2 Weeks Ago…I Made a Mistake

I implemented a stupid policy.  In my defense, the intent was to help my managers better plan their days, weeks, months, etc., but it ended up just wasting time.  I had discovered the managers were not very deliberate with their time and there was confusion among the workers.  To help them, each morning I asked the lead to sit with me and go through their plan for the day.  Yes, it is micro-management, but it was designed to be so I could teach them.  Plus, I had a deliberate plan to pull back once I started to see the results I had envisioned and allow even more autonomy than before.

Making a mistake, when we do it, can be one of the hardest things to admit.  But when leaders admit to mistakes it can keep us all from making more errors in the future or at least help keep us humble.  More than anything owning up to a fault will build trust between you and your people.

I’m sure many of you have drilled holes in my plan and have already guessed what the result was.  But for those who have not, it did not go well.  The managers did not plan better, they did not organize their people better, and it did not help them implement actions to better align them with the organizational vision I have established. What my decision did do was force the manager to prepare for the meeting with me instead of making sure their supervisors were given proper directions.  They were spending too much time worrying about how favorable I would judge their plans, and their focus shifted to pleasing me instead of focusing on their people and the organization’s operational needs.

Once I realized the decision did not have the desired effect, I put a stop to it.  And here is the important part.  Instead of telling the managers I saw what I needed to see and they had improved, that they were now organized like I wanted them to be and my idea (like all my ideas) was brilliant, and it worked just like I expected it would, I told them the truth.  Although the idea was an attempt to improve performance and my intentions were good.  The effects of this policy were mostly negative, and even the positive effects were small and insignificant.  In this case, the juice was not worth the squeeze.

Instead of forcing the managers to come to me and be scrutinized about their plans, I go to them.  I observe their operations more and engage them in discussions that are as non-threatening as I can make them.  The intent is still to teach and make things better.  There are drawbacks to this approach, but the manager’s people appreciate a leader that takes an interest in their daily lives and the managers know I’m right there if they need clarification or guidance.  I still get to hear about their plans and how their plans support the organizational vision, but we are much more agile because we have these conversations in real-time.  Everyone has a preference for how they lead, but admitting to mistakes is great.  Your people will not lose confidence in you over a few mistakes.  But if you are making many mistakes they will, and rightfully so.

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6 Steps to Keep Employees

There are many ways to keep employees around.  The key to employee retention is to create an environment that any reasonable employee will enjoy being a part of.  Not every job is glamorous, and many times people do not enjoy what they do.  Creating a happy working environment and having great managers by following the below steps will make things much better!

  1. Track your retention levels

There is no way to effectively manage the retention level in your organization if you do not track it.  The most common goal for employee retention is around 90%, but the reality is every field and organization is different.  The caliber of your staff that are leaving and the critical positions they are vacating might be crippling to your organization even if the number is higher than 90%.  Additionally, a little turnover is a good thing; fresh ideas, fresh perspective, fresh attitude, and the motivation of a new employee can be a great boost to the team!

  1. Culture

Culture is what you make of it.  You can deliberately determine culture, or you can let the culture grow on its own developing into whatever it happens to become.  Most managers do not take an active role in culture, and that is why many organizations have a poor or negative culture.  The first step to changing the culture is to decide what culture you want.  Write it down!  Print it on paper and tape it to your desk or in another area that is visible and read it often.  These parts of the culture you write down will need to guide your decision making.  If you are making policy and decisions, you should ask if your decisions and policies are in line with the culture you are trying to create.  If not, you need to change the decisions or the cultural goals.

  1. Invest in your Employees

Investing in your employees is usually seen as providing them education or training that helps the organization.  And if you can align a person’s wishes or passion and your organization’s goals, then you have the winning formula.  But in many cases, you will have a box packer that wants to be a nurse.  Or a concrete finisher that seeks to be a CPA.  So, in this case giving them training in the field they are currently in, will only get you a marginal improvement.  If you can make it happen, the best thing to do would be to provide aid for your box packer to go to nursing school.  Or give them a week of paid time-off so they can spend some time with a real nurse to see if it is something they want to do.  If you can help your employees realize their dreams, good things will always come back to the organization.  And it is the best thing to do.  Who knows, maybe you can bring him/her back after nursing school to create an on-site nurse position/department.

