An Effective 360 Degree Feedback Process part 2

Tips and Tools“Julia, we are a small company, why should I waste time doing employee appraisals – that’s for big companies!”

In part 1 we examined various appraisal techniques and highlighted two of the main areas where 360 Degree Feedback will benefit the company. If you missed it, you can see it here.

Now let’s look at the 10 steps to introduce 360 Feedback in the company. Focus on one step at a time.

Step 1: Define the Purpose

The first step is to define the process and as indicated previously, there are two main applications within the company.

  • Employee Development
  • Performance Evaluation

It is necessary to communicate the purpose of the process to all that will be involved or impacted by the 360 Degree Feedback process.

Step 2: Choose the Collection Method

The two most frequently used methods are questionnaires and interviews. For many companies a combination of the two are used.

Step 3: Decide on the Data to be Collected

When you begin to use 360 Degree Feedback it is essential that you decide the data to be collected and the collection method you will use. This will assist you to:

  • Focus on actual behavior in the company rather than general traits
  • Base ratings on particular work contexts to reduce rating error
  • Ensure that rated behaviors are tied closely to the company’s strategy and vision

Step 4: Identify the Feedback Recipients

The next stage involves

  • Selecting employees who will receive the feedback
  • Remember self-selected employees are always more conducive to the process
  • Always ensure that all recipients are aware of their involvement within the process

Step 5: Train the Participants

For many companies, 360 Degree Feedback is a new event within the company and as a result it is important that both the employees who are doing the rating and the employees who are being rated receive adequate training. Some important rules of thumb always prevail:

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  • Train employees and managers in accepting negative feedback and on rating errors
  • Constantly update employees on progress to ensure necessary buy-in 

Step 6: Recipient Chooses who will Rate Them

Within an effective 360 Degree Feedback process it is important, where practical, that the recipient of the feedback chooses an average of 10 co-workers to rate them. These on the whole tend to include but are not limited to:

  • Self
  • Boss
  • Subordinates
  • Co-workers

Caution: Recipients may choose more lenient people to do the rating. A properly planned process will help to avoid this situation. The purpose is to find areas the people can improve upon and prepare for promotions.

Step 7: Questionnaire Distribution

Should you decide to use questionnaires, you should include either

  • Paper & Pencil
  • Computerized

Raters should be allowed the opportunity to forward the completed questionnaires to a pre- identified manager or supervisor to protect confidentiality.

 Step 8: Analyze the Feedback Data

Within many 360 Degree Feedback systems not enough care is taken in the analysis of the feedback. This needs to be carefully planned at the beginning of the process. Without this planning either too much or too little feedback data can be collected.

Step 9: Feeding Back the Feedback

This is one of the major steps where the process can completely fail. It is essential that adequate time is provided for staff to take-in the feedback and that the whole process is transparent. There is nothing more dangerous within a company where staff is asked for feedback and it is then omitted or ignored. Staff will know what has been said so don’t ever hide information! Again this step may be best facilitated by upper management.

 Step 10: Follow Through

Another extremely important stage in the process that is often overlooked is the follow-through on the feedback received. After all the feedback is what you were looking for in the first place. Three important steps are involved:

  • Establish Improvement Areas
  • Design Action Plans
  • Identify coaches or mentors to assist employees in their future development

Repeat the Process

360-Degree Feedback is a continuous improvement process that will greatly benefit the company. The process should be repeated following an agreed period to review progress and identify future action plans.

Are You Ready For 360 Degree Feedback?

Now that you know how to introduce a 360 Degree Feedback Process it is essential that you decide are you ready to introduce this process. Research and experience has demonstrated that you will need to consider:

  • Top Management Buy-in
  • Past History of your company’s review process
  • Coaching & Management Skills
  • Trust & Interdependence
  • Organizational Stability
  • Clear Performance Plans

Top Management Buy-in

As with any change process, top managerial staff need to be fully engaged in supporting the process, understand the advantages of 360 Degree Feedback, and ensure that all participate fully in the process.

Past History

To determine whether past history may impact the introduction of 360 Degree Feedback you will need to ask yourself the following questions. Please try to answer them as honestly as possible:

  • Has 360 Degree Feedback been used previously within the company?
  • What were the results?
  • Where was the process a success and why?
  • Where did the process encounter difficulties and why?

Coaching & Management Skills

As with past history, you will need to ask yourself the following questions. Please try to answer them as honestly as possible:

  • Does management have the required skills and knowledge to implement the process fully?
  • Have the necessary mentors and coaches been introduced across the organization to ensure the smooth application of 360 Degree Feedback?

