I LOVE springtime and summer because I can spend hours in my garden making things grow. This year I took it up a notch by adding two new garden areas in my back yard. In addition to my English-style garden with  five sections of flowers, I dug out a large area in a corner next to the house and deck. 

GROW model of giving feedback

After clearing the grass I planted three raised beds along with three large whiskey barrel planters filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs. I also added blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries on the other side of the deck. It’s so fun to watch everything grow!

Maybe that’s why I like the GROW Model for giving feedback so much! (If you missed it, you can find the first post on Feedback as FeedFORWARD here. And be sure to sign up for future updates on the sidebar!)

Feedback as Feed-FORWARD is all about growth. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong with an employee’s performance the goal is to help them grow as persons and improve their performance for the better. It’s[……]

Continue reading…

So why give constructive feedback?  Constructive feedback is given when a behavior or action is ‘off track’ and you want to get it back ‘on track’.  Or you might need a higher level of performance than was achieved.  In one of my workshops I had a manager say that he wanted to learn how to ‘punish people properly’.  

Constructive Feedback

Ok… not what I was going for in a “Feed-FORWARD to Next Time” approach!

In constructive feedback we want them to hear you, buy in, and start a plan for how to change.  But how to do that? (To review the concept of Feedback As Feed-Forward and the purpose of giving feedback go here. And be sure not to miss any posts in the series by subscribing to my blog updates!)

The GROW Model

The best tool I’ve found is the GROW framework.  It creates a great flow of the conversation.  My thanks to John Whitmore and his book, Coaching for Performance.  (This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to acquire a coaching style in managing the performance of others – Really!  B[……]

Continue reading…

Imagine a day where you received absolutely NO FEEDBACK.  Not really possible.  Your brain is constantly receiving feedback – feedback from your stomach (time for breakfast), feedback from your feet (this bathroom floor is cold!), feedback from your spouse (don’t forget to pick up Kristen after school today).


Your brain is a lover of feedback.  Without a feedback system you and your body couldn’t even complete the simplest task.  But even though we are wired to receive feedback, most leaders I meet struggle with the best way to give feedback.

My second blog series summarizes best practices in giving feedback.  As with the last series I’ll summarize the best tips and tools I’ve found on giving feedback.  Your job:  to practice and make these tools your own.

The Purpose of Giving Feedback

Answer the following question:  Why should you as a manager give feedback?

While you’re thinking about that… let me tell you a story of the worst feedback I ever got:

One company I wor[……]

Continue reading…

Oscar Time!

February 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s Oscar time! Get out the tuxedos and gowns! Roll out the red carpet! The envelope, please. And the winner is . . . 

Oscar Time! Performance Reviews

So far in our series we’ve been discussing the basics of how to be successful in your first year as a manager. We’ve talked about setting clear objectives, what comprises SMA2RT goals, how to conduct one-on-ones, and now we come to the very useful management tool of the performance review.

As the year wraps to a close – your manager or HR will probably ask you to write a written summary for each employee’s annual performance.

Do I hear groaning?

Maybe you’re thinking of how stressful some your own performance reviews have been. But let me offer a suggestion to lesson the pain. If you look at performance reviews in a certain way you can make them very useful and effective in your leadership toolbox. 

Think of performance reviews as your own Annual Oscar Awards Ceremony! It’s your chance to highlight the achievements of your team members and focus on[……]

Continue reading…

Last week I re-read The Hobbit in anticipation of the movie launch. The reading was delightful and brought back many memories of images I had created over 30 years ago as I first read the epic tale. 

Team Building Hobbit Style

In the re-reading, I found many great analogies not only to effective teams, but also to leadership in a team enviroment. Thorin & Company plus Bilbo (and Gandalf at times) making up this illustrious team.

There are at least 5 lessons we can learn from The Hobbit about team building and leadership:

1. Choosing the Team

Why did Gandalf choose Bilbo? One lesson of effective teams found in this tale is membership. Why was Bilbo asked to join the group as the burglar? Why not another dwarf? Exactly, a 14th dwarf was not needed, but instead someone with skills differing. Those skills and talents unfolded as the book progressed – many not being revealed until the end. Several, Bilbo didn’t even know he had.

