Simple Template – how to record the “other things” our team members do…

As a leader, there is no question that the goals you set for your team members are of ultimate importance. High performance, growth, and development all come from effective goals and efficient tracking of accomplishments. A common approach to these ‘large goals’ in most companies is a regular cadence of some sort (quarterly, annual etc.).  Often compensation increases and performance ratings all tied to these goals as well…

We can talk about the complexities of these topics (and how they all connect together) a different time… But first, let’s tackle a really common problem when managing an engaged, high performing employee.

The problem is this: there is so much work done in between, or outside of, those goals set on a regular cadence.  How do we account for all that work, and all the “stuff” being done?  I mean, it wouldn’t be fair to exclude it entirely when talking about performance rating, compensation, promotion and career development, right?

Have you ever found yourself in this situation?

Here’s a simple idea I’m going to try on my team.  The concept is like a “journal” of sorts – capture stuff you have done over a period of time, and when it comes time to look back/review, you can have one simple document that allows a thorough view of performance.

The template looks like this (we are using a shared Google doc, but many different formats could work):

OCO template

There are three simple sections:

  1. Opportunities – what has come up that needs to be done?   What chances have I had to do great work, and contribute in a meaningful way, that isn’t necessarily captured by my regularly scheduled goals?
  2. Contributions – what did I do when these opportunities came up?  How did I “grab the bull by the horns” and demonstrate my skill and perseverance?
  3. Outcomes – what was the ultimate result of the work I did?  What positive impact did I have?  (this one is really important)

So, if you manage really good employees who are doing great things but may have a hard time capturing it, give this template a shot!

Please share feedback below!  I would love to share stories with others who may be in a similar situation!

The Key to a Successful Salary Increase Conversation

Salary adjustments.  Merit increases.  Annual salary reviews.

Call them whatever you want, this simple fact remains:  the process of reviewing and adjusting salaries for employees is a stressful one.  So much anxiety, tension and trepidation.

Many companies are focused on a standard process, a fair review that incorporates performance and potential, and hitting “the number” just right, to compensate employees according to the factors important to the company.  As a matter of fact, many companies do this very, very well.

Why is this, exactly?  Why does it almost never go well?

During my recent reading about Customer Experience, Employee Experience and how important Employee Expectations are in both of those equations, I had an epiphany.

I think I have discovered the key ingredient:  expectations.

Think of it this way – the success of a salary increase conversation hinges not on whether the process was fair or equitable.  It hinges on whether the employee thinks it is fair.  That is a fairly small, but at the same time HUGE difference.  Let that sink in for a minute…

It hinges on whether the employee thinks it is fair.


What am I saying, exactly?  Am I saying that the only successful salary increase conversation is one that the employee dictates entirely, and basically chooses what his/her increase will be?  Nope.  Not at all.

I’m saying this – understanding what your employee expects going into the entire process will help you understand their mindset coming in, and allow you to have multiple productive conversations to arrive at a point where trust is present, and the ultimate decision (even one that you may not have agreed with, or approved of) can be successful.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  1. Build trust first.  It starts early on in the relationship and needs to be sustained over time.  Trust matters.  Seeds of successful salary conversations are planted months before the actual salary conversation.
  2. Hold regular 1:1 conversations.  Become comfortable talking with each other about work topics, and “how do you feel about ______”.
  3. Introduce the topic frequently enough to make it a comfortable conversation.  In these private 1:1 conversations, talk openly about salary & compensation.  This will allow future conversations about compensation to happen much more easily.  #practicemakesperfect

Note:  countless managers talk about compensation/pay once per year (at salary adjustment time) and are shocked when it doesn’t go well… OF COURSE IT WON’T GO WELL!!! 

It takes effort and practice!

Now, I understand it’s never this simple.  There are so many complex factors and variables in each individual circumstance that it would be impossible to prescribe one “best practice”.  But start with building trust over time, and understanding expectations, and you will feel better prepared during the entire process.

(“What’s next?” after you understand their expectations is a future post… please share any thoughts/comments/questions below!)


6 ‘Must Read’ lists for a first time manager

Becoming a Manager is a big deal.  Like, a really big deal.

