Completely Biased, Unscientific Learning from Potential Job Candidates

At 12:25 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 I just finished my first experience judging the #MNcollegiateDECA state competition in Mankato, MN. Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. I judged six students on their ability to read a case study in the restaurant and food service management area and present their solutions to an ethical and operational dilemma facing a fictitious restaurant chain. The details of their case is not important. That students chose, at such an early hour of the morning, to let their skills be judged — that’s the important point.

When I brought Rasmussen students to the competition two years ago my focus was on the top students. I wanted to make sure my students were among the top ranked: confident, well informed, professional, able to problem solve and think on their feet. My focus is different today. I want to talk about the students who lacked confidence, need more experience, and still pepper their speech with “like” and “stuff.”

The existence of these aforementioned students at the DECA competition lead me to be hopeful for employment candidates in the future. WHAT? How can that be?

These students took a risk and opened themselves up to true feedback. By title I’m judging them, their performance, and their ability at this point in time. Asking for feedback is never easy. Asking for feedback from strangers and intending to improve from that feedback shows true commitment to growth.

As business leaders, we have something to learn. Based on the example of these inexperienced, but dedicated, potential candidates, I recommend the following actions for our personal and professional growth.

  1. Let your business and your contribution be “judged.” In DECA you are not approaching someone who will be judgmental. There is a different. Reach out to customers with whom you have the best relationships. Open yourself up to review from business peers, coaches, and mentors whom you trust to give you an accurate assessment delivered with love.
  2. Review the feedback carefully, then put it away for a day or two. Our businesses are wrapped up in our identities. It’s understandable that we’d feel defensive or emotional over the feedback we receive. Don’t reject the feedback immediately or rush to make changes. Instead, let the emotions fade for a couple of days. Then review the comments again with a trusted mentor. Really discuss the merits, opportunities, and challenges of each point.
  3. Create an action plan. What will you change, by when, and why? Make sure any changes are intentional and add value to your most important stakeholders. By the way; you are one of those stakeholders.
  4. Set your action plan side by side with your business and personal mission statements. If there are areas that don’t align one of two things may be true: 1) your mission has evolved since you’ve looked at it last and needs updating, or 2) you need to revisit your action plan.

The steps outlined here go far beyond creating a to-do list. It’s your opportunity to transform yourself and your business. How often should you go through this process? I would recommend once a year, but if your business is in a state of rapid growth you might go through the steps more often.

The bottom line: Not everyone is at the top of their game at all times. The ones that will break through to success are the ones that will put their assumptions at risk.

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Giving and Receiving Feedback – A Process for Growth

Use Feedback as a Teaching and Development Tool

Frequent and specific feedback is critical to learning. It’s even more important than when you’re coaching an intern, new employee, or employee with performance issues. Depending on the length and intensity of the training needs, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly scheduled feedback is necessary for growth and development. Don’t underestimate the power of impromptu, positive feedback as you notice your intern/employee doing work or behaving in a way that meets or exceeds your expectations. Catching someone doing the right thing is far more effective than jumping on errors.

When corrective action is necessary, use this quick process to make sure your feedback is focused on the development of your intern’s/employee’s skills.

  1. Begin by describing the behavior you’d like to see. How should the report look? How does a professional employee act and dress?
  2. Follow up with the behavior you have observed. Try filling in the following sentence(s), “I’ve noticed ________ and it’s important to ____________ because it will help you _____________.”
  3. End by discussing (not prescribing) how to bridge the gap between what you’d like to happen and what you have observed. Make sure to include the intern/employee in the problem solving by asking for input.

It’s also important to open yourself to feedback. Coaching your intern/employee to learn to give feedback is as valuable as teaching them to receive it. Modeling the appropriate behavior is essential.

  • Listen without interrupting and without defensiveness. Take the opportunity to receive feedback as a growth opportunity for yourself and your business.
  • Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Guide the intern toward the example above. What did the intern expect to see and why? What did the intern observe?
  • Discuss what could account for the gap.
  • Thank the intern for providing feedback.

As managers and business owners we often develop tunnel vision. Using a clear process to coach an intern or employee is a great way to encourage an open flow of communication. Who knows what heights you’ll reach with a new set of eyes.

Helping Local Communities Strengthen Business Engagement Strategies (via Corporate Voices for Working Families)

Businesses and communities will always be interdependent. What are those on the front lines saying works between community leaders and business partners?

On Thursday, February 11, 2011, Corporate Voices for Working Families’ Ready by 21 team facilitated a “peer learning” call with the Ready by 21 Southeast Communities on business engagement.  Corporate Voices provided an overview of its series of business and community tools, and in particular the Supporting the Education Pipeline:  Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations, focused on helping private and public leaders in comm … Read More

via Corporate Voices for Working Families

Being a Man in a Female Dominated World

Really, this is not a spoof. Have you ever observed the phenomenon of a man providing feedback in a female dominated profession? I have, and it opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of diversity.

I now work in a female dominated industry, teaching, but I came from a predominantly male profession, business. I am a woman used to giving and receiving feedback in a man’s world. What happens when a man gives feedback in a woman’s world?

The instance I am thinking of is not the best example of acceptance in diversity management, but it shows a great opportunity for growth in my adopted profession.

The men in the group offered their feedback, but feelings were hurt. I was asked about this meeting later, and I couldn’t remember any personal attacks. I thought about what was and what wasn’t said and realized that the problem might be with the way the feedback was coded and decoded differently between genders.

The men were very straight forward and task oriented in their feedback. Did the lack of a relational message affect the way the message was decoded by their colleagues? I have to admit, I have to make a conscious effort to start with a relational message in a mixed group because I’m a very task oriented person as well. did the task oriented message play a part in the hurt feelings?

A better understanding of this issue can create positive change in so many management areas: performance evaluations, coaching, job satisfaction and much more.

I invite your comments.