To Fire or Not to Fire!

How many of your employees to you supervisors want to fire? The answer; more often than you think.  Your supervisors are most likely writing your employees up and turning it into HR or to the managers.  And if they are not writing people up it is because of one of two reasons.  You either have a smaller organization with great employees and a solid culture, or you are in a larger organization and your supervisors have given up on your ability to take action on the paperwork they spend time doing.

When a supervisor takes the time to do the right thing and document the poor performance of an employee, they are expecting the HR or management team to back them up.  The worst thing that can happen is to have you do nothing.  This sends a message to the employees that there is no accountability and that the supervisor does not have any real power.  A supervisor without the ability to document performance and use it as a tool to get the employees in line with the organizational values is like being stuck in the middle of a fight between your spouse and your best friend.  There is no way out, and they cannot win.  The employee will continue with the destructive behavior and the supervisor will either quit or give up and be resigned to accepting the low standard.

Supervisors have a grueling job to do.  Not only must they understand the work that must be done, but they also must know what the managers what and how to translate those desires and directions into actual tasks the employees can execute against.  Do your best to remember your time as a supervisor and how difficult it was to have to deal with a poor performer, especially a confident poor performer.  Letting the supervisor face these challenges alone will kill your organization.

If you help your supervisors hold the standard by supporting them when they need it, you will rarely be in a position to need to find new employees.  Happy employees will find other great employees for you, and your turnover rate will be low.  But unhappy employees combined with supervisors that have given up will also find new hires, but bad new hires.  The big difference is you now have a low turnover rate with employees that have low standards and an organization with a damaging culture.  It’s hard to sustain and you will find yourself in a never-ending cycle trying to deal with problems in the processes and personnel issues.

The final word here is to have your supervisors’ back and teach them when they make mistakes. Even at the cost of some lower-level employees.

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MANAGER IN DISGUISE?

Robert E. Wood

I’ve roughly defined a “Manager in Disguise” as someone who’s in a position of authority (leadership position) which gives them the opportunity to help steer an organization and influence others but also has no apparent leadership skills, knows it and yet still refuses to step down for the greater good. I’m often asked, why would the people in leadership positions in any organization allow such incompetence to exist and/or continue? Well, the answer to that question is: The Manager in Disguise’s boss is also a Manager in Disguise. There’s no other explanation. Just because someone is at the top of the organizational chart, doesn’t mean they’re the right person to occupy the position.

Unlike Managers in Disguise, leaders aren’t natural born; they’re created by other leaders. We all start out as managers of our own world, we teach ourselves what we can (which is limited) and then one day we show a little potential and someone takes an interest in us which leads to other opportunities. Most people welcome a promotion to a leadership position because that’s viewed as a step up on the ladder of financial success. I’ve got news for you, without a true leader teaching you how to lead and you listening, you’ll find the ladder you’re on leads to dysfunction without success. Without actual leadership training, everyone will notice that you have been promoted to your level of incompetence. The question is; what are you going to do about it? If you choose to seek out formal leadership advice and training over just continuing on with what you taught yourself, you just might find real success.

The perceptions that are attached to a leadership position like more money, influence and real power are only realized by “those who make the most of the opportunity.” The potential we possess is directly tied to our passion for a given position and/or situation. The potential we display for one position might not be enough for another and when left unchecked or more importantly, noticed and unchecked, Managers in Disguise are born. A shortage of leaders is more often than not due to a shortage of leadership. A true leader will promote and train someone with the potential for a given position and then monitor that person through perception and performance feedback from the teams. Unlike a Manager in Disguise, a leader will not allow an unsuccessful promotion to continue because it’s not healthy for the one who was promoted, the team, the organization or the customers.

Too Busy? How to Find Goldilocks!

I hear so many people talk about how busy they are.  It is constant.  Each new task, each new problem, the same response every time, “I’m too busy to add more to my plate!” We’ve all heard it and might be true in some cases, but other times it’s just hyperbole.  It seems like the cool thing to say as a manager, that you are the busiest and have no time for anything else.  That you are overworked and many other descriptions of the same thing.

The problem is being busy is a bad thing.  How can you or your organization be agile and be able to adjust to meet demand if you are so busy?  A great quote I read once is “You can’t be too busy mopping the floor, to shut off the faucet.”  So being busy is just an exercise in priorities.  Sometimes you won’t have the option of what to do or which priorities you have, but you can always discuss it.  When you are in a position to determine your priorities, it is all about doing what is important for the organization to be successful.

