In recent posts, I’ve been focusing on specific disciplines required to run a precision business. Continuing that theme, today it’s that old nemesis, communications.

When working with clients, I almost always hear “we’ve got a communications problem around here”. In some cases, that may well be true but just as often, so called communications problems are other issues masquerading as communication problems. They can be organizational misunderstandings, timing problems or any number of other things but it’s just so easy to put them in the communications bucket.

To ensure effective communications throughout any organization, we must communicate the same information more than just once. All too often, managers think they’ve communicated merely because they spoke or wrote some words.

Communication is so much more than simply broadcasting information. A definition I really like is; Sending information and obtaining understanding. It’s the second half of that definition that frequently overlooked.

Whether the communication is top down, cross functional or bottom up, the sender is always responsible for the quality of the communication. How many times have we said (or thought), I said that perfectly clearly, how could you possible not understand?

People have great difficulty listening effectively due to distractions, timing, lack of interest or just poor listening skills. Just because you’ve said it, doesn’t mean they got it.

So, when communicating, follow the following guidelines.

  1. Think before sending
  2. Clarify the purpose
  3. Respect the receivers viewpoint and feelings
  4. Determine the best time and medium
  5. Outline vital points
  1. Get receivers attention
  2. Stimulate interest
  3. Relate the message to goals
  4. Identify needed action
  5. Be alert to obstacles
  6. Be open to feedback
  7. Confirm understanding
  1. Be open versus preconceived
  2. Identify key points being made
  3. Focus on feelings as well as facts
  4. Respect the senders viewpoint
  5. Avoid preoccupations
  1. How well was the purpose realized
  2. What obstacles impeded understanding
  3. What is the credibility rating for future communication

When receiving information, be sure to ask great question.


  1. Suspend Assumptions
  2. Avoid preconceived ideas
  3. Avoid advocacy
  4. Ask open ended questions
  5. Listen with your third ear
  6. Provide feedback

How are communications in your organization?



Performance appraisals are always controversial. One school of thought says that they should be mandatory while others think that they are a waste of time. Most managers and executives that I have worked with dread writing and delivering appraisals and, in many cases, just ignore them.

When done thoughtfully and timely, appraisals can be one of the most valuable management tools that are available to you. So why all the controversy?

Many, if not most managers are not close enough to their employees to really be good judges of their performance. They get consumed by their own work and do not allocate time to coach and develop their people. Accountability can be spotty because many are confrontation averse and employees are left to decide for themselves what success looks like. In my experience, the more senior the manager, the worse the Performance Appraisals are.

So, what are we to do? In a recent post titled “Developing Specific Business Disciplines”, I referenced a goal based system that I recommend to all of my clients.

This is a methodology where monthly, quarterly and annual goals are negotiated with employees and a quantitative way of measurement is agreed upon. Teams meet twice monthly to measure progress, make adjustments and development corrective action plans is a team member is falling behind. Goal categories are limited to only the vital few areas of the work which are essential to the success of the function.

Using this system, employees attend meetings and come prepared to report on their goals (since they were negotiated and they own them) as opposed to the manager “holding court” and telling everyone how they are doing. This simple change can make a major improvement in the performance of individuals and teams.

Now imagine, as a manager, having a 12 month rolling record of individual performance on each of your employees, and they actually generated the reports.

This data is easily 70 to 80 percent of the Performance Appraisal and the manager has had to do absolutely nothing. Now, time can be spent of developmental issues and career pathing with employees.

Think about investing some time in making Performance Appraisals really work for you and your employees.

As a manager or executive, these annual or semi-annual one-on-one meetings should be something you look forward to and not something to dread.


When building and growing your organizations people are the difference between mediocrity and wild success and, in many cases, they are the difference between success and failure.

Business is really all about people. Capital, facilities, technology, intellectual property and “good ideas” will not carry the day. Businesses need top notch people able to work together in a collaborative manner.

Recruiting, interviewing, hiring and retaining people are vital functions to any business but sadly, they are often treated as an after thought. Many times, by the time you’ve recognized the need for additional talent, it’s too late.

I recommend to all of my clients that they develop a Talent Life Cycle Plan and organize to leverage it.

Here are some of the major elements of the plan. Consider them “food for thought” as you assess your talent needs.

Talent Life Cycle Management

The Organizational Plan

  • Defines the categories of people are you are going to need in the future to meet and/or exceed your business plans.
  • Defines the specific skills and skill levels required for each position.
  • Defines the job goals and standards for each position type.
  • Determines the average cost (salary & benefits) for each position type.
  • Quantifies how long each job type traditionally stays with the organization.

The Recruiting Plan

  • Based on the Organizational Plan, determines when to begin the recruiting process for job types in the business plan.
  • Identifies sources where you have been most successful in finding each category of employee.
  • Formalizes the process for initiating, approving and commencing a recruiting program.
  • Determines why candidates decide to join or not to join your organization and documents this information.

The Development Plan

  • Ensures each job type has objective standards of performance and that career directions for each position can be clearly identified.
  • Ensures each employee has an individual development plan and that managers and supervisors hold direct reports accountable for achieving each objective in their plan.
  • Ensures every employee has a formal career plan.
  • Structures regular coaching sessions between managers/ supervisors and their direct reports.
  • Rewards managers/supervisors for achieving developmental success with their direct reports.

The Retention Plan

  • Aligns rewards and recognition systems with individual performance and development plans.
  • Surveys employees regularly to benchmark employee satisfaction and determine changes in attitudes and motivators.
  • Ensures action on survey results.
  • Rates and rewards managers/supervisors for successfully retaining qualified, successful employees as well as for making the numbers.
  • Ensures all key positions in your organization have a formal, active succession plan in place.

The Assessment Plan

  • Ensures each employee is formally assessed periodically throughout each year.
  • Compares each employee to established standards, behavioral and cultural norms, and rates each employee within a job type against their peers.
  • Ensures that development plans are in place for all employees and that corrective action plans exist for under performing employees.

The Outplacement Plan

  • Determines when a job type is no longer required by the organization and moves to eliminate it immediately.
  • Determines when a job type has changed sufficiently to warrant a reassessment of the employees currently filling those positions.
  • Determines when an employee is no longer meeting requirements in a given job type, and moves to improve performance, transfer the employee to another job type or outplace the employee.
  • Determines why people are leaving the organization on their own and take steps to improve negative situations.

The Feedback Loop

  • Design a feedback system that has input points throughout the employee life cycle and that captures relevant data, establishes trends and provides managers and supervisors with usable data.
  • Determine the most common reasons employees leave.
  • Build a database to identify and track trends.
  • Provide individual managers/supervisors with detailed feedback on employees who leave their areas of responsibility.

Every organization is only as good as their people. Consider moving the job of attracting, hiring and retain top talent to the top of your priority list.

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