Show Appreciation Every Day

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Do you value what your employees do? Do they feel valued?

An employee told me years ago that they needed more feedback when they did something good. I remember being taken off guard by this because I led from the perspective that saying “good job” was enough and if I didn’t say anything negative, that signaled to the employee that they were doing great work.

This comment or request actually change my mind because I suddenly realized, it wasn’t about me, it was about what the employee needed to feel valued.

Clients tell me on an almost-daily basis that they just don’t feel valued by their boss. The feelings that are associated with this are anger, disappointment, sadness, and discontent.

Not being valued directly impacts an employee’s work performance, sense of belonging, loyalty to the team and leadership. Their morale and motivation take a huge hit. And while they may want to leave, making a career move can be overwhelming and many employees end up staying put and becoming jaded.  They are then looked upon as ‘negative’ or ‘difficult’ employees, but we had a hand in creating that persona.

I know, leaders are pulled in 100 different directions. Between meetings and other exhausting demands, there is very little time left in the day to show employees you value them. I get it.

But you have to make an effort. You can’t just wait for token days like the end of the semester or completion of a big project to show you appreciate all of the hard work and dedication of your team.

But here’s some good news!

It takes very little effort on your part to make employees feel appreciated and valued.

Ask yourself the following questions:

·       Do I take time in the morning to say hi and do a quick check-in, or do I wait

        for them to come to me?

·       Do I say thank you and mean it whenever possible?

·       Do I advocate for the employee when they need it?

·       Do I ever send thank you cards just because?

·       Do I share critical information with them in a timely manner?

·       Do I provide opportunities for growth and advancement to all employees or just a


·       Do they have access to management?

Before you point the finger at ‘negative’ or ‘difficult’ employees, ask yourself “What am doing to devaluing this person?

“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated”

~ H. Jackson Brown

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach

Use the Performance Review as a Tool

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Picture this:

You’re watching TV when, all of a sudden, one of the pictures on your wall falls. No, you don’t have a ghost, the nail has simply come loose and fallen out.

You pause your show, walk into your kitchen, get a raw egg from the fridge, and proceed to pound the nail back in with it. You now have egg on your face, as well as your floor, wall, and cockapoo.

This is what happens when you use an item in a way it was not intended to be used.

Why do I mention this?

Because I was recently asked for advice by a colleague regarding signing her annual performance review. Her manager had given her her annual performance review but failed to give her a chance to discuss the comments in the review that she did not agree with and was pressuring her to sign off on it.

This is NOT how performance reviews are intended to be used. Like a hammer, they are a tool that can drive home important lessons for both employers and employees. You’d be better off using a raw egg to evaluate someone’s yearly performance than use a performance review the wrong way.

Things Need to Change

The performance review brings up incredible anxiety for so many employees, mostly because they fear hearing nothing but negative comments about themselves. This annual ritual typically occurs at the end of a long year of effort, care for students, sacrifice, compromise, and dedication. Annual reviews, when not used correctly, can derail positive attitudes and motivation.

We owe it to our employees to do better and use the performance review as a tool to motivate and enrich the entire team and department, rather than as a tactic to only deliver highlights of the year and areas that need improvement.

We also owe it to our employees to ensure the review is a dialogue, not a one-way discussion, as in the case of my colleague friend, who was forced to sign off on an opinion she did not feel as fair or accurate. Allow your employees to ask questions, in fact, ask for questions, ask for input. You are not a dictator, you are a leader – a leader whose responsibility is to encourage, motivate, and help your team to grow.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when giving reviews:

Motivation through feedback is effective when it is given on a weekly basis.

Improvement needed is best heard when in the moment, when you notice that correction will improve performance. Outlining a plan, training and support can empower your employee.

Redefining the Goal and Impact of the Performance Role

Moving forward, begin to ask yourself “What is my intent when I give performance reviews. Does my intent match the impact?” This understanding will help take the fear out of the entire process for your employees.

Ask how you could better support the employee overall and then specifically where the employee needs improvement. This takes some of the responsibility off of the employee. It’s a partnership, but if you put all the responsibility on the employee, the partnership feels more like a witch hunt.

