20-minute-manager-performance-reviewsA commonly dreaded task for managers in any field is giving their direct reports feedback during annual performance reviews. While most managers acknowledge that feedback is important, annual assessments routinely become a rushed ritual conducted to fulfill a human resources requirement rather than improve performance.

20 Minute Manager: Performance Reviews from Harvard Business Review Press serves as a comprehensive yet concise guide that outlines the full process of gathering and analyzing information, documenting the evaluation, sharing feedback in person, and using the review to set new goals and further employee development. It equips managers with the fundamental tools for transforming performance reviews into a constructive use of time for organizations, managers, and their direct reports.

Conducting productive performance reviews is a fundamental management skill, but it can be a difficult one to master. By following some essential guidelines, managers can transform reviews from stressful obligations into key assets:

  •  A manager should remain objective and gather evidence from direct observation, other employees, job descriptions, and additional sources to support the assessment with specific examples. The manager’s evaluation should be formally documented for professional, organizational, and legal reasons.
  • Employees should be involved throughout the evaluation process. Each employee should submit a self-evaluation before the review, be actively engaged during the meeting, and initiate ideas for the post-review development plan.
  • Evaluations should cover both notable accomplishments and gaps in performance. These should not be presented in the “sandwich” style of praise, critique, and more praise. Rather, managers should lead with achievements, be clear about gaps, and use both to stimulate productive conversation and new goals.
  • Performance reviews should always be followed up with a separate meeting to create a development plan. The plan should outline how employees will achieve two to four goals in the upcoming year, specific actions they will take, how managers will support them, and contingency plans if problems are encountered.
  • Gathering evidence for performance reviews, offering feedback, and checking on progress toward development plans should be a consistent, year-round feature of a manager’s job.

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superbossesThere are a few lucky people in the world today who have been managed and mentored by excellent bosses. These bosses motivate, coach, and inspire employees in consistent but unconventional ways. Sydney Finkelstein researched how these leaders operate and documented his finding in Superbosses, which outlines the differences between traditional managers and these unique leaders and highlights their best practices. The result is a playbook that others can use to enhance their own managerial and leadership skills.

Superbosses are a unique category of supervisor. They recruit, motivate, coach, and inspire employees in consistent but unconventional ways. Research conducted by Sydney Finkelstein highlights the following facts about superbosses:

  • Superbosses typically fall into one of three categories: Iconoclasts, Glorious Bastards, and Nurturers. Iconoclasts are fixated on their work, Glorious Bastards are focused on winning at all costs, and Nurturers guide their employees to reach their maximum potential.
  • Superbosses share five characteristics. They are highly confident, competitive, imaginative, authentic, and they possess high levels of integrity.
  • When hiring, superbosses follow their own rules. They look for people with unusual intelligence, creativity, and extreme flexibility. Superbosses tend to be opportunistic when it comes to hiring.
  • Superbosses become talent magnets. As star employees leave for other opportunities, there is a continual pipeline of new, promising talent waiting in the wings.
  • Superbosses expect world class performance from employees. They inspire performance and instill self-confidence in their protégés.
  • Superbosses are innovators and expect employees to be innovative also. They encourage risk taking and rule breaking, view failure as opportunities, and refuse to accept complacency.
  • Superbosses embrace the apprenticeship model. They offer mentoring to employees and take responsibility for their growth and development.
  • Superbosses are skilled delegators. They understand the details of their businesses. After delegating tasks, they leave employees alone if things are going well. If things go awry they step in and take action.

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The 10 Laws of Trust.jpgIn The 10 Laws of Trust, Joel Peterson examines the importance of trust in the corporate world and beyond. He presents 10 easily followed concepts to building, maintaining, and even repairing trust. Peterson differentiates between high- and low-trust organizations and, through case studies and examples, shows that it is the high-trust environment that is the most successful. He asserts that not only does trust work, but it makes for good business.

