using personality tests in hiring?

Many people are skeptical about using personality tests for hiring—and they should be.  But not for the reasons you may think.  Personality tests can be extremely effective in screening out problem employees at all levels of the organization, including executives, but they have to be used correctly.

Before even contemplating whether to use a personality test in your hiring process, think about what else you will be using to gather information about the candidates.  A personality test alone is not sufficiently predictive of job performance.  Other factors and methods of assessment need to be included in your hiring process to select good candidates.

What is the best predictor of job performance?

Cognitive ability, or intelligence, is the single best predictor of job performance across all jobs.  If you were to include just one assessment, a test of cognitive ability would be your best bet.  However, many of these tests suffer from adverse impact, which means they predict differently for people in different ethnic groups.  Employment laws and our societal values suggest that we use other measures instead or in combination with intelligence tests to make sure we are giving people of different backgrounds equal opportunities for employment.

What is the worst predictor of job performance?

Interviews are typically the least predictive method of assessment because employers often don’t conduct them in a systematic or uniform way across candidates.  Rather, individual employees typically decide whether they like or connect with the candidate and rate them accordingly.

What methods should I use to assess job candidates?

You may have noticed that we’re talking “apples and oranges” because cognitive ability is a characteristic of a job applicant whereas interviewing is a method of assessing candidates.  This is a very important point and one to carefully consider.  You can measure cognitive ability in an interview, with a test, or with a job sample, or in a number of other ways.  Some of these methods of assessing cognitive ability will be more accurate and more predictive of job performance than others.

The bottom line is you want to choose the right factors to measure and the right methods of assessment to use in your hiring process.  Now, back to personality.

Does personality predict job performance?

Personality is not the best predictor of global job performance, but it will predict certain things that are critical to job performance.  That is, if you use a high quality, multi-factor personality test.  The popular tests that you see out there generally are not appropriate to use for hiring and, if you get sued, you’ll probably lose if you are using them.  What you need is a highly “reliable” and “valid” measure of personality.

Which personality test should I use?

We use several different personality assessment instruments that were designed for hiring.  One of them is the personality test battery in the Hogan Assessments.  We use the Hogan for hiring leaders and executives because it is one of the best assessments of derailing factors.  In other words, the test can tell you how likely the candidate is to exhibit tendencies associated with the dark side of leadership—the kind of leaders you don’t want in your organization, the ones who are out there for themselves, who bully others, who take great risks and give little credit to others and who will run your department, division, or entire organization into the ground if given the chance.

These leaders, unfortunately, are often very good at fooling interviewers, but they are not so good at fooling quality tests of personality, such as the Hogan.  These kinds of tests typically require a qualified person to administer and read the test and often are administered by external consultants, like us.  An external assessment is a great way to get objective data about your candidate to incorporate into your hiring process.  When you look into the cost of such an assessment, you will find that it is far less expensive to assess a few candidates on the front end than to fire a bad leader once they are employed in your company.

Joanie Connell Writes Second Book

Joanie Connell has just signed a contract to publish a book with the American Psychological Association (APA).  The working title is Consulting to Technical Leaders: Transforming Technical Experts to Managers and Leaders, and it will be a part of the Fundamentals of Consulting Psychology Series.  Stay tuned for more information.Fundamentals of Consulting Psychology Book Series

4 Excuses Not to Delegate: Are You Using One?

Successful bossThere’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep control over projects and minimize room for failure.  Why do managers resist delegating?

“They’re not ready.”

This is a typical reason leaders give to keep doing the work themselves instead of letting someone else take it on.  What they should be asking is, what would it take for them to be ready?  Also, what are they ready for now?  In other words, even if they aren’t ready to take on the whole project, what aspect of it could you let them take responsibility for?  And what do you need to do as a leader to get them ready to take on more?  This is an opportunity for you to coach and mentor and facilitate learning for your team members who, more than likely, crave growth opportunities.

“We can’t afford a mistake.”

This is the fear that drives managers to hover over their employees and make them feel useless.  Of course, there is always a risk of failure or a mistake, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. Ask yourself: when you’re away from the office, can your employees get things done without you?  If not, this is a wake-up call for you to empower your team.

“They won’t do it as well.”

This is another reason for managers to do the work themselves instead of trusting others to do it.  Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.  You never know, maybe they’ll even do a better job than you!  This may be yet another fear that drives you to keep the work to yourself.  But, in the end, it is better for you, for the company, and for the individual for them to do better work than you.  Now you can stick to leading and growing your own skills.

“I don’t have time.”

Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse yet it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. It’s often quicker for an experienced person to do something him or herself, but if you keep doing it yourself, you’ll have to keep doing it.  That’s where the overwork comes in: if you do the work and are responsible for leading the team, you will quickly run out of time.  In other words, you don’t have time not to delegate.  It may take more time initially to train someone, but the savings will begin to show up very quickly.

“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.”  Jesse Sostrin states in To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, in Harvard Business Review.  As a leader, if you keep doing the work, you will reach your output capacity quickly.  If you have a team of people who contribute to the output, you can scale and have much greater impact.  The reason for teams to exist is to increase productivity.  In high-performing teams, each team member does what he or she does best and relies on others to contribute in different ways.  Effective leaders facilitate this process.

