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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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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The Worst Boss

It is one of the most frustrating and demoralizing things we can face in our professional lives, and we have all been there; we have all said it.  “My boss is an idiot!”  Boss, can mean supervisor, manager, etc.  There are many different ways to express this sentiment, but it all boils down to the same thing.  Our expectations from our boss are not being realized.  So, what do you do when you have a bad boss?  There are only two options.

  1. Support them. This is the ideal option.  If you have a boss that is receptive to feedback and is trying to do a good job, this is where you want to be! Sometimes people are hired or promoted based on many things, but sometimes on potential.  If you can help them get better, then do it!  As a leader, there is nothing better than having people there to support you.  Knowing your team is there to make you better and that want to push the team to meet the organizational objectives is the best situation to be in.
  2. Change nothing. You can continue with how you are working and change nothing.  This is an option if things are going well and you just have a poor performing boss.  Or if your boss is weak and refuses to listen or their ego won’t let them.  Although, this is a very frustrating person to work for, usually, your boss’s boss will know how they are performing and you won’t have to deal with them long.

The last thing you want to do is to try to sabotage or make your boss look bad.  Doing so will cause much more drama than it is worth and there is a very real possibility you will lose your job.  They have the positional power and will wield it regularly, especially if you are trying to sabotage them.

Most of the advice you are likely to get is to keep pushing through, and things will work out.  That your efforts will be noticed and even if your boss is bad, you will be promoted or recognized in the way you need.  But this doesn’t always happen.  The best thing you can do it read the situation, if it is really bad, begin looking for a new position or place to work.  If you can deal with the bad things your boss does and you are otherwise happy with where you are at, then stay and enjoy those things that make you happy.  Decide on what you want and work to make that goal happen.  Sometimes you will need your boss to reach your goal if so, build a relationship with them and make it happen.

Managers make a huge difference in our lives, and bad ones can make things miserable.  But good ones can make a good situation great if you can find them!

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