Life got a little hectic and it has been a while since I have posted. There are many great resources I meant to share with you - so here is a mixed Spring Bouquet of ideas and articles. My next post will be the promised, “How to Engage and Develop the Board You Have” the follow up to my last blog on “Recruiting Board Members.”
Linked In Endorsements and Advice
I love LinkedIn. I was one of the very first early adopters and have found it to be a valuable networking, recruiting and information-sharing tool. Lest you think that I am social media butterfly, you need to know that I just joined Facebook last year with a Business Page, and I do not tweet, pin or poke. I am also proud to say that of my almost 600 contacts, I have met, been referred to, or have a good reason to accept the invitation for most of them. I admit there are a few strangers who I agreed to connect to because they are obviously part of my network, or because I feel like it the right thing to do (e.g. The young, just starting out person who is looking for a nonprofit career). But I have a few pet peeves that I must express and some advice to pass along.
The first is the invitation to connect that comes to me from someone I don’t know that includes only the standard LinkedIn phrase “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This forces me to wrack my memory if I have met them in one of my past jobs, search to see who we know in common, look for some connection to nonprofits that are the majority of my clients, or guess at their true motivation for wanting to link to me (candidly, financial planners and salespeople, please know that I assume the worst). My advice? If you want me to accept your invitation, tell me why – and please know that I am one of the people on LinkedIn who is selective about exposing my network to strangers so the reason must be honest and compelling.
The other, and newer, pet peeve is the inappropriate use of endorsements. As someone who was initially happy with how easy it was to endorse those people I felt deserved it, I now consider it one of the most poorly thought out ideas of a company who has rarely made bad decisions. Now I get questions all the times from friends about endorsement etiquette. The biggest question, “if someone endorses me do I have to endorse them back?” (The answer IMHO is absolutely not). Here is an article that describes the problem and predicts how the overuse of endorsements has devalued them: Why LinkedIn Endorsements Will Vanish. And here is an article that provides advice on how to manage and give endorsements: How To Make The Most Of LinkedIn Endorsements.
Criticism, Praise, and Performance
While conducting management training and coaching I often find myself responding to questions about how to handle employee feedback with, “it depends.” It seems like such an unhelpful answer, but it really does depend. For instance giving constructive critical feedback depends on the situation, the employee’s style, whether this is the first time the behavior has happened, the impact of the problem, and/or the employee’s willingness to accept criticism. Here are three recent articles that all offer different perspectives on criticism and praise.
In the The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio we learn that we need to use both positive feedback to let people know when they're doing well, and offer constructive comments to help them when they're off track if we want to improve performance But even more interesting is that there is an ideal ration of praise to criticism:
“The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams, Heaphy and Losada found, was the ratio of positive comments ("I agree with that," for instance, or "That's a terrific idea") to negative comments ("I don't agree with you" "We shouldn't even consider doing that") that the participants made to one another. (Negative comments, we should point out, could go as far as sarcastic or disparaging remarks.) The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”
The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback starts with this idea, “To be an effective manager, you need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism. While praise is easy to give, it is far more challenging and unpleasant to criticize your employees. Yet the practice of management requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve. Thus, it is vital for managers to learn how and when to give negative feedback.” Then the Author warns that criticism should always be given in private, preferably beginning with the phrase, ‘I’d like to give you some feedback.”
The reverse of this argument is made in How Criticizing in Private Undermines Your Team. The author suggests that in a team setting limiting criticism to private conversation undermines accountability.
“Is your leadership team a real team — one in which members are interdependent with each other for meeting team goals? If so, they should also be accountable to each other for working together to achieve those goals,including how they rely on, work with, and make decisions together. Yet when you "criticize in private" for behavior that occurred in a team meeting or affects the team, you undermine team members' accountability to each other. You send the message that team members are accountable only to you, not to the team. You also send the entire team the message that they don't need to hold each other accountable — you'll do it for them. In short, you shift accountability from the team to you.”
All 3 articles make compelling arguments, so I guess when it comes to criticism… it depends.
Adam Grant’s Research on Giving describes a way to increase employee productivity, increase your Board’s ability to fundraise, and can help you get ahead in your career.
I am someone who believes is karma, paying-it-forward, that the best way to get business is to first do good work, and that refusing to meet with a job-seeker will bring bad luck resulting in some future career catastrophe. I also believe that when meeting with people or networking, I am more successful in the long run, if I focus on help them versus how they can help me.
So, I accept the request to meet with job seekers, even if it means I have to use precious client development time to do it. In this great (but really long) New York Times article: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? I learned research shows that I am right to do so. I’m also reminded why employees are motivated by work that has a meaningful, positive impact on others. These employees are not just happier than those who don't see their jobs as impactful; they are vastly more productive, too. Here is a shorter article on that topic from the same author: The Open Secret To Motivating Employees.
Of interest to my nonprofit readers who frequently ask how to better motivate their Boards and Staff to do more fundraising, consider this research from the same author: Thinking About Giving, Not Receiving, Motivates People to Help Others. Even better listen to this podcast from Stanford’s Center Social for Innovation: Philanthropy and Fundraisers' Motivation that allows Grant to describe his research.
Do you have a question on leadership, management, teams or any aspect of Nonprofit Management? Send it to me and I promise I’ll answer it to the best of my ability.