Annual performance appraisal time has come and gone at MPOW and with it comes the ups and downs of giving and receiving feedback. One of the hardest things a manager has to do is provide feedback about a person’s performance. It is especially difficult if the feedback is negative, for aside from the discomfort that comes along with telling someone something they don’t want to hear, comes the potentially unpleasant experience of them telling you all sorts of things that you don’t want to hear. However, there are some tactics you can employ to make the experience go smoothly and help turn an uncomfortable situation into a positive and constructive one.

Giving Feedback:

1. Be Clear: Know what you want to say and make sure you are saying it clearly. Write it out beforehand and practice the conversation that you want to have.

2. Be Specific: Address the exact issues. Avoid generalizations. Give examples of the behavior or performance that needs to be corrected or is at issue.

3. Emphasize the Positive: Don’t let the entire conversation be negative. If possible, emphasize and encourage what is working well. However, do not sandwich negative feedback in between positive comments. This may deemphasize the importance of the areas needing improvement. Begin or end the discussion with the positive.

4. Focus on the Behavior NOT the Person: This is not personal, it is professional. It has nothing to do with who someone is, but about the actions they exhibit while at work. Discuss specific behaviors and cite examples, do not make assumptions about or imply anything about a person’s personality, intelligence, demeanor, etc. The desired outcome of the discussion is a change in behavior, not a radical transformation of a person’s character.

5. Own the Feedback: Don’t pretend to be the messenger. You’re the manager, you’ve observed the areas of improvement, you’re performing the evaluation. Don’t try to kid yourself or your employee by acting like the criticism is coming from someplace else.

6. Don’t Provide Advice: Very often people don’t need advice on how to change poor performance- they usually know the cause and if it is a repetitive problem they have heard all the advice they can hear. Instead of offering your personal insight and advice, allow the person to take ownership of their problem and discuss a plan of improvement. Ask what they can do to change a situation. What can you work on together to reach the desired outcome? How can they work better? What will they do to improve their situation?

7. Discuss Expectations and Timelines: Clearly lay out expectations and the time frame in which to achieve them. Clearly define benchmarks and how they will be evaluated. Make sure that employees understand what is expected of them and that you will be watching for improvement. Make sure employees understand the consequences if they fail to change or improve behavior.

Receiving Feedback:

1. Don’t Justify or Argue your Position: Don’t lose your temper. Ever. Arguing will only make an uncomfortable situation worse and solves nothing.

2. Have Some Perspective: Remember that this is about specific behavior or instances. This is not personal and is not a judgment or indictment of you as a person. You’re having a discussion about how you interact with patrons at a service desk, not about the moral fiber of your soul.

3. Think Before you Respond: Listen to what is being said and consider it before responding. Ask questions, ask for clarification. Don’t interrupt or have a biting comeback for every comment. Consider what the feedback is about and why it is negative. Ask yourself if there is any truth to it before shooting off a response.

4. Don’t Sulk: Act like an adult, not a child. It is perfectly acceptable to give yourself some space while thinking about what has been said; however ignoring someone, sulking, or being nasty are not effective and mature responses to processing and handling negative feedback.

5. Choose Your Path: No matter what is said and discussed, ultimately what you do with feedback is your decision. You can choose to look at it as a learning and growth experience and use it to improve yourself and your work, or you can stew about it and let it consume you. Own your actions and decisions. Be honest with yourself- is the criticism something you have heard before and are struggling with? Do you need assistance in turning performance around? Are you happy in your work environment?

No one likes to hear anything negative about themselves. Giving someone negative feedback is not a fun experience. It is not something managers look forward to doing. The best we can hope for is that we take a bad situation and make it a positive one by honestly discussing issues and working together to develop strategies for improvement.

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I guess I’ll begin with the oldest first. So, Brick and Click was fantastic. I met some wonderful people, learned some new stuff and was inspired by what other people and libraries were doing. Not bad for a one day conference! Next year’s conference is November 7, 2008 and presentation proposals are due February 28. Mark your calendars, this is one you shouldn’t miss!

I will be heading to Philly next month to attend the ALA midwinter meeting as a participant in the 2008 Emerging Leaders program. While I am not thrilled with how it started, I am going into the program optimistic and open minded and looking forward to a wonderful learning opportunity.

Meredith has two recent posts that I wanted to comment on. The first, while not really related to what I do everyday, had me thinking about a large part of my responsibilities in a different light. While she is writing about outreach and services to students and when is enough enough, this post had me thinking in terms of staff and taking responsibility for motivating them. I do feel that part of my job as a manager is to motivate and encourage my staff to do their best, but sometimes I feel like I have done everything in my power and it is not enough. I was feeling a bit down about it a few weeks ago and then I read Meredith’s post and felt better because this sort of thing happens in many different ways to different people.

After a lot of thought I made peace with myself. I feel that while some of the responsibility does lay at my feet, a lot of it also has to do with each individual and the attitude they bring into work with them each morning. A friend reminded me of the Fish! philosophy, specifically the tenet: Choose Your Attitude! That cuts to the heart of it. You can be the best manager in the world, but if you have a staff member who has a bad attitude and who can’t or won’t do anything to change it, there is nothing you can do to fix this problem. It is up to each individual to make the choice of whether they are going to come into work with a positive attitude or with a negative one.

I need to work on reminding myself that this is true.

Meredith’s most recent posts have hit a chord with me as well.   I have been in the exact place Meredith describes and it can be very disappointing when you realize that something isn’t working out the way you envisioned.  I left a position for the exact reason Meredith describes.  I loved my coworkers, loved the work I was doing, was close to my family and friends, but after two years (and some events) I realized that there was no place for me to go in the organization and that I was beginning to get bored.  I bore very easily.  I work best under pressure and in a fast paced environment where each day is different and that wasn’t the case in that position or organization so I needed to look elsewhere.  Looking back now it is readily apparent that the organization was too small and I needed to be someplace bigger with more happening.

Coming to that realization while still working at the library was painful at times.  Other times, when things really weren’t going my way, the decision to leave seemed incredibly easy.  The hard part was accepting that I needed to move on for the sake of my career and my happiness.  The second hard part was accepting that in order to do so, I had to move away from family, friends, and the place I grew up.

In three weeks it will be my one year anniversary at MPOW.  Now more than ever I believe that making the big move and coming here was the best career and personal decision I have made.  I love my work.  I love the environment I am in and I love that every single day is different.  They are not all wonderful and perfect, but they are never boring and that is what matters most to me.  I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t mind working here for the next ten years.  I know that there is a lot going on now and a lot that will happen in the future and that I will have the chance to be involved.   I feel supported and encouraged and that my contributions and work have value.

So I say to Meredith and anyone else who may find themselves in a similar place, embrace the realization and look at it as an opportunity to figure out what you want to do and where you want to go in your professional career.  It can be a painful and scary process, but it can also be extremely exciting and rewarding.  There is not a large jump from feeling bored or trapped in what you are doing to resenting having to come into work everyday.  Sometimes it is hard to keep those feelings in check while experiencing them.  I often tell people that sometimes the best career decision they can make is to leave a job where they are not happy or fulfilled.

Through the Looking Glass: Future Business Challenges for the Academic Library by James G. Neal, Columbia University

Thinking about the experience we have had this week, the metaphor is Alice through the looking glass, us wondering if we could pass through the other sic and experience the business side of libraries. Having experiences with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee through time, played chess with the queen, etc. We spent the bulk of our week talking about strategy, change, culture.

Librarians in the academic environments need to be aware of the business challenges that are facing the university and the library.

Holy cow do we have a lot to think about!!!!!!!! There are many shifting values in the library and we need to use our tools and abilities to change the culture and to personalize the library experience.  Many of the core services and products of the library will remain, but will need to be integrated to provide a more self-service experience for patrons.  James Neal provided us with 30 action items or ideas that libraries need to focus on in the future and now.  Most focused on technology and building more digital services and a robust digital environment for patrons.  The prevailing message, at least to me, from his presentation was that libraries need to become partners, owners and stakeholders in many of the changes and new services and technologies that are occurring.  We need to step out of our traditional circles of influence and look for collaborations and partnerships in places where at one point in time we may not have belonged, but now it is necessary for our input, skills, resources, and talents.

