25 Whys for Tracking Commitments

Simon Sinek makes some major statements in his 2011 book, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, but he emphasizes the fundamental need of every human, who is striving to succeed, to know the “WHY” of what they are doing. He discusses the idea of inspiring others to do well and provide great service. This is true of everyone; leaders, employees, or contractors within your company.

It should be no surprise that this is also the basis of PE-ER, the tool that helps you unlock the “real” potential of relationship capital. The currency of the 21st century. It tracks how well you keep your commitments or promises.

No, this is not a magic pill nor is it a silver bullet that will make everyone a super commitment maker.  It is a tool that will help you see how well you and others do and provide a process that can help build the disciplines necessary to encourage success.

Will some people game the system? Of course, I am sure we will have some, but the goal is to create an environment that is built on authenticity, integrity, transparency, and trust. My belief is that those who do game it will be exposed readily.

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Understanding Expectation Alignment

The more I have been working with the development of the PE-ER platform and the idea of commitment management, I have come to the realization that the core of making this happen resides in expectation alignment.

We understand that trust is built when people make and keep commitments with each other but the process of getting to agreement on these commitments, hence adding value to them, requires that we have transparent, honest communications and the minimization of misaligned expectations.

Expectation Gaps

There are so many areas where we can get hung up on hidden or misaligned expectations.  The diagram above is just a starting point.  Note, in each quadrant there are internal expectations as well as the external expectations.

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Your Urgency May Not Be My Priority

Collaboration Graphic (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Every day, as a leader, you are involved in communications and processes with various clients, employees or community members that are all trying to get your attention. The pace is always hectic, with everyone in the community involved in doing what they do best – providing or soliciting high-quality delivery of the services you provide.

Your pace, as the leader, is hectic as well, trying to ensure that all requests by your ‘clients’ are being met with excellent results in a timely fashion, while also attempting to ensure that all of your people are fully engaged in tasks that meet or stretch their capabilities without being overwhelmed.

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Path to Problem Resolution Success

Every day you face problems, some you will discover and others will discover you. How you deal with problems will determine how much time you have left to deal with important growth issues in your business. After years of experience I have found this process, if used properly, can make us heroes.

Marketing PlansFirst, define the problem – Be proactive, anticipate where possible, this can help minimize but never eliminate problems. The more urgent the issue the deeper you will need to dig and ferret out the details.  This should be a fact hunt, not a blame fest. However, never let anyone present problems without thinking through the situation. Part of your modus operand should be that people who bring problems also suggest at least one solution they would recommend.  This is critical.  If you don’t keep this practice in place, someone, more than likely you, will be stuck solving all the problems. When this happens there will not enough time to be proactive and successful.

Second, gather data and analyze the problem – When you, as a team, define the problem, be sure to uncover hidden expectations and relationships but control time frames for discovery, based on urgency and potential damage. Make sure you remove time wasters and analysis paralysis. If a problem is a high priority issue, make sure the timetable is consistent with the desired resolution and the perceived urgency.  Time is money so invest it wisely.

Third, generate potential solutions.  This should again be a team activity, avoid dictating any solutions, if possible.  Allow employees to participate in the resolutions and in the next step; The Decision.  If people do not feel they have any input in their working environment they are more apt to become disengaged.  Productivity can diminish, resulting in less revenue and profit for the company.  Always ask the question, who can help us with suggestions for improving the process through the solution maze.  Reach outside of the normal participants.  Don’t rule out talking with the customers or users to get solution insights.  Once you have a number of potential solutions, prioritize them based on impact and potential. Note, this will vary by industry or work environment.  Establish success metrics for each of the prioritized solutions, both hard and soft factors and make sure that each is agreed to and documented in the presentation.

Fourthly, Select and carry out a solution from the prioritized pool. Ultimately, someone has to make a final decision based on customer impact, employee relations, profitability, revenue, cost avoidance or other business factors the business requires. However, make sure you are communicating the process and outcomes in a positive and supportive fashion.  The higher the impact, especially perceived negative impacts, on the internal employees, the more critical this step can become. Define the implementation process and who will be accountable for each step. Once begun, the communication must continue to the point of being part of the daily process.  Success will breed success.  Monitor the milestones and ensure you are meeting the dates and process steps defined in the approved solution.

