Leader's Compass Points

How to Make Your Employee Evaluation Process Less Painful and More Valuable

Posted by Bob Mason on 8/19/16 6:28 AM


The_Curve.jpg“Everyone can't be outstanding; therefore, employees should be evaluated such that they fit a normal distribution with some below average and some above average.” That's the philosophy I was taught early in my leadership career. The general belief was that, while it wasn't a perfect fit, ratings should resemble a bell shaped curve. Many companies still look at employees the same way, even suggesting that those who rank lowest on evaluations must go.

That's lazy leadership.

A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, "Ahead of the Curve: The Future of Performance Management," takes a deep dive into the issue of rating employees. They provide plenty of evidence that most current performance rating systems are flawed and accomplish nothing of any real value. Sometimes they are even harmful.

While many supervisors and managers would love to see evaluations go away, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. As the article's authors point out, there are times when evaluation is necessary; for instance, identifying the high potential supervisors and managers in the company. The article also highlights some companies who have created more useful evaluation systems, often concentrating on looking to the future rather than the past and using technology to capture more current information. No matter whether your company has reached evaluation enlightenment, or still cleaves to the old ways, evaluations can be very useful in another way: helping leaders see where they need to concentrate their efforts.

Here are a few approaches leaders should take to use evaluations as a valuable tool in developing your team members.

  1. Keep good records. Evaluations tend to fall prey to the law of recency. Simply put, a leader is much more likely to remember an event that occurred last week than one that occurred last month. This also avoids problems with what I call the law of "oh #%^@." Humans tend to be more likely to remember that time someone screwed up than the good things they've done. Regular coaching and a conscious effort to know your team members will also make evaluations easier.
  2. Remember, when you are evaluating your team members you are also evaluating yourself. Why does Jack consistently score low or have unfavorable comments? What have you done to remedy the problem? Yes, I know you can't fix everyone or solve all problems, but you should be able to satisfy yourself that you've done everything you can to help your team members excel. This may also help make the decision to let Jack go a little easier.
  3. Communicate. If you're concerned about a team member, let them know. Talk to them. Find out why there's a problem and help them find a solution.

I don't live in a leadership utopia and I know it isn't possible to make all team members the crème de la crème. But, effective leadership means doing everything you can to give them the opportunity to rise to that level. Effective leaders find that most, if not all, of their team members don't fit a standard distribution because they all tend to be excellent contributors. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Other posts from The Daedalus Group to help you become a more effective leader.

Team Building and Rock Stars

The Difference Between Fair and Equal

Six Ways to Build a Culture of Accountability

Topics: Leadership Development

Calling All Graduates! Advanced Leadership Course Coming Back to Indianapolis

Posted by Steve Alltop on 8/18/16 9:37 AM


Course Dates: November 1 - 3, 2016

For a sustained leadership journey, professional networking with like-minded professionals, and six months of deeper follow-on coaching, this is an ideal experience. The course is worth 36 PDUs for PMPs like our other three-day courses, but as our graduates attest, this experience goes much deeper in sharing best practices and focuses on your continued leadership path.

So, take your leadership to the next level with the Advanced Leadership Course.  

Must be a graduate of the Leadership Excellence Course, Leadership Boot Camp,  or the PMI 5 Star Leadership Course for Project Managers to attend. 

Past graduates of either Steve's or Bob's classes get a $500 discount.  We're just that nice! Use promo code PASTGRAD when you enroll. An additional $100 discount is available but you must contact Steve Alltop for details.

Topics: Leadership Development

Are You Coachable?

Posted by Ed Ruggero on 8/12/16 10:41 PM

201607-Chamberlain.jpgThe pile of boulders called Little Round Top is one of the most visited spots on the Gettysburg battlefield. It was there on July 2, 1863 that a thirty-four year old professor of rhetoric and his volunteer soldiers defended the vulnerable left flank of the Federal Army against repeated rebel assaults. When the menace was greatest and the enemy threatened to crush his line, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain led his men in a sudden, surprise charge. The unexpected move, the momentum of the downhill rush and their bayonets broke the Confederate assault.