Far too often, the step from ‘individual contributor’ to Manager is glossed over, rushed, assumed, or forced.

The promotion into this step should be, in my opinion, done carefully and deliberately – with a proper amount of excitement, accolades, and support.

But regardless of how it happened, you may find yourself in that seat now.  It’s time to think a little bit differently, act a lot differently, and judge your own work and success differently.

To begin thinking this way, I have relied upon 6 pieces, from various authors and sources, that I share with first time managers.

Take a look at these wise pieces of advice and counsel from various experts:

  1. 7 Secrets First-Time Leaders Want to Know, Lolly Daskal
  2. 25 Tips for New Managers, Dan McCarthy
  3. 5 Essential Lessons for First Time Managers, ‘The Muse’ (contributor to
  4. 8 Tips to Help First-Time Managers Thrive, Craig Cincotta (on
  5. Top 10 Leadership Tips for First-time Managers, Profiles International
  6. Why First-Time Managers Fail, Andrew G. Rosen (U.S. News)

…after you read them (or at least skim them for key ideas & topics), think what you feel you should incorporate into your own leadership & management!  You know yourself and your situation best.

I recommend making a brief list of the topics/ideas that resonate with you right now, and write them down.  From that list, pick one (yes, ONE) topic you will focus on for the next few months.  Make that a part of your thought, study, learning and daily management practices!  Then, once you feel like you’ve almost ‘mastered’ that one, do it again!  Pick another, then another.  #onebyone #slowandsteadywinstherace

12 Practical Steps to Leading with High Trust

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

We’ve talked about how high-trust relationships start with you, the person who wants high trust, giving trust to another person without knowing whether you’ll get anything in return. But what does it look like on a practical level to communicate trust?

People will believe that you trust them when you take time to know them personally, you respect them, and you let them have influence. Below are some practical ways you can show trust to individuals and create a larger team culture of trust.

Listen, Learn, and Like. It goes a long way with people when you sincerely listen to them with the intent to learn. If you want to give trust, show interest. Find out where they’re coming from, especially when you disagree. This communicates that you assume they’re a reasonable, well-intentioned person. Find something you like about them. You don’t have to become best friends, but it should be your goal to like them.

Relentlessly pursue their strengths. Figure out what they are good at and what comes easily for them, and draw that out. Draw attention to it. Give them opportunities to shine. The more they work in their strengths, the more value they add to the team and the more they value their work.

Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with goals and commitments from the employee and from their boss. Create a game plan for growing, learning, and adding more value.

Share your leadership responsibilities. Give your team members assignments to lead certain aspects of your team. Let them run meetings, plan events, coordinate customer site visits, or participate in the planning and budgeting process. Let go of the reigns a bit and give them some freedom.

Get over yourself. Let’s be honest. One of the key reasons why you may not like relinquishing control to someone else is that you believe you are better, smarter, or more qualified than they are. Stop that. How did you get where you are?  Likely by someone better, smarter, and more qualified getting out of your way.

Allow growth and expect failures.  Not everyone succeeds on the first try and nobody succeeds always. Be willing to push people to grow, and in doing so, expect failure. Celebrate it. Failure is education, and if we don’t fail we won’t learn. As Henry Ford said, those who never make mistakes work for those who do.

Expose them to the larger process. I intentionally introduce my boys to people and concepts that are above their current level of life. They might not understand a conversation about balancing a checkbook, but they’re seeing what it means to be an adult. The same holds true in business. Exposing your team members to decision makers, stakeholders, clients, macro-level discussions, and other aspects of your organization that are above their current job description communicates that you trust them, you expect them to advance, and you’re invested in their future.

Ask your team for ideas. Hold innovation bursts where you brainstorm ideas for improvements, find opportunities for efficiencies, create new ideas, and improve old ones. Collect these ideas and implement something. If you can’t implement something, let them know, but if you can, do!

Get good at defining projects. Give your team projects with defined time frames and goals, make sure they have the resources they need, and then set them loose. Let them know what you desire as an outcome, but let them figure out how to get there. This allows you to give more freedom and them to take initiative, while minimizing frustration for all involved.