What we feel are the characteristics of Good Managers:

  • humor
  • honest
  • led by example
  • supportive
  • open minded
  • enthusiasm
  • no micromanaging
  • remembers we are people with feelings
  • clear expectations
  • admits mistakes
  • mentor
  • encourages input
  • private criticism
  • direct communication
  • is an advocate

Managers exhibit two types of behaviors:

directive (task): very much about telling people what to do, when they need to do it, etc.

supportive (relationship): help manage relationships

As managers we need to look at staff competencies and commitment when deciding which approach to use.Skilled Communicators:

  • Communicates what in a timely manner
  • allows colleagues to feel good about what they do and how they do it
  • timely so others can make accurate decisions

Think about how you prefer to take in information?  Use what is called the “Z model of decision making.”  It walks you through the different ways information is taken in and perceived.

Our roles and responsibilities as managers should be clear to our staff:

  • define performance results required
  • establish performance expectations
  • provide on-going coaching and feedback
  • communicating goal re-alignment as necessary
  • hold employees accountable
  • provide resources needed for development

When we manage our staff we should make sure that we don’t talk about attitudes and attributes, but about actions.  A lot of what we think of as attitude, is behavior (rolling eyes, huffing and puffing, etc.). There will be a tangible behavioral quality to what people are doing. Our job as managers is to figure out what they are saying or doing and how it affects others.

Feedback is about what people are doing that is making your work harder or easier. Giving negative feedback is harder than positive.  Sometimes it is inappropriate to give positive feedback in front of others. Make feedback behavioral that way it is not personal or vague. Remember you are talking about a person’s livelihood. The intention behind feedback should be to enable success in that livelihood. At the end of the day you are not an ogre because you have to get rid of someone, you are doing your job as a boss.

After you give feedback, listen to the response, if it is defensive resend the feedback message until they get it. Set new expectations and maintain the relationship.

A lot of times you are coaching people to do stuff that you don’t know how to do. Getting people to be successful by setting goals, asking questions, and encouragement. You are not accountable for getting them to do what they need to do, they are. This helps create a work environment where people are comfortable and enjoy coming to work. You create a relationship where a person feels valued and supported and are stretching the boundaries of the person they can be. You are not going to coach anyone successfully if they are not willing to work or accept the coaching.

Coaching is about helping people set goals and improve performance. Mentors help you find wisdom. This is different from coaching. Mentors don’t have to be higher in the organization. You can mentor at different levels.

Everything you are asking your staff needs to be aligned with the departmental and organizational goals. By asking staff members to write goals and objectives, you can see if they are aligned with the department and organization.

It doesn’t cost a lot to appreciate people so try to establish rewards that are not money. Take time to work with your staff.

In times of change, your staff need to know that they are valued, they belong, how they are doing and they have a future. The future may not be in our organization and that is okay.

Another excellent and rewarding day. There was a tremendous amount of food for thought. At the end of the day, I feel very validated in the way I manage my staff. A lot of the techniques I heard today are ones that I have been actively using in my department. The bottom line that keeps being driven home is that management is hard and requires a lot of work. I think the subtext is: if you don’t want to put in the time and effort, you shouldn’t be doing it. As I think about all of the time and effort I have already expended managing my department this year, I can’t imagine not doing this type of work. I feel really good about where I am and where I am going.

Presentation by Lynda Aiman-Smith, Associate Professor, Management, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, College of Management, NCSU

Life-cycle Concept of Services

  • Introductory Stage
  • Growth Stage
  • Maturity Stage
  • Decline Stage

Without an idea champion, no project will live. An idea champion sells the idea and gathers resources to implement the project. Most times the resource gathering is done creatively and under the radar. Idea champions get people excited about projects. There is an equal chance that this project will fail, as it will succeed.

When resource planning and allocating for projects, always ask who the idea champion is for each project. This gives you good indication to whether the project will succeed.

Once you move towards design and prototyping you need to look towards your customers.

In each phase ask: who is the idea champion, who is affected, who cares, what competencies are needed or will need to change, what technology exists or needs to be created?

