Your Employees Are Underperforming…They Just Don’t Know It

As an executive, criticism is an essential part of your job. Your role is to get your team working as efficiently as possible. This means reminding employees of impending deadlines, hounding them to finish tasks, and firing off nit-picky memos. It’s important work, but it comes at a high cost: employee confidence.

Hard and fast criticism might seem the quickest way to get your team to work better. But if negativity is all they hear from you, you’re harming your company’s productivity.

Unconfident employees are less likely to approach you with out-of-the box ideas, teach themselves a new coding language, or apply for that promotion where they would excel.

Confident employees are productive employees. The problem is, most people aren’t as confident as they should be, since they don’t accurately perceive their abilities and competency.

If they’re not cognizant of their capacity, they probably aren’t working at it. If they’re under-confident, they’re underperforming.

Here’s the good news: confidence isn’t fixed. By applying a couple of positive psychology tools, you can boost their confidence and their productivity.

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The Management Technique Essential To Google’s Growth

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In it’s early years, as the company was experiencing astronomical growth, then-Google executive Marissa Mayer started executing a technique she picked up while teaching computer science at Stanford.

At 4 p.m., for 90 minutes each day, Mayer held office hours.

Employees could put their name on a board posted outside her office to reserve a chunk of this time.

“Many of our most technologically interesting products have shown up during office hours,” Mayer, now President and CEO of Yahoo, said in 2006.

The idea for Google News, for example, was first discussed in one of these sessions. Mayer was reportedly able to fit in 15 meetings per day averaging seven minutes per person.

Many other successful managers and entrepreneurs have celebrated the benefits of holding open office hour sessions, a concept that has roots in academia.

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How Travis CI Is Fixing Company Culture By Taking On ‘Culture’

Travis CI

Travis CI

Here’s a loaded phrase in the startup world: culture fit.

It’s a term with humble early intentions that has grown weeds and sprouted out of its container. It started as a simple way of talking about whether a new hire and current team would work well together. It’s grown into a loaded gun of baggage and misappropriation. It’s used to hire unqualified people and fire great ones.

Mathias Meyer, CEO at Travis CI, started to notice a problem with “culture fit” and the way it was implemented at many companies. It seemed to him like “culture fit” was doing the opposite, and holding company cultures back. Companies, if not careful, would create a monoculture, with everyone acting and thinking the same way. This is terrible for creativity and growth.

Or as Meyer put it in an excellent blog post:

“There’s one fundamental mistake in both using and looking for culture fit as a means for hiring: You’re assuming that your current culture is healthy and doesn’t need to be changed.”

I chatted with Meyer about his thoughts on culture fit, growing Travis CI and what they’re doing to create an authentic company culture.

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How To Keep Great Employees Once You Conquer The World

How to keep great employees

Landing an early role at a hyper-growth company like Facebook or Google seems like a dream. It seems like something you’d never want to walk away from.

So why do so many great people do exactly that? What can keep great employees from taking off?

And if you’re running one of these organizations, how do you keep great employees — those who helped build the organization — from hitting the road once you’ve achieved big success. It almost seems inevitable.

When the going gets tough, the tough show up.

When it stops being tough, they go find something else.

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What Airbnb Can Teach You About The Lost Art Of The Rejection

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When Airbnb was getting started in 2008, the company’s founders met with seven top Silicon Valley investors. The founders were looking to raise $150,000 at a $1.5 million valuation.

“That means for $150,000 you could have bought 10% of Airbnb,” founder Brian Chesky wrote on Medium recently.

That 10 percent would be worth $2.5 billion today.

Instead, all 7 investors passed on the opportunity.

The rejections didn’t stop the founders. They kept at it, they found other investors, and went on to build one of the most valuable startups in the world.

Chesky recently shared those 2008 rejection emails on Medium (he omitted names of people and firms). There are two valuable lessons we can learn from this material.

The first is the obvious one: don’t give up. Even the biggest and best operations faced rejection early on.

But behind this lesson is another opportunity, a window into the art of rejection, from some of the world’s greatest rejecters. And I mean rejectors in the best possibly way. These are the top venture capital firms controlling billions in assets. Their job is as much about rejecting offers as it is accepting them.

In fact, they send a lot more rejection letters than acceptance letters. They meet with and reject some of the brightest, most talented people in the world. They are world-class rejectors. And these emails give us a chance to see how it’s done.

