Archive for the ‘Managing Employees’ Category

Getting the marching orders you need to succeed

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
© Jennifer Pitiquen |

© Jennifer Pitiquen |

There are a few recurring nightmares that just about everyone has at some point.  You’re trying to run from a monster and you’re stuck in slow-mo.  You’re walking down the hallway of your school in your underwear.  The classics.

Then there’s the one where you have to do SOMETHING but you don’t know what to do or how.  Maybe there’s an odd-shaped racket in your hand and thousands of people in the stands shouting angrily as ten balls of different colors come flying at you.  You’re expected to perform, and you want to do well, but you don’t know the rules of the game, so you have no idea what “doing well” means.

Fortunately we wake up from our nightmares.  But some people live the “no information” nightmare over and over again while the sun is up.  They want nothing more than to do what is expected of them and to do it well, but they are repeatedly handed projects with unclear parameters, fuzzy deadlines, and unstated assumptions.

Worst of all is finding out that, just like in the nightmare, the expectations DID exist, and time after time the employee is lambasted for not meeting them.

This is not okay.  As an employee, you have the right to know what is expected of you.  Holding you to unstated standards and expectations is every bit as crazy as handing someone a bat and putting him at home plate without explaining the rules of baseball—then booing angrily when he strikes out, as he inevitably will.

The good news is that the boss who gives vague instructions is almost always doing it unintentionally.  In most cases she really wants to see the project done right and simply does not realize that she hasn’t given you the information you need to make it happen.  Your job is to help the boss help herself by giving you what you need to do well.  It’s a win-win.

Next time your boss says, “Hey, I need this done,” don’t just dive in.  Take five minutes to see if you have the information you need. What are the exact tasks that need doing?  What are the specifications? When are the deadlines, both soft and hard?

Ask the boss for a five-minute meeting.  Start by saying, “I want to knock this project out of the park, and to do that I want to be sure I understand what’s needed.”  State in your own words what you understand the parameters of the project to be.  Ask if you’ve missed anything.  Ask when the hard deadline is, and whether an earlier deadline would be ideal.  Thank the boss for the clear guidelines and promise to be in touch with any needed clarifications.

Then knock the cover off the ball.  When complete, make sure to go back to the boss and get sign off by asking, “Does this meet your expectations?” If that step is missed, you’re not complete.

If you get praise for a job well done, reply by saying how helpful the clear guidelines and deadlines were. The odds are good that your next assignment will come complete with the details you need.  If not, ask again, reminding the boss how well the previous project went with such clear guidelines.

How to Derail a Career (for Leaders)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
© Stillfx |

© Stillfx |

Tired of success? Keen on self-destruction? Looking for a way to run your career off the rails? I’ve got just the ticket. Here are ten sure-fire ways to end any hopes of advancement or future success:

1. Nurture fluffy integrity. Break your promises, gossip, lie, break confidence. Push legal and regulatory boundaries whenever possible.

2. Be passive. Always delegate upward. Refrain from showing initiative. Don’t see what needs to happen to get to the end result, and whatever you do, don’t hold yourself accountable for the results of the team. Favorite excuse: “Nobody told me.”

3. Get yourself a silo mentality. Don’t be a team player. Don’t bother to see how the team integrates with other departmental teams. Keep your cards close to your chest. Has “Every man for himself” embroidered on a pillow.

4. Generate unstable results. Get sloppy, miss numbers, and then sandbag. Make excuses.

5. Be a pain in the butt. Be an arrogant, demeaning, sarcastic know-it-all. Let disrespect be your sword and condescension your quiver!

6. Just don’t get it. No matter how many times something is explained, and no matter how clearly, keep saying, “I don’t get it.” Whatever you do, don’t go look it up on your own time.

7. Be a little Napoleon. Wax autocratic. Be a control freak. Don’t empower others. For good measure, keep one hand inside the front of your coat.

8. Spend all possible time admiring yourself in the mirror. Gawd, you’re fabulous. Put your own needs ahead of team results. You deserve it.