Finally, evaluate the solution and declare success or the need to reassess.  If a solution is successful then there needs to be a celebration, people need to know their work paid off and there are the results. In the event the solution is less than effective, look at the portions that are not successful and reassess the processes or products and make the necessary changes.

Thomas Edison did not fail thousands of times developing the light bulb, he just found thousands of ways it would not work.  The key is; persistence can pay off if the initial goals and expectations are well-defined and understood.

Summary:

Can this process work every time, YES? Will it be implemented correctly every time, NO! This is where your management skills come to the forefront.  How the process is driven should be facilitated by you, the manager or senior executive, but you cannot do it alone.  Embrace your customers and employees as advocates and supporters then think in terms of innovation and growth. If you need help with defining your processes please visit my website or call me at 630-454-4821.

PE-ER & General Business Feedback Guidelines

PE-ER Feedback is one of the key value components of our new commitment tracking application, being introduced this fall, so we take this process very seriously. I also believe this applies to business in general so the thoughts here can apply across the board.

Usually, commitment feedback can be given two ways: through positive feedback or negative feedback.

I caution all leaders to avoid falling into the trap of giving confusing, unusable, or fluffy feedback. On the platform, we encourage Requesters to take their feedback role as both an obligation and an honor so it must be considerate, well thought out and provide a balance of praise or criticism, where necessary, on every completed feedback.

We are about being intentional, authentic, and high integrity so it is really about respect and balance so with that in mind here are some topical guidelines:

  • Feedback should be specific, commitment-focused, and based on first-hand observations. Generally, it is going to take one of two directions: Positive feedback with opportunities for improvement if desired or Negative feedback with opportunities for improvement. Input is limited to 1500 characters so it should be focused on the commitment, and based on how you felt the expectations were met, as objectively as possible.
  •  Be concise when delivering your message. Get to the point and avoid beating around the bush. Both negative and positive feedback should be given in a straightforward manner. Avoid filling the space with a fuzzy language where a Maker really doesn’t know how to respond. If they have to ask themselves, was that good or bad, then your feedback missed the mark.
  •  Be sincere, do not give mixed messages. Authenticity stands for being someone who means what they say with care and respect. Don’t fall into the habit of doing mixed message feedbacks which we refer to as “yes, but” messages.

Here is an example; “Jim, you have worked hard on this project, but. . ..” The word “but,” along with its cousins “however” and “although,” when said in the middle of a thought, creates contradictions or mixed messages. In essence, putting “but” in the middle tells the other person, “Don’t believe a thing I said before.”

  •  When providing positive feedback, express appreciation. Praise alone is good but praise with appreciation is better. When you add it to the specifics of positive feedback, your message carries an extra oomph of sincerity. For example: “Mary, your handling of all the paperwork while John did the callbacks, made for an efficient effort and showed good teamwork. Everything you did was accurate, as well. Thanks so much for helping out. Such initiative is a real value to the team.”
  •  When providing negative feedback, express concern. A tone of concern communicates a sense of importance and care and provides the appropriate level of sincerity to the message. Tones such as anger, frustration, disappointment, and the ever-popular sarcasm tend to intensify the language of the message and turn attempts at negative feedback into sharp, often unfair, criticism. The content of the message gets lost in the noise and harshness.
  • The purpose of negative feedback is to create awareness that can lead to improvement in delivery or quality. If you can’t give negative feedback in a helpful manner, in the language and tone of concern, you defeat its purpose.
  •  Give the feedback person-to-person first, then put it into the platform technology. The best flow of constructive feedback is verbal and informal initially, followed up with written confirmation. We recommend that you begin by talking to the employee, either face-to-face — or by phone. Once you have provided the feedback personally, then commit the feedback on the platform.

Timing

The answer should be ASAP (as soon as possible). Positive feedback is meant to be given in real-time, as close as possible to when the commitment delivery occurs so that the events are fresh in everyone’s minds. When feedback is given well after the fact, the value of the feedback is lessened.

When giving negative feedback, you may want to apply a slightly different timeline:ASAR (As Soon as Ready — that is, when you’re ready).

Sometimes when a commitment delivery fails or expires, you may be feeling angry or frustrated about it, and you need time to cool off and get your thoughts together before you give any negative feedback. Our recommendation is that “reasonable” is usually within 24 hours but not to exceed 48 hours.

As the primary coach for the PE-ER platform, this provides the background for what I provide for any new PE-ER clients.

I would love to have a discussion with you regarding how you can establish this as a part of your current culture. For more information, please feel free to call me at 630-454-4821.