When I visit this section of the field during The Gettysburg Leadership Experience, group discussion turns to creativity. In a tight spot, Chamberlain— a citizen soldier who’d been in uniform for barely a year—came up with a solution that worked. How do we foster that kind of remarkable creativity on our own teams?

Recently one executive focused on another aspect of the story: in addition to being creative, Chamberlain had been coachable.

Chamberlain’s commander, up until a month before the battle, was a twenty-seven year old professional soldier named Adelbert Ames. Ames, an 1861 graduate of West Point, had already been promoted for his performance in battle by the time he met Chamberlain. The former professor, recognizing his own lack of training and experience, latched on to the much younger man to learn as much as he could about battle tactics and leadership. When Ames was promoted in May 1863, Chamberlain took command of the regiment; less than two months later came his test on the rocky slope of that hill.

Coachable leaders are, among other things:

Humble: I accept that I don’t know everything and, in fact, may be quite ignorant in some areas. I seek out smart people who can help.

Open-minded: It’s easy to dismiss new ideas as impractical or impossible. Coachable leaders are receptive to new ideas.

Listeners: Ever hear the expression, “Eighty-percent of people in any conversation are either talking or waiting to talk”? Waiting to talk is not the same as listening. To listen, I have to stop preparing my own remarks and actively seek to understand the other person’s position or explanation.

Willing to put ideas into action. My friend Scott Snook of the Harvard Business School prefaces his workshops by talking about the bookends of adult learning. Before any learning experience comes our attitude as we approach the session: “There are new ideas out there that are worth my attention.” On the other side of the learning is what we do with it. The coachable leader is willing to try new things.

Of course, just because an idea is new does not mean it’s good. Nevertheless, I should ask myself this question from time to time: when was the last time I moved out of my comfort zone and tried something new?

If it’s been a while since I stepped out of my usual way of doing things, it could be that I am not actively seeking new ideas. I need to read more, to network more, to educate myself and find a mentor—maybe even one who does not fit the typical profile of mentor. It could mean that I need to work on being coachable.

About the author: Ed Ruggero is the creator and facilitator of The Gettysburg Leadership Experience, in which participants visit the site of the Civil War battle to learn how to better lead modern organizations. Join him for lively discussions about what we can learn about leadership then that applies today. He offers open enrollment programs, or you can bring a group on dates that fit your schedule.

Reprinted with permission.

Related Articles:

The Leadership Forge: The Impact of Mentors & Relationships on Success

The Respect Paradox

Employee Engagement? Start with Leadership Engagement


Topics: Coaching, Leadership tips, Leadership

Coming Events

Posted by Steve Alltop and Bob Mason on 8/12/16 4:00 PM


Here's what the rest of the year looks like for our open-enrollment classes. Referrals are always appreciated so if you know of someone who would benefit from our unique programs. please send them our way. 

Click on the course titles below for details and enrollment.

Upcoming Open-Enrollment Events

Leadership Excellence Course Indianapolis September 13 - 15
Leadership Boot Camp  Albuquerque
September 20 - 22
Leadership Excrellence Course Denver October 4 - 6
Leadership Excellence Course Albuquerque October 18 - 20
Advanced Leadership Course Indianapolis  November 1-3
Leadership Excellence Course Indianapolis November 15 - 17
Leadership Excellence Course Denver December 6 - 8


"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" - John F. Kennedy

Topics: Leadership Development

Should You Let Them See You Sweat? Maybe A Little

Posted by Bob Mason on 8/6/16 2:55 PM

Sweat.jpgThere's an old Gillette razor commercial with famous personalities of the day encouraging us to "Never let them see you sweat." The premise was that successful people never let it appear that anything bothers them. The phrase has become part of our vocabulary and is often applied to leadership as well. But is it good advice?