Trust & Interdependence

Given the often sensitive nature that can be discussed, 360 Degree Feedback requires trust and confidentiality. Ask yourself:

  • What are the trust levels within your company?
  • How can trust levels be increased?

Organizational Stability

The introduction of an effective 360 Degree Feedback Process can often be impacted when there is a level of un-stability within the company. You will need to determine:

  • What is the current position of the company? Please provide as much detail as you think necessary.
  • Are changes foreseen that may affect the implementation of an effective 360 Degree Feedback Process? Can they be avoided and/or integrated within the purpose of the 360 Degree Feedback Process.

Clear Performance Plans

The last area that will determine whether your company is ready for 360 Degree Feedback refers to the performance metrics of the company. Ask yourself:

  • What are the performance metrics within your company?
  • Are they clear to all employees?
  • If not how can they be made clear?

Why 360 Degree Feedback Programs Fail

It should be clear that the introduction of a 360 Degree Feedback Process is not as difficult as it first may have seemed. In fact with appropriate planning and the sequencing of activities as presented earlier it should be easily introduced within your company. This is presuming that you have identified that you are ready for 360 Degree Feedback!

We want to briefly highlight some of the reasons why 360 Degree Feedback programs have failed in other companies which we believe will help you avoid making the same mistakes. These include:

  • No Clear Purpose
  • Using 360 degree feedback as a substitute for managing poor performance
  • Not conducting a pilot
  • Not involving key employees
  • Insufficient communication
  • Compromising confidentiality
  • Not making the feedback’s use clear
  • Having scoring and administration not user friendly
  • Making it an event rather than an ongoing process
  • Not evaluating effectiveness

No Clear Purpose

360 Degree Feedback programs must be firmly rooted in a purpose for the company.

You will need to ensure that employees understand and share this purpose to ensure that the outcomes are relevant.

360 Degree Feedback Is Not A Substitute!

360 Degree Feedback should also not be viewed a substitute for managing poor performance. Instead it should be seen a methodology for discovering areas whereby performance can be increased.

Not Conducting a Pilot

360 Degree Feedback is not initially an easy process to introduce. For companies where 360 Degree Feedback has not been implemented previously; a pilot should be undertaken to familiarize both management and staff of the intricacies of the process. 

Not Involving Key Employees

Not involving employees reduces ownership of the 360 Degree Feedback Results and Process and undermines the overall process. Making a conscious effort to involve key employees increases trust and confidence within the company and the potential success of the 360 Degree Feedback. 

Insufficient Communication

For 360 Degree Feedback to be effective; all employees need to be informed of the purpose of the feedback, how this process will work and be confident of the relevance and transparency of the exercise.

Compromising Confidentiality

The most important facts concerning confidentiality:

  • 360 Degree Feedback must always respect the confidentiality of all material collected.
  • Validity of the process will be undermined along with the future reliability of data collected if confidentiality is broken.
  • 360 Degree Feedback must not be used against staff as it will damage trust relationships within the company.

Not Making the Feedback’s Use Clear

Employees must be fully aware of what the feedback will be used for. Without clarity the relevance of the feedback obtained will be compromised.

User Friendly Scoring and Administration

All participants must find it easy to complete the 360 Degree Feedback Process. Any areas of confusion must be removed so you will continue this ongoing process and not just use as a one-time event!

360 Degree Feedback is not a once-off effort

360 Degree Feedback is a continuous process of improvement and must be always perceived as being so.

Not Evaluating Effectiveness

Evaluation is the cornerstone of successful 360 Degree Feedback Programs – make sure that you build in appropriate evaluation structures.

360 Degree Feedback offers particular implementation benefits in the areas of Employee Development and Performance Appraisal. Before starting a 360 Degree Feedback Program the company must ascertain whether it is ready for 360 Degree Feedback. If you are not prepared, the program will fail. However, planning, communication, and proper execution – you will find these tools invaluable and so will the employees! 

 

 

 

 

Performance Appraisals – Are You Ready for a 360? part 1

Tips and Tools“Julia, we are a small company, why should I waste time doing employee appraisals – that’s for big companies!”

Why Have Performance Appraisals?

Over the last few years, the use of “360 Degree Feedback” has grown in popularity. 360 Degree Feedback is a system or process you develop in which the employees received feedback from those who work around them. This can be managers, peers, direct employees, or employees from other departments in which they interact with regularly. However, before we discuss the pros and cons of 360 Degree Feedback it is important to gain a general familiarity with performance appraisals. In particular, what are the advantages of performance appraisals?

