Out on a Ledge

Out on a Ledge

Out on a Ledge

In this week’s guest blog, Sonya Law takes us Out on a Ledge with a look at the end of the year performance review.

How to jumpstart the EOY Performance Review to drive high performance in 2021? Out on a ledge … is how it can feel like sometimes for employees walking into their end of year review… It’s a mixed bag of dread and discomfort which only serves to weigh you down.  These negative feelings brought about by fear from past experiences where managers have got it wrong by using it as an opportunity to dredge up past mistakes for the first time.  Or worse they gloss it over and this indifference only serves to strengthen a performance culture of mediocrity and completely devalues the review.

As a Human Resources Manager, I feel like this is a missed opportunity to re-connect and re-engage the effort and performance of your employees leading into 2021.  After all, aren’t we all striving to create High Performance Cultures?

As managers we are really good at ‘what went well’ but often fail in asking employees what are our biggest challenges and what needs fixing.   Instead, we wait to ask the employee who has resigned in the exit interview, when it’s too late.    Organizations that facilitate honest, open dialogue will solve problems faster and improve overall innovation and performance against rivals.  Our ability to reflect on the year, our performance and grow together as human being’s and as an organization is a comparative advantage in Business.

So how do we conduct a good EOY review and what is it worth to the organization?

The three key success factors of a good EOY review are approachability, attention, appreciation.

Approachability: your manager is open and communicative in the review, in his or her language both verbal and non-verbal, this congruency builds integrity in the relationship and review.

Attention: the greatest gift, they give their employee their 100% attention.  That is, they don’t answer phone calls or send emails, they have committed to this time, they don’t re-schedule or put it off.  This is a big no-no rescheduling an EOY performance review! Where practical always commit to this meeting, it sends a bad message to the employee if you shift it, they feel deprioritised.

‘People want to feel heard, listened to’

Simon Sinek – virtual event – 24th November, 2020 – The Infinite Game.

When you do this well morale goes up, trust goes up they feel you have their back and it reduces fear and if you show care and exercise your empathetic listening skills your people will even be willing to suffer stress for you.

Encourage your employees to come to the meeting with what they see are the challenges and what needs fixing.  Resist the temptation as a manager to fix it for them, by giving them the responsibility it activates thinking.  Ask them what do you think? How would you solve it? Managers tell people what to do; but true leaders help people feel safe, promote thinking and drive a culture of Empowerment, where employees are empowered to make decisions impacting their work. You can take this a step further and if you here the language of blame, for example they ordered the wrong part, simply replace they with we ordered the wrong part. It’s a subtle way to encourage teamwork and accountability. To read more about this see Book titled: “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet, former nuclear submarine commander.

Appreciation – As the manager it is your role to show appreciation to your employee for their valuable contribution over the year.  You would be surprised how many managers fail to do this, and only tick the box – did they achieve goal – yes or no.  My top tip to get into the role of an appreciative manager, is to imagine that your star performer is walking out of their EOY review into a call with a ‘headhunter’ following your meeting!  What do you want your star performer to say when the headhunter dangles the carrot and tries to poach your star performer? You want them to walk out of the EOY review feeling inflated like a balloon filled with all the warm and fuzzy feelings that make us feel giddy when we are in love! Think about it like your most important relationship, reconnect, reengage them in the cause, vision, purpose, mission and the important role they have in that, we all want to feel connected and sense of belonging.

How do you prepare for this EOY review with your employee?

  1. Create an Appreciation folder in your Outlook for your employee.
  2. Collect things – throughout the year – note all the good things they do.
  3. Drop any emails into that folder – things you write yourself to remind you of the good things or emails you get from customers, suppliers or colleagues about how fantastic your star performer is, achievements etc.

Top 3 things to remember:

  1. All your employees are star performers
  2. You hired them or someone else in your organization did so and its up to you to make sure they fulfill their potential
  3. If they are a poor performer why did they make it to the EOY performance review – that’s a bigger organizational culture question, which would require some deep work.

So, what’s it worth to you?

If you don’t get this right – Instead of putting a STAR on top of the Christmas Tree this year you will be putting a job vacancy up online to look for a new STAR performer.

An EOY review is a great opportunity to unite your people in the cause so they are bursting with new energy heading into 2021, ready to face new challenges, refreshed and reinvigorated.

For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Who Are You?

Who are you?

 One of the networks I follow poses questions often. The most recent question was “What’s the #1 thing you have learned this year?

 The problem I have with the question is that I am continually learning. I am a very curious man and not a big fan of the status quo. However, over my seventy plus years, I have learned a few things that I would like to highlight. 

I would like to think that I am continually learning. I am a very curious man and not a big fan of the status quo. I have learned a few things that I would like to highlight. 

First, from a book by Edith Hall called “Aristotle’s Way,” is a reminder. This is not something that is new for me, but it is an important one. Aristotle suggested that we have a personal responsibility to ourselves to be happy. I have had as a foundation stone in my life, the philosophy “Before you can be of any value to anyone else you have to be of value to yourself.” The two ideas are tied together, aren’t they?

More recently I obtained a book by Simon Sinek called “The Infinite Game.” This picks up the theme from “Finite and Infinite Games” a book written by James P. Carse. This is also reinforcing strong beliefs that I have had for most of my life. Life is not about winning and losing. We must be focused more on our lifetimes than individual events. I grew up swimming competitively and had a tough time. I didn’t lose many races and had national records for age groups consistently. That was the result, the pathway was another thing altogether. I would be sick before I left my home to go to a swimming meet, I would be sick changing into my bathing suit, and if there was anything left, I would be sick before going out to the start of the race. Not much fun. As you might imagine, this always bothered me. What was the matter with me? Did I need to win that much or was I afraid to lose. You see I didn’t lose very often so I never really got an answer that was clear. What finally penetrated my mind was that those two outcomes – needing to win or fear of losing – are the same. You see, if you take one of your attributes to its full extent you reach the direct opposite. So, when taken to the extreme, needing to win and fear of losing are the same thing. That brought me peace. What was more important and remains another foundation stone for my life is that you are not competing with the other swimmers in the race. You are competing with yourself. That is a much more serious competitor. You are trying to improve your own individual performance constantly. I believe this is a critical element in life. You are never finished. You can continually get better. To some degree it means never being satisfied with your situation or performance.

For the close today I will move to my life as a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers. I love to teach. I love to see the lights go on in people’s eyes when they “get it.”  That truly turns my crank: it excites me, and it motivates me.

There have been many books written about self-improvement. I will reference you here to one called “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” 

 There are far too many truly amazing points in this book to pick out only one. Let me do it this way. In our own “progression of learning” (my view of learning) we need to be “testing” ourselves frequently. It has been proven scientifically that assessments, both formative and summative, when taken during the learning process significantly improve the retention of the knowledge. By retaining knowledge, we will be able to apply our knowledge to the challenges we face in our lives.

Learning is a lifelong activity. It is a truly rewarding activity as well. Genetics determines our brain power. Learning is what is required if you are to reach your personal potential.

Think about these points. They are important and I believe that they will help you as a person.


The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

Branch Operations.

In most dealerships the senior management structures are similar. There is a President, perhaps a CEO, in larger dealers a COO, followed by the Departmental Executives. There are numerous customer facing functions, and support facing functions.

The “Executives” focus on goals and objectives and market share. That is important, performance matters. Everything looks at goals and objectives: financial performance, sales, gross profit, expense control. All are very important. What about the Customer Experience? Who is responsible for ensuring that the Customer is at the forefront of everything that we do?

Who is the person that creates the “vision” for the dealership? Who is it that inspires every employee to be driven to get better at what they do – at “delighting” the customer?

This is an area that Simon Sinek points at in his recent book “The Infinite Game.”

He posits that we are all too concentrated on winning and avoiding losses. We are focused on the short term with no real attention paid to the future. But he isn’t talking about next year or the year beyond. He is talking in terms in decades. How can we make our businesses sustainable over time?    

This caused me some interesting reflection time. Most of you know I swam when I was a young person. Swimming is all about improving your own performance and less about “beating” the other swimmers in your race. I think that gave me a focus that was somewhat different than my peers. I was always about making everything better. There was no such thing as “best.” That is a “point in time.” Think about GE under Jack Welsh, arguable one of their best leaders to date. He was always about the short term. His comment was “Isn’t long term just a series of short terms?” Well to be honest it isn’t. As a result, GE since he left has had serious performance failures. Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” among others, famously compared two companies in the same Industry and pointed at similar things. Most of our businesses focus on the short term. A study by McKinsey reported that the average life span of a S&P company has dropped since the 1950’s, over a span of fifty years, from sixty-one years to eighteen years today. Harvard Business Review, and many others, report that 70% – 90% of acquisitions fail. A rather serious statement on the ability of business to merge two businesses together.