Let’s all commit to using the right tool for the job and for using the right tool correctly. Continuing to use employee reviews as a one-sided mandate will ultimately leave egg on your face.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach

Leaders: Be a Bridge for Employees

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The famous Roman poet Virgil once said, “Fortune favors the bold.” Richard Branson, famous English business magnate behind Virgin Airlines has said something similar, and that is “Opportunity favors the bold.” According to Branson, this concept is what helped shape the Virgin Brand story.

But what does it mean to be bold?

I think it means a few different things. To be bold means:

  • To be the best version of yourself, no matter what …
  • To take chances and do what is right…
  • Having the willingness to act outside of your comfort zone…

But how many of us act bold in our careers? If we’re honest, many of us settle for positions that simply do not fit our skills or passions. Why is this?

Because we’re scared of burning bridges. We’re scared to make a move forward without having that safety net behind us should things not work out the way we planned.

And so we stay on in our unfulfilled positions, hoping things will get better or a new opportunity will reveal itself.

But does waiting work? What does waiting do really? Do things get better? Is holding onto that precious bridge worth it?

Fear of the Unknown – Public Enemy Number 1!

I get it, believe me. Taking chances and making changes… that’s scary stuff. Any rational human being will want to stay safe. I mean since we are kids we are taught to be careful, be safe… then suddenly we have careers and NOW we’re supposed to NOT play it safe?!

I was recently talking to a colleague of mine who is miserable in her current position but is too scared to leave because of the fear of “burning a bridge”. She has a fear of the unknown and believes that she can wait it out and just be “happy” collecting those paychecks every month.

Leaps of faith are scary, that’s why they’re called leaps of faith and not leaps of absolute certainty. And that’s also why team leaders need to help team members be bold and take action to advance their career.

As a leader, you want your team members to be happy and fulfilled. Disgruntled, bored, or frustrated personalities can wreak havoc on productivity and bring your entire department down.

I have coached many leaders who have found themselves at a loss when they have employees experiencing unhappiness in their positions. Leaders, you’ve got to be a bridge for your employees. Help them be bold and make decisions that are good for everyone.

Here are some tips I would like to share with you.

  1. Be aware when employees are not feeling fulfilled in their role. Explore the root of the unhappiness and be open to feedback.
  2. Assist employees when they are ready to move on. Encourage the employee to job search and provide guidance and support with their process.
  3. Don’t take it personal. You have a responsibility to support your employees as you would your students. A burnt bridge is not something that employees should be scared of; they should feel that you are assisting them across the bridge to their next opportunity or clearing what is in the way from them feeling fulfilled currently.

“Education is all a matter of building bridges.”

~ Ralph Ellison

In higher education, it is important that we support the students and each other. Leaders, support your employees by building a bridge to their greatest selves and achievements.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach

Are You Really a Transparent Leader?

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Transparency. Is this a buzz word? A word to gain trust and loyalty? A word of convenience to deliver bad news (budget cuts, reorganization)?

What does it mean as a leader when you say you are transparent? Do you then give a definition and examples of what you mean? Because your employees may have a completely different definition and set of expectations of you. If you are not on the same page regarding the definition, then saying the word without consistent action can confuse and derail your team.

What’s the Point of Transparency?

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a

deep sense of insecurity.”

Dalai Lama

Why be transparent? You can claim to be transparent, as many leaders do, but it won’t get you far. But actual transparency can be a powerful catalyst for transformation and cohesion.

The action of transparency removes barriers and allows for agendas and full information to be shared openly. The powerful result allows for full collaboration and collective decision-making.

I recall being in a meeting and feeling triggered when the word transparency was casually tossed out in an effort to share information that would have a severe impact on the programs I oversee.

To me, the word was used conveniently during that meeting to soften the blow of the timing and information being shared. I remember thinking, “Why use that word now when you haven’t been transparent until this very moment?” I left that meeting with less trust than I had when I entered the room.