Performance Appraisals offer several advantages to the individual, team, and to the company.

Individual

At an individual level, performance appraisals offer a number of advantages. These include:

  • Recognition of past effort
  • Developmental/training requirements can be uncovered

Research has consistently demonstrated that these items are extremely important for an individual. Without recognition for past efforts it can be difficult to consistently motivate an individual to engage in future efforts, or willingly accept developmental activities.

Team

In addition to the benefits achieved at an individual level, a number of team benefits come straight to mind. These include:

  • Alignment of effort with objectives
  • Motivation of team members

The effectiveness of any team is clearly aligned to the team’s set of objectives. Without opportunity for feedback in a trusting and transparent setting, the team will not know where they collectively are in relation to those objectives.

Organization

The subsequent advantages to the company become evident:

  • Development of staff
  • Achievement of key objectives
  • Best and focused utilization of human resources

Overall Benefits of Appraisals

  • Increased employee performance
  • Greater control of work
  • Improved motivation and commitment
  • Increased information flow
  • Better relationships within & across the company

360 Degree Feedback is a continuous process of improvement and must be always perceived as being so.

Roles within Performance Appraisals

The simplest form of performance appraisals involves two individuals – the manager and the employee.

Manager’s Role in Performance Management

  • Set Objectives with Employees
  • Manage Rewards and Ensure Fair Compensation for an observed level of Job Performance
  • Offer Accurate, Timely, Regular & Specific Feedback

Advantages to Managers

Through Performance Appraisals, Managers can:

  • Translate business goals into individual job objectives and standards
  • Monitor performance against solid standards and offer feedback
  • Communicate and seek buy-in / agreement on objectives
  • Coach employees on how to achieve their performance objectives
  • Identify employees strengths and weaknesses
  • Generate and agree upon development plans to best serve the company’s and the individual’s needs

One of the most important advantages to performance appraisals is the employee’s role in performance management!  When employees are actively involved in their own development and set objectives with their manager, there is a natural tendency to take ownership in their own performance.

Advantages to Employees

Through Performance Appraisals, employees can:

  • Openly discuss performance with managers
  • Be provided with an opportunity to develop skills
  • Reinforce and sustain current good performance
  • Improve existing performance
  • Determine career progression goals
  • Identify training needs
  • Link rewards to performance

Eight Appraisal Techniques

Below is a list of the main performance appraisal techniques. Most companies use these forms of performance appraisals. Whatever you choose to include as part of your 360 Degree Feedback will vary depending on the type and history of your company.

Ranking Strengths Weaknesses
Appraiser ranks employees from the worst to the best based on specific characteristics or on overall job performance
  • Simple
  • Facilitates comparisons
  • Subjective
  • Poor basis for decisions
  • Degree of difference between employees difficult to specify
Paired Comparisons    
Appraiser ranks employees two at a time and decisions on which is superior are included in the final ranking order for the whole company
  • Simple
  • Ease of decision making
  • Complicated within a large workforce
  • Challenges associated with ranking
Critical Incident     
Appraiser observes incidents of good and bad performance and uses this information for judging and leading the performance appraisal
  • More objective than previous techniques
  • Job related
  • Time consuming
  • Requires skilled observation

 

Free-Form/Narrative     
General free-written evaluation by the appraiser
  • Flexible
  • Comparisons challenging
  • Subjective
Self-Assessment     
Employee evaluates themselves based on a particular template that has been supplied by the company
  • Promotes self-analysis
  • Participative
  • Facilitates discussion
  • Employee may be more lenient
  • Conflict can occur between appraiser and employee
Assessment Center     
Employee receives a series of assessments supplied, performed and evaluated by specialized external assessors
  • Objective
  • Range of techniques employed
  • Range of dimensions analysed
  • Expensive
  • Not necessarily job specific
Performance     
Appraiser evaluates the degree to which the Employee has achieved specific objectives
  • Objective
  • Job related
  • Participative
  • Requires awareness of measurable targets
Rating     
Appraiser specifies on a scale to what degree relevant characteristics are possessed by the Employee.
  • Ease of comparison
  • Capacity to assess characteristics from the very simple to the complex
  • Subjective
  • Personality and behavioral traits difficult to measure

Key Implementation Areas

Before we begin to briefly examine an effective 360 Degree Feedback Process, it is important that we understand implementation areas. These are:

360 Degree & Employee Development

Within the area of employee development, 360 Degree Feedback will:

  • Focus on development of skills and competencies to meet organizational objectives
  • Identify Training & Development Needs
  • Identify Areas for Improvement
  • Develop Action Plans
  • Assist Career Development Opportunities

360 Degree & Performance Appraisals

Within the area of performance appraisals, 360 Degree Feedback will:

  • Set Performance Objectives
  • Review Past Performance
  • Improve Current Performance
  • Assist Career Development & Promotion Opportunities
  • Assess Salary/Position Levels

Stay tuned for part 2 – we’ll talk about “An Effective 360 Degree Feedback Process” and the top 10 Reasons 360 Degree Programs Fail.

