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How To...

How To...

Focus on relationships

As more and more employees work off-site, virtual meetings are becoming a necessity. Since it’s harder to ‘read the room’ when you’re not actually in the same room as your team, these meetings can be tricky to navigate. The key is to focus on building relationships. Allow 10 minutes at the start of each meeting for people to connect and catch up with each other. Think of this as your virtual watercooler time, when you can engage in informal conversations. Ask questions about personal lives and families to get to know each other outside the context of work. Once you officially start the meeting, be sure to refer to each contributor by name so that everyone feels recognised and part of the community. When you can, meet face to face with team members. These techniques help lay the foundation for authentic conversation and connection, which ultimately lead to more-effective virtual meetings.

(Adapted from ‘What Everyone Should Know About Running Virtual Meetings,’ by Paul Axtell)

Use interview tactics that keep bias at bay

If you’re a hiring manager, you’re probably happiest getting a sense of a candidate through unstructured interviews, which allows you to explore details you think are interesting and relevant. This method of interviewing makes it easy to tailor the direction of the interview and may help you understand your applicant’s personality, but it’s fraught with unreliability. Individual biases end up creeping in; for example, research shows that hiring managers tend to look for someone like themselves in interviews. To make the best decision — one that’s impartial — standardise your interviewing process and ask the same questions of each applicant. Then score and compare all candidates’ responses horizontally. That is, if you interview five candidates, compare each of their answers on question one, then each answer on question two, and so on. Doing so will help eliminate subjectivity. The flow of conversation during the interview may be slightly more awkward, but the payoff is worth it.

(Adapted from ‘How to Take the Bias Out of Interviews,’ by Iris Bohnet)

The right way to challenge how meetings are run

When meetings veer off track, everyone’s time gets wasted. But what if you’re not in charge and the meeting leader is the source of inefficiency? It can be daunting to question a superior, but you can do it without challenging the person’s authority. First, think about the standard procedures for planning a meeting: inviting the right people, sending out pre-work and developing an agenda. Start your feedback there, since focusing on procedures won’t feel like a personal attack. If you do need to address the way someone runs a meeting, tread with caution. You certainly can’t say, ‘This was a lousy meeting, and here’s how to make it better.’ But you can offer some quick assessment mechanisms to help the meeting leader reach his own conclusions: a meeting process checklist that people fill out anonymously, a survey that participants complete online or quick questions that everyone discusses at the end of every meeting. We all are accountable for keeping meetings effective, whether we are leading them or simply participating.

(Adapted from ‘Keeping Meetings on Track When you’re Not in Charge,’ by Ron Ashkenas)

Manage your employees’ expectations around promotions

A driven employee is every manager’s dream. But when you have a direct report whose ambition and desire are overmatched by their ability or experience, managing expectations isn’t easy. If the employee asks for a promotion they just aren’t ready for, here’s how to handle the situation.

— One of the most powerful things you can say in response is, ‘I believe in you.’ (If you genuinely mean it.) After acknowledging their contributions, say, ‘You’re not yet ready for that promotion. Let’s talk about how you can get there.’

— Help your employee understand what they need to learn before a promotion is possible — and that you’re there to help. If, for example, they lack cross-functional skills, suggest they do a stint in another division or join a companywide committee.

— Dig deeper. Learn what motivates your employee by asking open-ended questions like, ‘What does success look like for you?’ If they want recognition or more autonomy, think about ways you can provide those things.

(Adapted from: ‘What to Do When Your Employee Asks for a Raise Too Soon,’ by Rebecca Knight)

Published in Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, August 8th, 2016

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