9. Surround yourself with mediocre team players. Keep your team full of “B” and “C”-list players. Never replace with “A”-listers, since they might outshine you.

10. Be a dirty politician. Smile in their faces, then stab them in the back. Word will get out, and you’ll be through.

Any one of the “Dirty 10” can wipe out tremendous results in all areas. So if you’re eagerly courting disaster, cultivate these ten characteristics.

If for some reason you are looking to AVOID disaster, be rigorous about not allowing any of these to creep into your world. Take a hard look at yourself to find out where you need to commit to an immediate and profound change.

Real leadership in tough times

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
© Smagal |

© Smagal |

In today’s turbulent economic market, even the strongest and most powerful corporate icons are challenged to find ways to improve their efficiencies. As they require more work from fewer numbers of people, their top priority is having effective leaders and managers who can propel their group to greatness. Unfortunately, many young managers and leaders have never seen a tight economy, or at a minimum, have only a faint memory of what it can be like. It’s during these times that leadership skills are put to the test.

The following three leadership qualities are extremely valuable during robust times, and absolutely essential during challenging times.

1. Lend an empathetic ear. Ignoring the emotions of your team members during tough times only causes greater challenges. Create a forum for people to share their feelings so that they can release them and move on. When people sense that someone doesn’t truly understand their emotions, they tend to stay charged and keep whining. If you don’t want to be listening to the same complaints over and over, then listen with emotion. If someone’s voice is loud and angry, say back in a loud voice, “This is terrible.”

Then continue the conversation by dropping your voice slowly to a normal range. Watch the magic as they defuse by simply knowing you “really got it.”

2. Don’t buy into the “ain’t it awful” story. Everything you hear could be true. Quarterly profits could be down, market share may be shrinking, and turnover could be high. These and other measurements are feedback that an organization isn’t doing what it should be doing.

Lead your team to the understanding that even during the darkest times, many do well, and you intend to be one of them. Your team needs to shift out of its doomsday view and into one with possibilities. When people say, “We can’t because,” the response should always be, “How can we?” With enough repetition, people will soon come to understand that results can be achieved no matter what the circumstances.

3. Acknowledge the steps along the way. Frustration runs high when things aren’t working well. Employees’ confidence is shaken. When confidence is low, performance weakens, thereby feeding into the cycle of lower motivation and performance. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Appreciate the little steps along the way during challenging times. Let your team know that you appreciate not only the things they do, but also who they are and the efforts they make. Build fun into your appreciation. Good organizations, departments and managers thrive during rough times because they learn to hone their skills like never before. They’ve discovered that it’s the bad times that make them so much better during the good times.

Turning Workplace Clark Kents into Superheroes of Service

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
© Dmitroza |

© Dmitroza |

Someone’s late for a meeting. Nobody calls the person on it. Next week, three people are late.  You try to convince yourself it’s a coincidence. Eventually, there won’t be a meeting in the entire organization that starts within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. Before you know it, everyone’s repeating the mantra that “starting late is the ABC Company way!”

You create sales reports to make sure the right people are called on and the right process is followed. Then some sales reports aren’t done accurately or aren’t timely. But it’s your top producer so…what can you say?

Then the top achiever stops doing the reports all together.  The rest of your team members follow the leader. Sales take a nosedive. Your sales team blames the economy and the competition.

Yeah, right.  It’s somebody ELSE’S fault.

Everybody knows the rules—but no one is calling others on it when they break the rules.  Your organization descends into lazy anarchy.  How could it not?

Look at any successful organization and you’ll see a group in which EVERY team member cares enough to call every other team member on it whenever a service standard is breached, a deadline missed, a sales process isn’t followed, or an honor code value violated.

Struggling organizations have folks who just want to be “nice.”  Think Clark Kent. When they see standards breached, they let it all slide.  Why?  So others will let THEM slide when THEY mess up. Eventually they’re all scratching each others backs, watching the iceberg pass by, and wondering why their socks are wet.