Stanford’s “Back to Basics” “Beyond the Basics” “Executive Boot Camp” “Fiscal Fitness”

 

Meetings Don’t Fail- Participants Do

ITips and Toolsn part one of this series I was asked why nothing ever gets done even though businesses have meetings all the time.

You can read part one here.

Roles and Responsibilities within Meetings

Large or small meetings benefit from identifying certain primary roles before the meeting takes place. These roles provide a framework for managing the process of productive meetings. 

Chairperson: The chairperson is a critical role within the meeting as they:

  • Encourage participation and manage conflict
  • Summarize issues
  • Follow the agenda
  • Control a casting vote, if needed
  • Start and close the meeting on time

**Time-keeper: The time keeper role includes the following:

  • Starting the meeting on time.
  • Allotting and controlling the requisite time for each agenda point.
  • Finishing the meeting on time.

**Recorder: The recorder’s role includes:

  • Capturing any decisions
  • Taking the minutes accurately
  • Checking that all information to be presented in the minutes is accurate.
  • Completing and distributing the minutes after the chairperson has signed them off.

Participants: The participant’s role can be described as follows

  • To prepare for the meeting when necessary
  • To arrive on time and stay for the meeting
  • To actively participate in the meeting
  • To complete any tasks assigned in the meeting

**smaller meetings may work best if the recorder and timekeeper are held by one person

Meeting Responsibilities

Pre-meeting Responsibilities

The preparation of a meeting can be assisted by using a Pre-meeting Checklist that allows the organizer to provide all necessary information to the participants and thereby allows them to be prepared for the meeting.  Typical issues would be:

  • Note the where and when of the meeting
  • Allocate enough time to allow preparation
  • Read all relevant documentation
  • Note any comments / questions which you have.
  • Read the agenda fully and carefully
  • If an omission is evident in the agenda, contact the chairperson and have it corrected.
  • Note the main topics and objectives
  • Understand your responsibility in participation

Mid-meeting Responsibilities

A list of do’s! 

  • Arrive on time so that you don’t miss the opening words from the chairperson.
  • Listen to the views of others
  • State your own views clearly and concisely
  • Take accurate notes – especially of any action points that are pertinent to you.
  • Stick to what is on the agenda
  • Make constructive contributions
  • Define any problems as they arise
  • Help to create a positive atmosphere.

 A list of don’ts!

  • Do not be aggressive
  • Do not be defensive
  • Do not dominate
  • Do not withdraw from the discussion
  • Do not withhold information of value
  • Do not ramble

Remember that each participant is in the meeting to play an active part in achieving the goals of the meeting.  This means being prepared initially, then following the list of dos and don’ts as outlined above. The critical issue when it comes to carrying out the mid meeting responsibilities is to justify your presence at the meeting in the first place!

Post-meeting Responsibilities

Failure to follow up on actions defined and assigned during the meeting means that the meeting will have failed and everyone’s time was wasted. Accurate and clear minutes with action points and responsibilities defined need to be released to participants as soon as possible after the meeting.  At Stanford we use the “Responsibility Matrix” https://stanfordmc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sample-Resp-Matrix.doc .  Just a simple word document that the recorder may use to note actions/tasks assigned to individuals. Action points need to be completed by who and when as noted on the matrix.

This is often the reason why meetings fail – there are no actions completed and so no direct benefit can be attached to the effort that has been put into the meeting.  It is therefore very important, even critical, that actions determined during the meeting are assigned!

People at Meetings

People are usually the cause of meetings failing due to hidden agendas, lack of focus/ attention, disruption through having side-bars or mini-meetings, poor attitude, poor preparation, or poor etiquette (arriving late / leaving early). Most of these are habitual and should be dealt with to maximize the effect of the meeting.

Leading a Meeting

Good leadership is crucial for an effective meeting. If a leader does not have control over the meeting the objective becomes vague and momentum is lost.  A leader is responsible for promoting participation and ensuring all to be involved with problem solving. Typical leadership functions include managing people and assigning responsibilities.