As a commander in the Air Force there were several times when my squadrons saw me sweat. In one case, I had just completed a memorial service for a senior enlisted member who had died shortly before retirement. When a military member dies, there are many tasks that must be completed and the commander is responsible for most of them. It is emotionally challenging and by the end of the memorial service, which the commander traditionally leads, I was pretty well drained. After that service, I was speaking with my squadron's senior non-commissioned officer and mentioned that I was not keeping a very good detached demeanor. I definitely had "Let them see me sweat." He said that was good. The squadron didn't see me as less of a leader, rather they saw that I was human and cared about the team, but also continued to accomplish my leadership responsibilities.

Leaders are human and diminish their effectiveness when they try to be detached and emotionless. It's okay if your team sees that you're tired sometimes, or upset. At the same time though, they must also see that you don't let those feelings stop you from being the leader.

That doesn't mean the leader should be wishy washy and fail to make decisions. That will destroy your team's effectiveness and your credibility. When a decision has to be made, you must put all those feelings aside and act based on your own values, the information available, and the good of the mission and the team.

Of course there are times when it's best to keep your problems to yourself and not "let them see you sweat." I once had a boss who blamed my team for the mechanical failure of a very old piece of equipment. My boss and I had a tenuous relationship to begin with and my vigorous defense of my team made it even worse.  I didn't realize until years later when I was speaking to a former team member that our relationship had become something of a public feud and rumors had been swirling around the organization that my boss and I had come to blows over the issue. Nothing of the sort, but it was a great illustration of how not to deal with that kind of conflict. Allowing my personal conflict to become so visible to the team was a mistake.

You're human and it's okay to let your team see you sweat. Just make sure you also let them see that whatever is causing your discomfort doesn't stop you from being an effective leader. Acting like there's no problem is not as effective as recognizing and clearly addressing the problem.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

Because I Said So, That's Why

What Are You Communicating as a Leader?

Straying From My Leader's Compass


See how The Daedalus Group can help you become a more effective leader. Go to www.dleadershipgroup.com

Topics: Leading Teams

Take the Time to Save the Time

Posted by Steve Alltop on 7/30/16 10:47 PM

100px-Summer_time.svg.pngAh, summer. Relaxing warm evenings, vacation with kids, low stress activities that recharge the batteries. Yeah right! Most everyone I talk to is so busy they barely have time to think. Many companies are in the mid-year push. Those that work in government or government related companies are realizing that the fourth quarter of the fiscal year is just starting and key projects (and spend rates) are lagging behind or aren’t started. You may have taken a vacation but when you got back to work you had hundreds (or thousands) of unanswered emails. Perhaps you avoided this by working during vacation? (You didn’t do that did you? If so, suggest you read Indispensable? Better Think Again...)

During coaching sessions students routinely tell me they are just flat busy. Time management is not a nice to have it’s a must have. One of the pillars of great leadership is “Know Your Stuff” (the others are “Know Yourself” and “Know Your People”). Part of knowing your stuff as a leader is knowing how to personally manage your priorities.

We talk a lot about the value of planning. Some studies show that for every minute you spend planning you can save 6 minutes in execution. Save thirty minutes a day and you’ve saved 15 days in a year. As one student recently told me, you have to “take the time to save the time!” Many of the time management techniques we discuss in our classes seem so obvious yet are so easy to overlook. As a case in point, at the conclusion of our coaching sessions another student told me that one of her most important lessons learned during our time together was that simple time management techniques make a huge difference in your effectiveness as a leader.

Here are a few things you can do to get immediate results:

Create a prioritized plan based on your goals and high payoff activities. Spend 5 to 10 minutes planning daily, 1 to 2 hours monthly.

Block time on your calendar for prioritized tasks. Keep these appointments with yourself. If this appointment was with the CEO, would you miss it? If this is a priority task, and hence a priority for the organization, why treat it any differently?

Clear the deck for action. Eliminate or reduce distractions. Although open-door policies are great, there are exceptions. Make it known by either sign or prior agreement that during these periods interruptions should be for truly “can’t wait” reasons.