Sinek contends that is because of our focus on the short term at the expense of the long term. In his book “Start With Why,” on of the most watched TED Talks ever he says; “Most people know What They Do, some can even tell you How they do it, but very few people can tell you Why they do it. It isn’t about making money.

“The Infinite Game” uses the United States as an example of a “Business.” It started with the War of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was not a statement of getting rid of the control of the country by Great Britain. It was about “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That made the effort worthwhile. They then got to work on writing the Constitution which set out a series of enduring principles to protect and advance their big, bold, and idealistic vision of the future. That is a future that we still strive to achieve and will constantly be aiming at that vision. It is not an end game it is a journey.

In order to stay in the game long term, to stay in business, long term we must be good operationally at all of those win/lose games we play; market share, gross margin and expense control, asset management, etc.. That this is critical, is something on which we can all agree. But in order to have long term sustainable success it is also about the culture of the company. What makes each employee strive to be better at what they do in order to satisfy their customers.      

I highly recommend that you read “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It might provoke you to reevaluate your view on how your business operates. 

The Time is Now.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Why Do We Do What We Do?

One of the most widely watched TED talks was by Simon Sinek called “start with why.” It has been four months short of fifty years that I have been involved working in this Industry. When people questioned what I wanted to do with my life when I entered the work place, I had no real answer. I don’t think I was very different from most people. Unless a teenager has a clear purpose of medicine or law or other specialized careers most people are looking for a job that is fulfilling and provides a reasonable income.

I bounced around through a reasonable number of different “temporary” work assignments until settling on working as a social worker in a custodial setting for Juvenile delinquents. I had been unsuccessful at landing a job in the computer Industry and settled on reconnecting with my heritage as my great grandfather was one of the founders of this institution. I was hired as a “control figure.” I was large and fit. This work involved being on the job from 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM daily and on call overnight. I had one day off every two weeks. (During which I slept.)

After six months of this I quit as it was too stressful for me. In the first task I was given there, eight of the twelve young men were there for murder. I had never experienced that side of society before.

I also was involved in teaching at a University in Montreal. I developed and taught a program within the Physical Education Department to teach aspiring coaches in swimming.
From that work my family got a call from the father of one of my University students inquiring as to my availability for an interview. The rest is history.

I was afforded wonderful opportunities to learn. I was given direct training on the job as well as an OEM who took an interest in my development. I am very sensitive to the need for employees to feel that they have a role to play and that the Company is interested in their professional development and growth. Prof. Sinek has an additional interview on YouTube addressing Millennials in the Workplace. It is very helpful.

One of my associates, Edward Gordon, a University of Chicago professor, author and consultant writes regularly on jobs and the workplace. His book Future Jobs is one that everyone in leadership positions across the world should read. His November report includes the following excerpt:

“Employer job training is only a part of the solution to the jobs-skills gap. The U.S. education system is not producing enough graduates with the credentials sought by American employers. Although 68 percent of high school seniors enroll in post-secondary programs, after six years only about 33 percent complete a certificate, apprenticeship, or degree program. Students who are required to take remedial courses (usually in math, reading or writing) drop out at far higher rates reflecting the difficulty of making up for past deficiencies in attainment. Clearly American education is out of step with current societal and economic needs. I agree with David Brooks who recently wrote, “We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.”

This brings me to Learning Without Scars.

We have been in the Industry since 1969, I have worked with thousands of dealers around the world. One thing is common with every employee with whom I have worked. EVERYONE WANTS TO DO A GOOD JOB. I believe our challenge is first to help employees understand what doing a good job means for each of them and how they can progress to better and better things according to their particular needs, wants and desires. That is why we do what we do. I hope that is also true of the leadership in every dealership in the work. Help each employee to be better at what they do and to help them reach their individual potential.

The Time is NOW.

The Why and the How

The Why and the How.

The transition to team management, while still encouraging personal curiosity and initiative, continues to struggle as the usual leadership doesn’t know how to encourage risk taking without contradicting the work of the team. The true story of the ages is that people will take risks when they have less to lose and be risk averse when they have a lot to lose. In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek, talks about the “Circle of Safety.”  Within this circle we can say what we want about what we want, as long as it doesn’t get personal, without fear of exposure or consequences.

The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “He who has a ‘why’ to life can bear almost any ‘how.’” That is a very powerful statement to me. So, we are confronted with a conundrum: How to encourage individual participation inside a team while at the same time maintaining the health of the team. All of our operational and process challenges exist because we have been rather timid over the past years to tackle changes necessary in a meaningful manner.

We have to have each of our teams understand the rules. Each team member has to understand their responsibilities and job functions. They have to know what has to be done and how to do it. The primary working rules from Lou Holtz, the one-time coach of the Notre Dame football team, are very simple and very clear. Do your best. Do what is right. Honor the Golden Rule.
This about the team goals having supremacy to individual goals. Team success ahead of selfishness. The role of the leaders is to provide protection, cover, to the employees working on their team. The individual team members will have more confidence in doing what is right when they feel trusted by their leaders. And that is a winning position to be in.

The Time is NOW.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning

As many of you know I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The family rented in the city of Montreal and we owned a small, old house in the Laurentians, about an hour north of Montreal. Our house was on the end of a lake and the lake was home to a Country Club where, as kids, we learned to swim, play tennis, to canoe, play golf and other summer activities. The lessons were $5.00/per month and for that price we received 12 lessons, three a week, that lasted between 30 minutes and forty-five minutes. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

However, from an early age my life was split into two pieces: the city for work and the country for play.

Fast forward to my teenage years and I became involved with teaching swimming, first to children at the lake, and then to students at University. I was very lucky to have been given these opportunities at such an early age. The teaching soon moved from teaching specific skills to allow people to learn “how to” swim to teaching people how to “teach others” to teach specific skills, such as coaching and directing athletic learning. We created a program that allowed prospective athletes to learn the necessary to teach skills of coaching and teaching. I ended up teaching aspiring teachers how to teach at the University level.

I have been involved with teaching for a long time, more than 50 years. Teaching is a very interesting discipline and I have to admit that I love to teach. I love seeing the lights go on when a student “gets it.”

I approach teaching from a number of, in my mind, critical evolutionary steps.

First is “Pictures.”

I believe in “showing” people what the goal is we are working toward. This is what we call, in our classroom work “What It Looks Like When It Is Right.” This is now part of the Building Blocks Level of parts and service management training.

Next comes Story Telling.

I move to telling stories about what it is that they just saw in the picture. A story to describe what the picture was all about. Story telling is an important aspect of nearly everything that we do. Leading people is enhanced with good stories. Selling is all about story telling. Story telling allows the listener to more easily understand what is being taught.

Pictures Again.

A repetitive process to “imprint” the end result on the mind of the student. This is what we are doing, this is how we are doing it, do you see the picture? This allows us to follow my three critical precepts in leadership and also in driving change.

  • Understanding: everyone has to understand what we are doing. What are our goals and objectives?
  • Acceptance: everyone has to accept that what we are doing is the right thing to do. This means that we have to be open to a vigorous debate about our goals and objectives. This is a critical element of leadership and one that is not that common. Allow everyone’s thoughts to be heard and respected.
  • Commitment: Once we have these three steps completed and with strong agreement then we will have everyone committed to making it happen.

Teaching and Learning and…

That takes me to Socrates. Society has a polarity to it. There are competing views on nearly everything that we do and have done. Socrates did not want to get into the debate of what is right and wrong he simply pursued “Wisdom.” In the process he created “philosophy.”

In his approach, in much the same manner as we have created out learning offerings, he constantly was asking questions. What is a good market capture rate? How should we measure market capture? What is a good parts availability? Does that include your overnight delivery or is it right off the shelf? Lots and lots of questions. That is the foundation of how I teach and also how the Learning Without Scars.

Many people, who I respect, and have worked with over the years, say that the name of the Company is incorrect, they say it is the wrong name. The Company should be “Learning WITH Scars.” That could be one interpretation. I want people to engage in a fundamental understand on what they do. That requires thought. Remember Simon Sinek? His book “Start with Why” is truly thought provoking and enlightening.

He asks three basic questions:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. Why do you do it?

The first question should be very easy to state. The second question perhaps a bit more difficult but after all that is what you do every day at work. It is the last question that is the poser. And, NO, the answer is not that you do this to make money. It is never the reason why. That is the result of doing what you do. The better you do it the more money you will receive.

The Time is NOW.