People need to understand that it isn’t “mean” to challenge each other—it’s uncaring and unloving to NOT challenge each other for falling short of what’s required. It keeps others small.

A leader’s role is to lead people to a level of greatness they thought was reserved for others—to tear the shirts off these Clark Kents, revealing the ‘S’ of the superhero below.  Your role is to help ordinary people get extraordinary results by using the most basic fact of human psychology:  People move away from pain and toward pleasure.

If somebody doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do and there is no immediate pain, that behavior continues. If there is no pleasure, that behavior isn’t reinforced.

Your job is to celebrate the many wins with rituals of pleasure and to let ALL your people know that celebrating those wins is part of their contribution to the team. It is also your job to make sure that when people don’t do what they’re supposed to do, they experience the pain of addressing the slip-up directly.

A balance of pain and pleasure serves as twin guardrails to guide continuous improvement in behaviors and results.

The ultimate job of a leader is to run an organization in which every person calls every other person “tight.” Only then do you know your people have the maturity both to challenge and to be challenged. When in the history of time has there been a profound result without a profound challenge?

Creating an extraordinary organization doesn’t mean finding extraordinary people. It means helping ordinary people discover that they can be extraordinary.

Culture—The Ultimate Profit Tool

Friday, May 7th, 2010
© Madartists |

© Madartists |

For three decades, companies across the spectrum have talked about the need to convert to a sales culture.  Talk, talk, talk.  Yet for all the chatter, the number that has successfully converted to a sales culture is still well below five percent! Millions have been spent in an attempt to make the change.  So why have so many repeatedly failed?

Sales and service skills do little to change results UNLESS there is a strong base of people who love what they do.  It’s about the culture! Without the right spirit, no amount of training or hiring will get you headed in the right direction.

A survey by the Corporate Executive Board showed that employees who are “true believers”—who value, enjoy, and believe in what they do—displayed 57 percent more discretionary effort and were 87 percent less likely to leave, while Gallup says that for every $10,000 of payroll, $3,400 of productivity is lost due to “disengaged employees.”

That’s an ugly number.

So what makes people love their jobs, fully engage, and produce greater results? Contrary to what most believe, money has very little to do with it.  What does matter is the three overlooked “must haves” to rejuvenate your people’s passion for extraordinary results.

1.  Kick-butt Rituals of Celebration and Appreciation
Healthy cultures have appreciation as their cultural backbone. They create an environment where everyone, not just the managers, oohs and aahs over each other’s successes and contributions.  They create daily, weekly, and quarterly rituals of celebration and appreciate and coach their people to be positive coaches to each other.

Maybe you have a daily huddle before opening where each person briefly shares an accomplishment while the rest of the team cheers and claps.  Maybe you have a “positive” sharing at the beginning of each weekly strategy meeting and a quarterly awards ceremony filled with many awards and recognitions.  If you create a childlike energy of people high-fiving with joy, you can expect people to thrive under the recognition.

2.  Ironclad Values
Your defined values are your “true north” and a powerhouse of results IF you do them correctly. If your values could be listed as the values of any other company in the country, you haven’t done a good enough job of creating values that will guide you powerfully.  When you say “honesty” or “integrity” or “hard work,” you haven’t really said a thing.  And if people don’t have their quarterly project plans built around the values, guess what? They aren’t really your values.

3.  “We mean it” Behaviors
When an organization defines its behaviors well, then supports and coaches to those behaviors as if they really are to be followed consistently, miraculous transformations begin.

Besides sales and service behaviors, behaviors regarding how to treat and respect coworkers must also be defined, like “no excuses” or “no talking behind peoples’ backs” or “state things in the positive.”  When you are clear in expecting the best in others, people bring their higher selves to work—that part in all of us that knows the right thing to do and the willingness to do it.

Most of all, remember that EVERYTHING is a leadership issue. If you want people to thrive at work and bring their passion for extraordinary results, you must, as a leader, create the environment in which people can thrive.