Know when to say “no.” This takes practice but if you don’t have the bandwidth to take on another task you do nobody any favors by agreeing to a commitment you can’t make.

Work one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task. Many of you will argue this point but the research is fairly definitive. Multi-tasking reduces the quality of the work and/or lengthens the total time to do the individual tasks.

This isn’t rocket science or earth-shattering revelation. It’s just common sense. Remember; take the time to save the time.

Related Articles:

Leaky Faucets and Leadership

This is my highest priority. THIS is my highest priority...and this...and this...

Time Management – Link Roundup


Topics: Time Management

Leadership Lessons from the Political Follies

Posted by Bob Mason on 7/15/16 1:39 PM

Ballot_Box.jpgPolitics provide an interesting show. Like a multi-act play, there are heroes and villains, plot twists and surprises. Everyone in the audience sees the show a little differently and when it's all over, everyone applauds and returns to their normal lives, though some stay to watch the repeat performance which begins the next day.

As the players take the stage for this quadrennial show, there are a few parts of the play that remain constant for every performance. There are players who we, the audience, love to hate. Many of us find one or two players who we are convinced are the real heroes, but most audience members don't trust most of the players.

Why is that? Why do we have a general distrust of those who seek to be our nation's leaders? Most likely because the actions of many politicians seem untrustworthy. It often seems that politicians are too willing to change their deeply held beliefs to satisfy special interests and make promises they can't, or at least don't keep.

These political follies provide some valuable insight for leaders to avoid being thought of as untrustworthy.

  1. It's hard to consistently say things you don't really believe. At some point you'll slip and say what you really think, or you'll get caught up in conflicting statements as you try to please everyone.
  2. Values are not situational and core values don't often change. Leaders who don't clearly define their own core values, and stick to them, set themselves up for an internal conflict that can destroy them.
  3. You can't sell snake oil for any length of time. When people find it doesn't really work, they'll come for you and it won't be pleasant. People are allowed to make mistakes, but when you start out with something you know is flawed, you're headed down the road to ruin.
  4. You can't please everyone. Those who try end up pleasing no one. A peer of mine used to tell his boss one thing, his team something else, and when the senior leadership was around, his story would change again. It wasn't long before he lost everyone's trust and became marginalized and irrelevant.
  5. You don't know everything. My favorite leaders were those who admitted to what they didn't know. That doesn't mean they remained ignorant, just that they didn't try to act on issues until they had filled in their knowledge gaps. Remember that ignorance is merely not knowing, and it can be fixed. There is no shame in ignorance. Stupidity is acting on ignorance, and as the saying goes, you can't fix stupid.

To be a good leader and avoid being thought of as a politician, know who you are, and what you believe. Then stick to it.


Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

A Good Method for Building Trust

Are You An Authentic Leader?

Did I Really Say That?

Topics: Leadership

Congratulations to Our New Indianapolis Leadership Boot Camp Graduates

Posted by Steve Alltop on 7/15/16 1:35 PM

Indianapolis Leadership Boot Camp | 12 - 14 July 2016

"3 Green Amigos" joined forces this week in Indianapolis and made our first Leadership Boot Camp in this city a great experience! The group kept it "real" but also had a great time helping each other become better leaders while leaarning new skills. I'm looking forward to our coaching calls.  

- Steve

"3 Green Amigos" | Indianapolis | July 2016




Topics: Leadership Development

The Wright Way to Collaborate

Posted by Steve Alltop on 7/10/16 12:30 PM

Wright_Flyer_First_Flight.jpgIn 1901, most people believed that man would never fly. Wilbur Wright, who had already begun investigations into heavier-than-air flight with his brother Orville, thought that the achievement could be as much as fifty years in the future. Yet, on December 17, 1903, just two years later, he and Orville accomplished that feat. What propelled them to success? What key leadership lessons can we derive from the Wright brothers? One could wander down the usual paths of clear unifying vision, goals, planning, resource allocation and so forth. But at the turn of the 20th century there was no shortage of individuals with a vision of the future that included flight. Here in the U.S., Samuel Pierpont Langley was very well funded by the War Department but failed spectacularly, with his craft plunging into the Potomac River just weeks before the Wright brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk. So why did they succeed where others had failed? I maintain that it came down to their effectiveness as a team and especially their ability to collaborate through intense conflict.

