The Storm

In November of last year (2017), I wrote an article about my team that articulated the trouble we were in.  Poor performance all around.  I also determined the course of action was to simplify the tasks and build a solid foundation.  We had quite a bit of turnover which caused chaos within the team.  Now, a few months later I want to revisit my team.

The decision to simplify was the right one.  I called a meeting with the team and wanted to discuss how we could simplify the tasks and still meet the operational mandates of the organization.  But before I could call the meeting, one of my most honest (and forthcoming) supervisors came by to talk.  He was frustrated; with me, with the job, with almost everything.  The bottom line was he was losing faith in me.  Admittedly, I was initially upset and frustrated that he couldn’t see my vision and was losing trust, but after some self-reflection, there was no way he could see things from my perspective, with all the turmoil going on in our division.  He was doing me a great favor by talking to me.  He was warning me about the storm that was coming.  A storm I could feel but wanted to believe I could prevent with my sheer willpower and leadership skills.  What I realize now is that the storm is essential.

With this new information, I still called the meeting, but instead of my original plan, I decided to have a very candid discussion about their frustrations and wanted to make sure they had a chance to vent.  Listening to them complain about the things I was and was not doing is difficult!  But I know myself and understand my strengths are not in sitting back and letting the team complain without interjection.  I challenged their thoughts and beliefs.  I wanted them to know I heard them, but most of their frustration was due to miscommunication and misunderstandings, which we addressed and agreed to work on.

Now we are moving forward.  I scheduled and held the meeting two weeks later to address simplifying the work and getting more organized.  And my team feels better because they have a voice and it has been heard.  At the meeting, we discussed, among other topics, daily tasks that are not accomplished and I reinforced our commitment to accountability.  The simplified tasks and functions have worked like a charm.  The mistakes are down, and morale is higher than it has been over the past year.  This is all due to higher quality work and clear expectations of performance.

Since we have reestablished our foundation and are performing well, we have begun to get back to more advanced training.  We have developed several new items to train on to push the employees beyond their comfort zone.  The entire division is doing phenomenal and consistently improving.  They complain a bit, but without pressure, there is no growth.

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They Quit…but Never Leave!

He is the guy that does just enough not to get fired.  Perhaps he used to be motivated, maybe even a top performer at one point in time.  But now he just can’t be bothered.  He rarely has ideas and is usually only passionate about not changing (anything) and making sure he is not inconvenienced with the job.  Mostly, they have quit without leaving the job.  How do managers deal with these people?  What kinds of things can you do to help bring them back?  Or perhaps get them actually to leave?

Engage and inspire them.  A leader needs to understand their people.  What drives them and makes them want to work hard?  It sounds like standard advice, but to be honest, you probably don’t have the capacity to understand and engage all of your people on an individual level enough to engage and inspire them.  What you do have time for is some of them.  The focus should be on your high performers and those you feel you can move into the high performing category.  Those people like the guy described above should not be the main priority.  As the leader/manager, you should be removing obstacles from your team.  It is in this capacity that you will need to deal with the poor performers.

Accountability is key.  Opportunity is also key.  Mostly we describe opportunity as the opportunity for success, but there is an equal chance for failure at every opportunity.  When an employee has quit, we need to engage and see if we can get them back on the team and performing at a high level.  If you can’t, give them opportunities.  Then hold them accountable when they don’t perform to the standard. You have to give them a final chance to show what they can do.  This, of course, assumes that you have effectively communicated to them about their performance and what the standard is.

What if you don’t have the authority to fire?  This certainly complicates things, but only means you now have to convince the person or persons who have firing authority to take action.  This is normally pretty simple.  Document the performance along with any failures to meet standards, and before long the HR department or other supervisors/managers will have to take action.  A big point to include when dealing with this situation is that having employees like this can be detrimental to the culture of the organization, especially if these employees are charismatic and influential.

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3 Big Problems with Your Managers

Accountability, Goal Setting, and Professional Development. That’s it, very simple to identify and equally important across all professions.  Having great first-level managers and supervisors are the most important positions you can have.  They have a difficult job in trying to translate the organization’s vision & mission into tangible task the employees can accomplish.  Not only that, but they must hold the line of accountability of the employees, support the values of the organization, inspire their people to achieve excellence, and develop and train their replacements. It is a daunting task, so let’s look at how to improve the big three!

Accountability is the foundation a manager operates on.  There are tons of articles and research on this topic, but the bottom line is most managers are rated poor at holding their people accountable.  Accountability starts at the top!  The only way to get better at this is to ensure you are holding people accountable.  It will trickle down from there.  Make accountability the manager and supervisor’s core responsibility.  You must evaluate them on how well they hold people accountable.  Teach them when they make mistakes and let them figure things out.

Goals.  So often we talk about goals and how important they are, yet we fail to identify them or worse, identify them but make them impossible to achieve or measure.  It is not always easy to establish goals.  Goals of perfection are a bad idea.  Do not use them.  Voltaire said, “Perfection is the enemy of good.”  I believe what he means is if you spend too much time on perfection you waste resources that could be used elsewhere to move from 99 to 99.1.  If they were utilized properly, perhaps you could improve another area from 70 to 90%.  See this article about perfection for more reasons why Perfection is Dumb.  Being good enough and not expecting perfection will drive your organization to great success.

Professional Development. The goal of this website is to provide professional development for everyone who wishes to pursue it.  In your organization, there may be little interest in professional development, but you should make it worthwhile. Outside of producing quality content that is, in itself worthwhile, the leaders of the organization need to tie rewards to attending professional development.  It cannot be mandatory but must be highly encouraged.  Tying it to performance evaluations, bonuses, and awards will give it the importance it deserves and will begin to change the culture of the organization to where it values it intrinsically.

One thing to note is that all three of these subjects must be worked on simultaneously.  Working on them independently in a vacuum will not bring about the results you are looking for.  They complement each other and feed off one another.  To maximize the effects, they must be considered a single item with three parts.

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