Work when and where it makes sense. Not everyone can or should work from home (or at the lake, or in the evening, or from a coffee shop). But when it makes sense, allow flexibility in how your team gets their work done. Trust them to manage their results.

Look for opportunities to say yes. Instead of saying no to your team’s unusual requests, instead think, “what needs to happen so I can say yes?”

Support their passions. If you support volunteerism and corporate giving, come alongside your team members and allow them to direct where you give. Let them volunteer for a cause they care about, or provide some level of match to their existing giving.

Lead Well, Lead Often and LEAD STRONG!

richard-fagerlinRichard Fagerlin is the founder and president of Peak Solutions.

With over 20 years of leadership and organizational development experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant and facilitator. Richard travels internationally helping clients intentionally create a culture of high trust and to be on purpose with developing leaders at all levels of the organization. In 2015 & 2016 Richard was named one of the top 100 thought leaders on Trust in the world.

A Colorado native, Richard enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains with his wife and four boys. His favorite team is whichever one his four boys are currently playing on. He is active in his community while serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Mill City Church.

(Scott’s addition: Richard is also the author of a really good book, “Trustology: The art and science of leading high-trust teams”.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Learn more at

Twitter:  @richardfagerlin   •   LinkedIn:


How do I Repair a Broken Relationship With My Employee?

Imagine for a moment, you are the manager of a team.  You were promoted into this role either because…

  1. It was the only career path (more $$$) available,
  2. You had some preconceived notion about the glamor of ‘management,’
  3. You were the highest performer on the team at a time there was a vacancy in the manager spot, or
  4. …Well… you don’t really know why or how – you were just going well in your job, and then suddenly found yourself promoted into a manager role.  #howdidIgethere

Sound familiar?  Let’s continue.

Even though you have been in the role for a little while, there is still one person on the team that is just a struggle.  For some reason, you can’t connect with him/her.  He/she causes problems, is a poor performer, or there is something else “broken” about your relationship with that person.

Still sound familiar?  If so, you are not alone.  In fact, it happens often.  VERY often.

Oh, and the feeling you probably have that this situation is known by others, and is probably dragging down the team in some way?  You’re not alone there either, and your instincts are right.  Resolving the situation with that one person will help the team.

Now, I have some good news and some bad news.  Good news: you’re not alone, all is not lost, and you will be able to improve things if you want to.  Bad news: it won’t be easy, there’s no ‘magic  bullet’, and it might be painful at times.

So where do we begin? Continue reading

Team Meetings People Actually Look Forward To!!!

Let’s say you are a new leader, with people reporting to you now… or… you have been a leader for a while, but inherited a new team.  o-BUSINESS-MEETING-facebookEither way, you know you probably should hold team meetings on a somewhat regular basis, right?  RIGHT!

But why, exactly?  I mean, most meetings you have been in (team meetings or otherwise) have been pointless, redundant, or ineffective, right?  Probably also right.  <siiiiighh>

Why do meetings get such a bad rap?  We just say the word, and people cringe.  In fact, I would guess that most of your schedule is packed with meetings, right?  Interesting!

The key to effective meetings is to be purposeful and deliberate.

We will talk about overall meetings, or general business meetings, in a future post (good article here if you’re interested).  But for now, I would like to focus on the first meeting you should focus on:  your team meeting.

This meeting should be the best meeting you hold!  It should be a highlight and a help to you in your work as a leader.  First step:  take control!  You own it!  Drive it!  Make it an exception to the “pointless meeting” stereotype!

The purpose of a regular team meeting should be to a) build trust, b) connect people, and c) make progress on the work (a and b will help accomplish c.  I promise).

Here’s how: Continue reading

Employee of the Month program – more dangerous than helpful…?

I was asked a really good question the other day: “I would like to start an Employee of the Month program – how should I go about it?”  Excellent question!

I will  share thoughts on recognition and rewards in the future, but let me share my thoughts on an Employee of the Month program…

(shared some initial thoughts on recognition here; one of my favorite resources for recognition is the “Rewards and Recognition” section of the Achievers Employee Engagement Blog)

Here’s my take: I do not recommend adopting an Employee of the Month program.  