The image of the take-no-prisoners, exceed-at-any cost, Machiavellian businessman may not represent the best corporate leader. Trust as a basis for business comes naturally for some, and integrity, while a morally comfortable way to do business, might also be the most effective way. The following are the 10 laws of trust in business:

  1. Start with personal integrity. Integrity should be practiced at work and in all other interactions, both personal and professional. True integrity involves syncing words with actions, avoiding hypocrisy, and doing the right thing habitually.
  2. Invest in respect. Leaders must model and freely give respect, which is another component of trust. It builds reciprocity and should be extended to all employees.
  3. Empower others. Respect can mean allowing others the room to make mistakes, which helps them grow and achieve. If employees know that they are free to explore and will still be trusted even if they fail, they will push themselves.
  4. Measure what should be achieved. If employees or others know what is expected from them, then they have a way to measure their achievements. Uncertainty breeds distrust.
  5. Create a common dream. In addition to individual goals, everyone should be aware of the long-range, shared goals of the organization. Knowing that every individual plays a part toward achieving the communal goals promotes trust between team members.
  6. Keep everyone informed. Leaders need to clearly convey information to those working alongside them. Some of the most successful companies are transparent to a fault.
  7. Embrace respectful conflict. Conflict, if encountered in trust, should be viewed as an opportunity for growth. If the aims of the business are paramount, all interaction moves toward the common goal.
  8. Show humility. Humility encourages the free exchange of ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from those lower on the company ladder. While this fuels innovation, trust is needed for employees to air their ideas and for management to hear them.
  9. Strive for win-win negotiations. Each party should not come to a discussion with an aim to win, but instead see it as an opportunity for both sides to win. A working relationship should be viewed as ongoing, not something to be ended on the battlefield of the conference table.
  10. Proceed with care. Betrayals will likely happen, and when they do, the leader of a high-trust organization should find that its previously built alliances sustain the organization. Rebuilding trust can occur, and it happens more easily when an atmosphere of trust has been well established.

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career-courageKatie C. Kelley was a driven professional living out the dream she carefully constructed as a teenager: to have her own psychotherapy practice in Manhattan. Despite that success, she grew increasingly dissatisfied with her personal and professional life. In Career Courage, Kelley shares the knowledge she gained by transforming her life and finding true satisfaction. Kelley’s key message is that every person has the power to create a fulfilling career and personal life–it just takes time, courage, and careful planning. Each of the book’s chapters is designed to help readers find their true callings, and presents true stories of people who worked hard to make their own dreams come true.

People seeking to transform unfulfilling careers can create more satisfying lives by focusing on 10 keys to success:

  1. Motivation. People find true satisfaction when they figure out what really motivates them, and create a vision for their lives based on that knowledge.
  2. Confidence. Change is scary. Overcoming the fear of change requires self-confidence. Professionals can build up their confidence by exposing themselves to their fears in controlled doses.
  3. Risk. To find true satisfaction, professionals must think like entrepreneurs and take calculated risks. To increase their tolerance for risk, professionals should accept that bold moves are inherently risky, prepare in advance for setbacks, and not take setbacks personally.
  4. Character. Character is an essential ingredient for career success. Influential professionals should cultivate three key character traits: trustworthiness, transparency, and loyalty. These traits enable successful professionals to attract and hold people within their spheres of influence.
  5. Harmony. Harmony reinforces the balance between a successful career and happy home life. To create more harmony in their lives, professionals must learn to say no, delegate responsibility, and set boundaries.
  6. Strategic thinking. Implementing a vision requires careful step-by-step planning. Professionals can use strategic thinking to go from dreaming about changing careers to living lives that make them truly happy.
  7. Community. Most people long for more meaning in their lives, and being part of a community is one of the most effective ways to fill that need. Having a strong network of family, friends, and colleagues provides a powerful sense of belonging.
  8. Influence. The ability to influence people plays a vital role in personal and professional success. Although influencer styles vary, influencing is a skill that professionals should hone–or they will lose opportunities to more influential people.
  9. Fortune. While everyone should have a fulfilling career, short- and long-term financial security is also important. Professionals should keep money and emotions separate and determine what their values are regarding financial success.
  10. Pivots. Critical junctures, or pivot points, occur when professionals must decide whether to change directions or stay the course, such as after being laid off. Successful professionals learn to recognize pivot points and listen to their gut instincts.