In order to be effective, transparency needs to be consistent. When used conveniently, it’s ineffective and makes employees feel the information is only being shared on a “need to know” basis.

Transparency can positively impact the organization in the following ways:

  1. Trust

When your team can believe you are always being honest and straight with them, they can trust you to lead them 100%.

  1. Collaboration and Engagement

A culture of transparency breeds dynamic collectivism. A team can’t be effective when individuals are met with barriers to engagement.

  1. High Level Thinking around Solution Solving

Transparency is an invitation to your team members to offer up big ideas and solutions to problems facing your department.

  1. Less Employee turnover

Employees who can trust their leaders and who are encouraged to take an active role in the organization are more productive, happier, and apt to stay put!

How to Be a More Transparent Leader

Be Authentic

Transparent leaders value honesty above all else. They are honest when there is good news to share and when there is not-so-good news to share. But, no matter how hard the news might be sometimes, transparent leaders never hide the truth.

Commit to being authentic, always and in all ways.

Invite Conflict

While most people try and avoid conflict like the proverbial plague, leaders don’t have this ‘luxury’. As a leader, it’s your job to encourage team members to speak up, even if their opinion, idea, or solution conflicts with your own. When someone on your team disagrees with you, get your ego in check quick and listen intently. Feedback, especially in the form of disagreements and conflict, can help shed light and develop an understanding of the situation at hand.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach



Regaining Trust as a Leader When You Screw Up

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A senior manager client of mine asked how he can take responsibility for a past decision he now deeply regrets.

The backstory goes like this: He made a decision without any input from his staff. When the staff asked for an explanation, my client became very defensive and immediately shut the staff down by telling them the issue was not up for discussion.

When the staff pressed the issue, my client became even more defensive and very authoritative, totally dismissing their inquiries. The staff later told me the energy in the conference room that day changed. The air became thick and their participation from that moment on was nil.

Weeks later, the staff was still disengaged in important discussions. The damage had been done, and my client’s decision continued to have a negative impact on the entire department. Staff morale was at an all-time low and trust was gone.

Are you guilty of this same crime? Have you let your ego dictate your behavior? Do you now regret some of your past decisions and wish to take ownership of their ripple effects? Do you want to change your bad behavior and regain the trust of your employees and team?

Vulnerability in Leadership – If it Was Easy, Everyone Could Do it

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability and courage, and these are some of the things she has to say:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Vulnerability in leadership is a difficult concept for many leaders to embrace and implement into their leadership style. But repairing the damage caused by their bad behavior requires having the courage to be vulnerable.

Here are some ways you can begin to take ownership of your past bad behavior, so your team can heal and begin moving forward:

  • Reflect on the events and behavior that led to the present climate. What prevented your vulnerability? Write down the lessons learned.
  • Admit that the decision you made was wrong and apologize to your team for not getting them involved in the decision-making process and for shutting them down.
  • Ask for feedback regarding the meeting, the impact it has had, and invite suggestions on what is needed to move the team forward.

“We learn from failure, not from success!”
― Bram StokerDracula

 Being a leader means we risk being a monster sometimes. That’s okay as long as we own our inner vampire and commit to becoming better versions of ourselves. But leadership has nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with learning to become better through the mistakes you make. When you screw up as a leader, own it, fix it, and move on.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach

How Strong is Your Foundation?

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The effectiveness of any department or program is dependent on how strong the foundation is. In my 20 years in higher education, and as coach and consultant, I’ve seen this concept overlooked time and time again.

Many leaders jump right into bringing consultants in for a day of strategic planning, team building, keynotes etc. But if these consultants don’t address foundational issues, the entire day is nothing more than a silver bullet. And silver bullets won’t help the department move forward, meet goals, improve staff cohesion, or effectively meet student needs. Eventually, the consultant leaves, taking their high energy and hope with them, and you find yourself at square one again.

Look, I understand. I’ve been there and have spent a lot of funds looking for that silver bullet, only to realize it’s the foundation I need to pay attention to and ensure it’s solid. And when there is a crack in the wall or the foundation begins to slope, I have to invest in fixing the crack, not just patch it up because patching almost never works.