Wait.  WHAT?  Don’t do it at all? Why?

Because most I’ve seen are done in a way that does not build trust and engagement – rather, it is either meaningless or de-motivating.  The opposite effect of the real purpose!

I have three guiding principles that will increase effectiveness of a recognition program used instead of a traditional Employee of the Month:

  • The best programs don’t have “just one winner” 

The idea that only one person can win can be de-motivating to all others, especially if “I never win” or “I never even have a chance” or “so and so always wins”.  For some, this attitude comes out in the form of complaining and poking holes.  For most, this is a more quiet impact of frustration and annoyance; it certainly does not make them try harder to win.  Not only will you avoid a headache in responding to these complaints, you’ll avoid undermining the entire program.

My advice:  create a program where there is no constraint on the number of winners.

  • The best programs are as transparent as possible

Transparency is key, both in the criteria to win an award and the process for selection.  The biggest thing I don’t like about a small team selecting one winner is that it can be a “black box”.  No one really knows what happens or how decisions are made – hence concerns of favoritism, etc.  Once again, this becomes a frustration and annoyance to most employees and does not inspire greater performance.

My advice:  create a program where there is no approval process.

  • The best programs have specific meaning behind the recognition

Remember this simple concept:  you will get more of what you reward.  As a leader, it is very important you decide what you would like to recognize.  Basically, you will see more of whatever you reward.  If you don’t want people to recognize others for “being awesome” or “showing up on time” then you will want to set that out early on.  Describe the purpose, and what they should be looking for in others  (maybe call it a “teamwork gold star” or “collaboration gold star” if those are the behaviors you would like to reinforce…).

My advice: tie the recognition to your company values or behaviors.  

With those three guiding principles in mind, here’s where I would start if I were building something from scratch:  I like peer-to-peer awards best, giving as many as are submitted that month (yes, that’s right – no limit to the quantity).  Read off the winners publicly, thank them for what they did, with some specific details included.  If you would like to have a tangible “thing” to go with it, you could do something nominal like gold stars or a sort of internal currency.  You’ll find that the measure of the prize actually doesn’t matter quite as much as you’d think (like, a $100 prize doesn’t get tons more traction than a $10 prize).  It’s the act of thanking and recognizing that is so important.

Remember, the act of recognizing another person is actually just as valuable, if not more so, than receiving it myself…

If you want to go one step further, you can have a monthly raffle for all those who received or gave a gold star.  If you like the idea of giving something away that is a little more valuable (in terms of $$$), at least that makes it equal for all, and transparent.

There are some good starting points for your own recognition program.  Remember – the act of recognizing that thanking others is vital to an organization’s culture.  It’s a necessary skill for leaders to practice often.

What do you think?  Does this resonate with you?  …or…  Have you seen an “Employee of the Month” program that really worked well?

Please comment below!

When you SHOULD be a Micromanager

The label “micromanager” is dangerous… but not for the reason you might think!

Over time, I have developed a negative opinion of the word “micromanager” or “micromanage”.  But the potential danger and toxicity of this word actually lead me to a different conclusion than you might think…

micromanaging boss1

typical micromanager…

I’m guessing that in almost all workplaces, Managers at all levels are deathly afraid of the label “micromanager”.  That word has become so negative – a flaming arrow to shoot at your boss, calling them “a micromanager”.  Nothing stings more.

Therein lies the problem: sometimes the actions which we label as “micromanaging” can help an employee improve their skills and performance.  In other words, micromanaging is exactly what a manager should do.

What a minute.

Am I saying that a Manager should, at times, be a ‘micromanager’?

Yes. Absolutely.

That’s exactly what I’m saying. Continue reading

Questions to ask in a Stay Interview

(Note: these questions are not intended to be a programmatic “list” or prescribed set/order.  Browse through the questions to get some ideas of what topics to cover, then pick the ones that you feel are most in line with your own leadership style.)

1.     Overall/General

Purpose/passion or “life” type questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What’s your dream job?
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • If you won the lottery and didn’t have to work, what would you do? What would you miss about working here?
  • What did you love in your last position that you’re not doing now?
  • What do you think about on your way to work?
  • Do you feel that you are part of a bigger vision and mission? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that your work has meaning?
  • Do you respect the amount and kind of leadership that you receive from the senior managers?


2.     Current Work Situation

 ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Annoyances’:

  • If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about your work, your role and your responsibilities?
  • If you changed your role completely, what would you miss the most?
  • What things would you like to change about your team or department?
  • How happy are you working here on a scale of 1-10 with 10 representing the most happy?
    • What would have to happen for that number to become a 10?
  • What contributes the most to your job satisfaction?  What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • Have you ever thought about leaving the company? If so, what caused you to consider leaving? Why did you decide to stay?
  • Have you actively job searched in the past year? Why were you thinking of leaving?
  • Do you feel that you have the necessary control over your job to perform most successfully and productively?
  • What things would you like to start or stop doing?
  • Do you have suggestions about how we can improve as an organization?
What about your job makes you want jump out of bed and come to work? What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze button?
What makes for a great day at work? What’s bothering you most about your job?
What do you like most about working here?

What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?

What do you like least about working here?
What keeps you working here? What might tempt you to leave?
What do you like most about working in our organization? What do you like least about working in our organization?
What do you want to keep the same about your job? What would you like to change about your job?

Manager-specific questions:

  • What do you feel are your specific strengths at work?  How can I help you build on those?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more of (or less of) as your manager, to help you succeed?
  • How do you like to be recognized?  What kind of recognition would be meaningful to you?
  • How can we work together to make your work more meaningful?
  • What type of feedback would you like to receive about your performance that you are not receiving now? From me? From coworkers?
  • What style of communication and leadership do you respond to best?
  • What kind of coaching and guidance would you like from me?
  • What skills and talents would you like to contribute every day?
  • What new things would you like to learn this year?
  • How are we helping you learn and further develop your skills?
  • What are your current job and career goals? What can I do to support your goals?
  • As your manager, what can I do to help you be more successful and happier at work?
  • Is there anything else that is important to you that we did not cover during this meeting?


3.     Future Work Situation

  • What would you like to work on in the future?
  • What would you like to learn?
  • What projects might be interesting to you?
  • What other departments would you like to learn about, or spend time with?
  • Are there other areas in the company that you would want to transfer to, in a “next career move”?
  • As you look forward, what will be important to keep you engaged in the future?

Leadership: Building Trust through Stay Interviews

Many buzzwords in the world of employment – “engagement” “retention” “turnover” “employee satisfaction” – are really revolving around the basic concept of how an employee feels about his/her job.  Does he/she like it?  Hate it?  Want something better?  This is the great mystery for companies trying to reduce retention, increase engagement, or just improve productivity and performance by keeping their top employees.  To accomplish this, I frequently share my favorite ‘leadership tool’ – a very simple idea that has an amazing ability to help leaders view things differently, take action in a meaningful way and help keep the best employees engaged.  It is called a ‘Stay Interview’.

First, consider the fairly common practice of an Exit Interview.  This will typically include questions like “why are you leaving?” or “what might have kept you here?” in an effort to understand what could improve or change to improve employee satisfaction, and curb future turnover.

I see a couple few problems with that practice:

  • The employee may or may not be share complete truth.  (The problem is, we don’t ever really know.  We likely will second guess everything, because everything they say might be either “too negative” or “too positive”).
  •  Because they are leaving, they no longer have a vested interest in actual improvement.
  • It’s likely too late to “save” them.  That time has passed… trust has likely diminished, they have mentally checked out and moved on.
  • This information is usually shared with HR, who is one step removed from the all-important Manager/Employee relationship, where understanding, communication, and trust are critical.

and the list goes on…

Now, am I advocating to stop doing exit interviews?  Nope.  They have a good role and purpose in the overall picture… but I do advocate considering an additional leadership tool – a Stay Interview.stay interview

A Stay Interview takes a very similar conversation and brings it into the midst of the person’s employment.  Find out why a person stays with the company, what keeps them here, what they might suggest to improve, etc. Continue reading