Before the meeting the leader should:

  • Outline the main points of the meeting
  • Clarify the ideas about the meeting
  • Decide on who should attend
  • Decide on location, date and time.
  • Draw up and circulate the agenda
  • Emphasize the type of the meeting
  • Decide whether it will be formal / informal
  • Circulate any useful documentation

During the meeting the leader should:

  • Create the right climate
  • Open the meeting and introduce participants, if needed
  • Outline the structure, content and time limits
  • Highlight the key goals
  • Encourage discussion & involvement
  • Help to summarize / clarify contributions
  • Control any dominators / trouble makers
  • Get decisions made.
  • Confirm responsibilities and actions
  • Close the meeting with a summary of key action points

Leadership Styles for Meetings

To be an effective leader, an appropriate style of leadership should be used in the meeting.  There are a range of styles all leadership management books outline. 

Three most often used in business are:

Authoritarian: Make decisions without involving others, makes rules, expects obedience, and threatens.

Democratic: Everyone is involved, agendas are formed through consultation, active participation is encouraged, and power is distributed within the group

Laissez faire: Participants are left to their own devices, dominators emerge and take over, meetings will stray off course, and there is minimum contribution form the leader.

Obviously, the style most suited for small to medium sized businesses is the Democratic Style. Of course, I may have readers that disagree.  In this day and time the more involved and engaged your employees/staff are in the quality of running the business and participate in solving problems and challenges, the more successful your company will be. The effects Democratic Style lean toward participants who feel involved and take ownership of decisions. Decisions may take a little longer however; self-esteem and confidence of individuals turn in to happy, loyal, and productive employees!

Why Meetings Fail

Meetings fail primarily because of participants failing to:

  • Prepare
  • Participate
  • Complete Actions
  • Meetings don’t fail – participants do!!

Meetings take up much of the working week – they need to be effective so attention must be paid to the issues such as:

  • The type, format and leadership of the meeting must match the requirements.
  • Lack of attention to the simple things will cause a meeting to fail.
  • Roles and responsibilities must be considered and assigned
  • Documentation in the form of an agenda, notes and minutes must be prepared accurately and distributed in a timely manner.
  • Good time management principles are required
  • Invite the right people and allow them to participate.
  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Meetings Don’t Fail- Participants Do

Tips and Tools“Julia, my staff and I continue to have meetings but… it feels like we keep talking about the same ole stuff and nothing ever gets done!”

I know the quickest way to get a client to raise their shoulders or roll their eyes and tell me “that doesn’t work here” is to suggest regular staff, management, department, or inter-departmental meetings! Let’s be honest, we have all participated in our share of the long, drawn out, boring, unproductive meetings. Recently, my husband referred to a meeting as a BOGSAT – Bunch of guys sitting around talking!

A meeting is a gathering of people with one or more goals to be achieved. Meetings can be held in a variety of locations.  They may be held for a variety of reasons; each with their own particular impact on the organization and the attendees.  Overall, meetings should be seen and used as effective vehicles for action and performance.

The biggest problem is how meetings are approached. If meetings are used to debate and harp on problems; they are set up to fail.  Recognizing the value of meetings and using a planned approach to running effective meetings will produce much more valuable results.

Value of Meetings

Effective meetings are most valuable to any organization when they promote:

  • A sense of involvement
  • Criticism-free communication
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Team building

There are many benefits that arise from the use of meetings, provided that the meetings are effective and focused.  These benefits can be seen on several different levels in the organization.  

On the Organizational Level

  • Improved use of time
  • Improved decision making
  • Better communication
  • Better use of resources
  • Multiple perspectives utilized

On the Team Level

  • Improved use of time
  • Improved decision making
  • Better communication
  • Better use of resources
  • Ownership of processes

On Individual Level

  • Improved use of time
  • Involvement in decision making
  • Better communication
  • Better use of knowledge
  • Socialization

We can all recognize the benefits of effective meetings but what can we do to make sure we have organized effective meetings that produce the outcome we need?

Making Meetings Worktips-for-effective-meetings

Meetings are a great venue for communication; unless they are unproductive, chaotic, and turn into gripe sessions and belaboring a problem. Think of the last meeting you attended.  How effective/productive was that meeting? 

You can improve the quality of your meeting by: 

1 – Understanding the need for meetings allows participants to:

  • See the real value of an effective meeting process.
  • Set objectives for meetings and focus on achieving great outcomes.
  • Try to improve meetings as communication and decision making vehicles.

