Hopes and Fears

November 30 we started trainings for managers and supervisors on action planning with their workgroups. In the course of the trainings we talk about people’s hopes for how these conversations will go and what will come out of them.

There is a lot of hope from our people leaders that this will be the beginning of a new dynamic between managers and supervisors. I have been inspired by the hopes we have heard:

  • This will be an opportunity to build trust with employees
  • The action plan will have an impact
  • Everyone will take ownership of the change that needs to happen
  • This will be the start of an ongoing conversation that will help us continuously improve
  • Conversations will be honest
  • Conversations will be respectful

We also talk about people’s fears and how to navigate through those. There has been real honesty in these discussions and some great ideas for how to address these concerns. Here are a few that have come up in most sessions:

  • Discussion will focus on something beyond our control to change.
    • Acknowledge concern about this thing, refer it to your leaders
    • Pick something you can influence
  • The discussion and follow up action will impact our workload
    • Something you are already doing might align with an issue to need to address to improve engagement
    • Choose something doable
    • Integrate discussions about engagement into existing meetings instead of calling additional meetings to discuss engagement
  • The action will cost resources
    • Look at it as an investment
    • Be deliberate in choosing an action that will have the maximum positive impact with lowest amount of cost
  • Nothing will really change and this will reinforce the narrative people have that things don’t change
    • Choose an action that is doable and within your control
    • Communicate incremental steps and milestones reached
    • Make change visible by using tier boards and other visual management systems to track progress
  • How to align action planning at multiple levels to maximize impact
    • Create a heat map of “key questions to focus on” by color coding each key question for the department, division and work unit. Put them on a spreasheet or a wall so you can see which key questions run common throughout. This will give you an idea of common actions that can be taken at all levels of the organization. Here’s what that wold look like: key driver chart
  • People will not engage due to their cynicism that things will change.
    • Have everyone play a role in creating and implementing the action plan
    • Communicate back progress
  • People will dwell on the negative scores instead of talking about how to make things better
    • Acknowledge the score and people’s feelings about it
    • Ask what might be contributing to the low score
    • Ask what it would be like if the score was incrementally higher
    • Ask what steps you would take to get there (this would be your action plan)
    • Ask if the group thinks is possible to get there
    • Ask people to indicate their level of commitment to getting there
    • Assign roles and responsibilities for implementing the action plan
  • Groups with positive scores will not be motivated to change
    • We all have room for improvement
    • Delve into some of the lower scoring questions and ask why those are lower than some of the higher scoring questions
    • Ask if moving those scores higher would have a positive impact on engagement and how
    • Create an action plan
    • Remember: it’s important to not sacrifice what you are doing well to focus on where you might be weak