Was Gandalf a part of the team? Gandalf can be viewed as the team cham[……]

Continue reading…

Airplanes are off-course 95% of the time on any given flight. Think about that – 95% of the time planes are heading in the wrong direction! In order to arrive safely at the intended destination there has to be constant course corrections.

One-on-Ones: Staying on Course for attaining clear objectives

As the plane veers off-course – up or down and left or right – it needs to constantly be evaluating its position relative to where it’s headed. In order for this to happen it must have a clearly defined flight plan, accurate computer programs, and a competent pilot.

In the same way, managers are tasked with keeping their employees on course.

In my previous posts on setting clear objectives here and here I discussed how important it is to anticipate the obstacles that might hinder successful goal attainment. Now I want to address the most important tool for keeping your people on course.

Staying on Course with One-on-Ones

The singular most important tool to keep your people on course is the one-on-one meeting. One-on-ones are essential t[……]

Continue reading…

It’s the end-of-year list time! We’re going to see lists on any subject you want for the worst and best of 2012.  There’s a great one on leadership books just out by Tim Fox, the “Federal Coach”, who blogs for the Washington Post. 

Leader Know How Notes

Leaders Read

If you’re going to be a great Leader-Manager you need to keep up on the best in Leadership thought and example. Leaders need to read! You should always have a good book going on your job as a leader.  Fox’s list is short and sweet. His recommendations span history, biography, and practical application. To be great you need to follow the greats. Fox has a great list to up your Leadership game.

I also have my own list of  favorites – those books and articles that have been helpful to me and those I teach on our journey to becoming better leaders.

But Reading Isn’t Leading!

Along with my reading list I provide my Know How Notes.  Know How Notes are ideas about how you can apply what you are reading to your practice of Leadership.


Continue reading…

If you want to be a smart manager, you need to use the SMA2RT tool. SMA2RT stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-Bound.SMART objectives and goals tag cloudIn my last post I covered the first four criteria. Here I’ll finish up with the last two, Realistic and Time-Bound.

R = REALISTIC: I find it very common in companies to establish ‘stretch goals’ for their employees.  How hard is too hard when putting some ‘stretch’ into an objective?  In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi describes a person’s optimal state of consciousness which he calls “flow”.

Cziksentmihalyi asks us to consider both the level of challenge of the work and the person’s skill level.  When people are “in the Zone” the activity is the right balance between challenge and skill.  If the assignment is too easy people become bored so they can lose motivation in their job. But, if people are given a task that is too difficult for their skill level, we throw them into anxi[……]

Continue reading…

The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz  thought he didn’t have a brain. When he met the Wizard after helping Dorothy find her way on the Yellow Brick road, he found out he had one after all. Even still, it would have been a lot easier if he had used the SMA2RT Tool!

How to be a Smart Manager: Use the SMART Tool to Set Clear Objectives
If you want to be a smart manager you need the SMA2RT Tool!

After teaching new managers for over 15 years in several major companies, I’ve heard dozens of excuses why the objective-setting process doesn’t work. I’ve heard about the non-flexible IT systems HR keeps designing to store the objectives, or maybe it’s the cascade process that takes until the middle of a given fiscal year, or it’s might be that people see objective-setting as nothing more than paper work – not as a key capability of a great manager to get work done through other people.

Regardless of the ‘system’ HR requires you to follow, it’s essential that you as a manager set clear objectives with your people and create an on-going follow-up system to en[……]

Continue reading…

Setting clear objectives is essential to being a great Leader-Manager as I discussed in my last post, The Need for Clear Objectives – Part 1

Need for Clear Objectives

There I listed seven problems that prevent making objectives clear. Here I want to add seven more:


  • Using vague terms: When we ask for something ASAP – what does that mean? For the employee who already has a full plate, “as soon as possible” might mean 2 weeks from now. If you mean Wednesday at 2:00 – say, Wednesday at 2:00. Be specific when talking it through – both of you discussing what success looks like and what the boundaries are will ensure you have the same assignment in mind.
  • Not keeping them in the loop when things change: This one ties to the many conflicting priorities in peoples’ workloads. If this new objective is a higher priority – you need to let them know that. If priorities change tomorrow – you need to let them know ASAP (I mean, as soon as you know!) Here’s NOT what I’m talking about: a colleague of min[……]

Continue reading…