Archive for the ‘Managing Employees’ Category

Screw up? Chin up! ‘Fess up—then clean up

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
© Nruboc |

© Nruboc |

You’re human, so you’ll make mistakes. It’s part of the bargain. You’ll miss deadlines. You’ll drop the ball in a hundred different ways.  No matter how hard you try, you WILL disappoint people by not meeting their expectations and living up to your commitments.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the ability to (1) admit your mistakes, and (2) clean up after yourself.

A clean-up has two parts—acknowledging the result wasn’t okay and committing to take corrective action. When you miss a deadline, you owe it to your team to say, “I’m so sorry I missed that deadline. There’s no excuse. It shouldn’t have happened. I’m putting a tickler system in place to remind myself earlier in the process so it won’t happen again.”

In a world of wall-to-wall denial and deflection of blame, just IMAGINE the reaction that kind of honesty will get.

When a document slips through with errors—and you know it will sometimes—your boss expects to witness a duck-and-cover drill.  Imagine instead if she hears, “I can see that I made mistakes in this document and I know that’s not acceptable. I will put a reminder at my desk to checklist each document before I submit it to make sure they are double-checked and accurate. I want you to be able to trust me.”  It’ll stand out like a stallion in a herd of mules.

If someone DOES react badly to your honesty—and again, sometimes they will—just grin and bear it, knowing you are not responsible for the reactions of others.  Make an honest willingness to clean up your messes a way of life, and 99 times out of 100, the world will beat a path to your door.

The Chat that Launched a Thousand Transformations

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
© Nruboc |

© Nruboc |

Of all the transformative tools in all the coffee joints in the world—search ye in vain for anything more effective than The Conversation.

The Conversation is not an hour-long lecture.  It isn’t a debate.  It isn’t complicated to learn or deliver.  In about 15 seconds, The Conversation can take someone with a crummy, destructive workplace attitude and turn them completely around.

Say you’ve got a co-worker who never misses an opportunity to grouse about management, or peers, or underlings, or the furniture, lights, weather, health plan, the pattern in the break room floor tiles…I can see by your expression that you know who I’m talking about.

If I’m right, and you DO know someone like this, a pure vortex of energy-sucking dark matter who seeks only to derail any hope of progress, then it’s time for YOU to engage this person in The Conversation.

Here’s how it goes:

“I’m so excited about where our team is going. And I could be wrong, but my sense is you don’t share that excitement.  That’s okay, because maybe this isn’t your thing.  But if this isn’t your thing, you have to go find your thing!”

That’s it.  That’s the whole thing.  But take a moment to see what’s packed into that tiny paragraph.  You’re excited, and you’ve noticed she isn’t.  You validate that (“That’s okay”), then invite the person to find her bliss—wherever it is!

You don’t need to be the boss or even in the same department with this person to have The Conversation. It is extremely direct yet exceptionally loving because it demonstrates that you care enough to get them to make a choice between bringing their whole heart to their current situation or going to find a new situation that makes them happy.

Delivered well, The Conversation has transformed a lot of people from being miserable blamers to on-fire contributors. And the beauty is that it works in an instant.  Ninety percent of the time, the bad apple person says, in these or other words, “You’re right. I’ve been a jerk”—and then becomes a star performer because the boundless energy they were using to manipulate their coworkers into joining them in their misery is now channeled to productive use.

As for the other ten percent—well, anyone who refuses to respond to an intervention that gentle and reasonable has essentially fired himself.  The pink slip is just a formality.

Dealing with the Low Performer

Friday, December 4th, 2009
© Elenathewise |

© Elenathewise |

No doubt the phrase “low performer” brought someone bubbling up from your past.  Right?  Let’s call him Frank.  Maybe you were a youngster, learning the business, working your way up the best you could—and there was Frank, working as hard as he could to avoid working as hard as he could.

He knew all the shortcuts, Frank did.  He was the one pulling his coat on at 4:56 one day and 4:55 the next, putting in the absolute minimum effort required to get by, watching the clock and complaining endlessly about…well, everything.

What about the Franks hiding out in your organization today—low performers sucking the energy (I call these energy vampires) and profitability out of your company?

Not everyone can be a star, you might say.  True enough.  But did you know that low performers are the #1 cause of the downfall of unsuccessful CEOs, and that leaders who keep and coddle low performers are 13 times more likely to be fired than those who address the problem?

Low performers drain resources, create additional work for the high performers, and poison the culture.  Worst of all, they send the message that low performance is an acceptable path through your organization.

It isn’t.  If success is really important to you, it CAN’T be.  So let’s assume you agree.  How can you take the low performers by the horns?