So far this has been the most valuable day. We worked in our project groups and I was very fortunate to be grouped with three other librarians who are working on the same project I am. We bounced a lot of great ideas off of one another and really worked through some of the finer details of what we are doing and how we are doing it. The evaluative tools we learned today were very useful in figuring out the granularity of the process and who is involved in each step.

Most importantly, I met three other people who I can email and talk about my project. I know I am not alone in what I am trying to accomplish and I have a new support network.

Lynda Aiman-Smith is an extremely engaging speaker and is very upbeat and motivating.

Presentation by Ted Baker, Assistant Professor, Management, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship, College of Management, NCSU

“Strategy” denotes an organization’s highest level objectives and the integrated set of choices it makes and implements in attempting to meet these objectives.

Some leading perspectives on strategy:

  • Porter’s “five forces” (new entrants, buyer power, supplier power, substitutes, and rivalry) and “generic strategies” (overall cost leadership, differentiation, focus)
  • The “resource-based view
  • “Core competence”
  • “SWOT” (strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats)
  • analysis (venerable, atheoretical)
  • “Hypercompetition”

Everyone doesn’t think the same way!

What is strategic management?

  • Something that doesn’t exist without clarity of goals.
  • Strategy follows goals.
  • Without and overarching set of goals, there can not be strategy.
  • Creation of valuable, distinctive position
  • Trade offs among incompatible alternative activities
  • Driving complementaries and fit among activities
  • Deciding what not to do and what to stop doing

Constructing a Strategic Initiative

  • Three levels: values proposition, business model, business strategy
  • Value proposition is the foundation, everything based off of it
  • if you have a well founded, adaptable value proposition, you’ll be successful
  • VP: what, who, why
  • Business Model: what, who, why, how
  • Business Strategy: what, who, why, how, when, wherw

What is a Business Model?

  • Gives you a product description. If you can’t tell someone what your product is, then you have a problem.
    Tells you the main activities, what it does for the customer, the advantages and sustainability.

What is a Business Strategy?

  • tells you where and when

It became increasingly evident throughout the presentation and discussion that being able to create a concise and effective values proposition is an essential skill when proposing a new service, strategy, change or goal. The VP can be equated to the “elevator pitch” or “30 second pitch” that we hear a lot about in Hollywood and television. After spending 20 minutes trying to write a succinct and effective VP statement, I can attest that it is not easy. It is definitely a practice makes perfect and trial and error process. I suspect it gets easier the more you do it. It also became apparent that if you can write an effective VP statement, forming a strategic plan is much easier.

Is Change Good? Change is unavoidable and if managed poorly will result in failure. This failure can be attributed to many factors including: flawed vision, resistance, and a culture entrenched in the way it has always been done. Sometimes we have no choice but to change. This happens when there are outside forces driving the change. Many times this is due to technological changes, a shift in organizational priorities, or economics.

Reactions and readiness to change is varied. Sometimes reactions to change can be drastic (people leaving, or active resistance), sometimes it is more passive (acquiescence), and sometimes it is accepted. These reactions are caused by a variety of factors: fear, perception of loss or gain, personality, or trust.

As managers we need to help staff manage change. It is important to make people feel valued and heard, and to provide them with the context and information needed to understand why a change is taking place. You can force change, but the results may not be pretty and you may not feel comfortable doing it.

I have worked in corporate America and hated it. Almost everything I felt today reinforced those feelings of hatred. I though a lot of what was presented today was useful- particularly the tools and a lot of the insights into strategic management that were discussed. However, I feel like there was a level of cynicism that was seriously off the charts for me. At the end of the day I almost believed that my positive attitude and belief that hard work has its rewards, was all complete crap and meant nothing. It was a sort of painful realization, but at the same time I refuse to believe that it is all completely wrong and is not going to help me.

Something else that I found myself disagreeing with was the proposition that personalities change and are changeable. I don’t believe that. I believe that you can change or affect people’s behaviors or habits, but changing their personality….not so sure about that. I haven’t successfully seen it happen.

I didn’t totally drink the Haterade all day, I did like some parts of the day. What I found extremely valuable was value proposition and how to develop one. Learning how to pitch the “elevator speech” was a great exercise and had me thinking about large picture projects in terms of the most important and powerful elements.