Archives for posts with tag: improving performance

What if there was a simple mental model you could use as a tool to quickly assess the likelihood that the people you lead will be able to deliver what you ask of them?

As leaders, we know that to be most effective we need to “know our people.” Knowing, acknowledging, valuing, and appreciating your people is one aspect of knowing your people. But today we are talking about knowing how each stack up when assessing them using the WAG – the “Willing and Able Grid.”

The Willing and Able (WAG) Grid

The Willing and Able (WAG) Grid

When it comes to increasing the quality and/or quantity of work, putting the right people on the right projects is for sure what we attempt to do. When we are after higher levels or better quality of production, we often prod or gently push our people to grow, develop, and improve. But are they equipped to do what we ask?

Using the “Willing and Able Grid” provides leaders a quick snapshot of your team members – which can then be used to develop your people as you strive to bring the best output of each.

With a certain project, endeavor, or a specific type of improvement you want to see in a direct report, where on the “Unwilling or Willing” continuum would you plot them?

Where would you plot them on the Willing Continuum?

Where would you plot them on the Willing Continuum?

What evidence do you see and hear that causes you to assess if one of your people possesses a heart attitude of willingness or unwillingness to do, grow, or change the way you are asking?

Related to the change, work, project results, or growth you want to see in this team member, what indicates to you that this person is Unwilling or Willing? Think of hitting “Replay” on an imaginary video cam in the corner of all workspaces to review the facts of how this person displays and conveys an attitude of willingness or unwillingness.

Obviously we are looking for “Willing” souls who desire to grow, improve, and take on challenges. So when we assess a team member and find the scales tip toward “Unwillingness,” we may have some potential coaching to do. We may need to prepare and hold a direct conversation about the display of this attitude. That’s when the Replay function of the “camera in the corner” becomes useful. We can share as factually as possible (since a camera doesn’t lie) what we’ve seen, and check our perceptions. Hopefully we can nurture the desire within this team member to grow and improve.

When assessing who the best person is for a project or endeavor, or when you consider a specific type of improvement you want to see in a direct report, where on the “Unable to Able” continuum would you plot them?

Where would you plot them on the Able Continuum?

Where would you plot them on the Able Continuum?

Sometimes when we get focused on the outcomes we are after, we forget to assess the ability level of those we lead. Does she currently possess the Ability to do what I am asking or expecting? Does he demonstrate the aptitude to become Able to meet the expectation?

As you honestly reflect on the ability level of one of your people related to a specific project or aspect of growth, if you find that he may truly be Unable to execute on your expectations today, then you know the responsibility rests on you as the leader to help him develop that ability. You will either need to provide opportunities for this person to learn, develop, and become Able, or you will need to look to others to get that job done.

Finding one of your team members to be more Unable than Able related to a certain project or aspect of growth isn’t a bad thing! This new awareness provides us as leaders the opportunity to design an individualized plan of development for each of our people.

Using the “Willing and Able Grid” allows us to discern if what we are asking our people to do is going to get done! It allows us to discover how we can approach communicating with our people, optimally getting the most out of each of our people – because when our attitude is Willing, and our skill-set is Able, progress is on the horizon.

~ Written by Dr. Heidi Scott, Leadership Consultant, Speaker and Coach      www.LearningPursuits.com

“How do you know when you need to leave an organization because of a values mis-match from the C-level, even if you are a leader who enjoys the department you lead and your client interactions?” This was a recent question asked to me by a high-level leader in a large organization on the other side of the nation. She wanted to know if we could talk and if I could advise her.

Advise her about this in a coaching session? No. Ask her the right questions in a coaching session? Yes – or at least I’d give it my best shot.

Values mis-match at work? These coaching questions may be of help.

When you discover that the espoused values of the “CEO and company” are different than what you signed on for, and that your values aren’t aligned to them, it’s time for some soul searching and contemplation. Regardless of what values are hanging on the wall in a corporate mission statement, you just know in your gut when there’s a values mis-match.

Some questions to help you discover what to do may include a few of the following:

  1. Are you operating on assumptions about the values that the C-level is embracing by its behaviors? Or have you inquired with “them” to check your perceptions?
  2. Are the corporate values being lived out ethically, legally, or morally wrong? If the answer is yes to any one of these, is it safe for you to continue working in that organization?
  3. Are you able to shelter the people you lead within the organization from the poor values being embraced at the C-level? If so, does this exhaust you to an unhealthy point, or is it a challenge that leaves you engaged and motivated most of the time?
  4. Where is your point where you know it’s time to move on? Is that point related to your physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion? Is there a point where a loss of joy will indicate it’s time to exit?
  5. If the values mis-match is not one that could land you in jail, does it make financial sense for you to jump ship now, or do you need to wait for a more opportune time? Do you need to begin looking for the next career place to step? Or do you need to have your next career move lined up before you leave where you are?
  6. If for a week you mentally “pretend” that you are sticking it out where you are indefinitely, what does that feel like in your gut? During a week of not entertaining the question of leaving, are you spurred on to thinking of creative ways to modify the culture or make it much more than simply tolerable?
  7. And if you take a week and mentally plan on leaving your current company to work in one where there is a strong values match, how do you wake up feeling each day? Does it bring stress or relief – and why?