So, how does an organization do this?  There need to be deliberate discussions about what is and what is not a priority.  Hopefully, the items determined to be a priority align with the organizational goals.  If they do not align, then this is a good indicator you have either the wrong goals or the wrong priorities.

Achieving a balance is needed because cleaning the bathroom might not be an organizational priority that will align with an organizational goal, if it is not done regularly, nasty things will happen. This is where the problems begin because at some point everything will become a priority.  What you end up with is managers not being able to distinguish priorities for their work.

Look at the typical tasks you are required to complete and build priority groups.  Doing so will help the members of the organization responsible for creating a suspense for these tasks a way to determine how long to give the group to respond.  You might create five priority groups that your organization can assign tasks to, then when something is a low priority, people won’t ask for a same-day turnaround.

Take, for example, a low priority task like providing the IT department the type of paper you use.  This job would easily fall in the lowest priority category.  That category would come with a minimum two weeks completion time, meaning you have two weeks to respond.  If the priority needed to be bumped up, clear and compelling justification would need to be provided.  Once your organization knows how to prioritize, it will be easy to find the balance that is “just right.”

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Don’t Abuse the Easy Button!

To an organization and especially to the organization’s leader, a manager is an easy button.  But even though a manager can solve the problem, assigning them tasks meant for others is not the right answer.  In every organization, there are going to be problems that require leaders, management, and supervisors.  The hard part is knowing what the problem is and the right people to put on it.

In an organization I used to be in was having an uptick in accidents.  Mostly damage to equipment, which can be expensive if not addressed.  Many attempts were made to fix this issue with only marginal success.  Because the problem continued, a senior C-suite executive decided to assign the entry level managers “over-watch duty.”  This meant a manager would watch the processes that were having the majority of the costly accidents to ensure all process and protocols were followed.  The additional task of the managers would add about an hour’s worth of work to their schedules each day.  Additionally, they could not dictate where this time would take place as it was spread out throughout their day.

More recently, I heard about another organization that is compliance issues.  These compliance issues are not critical, but there were a few related to safety, which is always serious.  Again, a senior C-suite executive has decided the managers need to build a schedule to have a manager walking around observing processes 24/7.

What these executives have failed to see is that although they are solving the immediate problem, they are losing so much in other areas.  Not only does this tactic destroy trust, but morale, motivation, commitment and other things suffer as well.  And that does not even take into account the work the manager is supposed to be doing that either goes undone, is delayed, or is completed late.  Many managers ended up spending more than an hour after work making up for all the interruptions or the time they weren’t working on their tasks but were “playing big brother” to the people they have charged with actually doing the work.

The issues these organizations faced are not uncommon.  The solution to the problem created a Band-Aid fix but failed to address the root-cause.  The supervisors were not doing what they should have been doing.  There were problems with accountability, training, and discipline.  Unfortunately, these problems still exist because they were never identified and corrected.

The proper response to these issues is to focus on the supervisors.  They need to feel important and worthy.  Micro-managing them has the opposite effect.  All aspects of the supervisors should be evaluated.  From hiring practices and promotion to training, all of these play a fundamental role to how the organization functions.  Supervisors are critical to the success of every organization because they translate directions from managers into tangible tasks for the other employees to work on.  A strong emphasis needs to be placed on their training, so they know what to do.  They need clear guidance on what is expected of them, and they need to be held accountable.  Give them room to make mistakes.  This is going to cost the organization money, but it is money well spent to have unforgettable lessons taught to the supervisor in a real-life setting.

Managers are the easy button, but using an easy button can cause long-lasting damage to the long-term health of the organization.

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MY LEADERSHIP WISH TO ALL GURUS!

Robert E. Wood

 

To all the self-proclaimed “Leadership Gurus,” and there’s a lot of you, that I can tell you. My wish is that you would learn to differentiate leaders from “Managers in Disguise” as leaders. This action will further solidify your must have “Guru” status. Understand, leaders aren’t the source of dysfunction and chaos, it’s the managers in disguise as leaders who are in positions of authority and are lacking the will, desire, and skills needed to be in the leadership position those are the issues here. Not all managers can lead but all leaders can manage. The world needs the words leader and leadership to mean something special, so I’m asking you to stop giving leaders a bad name and begin respecting their use in your communications (Verbal and Written.)