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What Managers Are Getting Wrong About The World’s Greatest Job Ad

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Here’s how the story usually goes. Sometime in the early 20th Century, British explorer Ernest Shackleton needed to hire a crew for an upcoming expedition to the South Pole. So he placed a newspaper ad:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

The copywriting — and its strong, direct language — has been printed, reprinted and talked about for decades. It’s beautiful. Possibly the world’s greatest job ad.

Though his accomplishments went largely uncelebrated in the years after his death, Shackleton in recent years has become a revered leadership figure thanks to new literature on his life and career.

The ad copy has taken on a life of its own, with hiring managers and entrepreneurs pointing to it as an example of how to lure exceptional people to your organization.

But there are two problems here. For one, the ad probably never existed. Even if it did, many people — it seems — are missing the point.

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Why Amazon Hires Good Managers, Not Great Ones

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Really great managers are hard to come by. They’re even harder to hire.

Those who are truly and undisputedly world class are already working. And the company they’re working for will do whatever it takes to keep them. These managers are rarely, if ever, on the market. Even if you’re Amazon.

The top 1 percent of product managers, for example, are so rare that one Amazon director believes he has never encountered one in a job interview.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever met a 1% PM, certainly not one that I identified as such prior to hiring,” Ian McAllister, Director of the AmazonSmile program at Amazon, wrote on this Quora Answer.

So how does Amazon consistently hire world-class managers? Here’s how. Identify the areas a 1 percent manager excels at, and hire someone who excels at some of them, but not all.

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How Micromanaging Poisons Productivity and Creates a Vicious Cycle of Despair

 

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Here’s the thing about bosses who micromanage. None of them think they’re actually doing it.

It’s easy to see how this happens. Managers, typically, were once experts at the work their subordinates are doing. That’s likely why they were promoted.

But this changes at the management level. Their jobs are more strategic, less hands on. Many managers aren’t up for the transition, so they sink back into what they’re familiar with — the gritty details of the work they used to do.

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Avoid Workplace Disagreements By Getting Things In Writing

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I was talking to a friend, who is an attorney, some years ago. We were discussing a small disagreement I was having with a coworker. The friend gave me some advice that I’ve practiced ever since.

“Have him send you an email. Make him write out exactly what his request is.”

Lawyers love this technique, he told me. And the benefits are two-fold.

For one, writing forces clear thinking. It will become obvious if someone doesn’t have a clear idea what they’re asking once they try to put it down on paper. And secondly, should some disagreement on the topic come up in the future, you will have a clear record of what was said and when. There will be no squabbling over who said what.

It’s an amazing tool that can make a big difference in your personal and professional life. The phrase “get it in writing” often conjures thoughts of a lengthy contact, formal documents with signatures and lawyers involved. It doesn’t have to be that way. “Get it in writing” can be something as simple as an e-mail.

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How Great Managers Know When They’re Doing Their Job

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There’s a piece of conventional wisdom in business: People aren’t raw materials. You can’t manage people like they’re widgets on a conveyor belt. People are fluid, emotional, volatile, unpredictable beings that need to be treated as such. You can’t manage people like an assembly line, right?

Maybe not.

The problem with that type of thinking isn’t that people actually are static and predictable. The problem is thinking that a manufacturing process is static and predictable. On a production line, unexpected problems and changes happen all the time. Raw materials arrive flawed, blizzards slow down deliveries, equipment breaks down, orders slow down and inventory piles up, some obscure agricultural disease in another continent wipes out a crop used in a chemical essential to the production process.

Unpredictable, fluid, ever-changing. Kind of like humans, right?

Great managers of people realize this. Great managers of people, in fact, embrace this and approach their job seeking the same consistency and measurable results as a production line operator. They know that their job is measured in the output of the people and departments they’re managing.

It’s the kind of thinking that helped propel Intel into the company it is today, with more than $55 billion in annual sales. It’s a central theme to Andrew S. Grove’s classic 1983 management book “High Output Management.”

The output of the manager is the output of their organization, Grove writes.

“In principle, every hour of your day should be spent increasing the output or the value of the output of the people whom you’re responsible for.”

In other words, a manager is doing their job when their department — when their people — are producing results. A manager at a candy cane factory can measure their personal productivity by the amount and quality of candy canes sent out the door. A software company manager can measure their achievements by the software shipped from the engineers.

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