Stop Hiding

I had a habit of hiding in my office when things get chaotic around the office. At least when that chaos was “someone else’s problem” or responsibility. When I started to hear people getting feisty or when I heard questions being raised up and down the hall, that was my queue to close my door.

It’s my only way to get peace, quiet and to not be pulled into drama or someone else’s mess…right?

Then one day, something happened to my peace and quiet. I started to get intercepted before I could make it to my office and I was forced to be that extra assistance or the different outlook that was needed. I couldn’t not get involved anymore. I couldn’t not give input or offer to fix the issue. And these interruptions changed the way I looked at my role. 

I believe that everyone feels as if they have more to offer than they are being asked to…but when it’s time to cash in we oftentimes don’t want to be bothered. We want it both ways. We want easy and cushy, and then complain when we’re not asked to help solve the difficult. After an issue has been tackled, we run from our hiding place and gripe that we weren’t consulted. If you haven’t done that, I have. I’m guilty.

It took me leaving my current employer and then coming back to understand that I was being asked to participate in the chaos because I was trusted to bring about some order while others were scrambling. I eventually learned that throwing my hands up when I might have had THE suggestion only helped in keeping the calamity and status quo in tact. I was great at pointing out what was wrong but I was not doing enough to change it. 

What I Learned
People in leadership positions are a proud breed of people. They may not outright say, “Hey kid, we need your insight or help”, but instead casually ask your opinion in passing, ask you to make a phone call for them or hand you a document to proof. That is sometimes their way of saying, “What you think matters” without saying, “What you think matters”.  And once I jumped into one of those chaotic situations and helped to calm it down or to make sense of it, the people around me realized what I knew or said silently all of the time…I CAN do more.

If you can do more, do more. Don’t run from the difficult, don’t shy away from the challenge and don’t avoid the uncomfortable..only then to complain that you’re not being used in your workplace properly. The old adage remains, “Respect is earned, not given”, and earning it means getting our hands a little dirty more often than not. Respect is earned by staying in the midst or close to it when things don’t make sense and helping to decode it. Respect is given when our ideas aren’t held for ransom for fear that we won’t be popular, liked or politically correct. 

20140723-064044-24044763.jpgBeing counted on and accountable is tiring, it is busy and it might just make the workdays longer. But isn’t that better than flying under the radar to a point that I’m virtually insignificant and useless? Isn’t that better than my phone not ringing at all? I think so. 

We have enough of those people…the ones hiding behind their doors like I used to. Avoiding challenge but having the loudest opinions about how those forced to deal with it handled or mishandled it. The opinions and ideas voiced behind those doors do us all no good as the real work is done and real respect is earned on the other side of it.

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Is Technology The Answer?

Have you ever had a manager say, “Research the best program that will fix X,Y & Z.” and you want to say, “We just need to fix you/us first!”? 

When processes are broken, we want to immediately automate. When people are not doing what’s expected, we think technology is the magic solution. When we can’t get organized, we run to the app store on our tablets or the vendor with the flashiest presentation. At the end of the day, we must understand that you cannot automate inefficiency (you can tweet that if you’d like).

Now I love automation, but I’m aware enough of my own inefficiencies to know that an app or a new form won’t automatically make me productive. Software does not excuse or cover up my weaknesses. Using technology to mask or cover up laziness, poor management and cowardice to champion change will not work. If there is a process that is fundamentally flawed and we input that jacked up info or process into a new shiny system, we will simply go from a mess to an automated mess. 

Automation can assist in getting us on track or to make things quicker, but a solid foundation has to be laid first:

  • Departments must be on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish
  • Groups must clearly define what they want “success” to look like
  • Expectations and standards must be clearly established and communicated to employees

Let me offer an example of how my organization got it right. As a government entity, every personnel action requires multiple levels of approval from various offices. The old process entailed physically signing off on documents, mailing it around to the different offices until it got to HR for final approval and processing. This process generally worked, but it was slow, papers would get lost under piles on desks and it was difficult to hold people accountable for doing their part. 

First knowing exactly what needed to be done, we found a company that could automate this process, allowing actions to be approved electronically, move through a database to the next decision maker, complete with email notification of what needed to be done and when. With this system, we were able to see exactly where each action was at all times and who to call if their was a bottleneck in the process. Ultimately, actions that use to take months to complete could be done in a matter of hours or a few days.