For my summer reading enjoyment I’m reading an excellent biography, The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. As I read the chapters detailing the time leading up to the creation of the first Flyer, I asked myself how two bicycle shop owners accomplished what no one else could? Keen intellect, intense curiosity, and a willingness to question assumptions and prevailing wisdom certainly played major roles. But McCullough’s description of long evening discussions as they worked through one problem after another, and especially this passage, struck me as key:

During these months their “discussions” became as intense as they had ever been. Heated words flew, filling hours of their days and nights, often at the top of their voices...According to Charlie Taylor [their mechanic], they were never really mad at each other. One morning after one of their “hottest” exchanges, he had only just opened the shop...when Orville came in saying he “guessed he’d been wrong and they ought to do it Will’s way.” Shortly after, Wilbur arrived to announce he had been thinking it over and “perhaps Orv was right.” The point was, said Charlie, “when they were through...they knew where they were and could go ahead with the job.” (McCullough, p. 89)

Each brother was passionate in his position, but neither had to be “right”. They focused on arriving at the best possible solution, not winning the argument. Over and over again they invented options to overcome objections and stayed focused on achieving an objective. They very rarely compromised. They would stay at it until both were convinced they had arrived at the best possible solution.

What enabled the Wright Brothers to collaborate so effectively can also enable you and your teams. Build trust in each other, so that no member fears engaging in passionate discussion around issues critical to the team’s success. Build a culture where no one hesitates to disagree with, challenge, and question to find the best solutions, discover truth, and make great decisions. When you do, you will find that unhealthy conflict fades away and team buy-in and commitment to outcomes grows exponentially. Oh by the way, you might also find that you’ve accomplished something cool; like learn to fly.  

Related Articles:

The Respect Paradox

Toxic Behavior Destroys Team Trust

Conflict Management 101


Interested in creating effective teams? The Daedalus Group can conduct The Five Dysfunctions of a Team workshops for either teams or team leaders. See additional information HERE.


Topics: Conflict Management, Leading Teams, Culture

How Teams Are Like Jigsaw Puzzles – And How They Aren't

Posted by Bob Mason on 7/2/16 6:23 AM

Jigsaw_Puzzle.jpgJigsaw puzzles can be difficult. There are many pieces, each a little different then the next. It's obvious where a few of the pieces fit, but for many their part of the bigger picture is hard to see. Occasionally, a guess is correct, but usually it takes some trial and error before their proper location becomes obvious. Finally, after some time and considerable effort, the whole picture emerges.

Forming a team can seem a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. Each team member is unique and has a particular place on the team where they best fit. Sometimes that place is not immediately obvious and forcing them into any other place will make the team less effective.

A jigsaw puzzle usually has a picture to help you see what the finished picture should look like. The individual pieces also provide some clues as to where they fit in the bigger picture.

The same can be true for your team. A clear mission and defined goals provide the team with a bigger picture. The team leader can see where the team is going and what it needs to do to get there. Just as importantly, each team member can see not only where the team is going, but also how they can contribute to reaching those goals.

But, a team is not a collection of inanimate puzzle pieces. They are a group of thinking people. Likewise, the picture is not one dimensional. Unlike flat puzzle pieces, team members, and their interactions, are multi-dimensional and dynamic. The team leader needs to know not only where everyone fits, but also how they interact. At The Daedalus Group, we've had great success using the Energize2Lead™ team profile from Academy Leadership to help teams better understand how they interact and find points where there is likely to be synergy as well as where conflict may emerge.

Have you given your team a clear mission and defined goals? Do you strive to understand each team member's strengths to learn how they best fit and how the team interacts?


Want to improve how your team fits together? Visit http://www.dleadershipgroup.com/team-building or just contact us.


Topics: Leading Teams