2- Understanding the types of meetings allows participants to:

  • Select the appropriate meeting type for the purpose.
  • Prevent the downside associated with running the wrong meeting.
  • Improve the image of meetings in the organization.

3- Understanding the reasons for failure allows the organizers of meetings to:

  • Avoid the main mistakes.
  • Remove performance obstacles.
  • Plan and resource meetings appropriately.

4- Application of key techniques and skills will cause:

  • Improvement in the outcome of meetings.
  • Improvement in the level of commitment to and involvement in meetings.
  • Better use of meeting time by focus in on key issues through a structured process.

Understanding and applying these guidelines to organize and communicate your meetings will improve meeting outcomes, level of commitment and involvement, and be a better use of time by focusing in on key issues through a structured process.

Formal and Informal Meetings

Formal meetings: are characterized by formal procedures, a structured agenda, and definite roles assigned for running the meeting.

Informal Meetings: are characterized as being more chaotic, energetic, inclusive, and creative while less routine and ordered.

Whether or not a meeting will be formal or informal depends on who the participants are and the topic to be discussed. Other factors are the company culture, what type of business, and location of the meeting. Formal and informal meetings can vary in size and may have very different results.

Small meetings

  • People are more likely to attend
  • Discussion may be more open
  • Less chance of passengers
  • Control will be easy

One of my favorite styles of small meetings are “In- Services”.  An in-service is a quick but informative type of meeting and is a great way to communicate information to a small group of people taking 15 to no more than 30 minutes.  Many times an in-service is use to address a recent problem and provide the “lessons learned” and how the particular problem should be handled in the future. Examples of small meetings in small businesses are departmental meetings or management meetings.

Large meetings

  • More ideas can be generated
  • More perspectives can be taken into account
  • High level of control is required
  • Higher level of absenteeism possible

Large meetings in small businesses are typically the monthly company meetings.  Obviously, there is a need to take control of time and keep discussions to a minimum.

Agenda

No matter what size or style the meeting is, it should have an agenda.  Even a small informal meeting should have a brief agenda to help identify who should attend and what topics are being covered.

Agendas should be circulated sufficiently before any meeting to allow attendees time to prepare.  A hastily thrown together meeting will net poor results, or drag on longer than needed. 

The agenda for a large or formal meeting and will contain the following:

  • Title of the meeting
  • Participants names
  • Date and time
  • Attention drawn to the Minutes from the last meeting, if needed for a formal meeting
  • Details of the subject matter
  • Reports from any relevant personnel
  • Signature lines for all attendees
  • Review / additions to a responsibility matrix*

*download a responsibility matrix 

The agenda is what is used to drive and control the meeting activities so every effort must be made to ensure that the agenda is both accurate and available. An agenda should be used for all meetings in order to document the information shared.  Even an in-service should be documented. However, for small meetings or in-service training the agenda may just be a form outlining what is discussed and signatures of all who attended.

Minutes: Minutes are taken during the meeting as a formal record of what happened in the meeting. Things such as responsibilities for actions must be clearly defined in the meeting and recorded (as on a responsibility matrix). Minutes need to be clear, concise, and accurate.  All minutes should be circulated as soon as possible after a meeting to facilitate action. Formal meetings will have more meeting minutes than informal. Typically, small meetings or in-service training will only use an in-service form.

People tend to feel good about their involvement in informal meetings as the higher energy levels lead to less boredom. There are some practicalities that must be attended to in order to increase the performance of the meeting:

  • Informal meetings do not work for every topic and don’t fit with all work cultures.
  • There needs to be a system for recording what agreements have been made. Example: the Responsibility Matrix
  • Minutes need to be produced – even as a short note with actions recorded and responsibilities highlighted for small meetings.
  • The place for the meeting shouldn’t hinder communication through the presence of distractions, noise etc.

Success Factors for Meetings

We all view meetings as being successful for different reasons. However the following is a list of some of the main reasons why meetings are successful.

Clear objectives: Without clear objectives the meeting cannot succeed because the purpose is not clear, the correct people may not be present, and the meeting will be unfocused and generally unproductive. Meeting like this tend to never end!  By setting clear objectives the participants are more apt to stay the course.

Relaxed atmosphere: When participants are more comfortable they are more apt to focus on the requirements of the meeting than on behavior.  It facilitates professionalism and constructive criticism. The goal is to achieve the desired outcome without dealing with distractions or conflict.