Make Your Company an Engaging Workplace!

Thinking of others big picture 2014 (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Suppose you want to make your company the best company on earth to work for. What would it be like? When leaders are asked this question many of their answers were highly specific, of course.

However, at the foundation, there are six common characteristics. Together, these six provide a framework that allows a company to operate at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work.

In general, these 6 characteristics, when embraced by all, will allow for an environment where individual differences are nurtured; information open, not spun; the company adds value to employees, rather than sucking it from them; the organization stands for something meaningful; the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and there are no idiotic rules.

At first glance, these characteristics might all sound utopian. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place that values and engages them? At the same time, many studies have confirmed that executives are fully aware of the benefits of engagement.

To support these thoughts, research from the Hay Group finds that highly engaged employees are, on average, 50% more likely to exceed expectations than the least-engaged workers. And companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged folks—by 54% in employee retention, by 89% in customer satisfaction, and by fourfold in revenue growth.

Yet, few, organizations exhibit all six characteristics. A number of them run counter to traditional practices and ingrained bad habits. Some are complicated and can be costly to implement. And all require leaders to carefully balance tactical and strategic interests and rethink how they allocate their time and attention.

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What is a CRI score?

A Credibility Reliability Index (CRI) is a measurement that was developed as part of the PE-ER platform to establish a basis for understanding trust and focus on being trustworthy.  The basic premise is, the more commitments you successfully keep the more reliable you will be and hence more trustworthy.

Therefore, it’s really quite simple. The higher the Credibility Reliability Index score, the more reliable the individual or company is to deliver on their commitments- the lower the score, the less reliable they are.

As a guideline the Credibility Reliability Index figure is calculated as a combination of:

  • The number of commitments you met or exceeded on the timeline,
  • The number of commitments that you missed delivery on,
  • The total number of points available for commitments requested
  • The feedback scores received on all completed commitments

So it’s not simply a case of recording how many commitments you make – it’s much more comprehensive than that and the data is constantly updated.

Not all commitments are present in the CRI – only when you and your collaborative partner have determined that a particular commitment has sufficient visibility and value to warrant tracking does it become data reality. However, the more commitments tracked successfully the better the integrity of the Index.

It is our thought that once you have developed a habit of completing high visibility, high-value commitments well, then the small commitments become second nature and improve also. If you try to track every commitment you make in a day, you will find yourself buried in a morass of detail that will cause you to lose focus and destroy your productivity. It is all about balance.

A commitment is formed by type, due date, priority, and expectations. This ensures that no single commitment can unduly influence a maker’s overall Index figure.

Another thing to bear in mind when reviewing an individual’s CRI score is that it can be dependent on the diligence and discipline of each partner in terms of recording correctly. I like to refer people to the acronym: F.D.A. or Full Disclosure Always when it comes to building commitments.

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What an Engaged Employee Should Look Like

Individual Coaching WorksIn previous articles, I have been focused on making and keeping commitments. I feel this is a critical component of success for every company and leader but too often we forget about what the follower’s roles are and how they impact an organization. The basis of our new PE-ER tool, coming this summer, is “Performing Excellence, Engaging Recognition” and we believe strongly that these attributes provide the basis for any organization.

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The Why’s of Commitment

PE-ER LogoSimon Sinek makes some major statements in his 2011 book, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, but he emphasizes the fundamental need of every human, who is striving to succeed, to know the “WHY” of what they are doing. He discusses the idea of inspiring others to do well and provide great service. This is true of everyone; leaders, employees, or contractors within your company.

It should be no surprise that this is also the basis of PE-ER, the tool that helps you unlock the “real” potential of relationship capital. The currency of the 21st century. It tracks how well you keep your commitments or promises.

No, this is not a magic pill nor is it a silver bullet that will make everyone a super commitment maker.  It is a tool that will help you see how well you and others do and provide a process that can help build the disciplines necessary to encourage success.

Will some people game the system? Of course, I am sure we will have some, but the goal is to create an environment that is built on authenticity, integrity, transparency, and trust. My belief is that those who do game it will be exposed readily.

Why should you as a professional or a company track and monitor your commitments on a regular basis? Failing to keep your commitments is often perceived as an indication that you don’t care about your dream client, your employees, your stakeholders, their time, or their desired results. This can lead to static or even declining sales, reduced profits and high turnover of employees.

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