Adulting: How do young people learn life skills?

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalI came across an article in the LA Times today about how college students at UC Berkeley have started up an “adulting” course.  They created a student-run course to teach life skills to each other because they’re not learning them anywhere else.  The question is, why aren’t they learning life skills in life?

One of the students interviewed for the article says that kids don’t learn life skills from their parents because parents don’t trust their kids to be able to handle things.  The parents do it for them.  Schools have also taken life skills off the curricula in favor of academic courses preparing children for standardized tests.

My take on this is that the kids must resort to teaching each other adulting skills because all of the adults in their lives failed to prepare them for adulthood.  Parents, teachers, professors, administrators, and government protection agencies have disempowered children to the point where they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they grow up.

Presumably, these adults had good intentions to protect the children and give them the academic skills they thought were needed to succeed in life.  Or is it that they felt the need to control their children’s lives to fulfill their own insecurities?  In either case, the outcome is the same: many young adults are missing critical skills to succeed in life.

It is troubling to see that the college students don’t trust the adults, just as the adults don’t trust the kids.  And we wonder why there’s such a strong generational divide!

I offer a small solution, my book, Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.  I wrote this book because I saw how this problem was arising and I wanted to help young people (and their parents) prepare for life.  I’m there for young people and old.  If you want to talk, schedule a meeting with me, free of charge.  I am an adult who supports adulting.

Another solution I offer is building trust between the generations.  My Collaborating Across Generations workshop helps people in the different generations better understand each other and work together.  We need less Millennial bashing and fewer “OK Boomer” comments and more leveraging of our different perspectives and work styles.

360-degree Feedback Assessment

Individual 360-degree Feedback Assessment

Every leader behaves differently with different people or roles in the organization and they are perceived differently as well.  A 360-degree feedback assessment provides a mechanism for a leader to receive honest feedback from people in different levels or functions in the organization.  A 360-degree feedback assessment reaches out to people in different functions in the organization to get their perceptions of the leader’s performance along several relevant leadership dimensions.

Assessment:

The leader and 6-12 work associates complete the 360-degree Feedback Instrument online (about 30 minutes each).

  • The work associates include a manager, a group of peers, a group of direct reports, and an optional other group, such as internal or external customers.
  • The assessment is conducted externally by the coach or coach’s organization to ensure confidentiality of participants.
  • The participant shares names and contact information of the raters and the coach coordinates the communications to the raters.

The 360-degree feedback instrument may be one of the following.

  • EQi 360
  • SVI 360

Report:

The comprehensive 360-degree Feedback Report for the chosen instrument.

Feedback:

Participate in a 1 ½ hour meeting to go through and ensure understanding of the 360-degree report.  Compare and contrast the feedback from the individual and others and identify strengths and development opportunities.  Determine which strengths and areas for development are most relevant to the individual’s leadership goals.  Incorporate the participant’s strengths and development opportunities into a development plan to accentuate their leadership strengths and address their leadership gaps to strengthen their overall leadership platform.

Cost

Individual 360-degree assessment and feedback

Includes the 360-degree Feedback Instrument, Rater Coordination, Report, Development Plan Template, and Feedback Session.

$1,499.00

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

NetworkingHow likely are you to lose your key employees?

According to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. And only about one in five say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. What’s worse, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs.  The answer is, you are very likely to lose an employee very soon.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

What does it cost to replace an employee?  The range is large, but it is expensive at any level.  Studies show it can cost 20% of a low-to-mid-range position and more than 200% of a high-level or executive position.  Let’s look at the numbers.  The cost to replace a mid-range administrative manager being paid $40k would be about $8k.  But the cost of a highly educated contributor, director, or executive who’s paid over $200k would be over $400k.

What goes into calculating turnover costs?

  • Hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
  • Onboarding (training and management time)
  • Lost productivity (months, years to match a high performer’s level of performance)
  • Low team engagement (other employees are affected when someone leaves)
  • Customer service and errors (new people don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes)

The costs may be much greater in your company, especially if a key person leaves at a critical time.  Missing a release deadline could cost the company funding or market share.  Lost knowledge could cause a faulty product to be released.

How will you keep your best people?

The top way to keep employees today is to engage them.  This means allowing them to do meaningful work that helps them grow.  When people are doing something that matters and are growing in the process, they are likely to stay.

Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.  The problem is that people often don’t know what they do best, and it’s even harder for their employers to know.  The solution is to assess what people’s natural talents are and let them do work where they apply them.

A fun way to assess people’s natural talents is in a team-building session where people self-assess and share their talents with their team members.  People get excited about their discoveries and they learn how to better engage each other in projects.

If you are leading a team and you want to keep your key players, you may want to give our Strengthen Your Team Team-Building Activity a try.  It costs only a small fraction of what it costs to lose someone, and it will pay back even more in terms of the increased productivity and engagement of your team.  You will also have fun discovering how your own natural talents come into play.

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