Honest, direct and constructive criticism: At a meeting there will often be several points of view or opinion being presented. It is important to present constructive criticism so as to encourage participation and move towards a smart solution.  Meetings tend to be most successful when you remove personality from the activity.

Fair distribution of activities: This is important to ensure that all attendees participate. Fair levels of involvement and action points increase the willingness to participate.

Accurate assessment of the capabilities and performance levels of group members: The most successful meetings take into consideration the levels of competencies of the participants in communication, decision making, and leadership. The more vested the participants are in the outcomes the more successful the meeting with be.

Ability to deal effectively with disagreements: In meetings where there are wide differences of opinion it may be necessary to manage a conflict situation to facilitate involvement by non-combatants and ensure a just outcome from the process. Managing conflict allows you to stay on course and conquer the most challenging problems in a company. 

Good leadership:  As in any organizational process, the presence of good leadership allows the meeting to keep on track, focus on the required outcomes, involve all opinions, protect the process/ participants, and produce a satisfactory outcome.

In “Meetings Don’t Fail- Participants Do part 2″ I’ll talk about Roles and Responsibilities within Meetings, Do’s and Don’ts, People at Meetings, how to Lead a Meeting, Leadership Styles, and Why Meetings Fail. 

The Why of Policy and Procedures

Tips and Tools“Julia, why should I be concerned about having policy and procedures written for my business?”

Policies and Procedures are the strategic link between the Company’s Vision and its day-to-day operations. They are one of the most important tools in your business because well written policies & procedures allow employees to understand their roles and responsibilities within predefined limits. Basically, policies & procedures allow management to guide operations without constant management intervention.

In order to understand why policies & procedures are so important we need to know what they are and differences between them.

What is a Policy?
Policies identify the key activities and provide a general strategy on how to handle issues as they arise. They are clear, simple statements on how your company conducts business. I like to think of ‘policies’ as the “What” and “Why” that guides the foundation and structure in our business.  They set the boundaries for all operational decisions. 

What is a Procedure?

The ultimate goal of every procedure is to provide a clear and easily understood plan of action required to carry out or implement a policy. Procedures identify who will do what, what steps they need to do, and what documents are used. A well written procedure will help eliminate common misunderstandings by identifying job responsibilities and establishing boundaries for the employees and management staff. Good procedures actually allow managers to be pro-active and prevent the company (and employees) from making costly mistakes. The procedure is the road map that guides you to your destination and keeps you from getting lost.  I like to think of procedures as the “How” that supports all operational policies.

The top three major differences between policies & procedures are identified below:

Policies:
• Are general in nature

• Identify company rules
• Written using simple sentences & paragraphs

Procedures:
• Identify specific actions
• Explain when to take actions
• Shows how to complete forms

Why Have Policy and Procedures?

Policies & procedures are required when there is a need for consistency in your day-to-day operational activities. Policies and procedures also provide clarity to the reader when dealing with accountability issues or activities that are of critical importance to the company, such as, health & safety, legal liabilities, regulatory requirements or issues that have serious consequences.

You Have Policy and Procedures; Are They Working?

If you have already has established Policies & Procedures, how can you determine if they are meeting your needs? A few ‘Critical’ signs that your policies and procedures need to be reviewed and updated would include an increase in the number of accidents, higher turnover, or costly overruns. The workforce can also provide important clues that your company’s policies and procedures need to be reviewed. These clues could include more staff questions on ‘normal operations’ or a feeling of general confusion within a department or division. Employees may also be demonstrating inconsistency in their job performance and there may be an increase in the workforce’s stress levels. Finally, your customers may provide additional clues in the form of increasing complaints.

Benefits of Policy and Procedures

First, employees are provided with information that allows them freedom to carry out their job and make decisions within defined boundaries. Second, employees understand the constraints of their job without using a ‘trial and error’ approach. Third, policies & procedures enable the workforce to clearly understand individual & team responsibilities. Finally, clearly written policies & procedures allow managers to exercise control by exception rather than ‘micro-manage’ their staff.

Well-written policies & procedures benefit the company as well as the employee. From an employee perspective, the guidelines provided in policies and procedures allow workers to perform their jobs with respect and dignity. They provide guidance on how to handle issues properly as well as clearly identifying their job constraints. The organization benefits by allowing managers the freedom to concentrate on strategic issues because the policies and procedures are in place to guide the normal-day-to-day operations.

How Often Should Policy And Procedures Be Reviewed?