A great coaching session rarely ends with coachees having gained perfectly clear “answers” to challenges. But if a person leaves the coaching session with the right issues to ponder and consider, he or she will usually discover the right steps of action to take. And those will most often be the right ones because they emerged through marinating thought – and (hopefully!) will resonate with the heart.

Is it time for you to proactively change the culture and espoused values of the company you work in to more positive ones? Or is it time for you to seek a better fit between the values you esteem and those of the organization you work for?

Dr. Heidi Scott, the Leader’s Coach    http://www.LearningPursuits.com

Dear Dr. Scott, I’m working in one of the virtual groups in your online Masters class. I’m at my wit’s end trying to complete our group tasks for this first week of working together. To be honest, it’s really challenging to “collaborate” with the group when there are only 2 of the 6 of us present online in our virtual group’s wor- space! I have tried to engage our members. I have emailed them. I have posted requests for folks to jump in to the dialogue. But the clock is ticking and I’m getting ticked, too! What advice do you have about how I should proceed? It’s just very stressful trying to work with people who are not willing to participate.

Signed, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida


As our planet “shrinks” through virtual group work, what are some keys to building effective virtual work groups?

So I teach graduate students online. There are often virtual group projects assigned. Through the years I have seen some groups flourish and some tank. Typically, these people have never met face-to-face, and even during the project never speak voice-to-voice. Sometimes I receive a plea from a student like the email above (based upon a true story!).

What are the keys to successfully working in a virtual group? Whether for an online course (which a growing number of people across the globe partake in weekly), or a business virtual group – what are some concrete steps to building an effective virtual work group?

1.     Connect with group members as individuals; try to establish a sense of a personal relationship right away – rather than focusing solely on the tasks at hand. Ensure clarity of purpose and who the group members are right away. And most importantly in this first step, conscientiously communicate respect and value toward each person and the experiences and depth each person brings to the group.

2.     Be willing to be authentically vulnerable. By approaching conversations as a humble contributor (rather than a know-it-all), you add to a positive chemistry where insights and perspectives of others are genuinely encouraged. Operating without assumptions for why other group members do what they do helps you remain open to discovery – and encourages others to share openly rather than defend any shortcomings.

3.     Verbalize agreements in the team setting. Even in a virtual, text-only setting, committing to actions and timelines – and then following through! – builds trust in the virtual group. There’s not much beyond being dependable and pleasant that the group may know about you in the fully virtual, text-only group; following through on agreements sets the team up for continued effective work toward its common goal.

4.     When life gets out of control as it sometimes does, or when “it” happens and you can’t follow-through or engage with your virtual group as intended or planned, are you willing to “own” your behaviors? If you willingly address your shortcomings and include plans for how you intend to avoid this in the future, you help your group get over your short-lived failure. (Believe me, they most likely already know about your shortcoming! Being silent about it only causes them to doubt that you are aware of how you negatively impacted the group.) “Owning” your behavior drives the level of trust up – which is so critical for the success of a virtual group.

5.     Express appreciation for the efforts, contributions, and personhood of your group members. It is amazing how a little bit of verbal appreciation goes such a long way! Celebrate the value that each person contributes; celebrate the mini and major milestones of the group’s progress.

These keys to build real trust in a virtual group also work in building a trusting culture in a group that meets face-to-face. The difference is that in the virtual setting, you just have to be a bit more focused on investing in your group’s positive momentum  – because you can’t rely on “sensing” feelings through voice tone and body language and facial expressions! In the virtual group it becomes tricky at best to check your perceptions.

Going back to the email I received from my graduate student, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida, it was somewhat funny to see the debacle unfold as it came to light that the assumed “missing” and “unengaged” group members were not missing or unengaged at all! They had (all) mistakenly been dialoguing in a different area of the online work-space for the group…and had been wondering where the “other 2” group members were! No one was dis-engaged…they were just a bit confused on the correct virtual location in which to work together!

Part of the 5th key above to build trust in a virtual group includes the strategy of operating without assumptions in trying to understand the motives and behaviors of others. One of my favorite statements when it comes to communication – whether virtual or face-to-face – is: Assumptions get you nearly every time!

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership and Organizational Development Specialist (who for fun teaches undergrad Communication and graduate Leadership!)