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In Smarter Than You Think, tech journalist Clive Thompson argues that digital technology is dramatically changing the ways people think and act. While he is not the first person to make such a claim, Thompson’s perspective on the matter is unique in that he believes these cognitive behavioral changes are largely positive. By investigating some of today’s most cutting-edge innovations and the transformative effects they have on work, relationships, education, and society as a whole, Thompson demonstrates that the rise of intelligent machines should be embraced rather than feared.

According to Thompson:

  • Technology is transforming people’s cognitive behaviors. By providing new ways for people to store memories, collaborate, and communicate, digital technology is upending existing mental habits.
  • The rise of intelligent machines should not be feared. Despite the fear that digital technology will render the human brain obsolete, it is actually making people smarter and society stronger.
  • The more connected people are to one another, the more they can accomplish. By facilitating widespread collaboration, the Internet enables people to tap into the power of collective intelligence and develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.
  • Technology is drastically improving literacy. In addition to creating a culture of avid writers, the Internet has facilitated the rise of data, video, and photo literacies.
  • For technology to create lasting social change, people must fight for their digital rights. Online activists need safe spaces on the Internet to conduct civic discourse.

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ASwipedIn Swiped, Adam Levin warns that while identity theft may not be completely preventable, people can mitigate the dangers through the Three M Strategy: minimizing risk, monitoring their identity, and managing the damage. A nationally recognized expert on identity management, Levin offers practical advice and real-life lessons to individuals and corporations on spotting, thwarting, and recovering from identity theft.

According to Levin:

  • A person should not wait to become a victim. Nearly everyone’s most sensitive data is already accessible, and perhaps already compromised, so identity theft needs to be thought of as a likely scenario–but one that can be handled.
  • Convenience should not outweigh security. A system is only as secure as its weakest link, and the weakest links are generally people, whether through carelessness, ignorance, or deliberate malice.
  • Identity theft cannot be stopped. People should focus on making themselves narrower targets and on establishing recovery plans before anything happens.
  • A cultural change. The world needs change at the enterprise level in how data is stored, but people also need to change how they handle their personal information.
  • Be smart about social media. People should never reveal anything online that they would not share in front of a scam artist, and should always assume the bad guys are listening.
  • Tax ID theft and medical/healthcare-related scams are on the rise. These are easier to conduct than some financial/credit-related scams, and usually carry shorter prison times (if any).
  • Build the possibility of postmortem identity theft into every estate plan. The lag time between death and estate closings makes carefully thought out plans a necessity.

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The Power of 50 BitsPeople’s natural inclinations when making decisions tend to default to patterns that do not help them in the long run. While there is broad agreement among researchers about the science underpinning these tendencies, people need more solutions to help overcome the gap between what they really want to do and what they actually do. In The Power of Fifty Bits, Bob Nease offers a seven-pronged strategy to deal with common decision-making failures. He explains why people struggle with inattention and inertia and demonstrates how simple changes in environment can nudge people toward better overall outcomes.

People typically have good intentions, but they often struggle to act on them. This is because people’s brains have evolved in a way that makes inattention and inertia the two primary obstacles to action. Fifty bits design acknowledges the brain’s natural limitations and addresses them with the following seven strategies:

  1. Require choice: Interrupting a process, usually an existing one, and forcing a person to make a decision before he or she can continue the process.
  2. Lock in good intentions: Making some type of statement–a pledge, a signed document, or automatic reaction–in the present, which increases the chances that people will follow through on good behavior in the future.
  3. Let it ride: Making the desired behavior the default and asking people to opt out of a behavior rather than opt in, thereby using inattention and inertia for good.
  4. Get in the flow: Placing a cue or call to action in a location where people have already devoted their attention.
  5. Reframe the choices: Altering what a cue triggers in people, which directs people’s attention toward some aspects of an issue and away from others.
  6. Piggyback it: Making a behavior typically subject to inertia and/or inattention the side effect of something that people seek out or find pleasurable.
  7. Simplify…wisely: Removing barriers to change or improving fluency (the relative ease with which the brain processes information). Simplification of either type is usually, though not always, a smart design choice.

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