  1. Recognition

Recognition is one of the easiest things to do, but one of the most neglected.  A formal recognition program is mandatory.  If your company does not have one, then create one.  But outside of the formal program, you need to pay attention to the opportunities presented to recognize high-quality performers.  Add a reminder to your phone on a weekly basis to get out from behind your computer or whatever you are doing and find people doing good things.  Leaders seek out opportunities to thank their people and encourage positive behavior.

  1. Feedback

This is another thing that is easy but often neglected.  Informal feedback is super easy and very powerful.  Formal feedback can be detached and robotic if not done properly.  The key is to have clear examples of the behavior the person displays and use these models to eliminate negative behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors.

  1. Quality evaluations that strengthen the all of the above initiatives

Lastly, build or rework the evaluation system of your organization.  Take the time to review what your evaluations value.  What message do they send? They need to incorporate the new culture, initiatives and measure the performance of your people against the critical standards.

 

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Is Your Professional Development Program Working?

Professional development, like many other topics in organizational management, seems like an easy one.  Just pick the topics you want and have people that are good at them develop a class and teach it.  Easy enough, right?  Well, mostly professional development programs are not effective.  They lack direction, vision, and most of all they are only focused on in chunks.

An excellent professional development program should hit a few key areas.

  1. A deliberate approach to the development of the employees. If you are taking the time to invest in your people, you should take the time to decide what attributes are going to contribute to the goals of the organization or reinforce the behaviors the organization deems valuable.
  2. Evaluate the program. Take time to observe the professional development courses being taught.
  3. Refine the courses and ensure they support the organization’s vision. If you don’t write down the organizational vision, it is easy just to assume you are making decisions that support your decision.  But the opposite is usually true.  If your vision is to create “experts” at whatever job your organization does, but you also create policies that are designed to keep your people from making fundamental decisions, your policies are not supporting your vision of creating experts.  Experts do not need policies to keep from making mistakes with basic functions.  And beginners need room to make mistakes so they can learn from them and the experts.

If your people find your topics boring and there is little support for these professional development events, perhaps you have failed to show they are important.  Also, it is possible they are not interested in these areas because the organization does not value the topics.  They are probably not focused on when looking at performance appraisals or top-performer awards.  If the organization does not value the topics you are trying to develop, the people of the organization will not value the professional development.

Attitude is everything.  Most of a successful professional development program is about the attitude of the people involved.  Having people with a positive attitude and showing enthusiasm about professional development is easier said than done.  But there are ways to create this environment.  The first few classes should have a hand-picked audience.  The audience should be the employees with the best attitude.  By picking those with the best attitude, they will spread the word after the seminar that the material was worth it and they learned something.  At this point, you will have momentum, and you can continue to build off of this success.

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THE LEADER IN THE MIRROR

Robert E. Wood

To find a potential leader in an organization, we usually do not have to go very far. Just about the time you think there aren’t any candidates to fill a leadership position, a guy like me comes along and tries to help you see the not-so-obvious. Leaders are all around us, they just have to be proactively sought out and developed. A shortage of leaders is more often than not due to a shortage of leadership and training. Not everyone can look in the mirror and readily see the leader within even though the reflection could build a great deal of influence if properly coached.

Some leaders didn’t even know they were a leader until someone else enlightened them to the fact, then all of the sudden the unwitting leader begins to focus on his/her teammate’s actions and response to his/her approach. This is the usual progression from someone who was satisfied with their current situation, then is offered an opportunity to take on a larger role in the organization.

When we say a leader’s job is to make more leaders, it’s because leaders aren’t natural born; they’re trained to help others recognize and develop their true potential. Most people, who accidentally do something great, get credit and some positive reinforcement from a leader; usually feel good enough to want to do it again. This is the beginning of the shift to greater influence.

I would rather mentor a multi-disciplined employee who has proven their commitment to the success of the organization over someone with a degree or skill. A degree doesn’t prove competence or commitment and skills can be taught. A leadership team that is focused on reinvesting in their own employees will find more of those employees recognizing the leader in the mirror.

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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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.