Think about your department like a house.

I remember when I was getting ready to sell my mother’s house that she’d lived in for over 30 years. When everything was taken out of the house and off the walls, all the cracks began to show.

When I had the house appraised, the report stated the foundation had shifted, which caused severe cracks to form in the walls and the floors to slope.  I had to invest some money and time to fix the foundation, just to be able to sell the house. New concrete needed to be poured and entire walls needed to be replaced.

The cracks on the walls were an indicator of a larger issue, and that was that the foundation had shifted. If I had just done a quick patch-n-paint job, the cracks wouldn’t have been visible, but I would still have known they were there and ultimately, so would every potential buyer.

How many times have you just patched up the walls of your department without checking to see if the foundation is strong and solid?

When a department/program foundation is not strong, you’re not able to accomplish your yearly goals, overall mission, or best meet the students’ needs. Without a solid foundation, you simply cannot work together effectively.

Strategies to Rebuild Your Foundation:

Have you noticed any cracks in your foundation? Have you ignored the cracks? How is it affecting the team dynamics and workflow? And how students perceive your department/program and the quality of the services you provide?

  • Take a close look at your foundation and assess how your team works? Are there clicks? Do they work together collaboratively and effectively?
  • Develop a strategic plan to assess and enhance your foundation. Get everyone involved. Trust me, you’ll have more success when there is a greater buy-in from staff members.

If you need help creating a solid foundation for your department, please get in touch with me. I love helping higher education leaders, teams, and programs/departments gain the confidence to best meet the needs of their students.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach

Why You Should Avoid Avoidance at All Costs

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As leaders, it’s often hard to know how to handle bad situations with employees. I have noticed that many team leaders talk about employees. They talk about what they are not doing or what they should be doing. They talk about how they are negatively impacting the team… how they gossip… how their skill level is not up to par.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that when we talk about an employee instead of to that employee, the problem doesn’t get resolved. It instead festers until it becomes a full-blown infection that can’t be easily remedied.

But the damage did not come from that employee. The real damage came from a leader not addressing the issues. Avoidance is growth’s biggest threat.

So, how should leaders handle these types of situations?

Understand Your Role

 If being a leader were easy, the world would be full of leaders. Dealing with sticky situations doesn’t feel good. But that is a part of leadership. Understand your role and that your action can move the entire team forward, while your inaction can cause significant trauma to the department, individual employee, and the entire team.

Stop Then Start

 Stop avoiding the employee and have the conversation you have been dreading. Then start documenting the behavior and send up emails to directives.

Don’t Wait for the Annual Evaluation Process

Feedback should be given throughout the year, not just at annual reviews. When you see something, say something. Nipping things in the bud is how you can encourage employee growth.

Have Courage and Conviction

It takes courage to let a team member go. But have the conviction to make the right decision. More often than not, letting someone go is not only good for the team but the individual as well. Sometimes setting them free is what they need to find a position that suits their skill set better.

Assess the Damage

If you haven’t addressed the issue in a timely manner, what has been the impact on the other staff members? They may question your leadership abilities because you waited so long to take action. Have they lost all motivation to come to work and do their own job because the climate has become toxic? Before you can make a clean-up plan, know exactly what damage has occurred.

Include Staff in the Cleanup

Make a plan to heal, because just moving on without acknowledging the impact can cause more harm and doesn’t allow the employees to voice their feelings, concerns, and input on how to move forward. Bring in someone skilled to assist you with the healing. You have to be a part of the conversation. You can’t be a spectator to the healing.

I have faced all of this. I used to be an avoider, but the issue doesn’t solve itself. So now I accept the responsibility to address the issues because I want to lead a healthy team and not be the cause of chaos that can sometimes occur if issues go unaddressed.

I encourage you to avoid avoidance at all costs. While avoidance may seem like an easy way out of a sticky situation at the time, it only makes things worse.

What are some steps you have taken in your department to deal with employees? Let me know in the comment section.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach