Real Bosses Sit Back and Listen

While flipping through the radio stations one night this week I stumbled upon this completely horrible song. But ironically, the guy said something that resonated with me because I was really trying to think of a title for this post. While I’m sure the context in which he meant it was different than mine, it still stuck with me when he said, “Real bosses just sit back and listen…”

When counseling managers, I hear all too often of unnecessary, unproductive confrontations and negative conversations. The conversations remind me of those had with children when one says something…and in an effort not to be outdone, the other just has to rebut, and it becomes a situation where no one wins.

When there is too much talking, not enough listening and someone is so busy trying to prove or drive home their point, messages get lost in delivery. The way something is said (especially when it has nothing to do with the actual issue at hand) can trigger certain emotions that cause all negotiations to shut down. Managers seek satisfaction by throwing verbal darts in an effort to exert authority and prove their case. Unfortunately, those darts and making employees feel as if they are “losing” are more likely to cause the difficult employee to avoid coaching, become combative and unwilling to listen…and even worse, passive aggressive and disengaged. So when you feel as if you “won” the discussion, did you really?

No one ever wins those back and forth battles…in person or in email. Managers often loose credibility and leverage simply because they talk too much, always feeling as if they have to justify a directive or decision after the fact. Leaders communicate what they want, not defend what they do. Clear communication up front allows you to sit back “like a boss”, instead of constantly having to defend your position.

What Is Your Best Defense?
like_a_bossWell-placed silence can be a powerful weapon in an effort to get results in one-on-one, difficult conversations. Tactical conversation can help people to actually hear what’s coming out of their own mouths, while giving difficult people a chance to put their foot in theirs. Well-placed silence helps one choose battles so that there will be enough energy to ultimately win the war. That being said, it’s ok to let people feel as if they are in charge or winning, especially when you know that you have a legitimate case. THE truth will come out if we manage our reactions properly, speak when necessary and keep our comments direct, fact-based and unemotional.

Back and forth battles give difficult people ammunition to continue in their manipulative and unproductive ways. Strategy, patience, calculated conversations and well-placed silence give managers the endurance and edge they need to get much needed buy-in and behavior change. And it’s those qualities that will enable managers to not just feel as if they’ve won a fight, but to actually win the war with the whole team in tact.

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A P.I.P. Shouldn’t Be An R.I.P.

It’s so easy to say that employees should just go away when they’re not performing the way we want them to or responding to our management. The hard part is not actually getting them to change behavior, it’s actually admitting that we can do more to get them to where they should be.

image1PIPs or Performance Improvement Plans are often used by companies as the last ditched effort to shape up those “troubled” employees before we ship them out. Others use them as merely a coaching tool to get the attention of their people so that other forms of disciplinary action doesn’t have to be taken. I’ve seen PIPs in memo form, worksheets and templates, and I’ve even seen them delivered in emails. But regardless of how we format them, they should all have the same elements to be effective:

  • Clear areas that our employees need improve upon to remain a part of our teams
  • Challenging, yet achievable goals and deadlines for expected improvement
  • A plan of action for achievable said goals
  • Steps in which the manager can contribute and help the employee reach optimal performance
  • Fair and consistently applied actions that will occur if the desired performance isn’t met

We cannot use the word “Improvement” in the plan if we are not truly trying to achieve it. How we communicate during the delivery, and the words and tone used during the meeting should not feel like a death sentence or as if we are setting the employee up to fail.

There is no need to rehash the issues that we’ve had with the employee, but should focus on the behaviors that cause those issues that need to be altered or adjusted. Bringing up old stuff, especially if those incidents have caused negative conflict before, will surely turn your performance improvement meeting into a counter-productive blame session where no one is listening.

If we want our employees to listen, they must feel as if they are believed in, like they can make it and that they are being supported by members of management. Not only is this communicated in the document and meetings themselves, but by actually following up frequently to ensure that the necessary steps in the plan are being acted on.

So ultimately, a lot of the responsibility comes back to the manager. Not just delivering a document so that we can check a box, but managing our employees to yield the results that we need.

And isn’t that what management is all about? Not just supervising processes and expecting everyone to fall in line, but by providing resources and teaching people how to be successful in our systems.

Joe ClarkIf we want to get rid of someone, let’s just do it and move on to the next. Like Joe Clark said in the movie Lean On Me, “Don’t f#&% around with it…do it expeditiously!” But if we actually want them to get better, we must communicate it, make them believe it and show them how serious we are about them making it through the process.

The Managers of the Roundtable

The legendary King Arthur had a great employee engagement strategy…listen to and value the opinions of your leaders. As a result of the involvement with his team, we still speak of his conquests and successes to this day.

KnightsHere is an excerpt from my new Performance I Create article where I encourage dialogue, equality and teamwork amongst leaders:

…to force ideas on them [managers] may be ineffective because their team may need something different…

I committed to providing a forum, a monthly roundtable, where they could come together, learn from one another, share ideas and needs with HR, and leave feeling as if they were listened to and treated equally.