This little act of kindness will put greater emphasis on the acceptance criteria necessary for those positions of authority that drive the business’s direction and have the ability to positively influence many employees. Being “Leadership Gurus” and all, you should already know that having “Managers in Disguise” at the top of the organizational chart is the reason leadership books are written in the first place.  We write these books in an attempt to help organizations see the errors of their ways and offer guidance to help them succeed.

Unlike leaders, managers don’t willingly study subjects such as commitment, accountability, culture change and the principles of leadership; I bet they study business management, not people management. I choose my words carefully when writing about managers and leaders because they both have a place and the need for them both to be in their proper place has never been more important than now. Not having the right people in the right places is the main reason for most of the dysfunction (indirect costs) an organization assumes in the first place. So I ask you please, use your words carefully so as not to take away the value of any one position. For “Gurus” who need more uncommon common sense leadership, visit http://www.leadersindisgust.com/ or follow me on Twitter at #leadersndisgust and feel free to expand your knowledge of this subject at no charge. All I request is action on your part.

You Don’t Need More People!

Far too often I hear the complaint, “We don’t have enough people!” It’s used as an excuse to explain why things aren’t completed correctly or when they aren’t done at all. Unfortunately, many managers believe they need more people because the work they require their people to do is not getting done. It’s a logical argument, but they automatically default to blaming “personnel levels” without much thought to other areas and certainly without self-reflection. This excuse removes them and their people’s capabilities from the equation. This is the “checkers” level of management. One should strive to achieve the “chess” level of management. See an excellent article on this subject here.

The real challenges:

Poor prioritization – Do your people know what the highest priorities are? I have worked in so many organizations that do not prioritize the tasks their people are supposed to complete. This causes major problems. I have rarely seen them prioritize between administrative, operational, or developmental tasks. The problem with this is that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Personnel development gets the same priority as updating an office memo. What ends up happening is managers prioritize only the things that will get them in trouble with the boss. Which leaves much to be desired in many areas. The solution is to be deliberate about the priorities of the organization. If you don’t want people guessing, you must make it clear where the focus should be.

Poor Leadership – The leadership of the organization is charged with providing vision and inspiration to achieve goals. If the leadership has failed to provide clear goals, how can there be inspired employees? There needs to be deliberate communication among the leaders of the organization to address both the vision and inspiration. Without vision and inspiration, you have managers. Managers are great, but without leaders, the organization will struggle with change, innovation, and motivation.

No creativity – Your team needs to be creative when problem-solving. When things aren’t getting done, or when they are done poorly, there is an underlying issue. It could be training, it could be discipline, it could be equipment, it could be technology, and it could be a lack of people. The point is to utilize your people as best as possible. If you are only filling personnel gaps with random people without regard to their skills or how they complement the rest of the team, you will lose.

The moral of the story is to address low workforce levels only after looking at the other possibilities first. Hiring more people into an already mediocre organization only continues the mediocrity.

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Ego Clouds Judgement

When I was active duty Air Force, our organization had an E-9 (for you AF peeps, get over it, he was not a Chief). He would stand in front of the monthly all-hands meeting and put his hands on his hips like Superman. He would then tell the organization and all the leaders everything we did wrong. There was not a positive message….EVER! He was followed because he had the position. Despite his poor leadership the core mid-level leaders put the organization on their back and carried the organization to success. His team suffered because of his ego clouded his judgement. He felt we all needed to bow down because he was the tribal elder. News flash: as Zachary Davis stated, people leave their jobs either because the leader or they feel their work is not valued. There are no bad teams only bad leaders. We had more retirements during his tenure…coincidence? 

Blame game: A leader’s ego will drive them to blame the team. The leader will blame the sales team for not meeting the quarterly quotas. The coach will blame the players the team captain will blame the coach. Nobody wins. The leader owns their space, the leader owns their department, and the leader owns the successes and failures of the team. When the leader gets in the blame game instead of owning the stumbles, the leader loses…the team loses. It is the leader’s responsibility to assess the situation and figure out a way (with the help of the team) to give the team the tools, coaching, and actionable guidance to overcome the challenges. The team and the leader will grow in the process.

Leaders put the team first and hold themselves accountable first. The sum is greater than its parts. Every leader will be faced with the situation when his or her team fails. At this critical point, the leader will decide to blame others or stand up and take ownership of the stumble. If the leader takes the responsibility, the team will rally around the leader. The team will grow stronger and have more respect for the leader. Respect equals success. Ownership equals success. Drop the ego!

Leadership is an active sport, get in the game!