Last summer I started taking my friend Carol’s Zumba class. I got hooked and became a regular. I’m very awkward at it but I love the cardio, fun music, routine, and camaraderie that the class provides — or now, I should say, provided. I haven’t been able to attend the class for several weeks in order to do my part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. I have missed it!
I was thrilled this week when Carol sent out emails with videos of her routines that I could follow from home. They aren’t done in a professional video studio with perfect sound and lighting, and the participants aren’t in matching outfits with lovely smiles. Instead they are my friends, in their workout clothes, doing the routines that are familiar to me and that make me smile.
As humans, we seek the familiar and the routine. Habitual behaviors in both humans and animals can induce relaxation to help us manage stress during these uncertain times. These patterns heighten our belief that we are in control of our situation even when we aren’t. At this time of constant change, help provide both structure and routine to your employees and colleagues by encouraging these behaviors:
- Get up and get dressed, just as you did before.
- If you typically had an in-person staff meeting on Mondays at 9am, continue with that day and time. Keep the agenda as similar as possible.
- If you had lunch with Alex most Tuesdays, continue this plan. Just do it virtually.
- If you previously listened to background music in the office, use the same soundtrack at home. You may never have liked it, but now is not the time to switch it up.
- Create as many routines as possible. Work the same hours, stop for lunch at the same time, and end your work day as you always have.
Please let me know what routines you have established. What’s working?
One of my favorite lunch spots is Cava. It’s one of those restaurants where you go through a line and the staff asks you what you want based on the selection in front of you. You start with a base which is a salad, burrito, or bowl — I always ask for “all the dark lettuces.”
Thus, when I heard about the ICEBERG Theory, I had to laugh. The iceberg theory states that what is below the surface can be even more important than what is above it. And the same is true in organizations too.
At an organization where I was recently consulting, some employees were quite passionate about their work, others less so. So much “less so” that they barely showed up for work, they didn’t respond to emails for several business days, and they thought nothing of blaming their colleagues when tasks weren’t completed, rather than investigating the root cause, or better yet, just taking ownership and completing the task.
When the senior leaders of this organization gathered to discuss culture, they saw little connection between these outward signs of disengagement and the overall health of the organization. The leaders made excuses, “It was a busy time” or “She has medical issues.” They didn’t hold employees accountable and they weren’t very accountable themselves.
I helped them to see the connection. When employees do not deliver, it is indicative of a greater problem within the organization. When employees are ill, the organization needs to put in place a way to handle their illnesses with minimal disruption to projects and other employees.
And what can you, as a leader, do to learn more about what is really going beneath the surface in your organization? Here are a just a few ideas:
- Be approachable.
- Listen to what employees share, regardless of whether you like or agree with what they are saying.
- Be calm and open even when you are upset about what you are being told.
- Create anonymous ways for employees to provide feedback, and encourage constructive feedback.
- Conduct focus groups, preferably led by outside experts.
- Be future-focused by asking the question, “How can we do better?” rather than “How did this happen?”, which can be viewed as accusatory.
- Walk around and ask questions. Dig deeper down the depths of the iceberg (or the roots of the iceberg lettuce!).
If you have employees who are disengaged, slow to respond, or often negative, I can help your organization.
My husband Bill and I decided that we needed a Roomba robotic vacuum. We ordered one, hooked it up, and let it roll. The Roomba did a nice job on the hardwood floors and transitioned easily to and from the carpet. It took a rambling path and when it encountered debris, it cleaned well, but sometimes it scooted right past a pile of dirt.
I figured the Roomba would get better over time, learning our house, its pathways, and the clogged arteries (sofas). I assumed each day it would get wiser and in a week or so, my house would be a vacuumed castle, groomed in the manicured ways I see football and baseball fields being cut. Lovely and symmetrical lines, and precision cleaned floors. I was excited and hopeful.
I figured wrong!
The Roomba did not get smarter. Each day was a new exercise, but it vacuumed without learning anything from the previous day. Upon reading the instruction manual, I learned that our model was mid-level and it did not store “information” (artificial intelligence) from previous vacuuming jaunts. Ugh!
This failure to learn from the past and make corrections for the future reminded me of organizations that do not use 360 degree feedback. Employees work hard, sometimes they complete their assignments well and other times their work just doesn’t hit the mark.
Unfortunately, they receive little feedback from their managers and no direct feedback at all from their colleagues, clients, and vendors. They work in a vacuum — pun intended!
360 degree feedback is a formal way for employees to:
- Receive constructive feedback from their peers, managers, direct reports, and team members
- Benefit from a coach who helps them integrate the information and develop an action plan
- Improve their performance, regardless of whether they are an underperforming employee who needs to improve significantly or a star performer who would benefit from one or two keen and targeted tips.
In organizations where 360 feedback has become a part of the culture, employees welcome the feedback and their performance improves significantly.
I regularly conduct 360 feedback programs in organizations. I am certified in administering four distinct 360 feedback systems and experienced in coaching. If your employees are performing in a vacuum, give me a call.