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Follow The Signs

When we want certain things so badly, it’s hard for us to read the writing on the wall that says it’s not for us.

Like in high school, when you had a major crush on that special someone, only to finally get a shot and realize they’re a jerk. Then we miserably try to make it work because that is the guy or gal that everyone else wants. That’s the situation that looks good…but it really sucks. That happens in our professional careers as well. The key though is realizing sooner rather than later that it’s OK to leave. Some things are worth the sacrifice, some things are not.

We are all fighters, and that tenacity that we have (when guided) gets us far. We never retreat when faced with a challenge. We stand for what we think is right and that is how we’ve gotten this far.

But I’ve learned that just because something is wanted, doesn’t mean that it’s needed. That place that would be “perfect if…” may not be worth the time, discomfort or struggle that it would take to make it “perfect”. And honestly, if it were perfect, our imperfect self would mess it up.

My wife and I recently visited a place where we both so wanted things to work out a certain way. Our visit was basically a decision-making one. The funny thing about that visit was that everything that caused distractions, discomfort, annoyance or passiveness over the last few years all coincidentally happened in that one trip. What were the odds? And while she is always quick to say, “That’s a sign!” when things like that happen, I actually beat her to it this time. We looked at each other and agreed, “It’s time to move on.”

There are signs that our tenure at certain places has come to an end:

  • Some relationships don’t seem as natural as they once did
  • You find yourself trying to convince yourself that you should be there
  • It’s difficult to be focused and productive because you are easily distracted or angered over the smallest things
  • Some things just don’t feel right anymore, and what used to feel natural and right has become more of a chore or burden

no-reason-to-stayI believe that the quicker we come to grips that it’s time to move forward in our personal or professional missions the easier the transition will be. When we follow the signs and read the proverbial writing on the wall, we are able to amicably part ways and focus on the future. While there are many things worth suffering and fighting through, there are others things that require us to use the right balance of emotion, logic and intuition to determine when they’re not.

Sometimes the missions of our companies do not align with our personal ones. Sometimes the values don’t mix. Sometimes, we just don’t fit. Sometimes, all parties have gotten what they needed out of the relationship and there is nothing left to achieve. And sometimes we’re all moving in different directions, and while it’s painful to part ways, that pain should fuel us to be bolder, stronger and more committed to those things we deem worthy of the fight.

Does Your Performance Stack Up, Part II

After discussing Performance Evaluations a few weeks ago at Performance I Create, the wonderful folks at Local Job Network reached out to me for a radio interview to discuss the topic further.

blocksWhile I hate my recorded voice, I agreed to do the interview because there are organizations and managers that need a little extra motivation and new ideas on how to prepare for and execute the dreaded Annual Review.

While I do not consider myself the authority on the subject, I’ve seen firsthand how evaluations can turn troubled employees into top performers. I’ve seen the disengaged become leaders with the right feedback.

Please take a few minutes to listen to the full interview HERE and please share!

Thank you so much for listening and for always supporting me as I strive to bring relevance and practicality to management and Human Resources.

 

ADApting To Employee Needs

Please visit Performance I Create for my new post on compliance and decency in the workplace.  Here is a sample…

ada“The very foundation of what HR professionals do is ensure that our organizations avoid risk and stay compliant to not only the policies that are established for the company but to Federal regulations and the laws of our particular States.

…compliance is not only about rules and requirements, it’s also about decency, advocacy and respect for current and potential employees and clients…”

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

The Danger In Overpraising Employees

Employees that are good at what they do oftentimes don’t hear it. They are so good that even when they do a little extra, it becomes viewed as the norm and is virtually unnoticed. Most times when we see managers praising employees is when they have performed at or below standard and have finally done something extraordinary. This creates a feeling that the only way to get attention is to underperform, then actually do your job. While those that are consistently good are seemingly punished for it.

How often have you seen the employee that has attendance issues rewarded for having a short run of punctuality? On the flip side, how many employees are thanked for being dependable and consistency present and on time. Not as many, because they are doing what they are expected to do.  So is our praise tied more to expectation (or lack thereof) or actual performance?

Meeting minimum standards should be positively acknowledge but not so much that employees believe that average is special.

If/When You Do, Be SpecificGood-job-275x300
Throwing around “Good Job!” just to seem like the nice supervisor actually hurts more than it helps. Generic praise is empty praise. The recipient will not necessarily know what behaviors to continue and build upon if they’re not told which ones caught the positive eye of the manager. Compliments and mentions of specific tasks, accomplishments or behaviors show that those in charge are paying attention to what employees are actually doing to get their results. This helps build consistent performance as well.

Balance in praise is key. We must vocalize appreciation for consistency, and when someone does something that is a big deal, treat it and acknowledge them like it is a big frickin’ deal. Nothing encourages the extra mile more than noticing and rewarding people for running it. But we must be careful not to water-down praise by giving it when it’s not warranted.