1.  Confront the problem directly and immediately.  Don’t suggest, don’t imply, and don’t delay.  Once you have solid evidence of a habitual low performer, schedule an immediate meeting.

2.  Be specific and clear.  Tell the person (1) what you have observed, (2) that it is unacceptable, (3) what you expect in its place, and (4) what consequences will follow if corrections are not made.

3.  Make expectations crystal clear.  It’s easiest to hold someone to a standard that has been clearly spelled out, both verbally and in writing.

4.  Base your comments on measurable things.  Vague criticisms about “not pitching in” or “dragging your heels” are too easily deflected.  “You are expected to produce X leads per quarter and you produced less than half that amount for two quarters running”—hard to wiggle out of that one.

5.  Follow through.  If the person’s performance turns around, a word of appreciation can go a long way to keeping it on track.  But if there’s little or no improvement, you MUST follow through on the consequences you promised. 

Remember that there’s always an audience for these things—other low performers testing your resolve, and high performers silently cheering you on.  Consistency is crucial.  Ramp up the consequences for the next infraction, and follow through again.  You’ll not only correct the behavior of one person, but establish a “no excuses” culture that benefits everyone.

And when its time to terminate the low performer, make sure your ducks are in a row, then PULL THAT SWITCH.  It’s never easy, but knowing when to say ENOUGH is one of the marks of a genuine leader.

TGIM e-Zine: July 20, 2009

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Welcome to the TGIM e-Zine!
Transform your team from “snooze-button hitters” to “rock-star performers” and create a buzz-worthy environment your clients will love.

Issue 35 Topics Include: READ NOW

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Understanding Your Cast of Characters

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Why is The Office so painfully funny? Like most great comedy, it’s funny because it’s TRUE. Anyone who has spent even a few years in the business world will know a Michael, a Kevin, a Pam, and—heaven help us—a Dwight.

Here are a few other characters from Central Casting who might be playing roles in your workplace:

The Omarosa
Don’t let the name fool you. Omarosa can be male or female, but one thing is for sure – they’re lean, they’re mean, and they will walk over your dead body to get ahead. Are they a Type-A overachiever or a backstabber? It’s sometimes hard to know the difference.

The Peacemaker
“Can’t we all just get along?” This person avoids conflict – not always a good thing – and will often try to placate, subjugate, or mediate an issue before it reaches management’s ears or results in fisticuffs. While the peacemaker may have the best of intentions, they often hinder conflict resolution. In their effort to “smooth things over,” too much goes unresolved.

The Informer
The informer is the one who begins every sentence with the words, “You didn’t hear this from me, but…” He or she is a gossip, a whistleblower, or a just plain snitch. Remember, there is no such thing as “idle” gossip. The informer has an agenda. Information is power that they wield like a weapon of mass destruction.

The Bully
Not a fan of positive change, the bully tries to use intimidation to keep it from happening. Sometimes the bully uses brawn and bluster, but often times the bully uses psychological warfare to destroy their opponent. In this case, information is everything so you’ll often find the bully and the informer have an alliance.

The Task Master
The task master often forgets that employees are humans, not androids. They believe that their “get it done at all costs” attitude reflects a strong work ethic, but it just as often reflects a lack of conscience, lack of understanding, and perhaps a lack of a personal life.

The Donald
“You’re Fired!” is not just a catch phrase, it’s a mantra. Qualifying for the boss/manager from hell award, The Donald is often a bully who rises up the ranks and is looking not so much for employees as for human sacrifices.

The Energy Vampire
They may not want to bite your neck, but they definitely want to suck the life-blood out of you. Being surrounded by whiners, complainers, and excuse-makers just brings you (and the company) down. Vampires believe that misery loves company, so stock up on garlic mousepads!

The Eeyore
The sky is always falling, the glass is always half empty, and there is a constant forecast of rain on the parade. The Eeyore is often the old dog who can’t see the wisdom of learning new tricks—and takes it personally.

The Teflon
Among Teflon’s favorite words are don’t, didn’t, can’t, haven’t, isn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t. It’s not their department, not their job – and heaven forbid – NEVER their fault. Accountability is not a word in their vocabulary.

The Minimalist
The minimalist paints a pretty picture of appearing accountable and in control, but in reality he/she specializes in doing just enough to get by and never enough to get anything done. They primary concern is covering their butt—something they usually have juuuust enough paint for.

Recognizing that these characters actually exist in their millions and that there are strategies for living and dealing with each of them can help you survive your time in the cast of your own personal reality show.