Simplify Poor Performance

My team is in trouble!  Poor performance in almost every measurable category.  Poor performance in the unmeasurable categories as well.  Many, (actually all) organizations and teams struggle with poor performance.  Mostly, there is an up and down tempo that varies in frequency depending on many factors.  The problem with my team is lack of experience at the first-line supervisor level.  Again, there are many factors at play; some are good in their supervisory capacity but weak in the operational and technical functions.  Some are the opposite.  Others are poor in both supervisory and operational tasks.  If I could fire a few of them, I would.  So, without the ability to fire the low performers, I have to move forward with the personnel group I have.  How do I get them to perform?

Simplify.  Over the course of the past six months, I have thrown much at these supervisors.  Increased responsibility, higher standards and expectations, a new work schedule, a revamped training program, new projects and initiatives, and a complete culture overhaul. It is too much for them to handle.  Many have and will criticize the amount of work I put on them and questions my leadership, but I am a deliberate leader, and from the start, I have been testing the waters.  Finding their strengths, their weaknesses, how hard can I push them, where do they naturally excel?  All of these questions have answers now, and I have to adjust my strategy.

I will still hold high standards, but the team needs to have a chance to succeed.  Right now, they are just keeping their heads above water (barely), as I continue to push for high-quality work.  Now, I have to slow the game down.  Bring them together and work collectively on what is important to them and me.  Once we have determined priorities and agreed on the expectations, we can focus on them.  Innovation must be put on the back burner; extra activities will join innovation. The focus is placed on the core competencies of the organization and the primary responsibilities of the supervisors and other managers.

I never expect perfection.  To do so is an exercise in insanity.  But I will continue to expect high-quality work and a great product or service.  Our customers demand and deserve our best.  So, we will slow it down and simplify the tasks; rebuild the foundation and then start adding bricks as we become experts in those areas so we can continue to improve.  Eventually, we will pull the extra activities and innovation off the back burner and focus in those areas, but for now, the team needs simplicity.

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Is Changing Your Mind Good Or Bad?

It’s Good.  That’s the answer.  There are always circumstances that will dictate whether there has been a positive or negative effect from changing your mind, but let’s look at this question from the general position of, should one be open to changing their mind.  And from this perspective, the answer is unequivocally yes!

In politics, this is called flip-flopping.  A term flung around like it’s a disease.  In real life, being open to the possibility that your initial position is wrong, takes much more strength than stubbornly grasping to that position.  Not to say this is an easy task.  Our decisions are based on many things that we don’t always understand, outside of some experts in the field.  Personally, I struggle with this as much as anyone, although as of late I have been making a deliberate attempt to get better at it.

What positive effect does changing your mind have?  The first thing it tells them is that you are willing to listen.  This is a vital skill for a leader.  The ability to listen to the people you lead and the humility to let them change your mind cannot be understated.  I’ve experienced situations from both sides of this problem and can tell you that feeling like your leaders are listening to you gives you a great sense of belonging, says you have a voice and encourages engagement from the team members.

Changing one’s mind must be tempered to ensure you don’t actually become a leader that can’t stick to a decision.  Going back and forth is detrimental any organization.  There should be a point that a decision has been made and the group moves on.  Then the decision can be readdressed later if the situation changes or the results of the last decision were not positive.

What negative effect does changing your mind have?  I previously had a boss that had zero original ideas and never made a decision until he could get some sort of consensus.  His decision-making capabilities don’t sound so bad as I type it, but trust me; he was a “go with the popular opinion” type of boss.  There were so many occasions where a person would have a conversation with him, and there would be an agreement only to find out they changed their mind after talking to someone else.  It was almost a game to try to be the last one to talk to him before the decision had to be made.

Be wary of phrases like ‘That’s the way we have always done it’ or ‘We tried that before, and it didn’t work.’  These are indicators that the culture of your organization does not embrace change.  Which probably means your leaders are not open to changing their minds.  It’s time to have these kinds of conversations in our workplace and show how being open to new options and changing a decision does not automatically translate to a negative.

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Leaders Need NO!

The biggest problem with positional power is that most subordinates won’t say no.  All of your ideas are good ones, all of the things you say, they agree.  Once you realize the problems, you tell everyone your ideas to fix it, and they tell you, your plan was what they were thinking.  They will always be the “idea factory”.

So, what does no mean to a leader?  Weak leaders see it as a challenge or as disrespect. They often have no vision and don’t think through their ideas.  If there is a “don’t question the leader” feeling or culture in your organization, you know you are dealing with someone that has poor leadership skills or has been promoted beyond their capabilities.  These leaders will rely on micromanagement to get their way or to cover up their failures.  Tread carefully with these leaders, so you don’t become a victim of their insecurities.  It is possible to say no, but it must be done carefully and a significant amount of time needs to be invested into building trust and a relationship before you will be able to disagree effectively.  In general, this is a good idea anyway, but a good leader will be ready to accept disagreement without feeling threatened even before a relationship is built.

I’ve heard so many examples when these “leaders” will complain that they can’t get their people to work hard or have high-quality work.  The big problem is they do not allow anyone to dissent.  This creates a divide between them and their people.  It keeps them from being a team.  The people are aligned against the leader instead of them working together as a team.  They cannot work on problems and make real change because the leader can’t see beyond their control.  They use words like compliance and fail to see how compliance can be a negative quality in a workforce.  Compliance is passive and disengaged.

We need to get better at picking quality leaders.  A quality and confident leader will see disagreement as an opportunity to either test their idea or strengthen it with reasonable debate.  A quality leader will know all ideas have flaws and it is better to figure out what they are before any action has taken place instead of learning of these problems during the process and having to come up with solutions on the fly.

We need no!  You all have a responsibility to dissent! We need to be respectful, and we have to be careful to keep from turning into the person that is always doubting everything.  The reality is, if everyone knows what you are going to say, they no longer need to listen to you.

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