Policy and Procedures are never done!  The PnP (Policy and Procedure Manual) is a living document that should be reviewed in totality annually. However, each time you have a problem or a consistent challenge you should ask yourself- Do we have a policy? If so, is it working? If not, do we need one? Your business is constantly changing and so should your policy and procedures.

If your policies and procedures are incomplete, outdated or inconsistent, then you are probably not driving the performance improvement you intended.

 

Nothing Happens Without a Sale!

Tips and ToolsJulia, What should I do to plan for an increase in sales for 2016?”

The budget is done, now what?  One of the most important pieces of your plan for the New Year is to develop a strategic approach to achieving your forecast of sales while controlling all the cost of running the business.  Sounds easy, right? For most small business owners, this is one of the biggest challenges. I cannot tell you how many times we hear “If we could just get more sales”!  The truth is, without all the tools we have discussed this year in controlling cost and planning for profit, an increase in sales just means working harder with no increase in profit.  You want to project an increase in sales using a strategic approach so you are spending resources effectively.  Those resources are time, people, and money.

Remember before any strategy can be applied to your business you first must identify where you are and where you want to go.  The strategic approach is simply how you are going to get there. Sound familiar? We use this same approach to strategically planning for an increase in sales.  The top two challenges we find in businesses are 1) the sales forecast is unreasonable and 2) the sales forecast is simply a percent increase from the previous year’s sales.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a time-tested tool that allows you to focus your efforts around the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats facing your business. The Strengths and Weaknesses are internal while the Opportunity and Threats are external to the business.

A SWOT Analysis can be used for any planning exercise.  It is simply how you plan to achieve the goals you have set.  Use this approach to plan your sales strategy by defining activities that support sales goals. Identifying the SWOT in your business will help you accentuate the positive and overcome the negative activities that drive sales.  This is a tough one for small businesses because many owners do not have a sales background.

SWOT- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

Strengths: Think about the attributes of your business that will help you achieve your objective, increase in sales. Questions to consider:

  • What do you do well?
  • What products/ services are you known for?
  • Are those products/ services profitable?
  • Where are you most profitable in your business?
  • What are your competitive strengths?
  • What products/services are you ready to take to market that will increase your competitive strength?
  • What do you do better than your competitors?

Weaknesses: Think about the attributes of your business that could hurt your progress in achieving your objective, increase in sales. Questions to consider:

  • In what areas do you need to improve?
  • What resources do you lack to improve these areas?
  • What products/ services of your business are not very profitable?
  • What would prevent you from taking new products/services to market?
  • What costs you time and/or money?
  • What are your competitive weaknesses?
  • What do your competitors do better than you?

Opportunities: Think about the external conditions that will help you achieve your objective, increase in sales. Questions to consider:

  • What are the sales goals you are currently working towards?
  • How can you do more for your existing customers or clients?
  • How can you use technology to enhance your sales process?
  • Are there new target audiences you have the potential to reach?
  • Are there related products and services that provide an opportunity for your business?

Threats: Think about the external conditions that could damage your business’s performance or prevent you from achieving your objective, increase in sales. Questions to consider:

  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What are the strengths of your biggest competitors?
  • What are your competitors doing that you’re not?
  • What’s going on in the economy?
  • What’s going on in the industry?
  • How can you adjust to respond to what is going on in the economy or the industry?

It isn’t enough to just “record a number” in the sales forecast and hope that you will meet those goals next year.  You must look at the activities for each sales strategy used for the products/services that you offer.  Using a one size fits all approach for a sales strategy doesn’t work. Define activities from each area that will enhance or improve your sales goals. Don’t over complicate this.  Use the KISS design principle; keep it simple, stupid.  When we fail to meet sales goals, we must adjust COGS and expenses to protect profit.

Consider the following when establishing sales and activities and strategies:

  • Resources available- time, people, and money
  • What changes do you need in the resources you have?
  • Are you staffed appropiately?
  • Does your maketing budget support what you are trying to accomplish?
  • Have you identified your sales KPI’s and the frequency and methog for tracking?
  • Have you established criteria to use when deciding when to abort a sales strategy?
  • Make sales a priority for everyone! Each person on staff has a role in sales; from the close of the sale to the delivery of the product/service.

Planning for next year should be an exciting exercise! Look at what you have done well this year and capitalize on it. Take a close look at what you did not do well and ask yourself what changes need to happen in order to turn any negatives into positives. This can be a fun and motivating process if you don’t try to do it all in one sitting! Be realistic in sales goals – but challenge yourself and your staff. You will be amazed how much more focused you will be in 2016 with a solid plan.

Happy Planning and Happy Thanksgiving!

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