When companies first identify exactly what they are trying to accomplish and learn how to effectively manage it, thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to force broken processes into new shiny computer programs can be saved. 

circuitboardTechnology should be used to enhance processes and systems that already have a workable foundation, or at the very least a team of people that are dedicated to getting it right…not just trying to make it paperless. Technology should not be a bandage for a broken leg. We have to put a splint on that leg, develop processes to keep it from breaking again and then enhance it with technology that makes sense for what we specifically do or need done. 

So before we run out and spends thousands of dollars on new toys and the latest and greatest from a conference (be careful my #SHRM14 peeps), lets invest in the basics first; clear communication, creativity when tackling issues and holding the right people accountable…because if we can’t do that before the tech, we’re probably not going to successfully do it after the tech.

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.

Embrace the Unsexy Stuff

We all want to be able to say we changed the world from the inside out. That’s cool and that’s a great goal. But there are plenty of things in the world that need tweaking from the outside in as well. And unfortunately, those tasks aren’t sexy. They’re needed, but boring and/or tedious.

I have personally been in roles where I am depended on for things that are clearly outside of my area of expertise. I love gadgets, so people think that means I am an IT guy. I’m pretty good with a screwdriver and pliers, but that doesn’t mean I’m Facilities Management. I like to talk, but that doesn’t mean I’m a speaker or Master of Ceremonies. I’m dashingly handsome, but that doesn’t mean I want to model. I love cigars, but that doesn’t mean…yeah, I do know a lot about CigaHrs.

So I’m learning (and it’s a struggle) that maybe people are depending on us for these things because we’re trusted, because we know how to get stuff done, because if we don’t have the answer we’ll help in figuring it out or we have the right connections to solve it. And that’s a beautiful thing…I think.

It causes extra work. Every issue is critical and can’t wait. I’m realizing that the ability to be all things to all people is a talent in itself, and valuable in any setting, whether I see it that way at the time or not.

Getting Stuff Done may not be what’s listed on your degree, but the ability to do it will propel one far further than what they studied in school. Far beyond certifications. It’s all about talking a good game and backing it up. Or not talking at all because you’re too busy doing!

I-can-doSo I’m working on NOT complaining about being asked to do the unsexy stuff and I’m trying to change my mindset that if I know how to do both the Sexy AND Unsexy stuff, I’ll be indispensable… more than normal anyway, as no one in business is completely indispensable. Plus, that stuff still has to get done so who better to tackle it that me!

No task is beneath us, as they all prepare and elevate us to something greater.

A Big Ego

Your department in shambles?  Your employees lack enthusiasm?  Are they no longer offering any new ideas and seem to lack innovation?  Is your office full of bickering and finger-pointing?

One of the biggest mistakes made by managers is the thinking that the blame is all on the employee, questioning their drive, discipline and engagement. Quite possibly it has everything to do with something a manager directly did or didn’t do that has caused the employees to turn for the worst.

20140423-140708.jpgAn inflated managerial ego causes us to think that we can do no wrong. After all, I could not have made it to the top of the corporate food chain if I didn’t know what I was doing…if I didn’t know how to lead. When things are not changing, managers must first take a look at what they’re doing to encourage change or what they’re doing to block it.

No Autonomy
We can’t preach that we want our employees to think independently or decisively if we undercut on every decision they make. When given a task or project, it’s best for the manager to offer suggestions and tutelage, and if it still fails, we all have a learning experience and the motivation to make it better. The old “If you want it done right…” mindset makes employees feel as if their ideas are being dismissed. And why would they continue to be vocal knowing that their ideas and efforts are all for naught? Instead, let’s teach them how to succeed, and be sure to be available and approachable if they need assistance along the way.

Mixed Messages
Publicly saying one thing and then acting on something totally different is a sure way to turn employees off. Consistency from leadership is key to consistency in their shops and key in earning credibility with their crew. Rules and policies are in place to help manage this, but when employees make good decisions based on policy or past precedent and then managers come behind them and overturn it (sometimes as favors to other managers), the employee looks stupid and shaky. And when you have different rules for different people, there may as well be no rules at all.

Managerial CYA*
Part of being a leader is sometimes taking a figurative bucket for their people. When a division does well, it’s “we”. When something falls through a crack it’s “them”. Once employees have enough tire marks on them, they’ll do less to stand out and just enough to stay under the radar. The only thing being encouraged in this scenario is them being encouraged to stop trying to make a difference. When people stop trying to make a difference, we are stuck with the status quo.

20140423-140714.jpgIt’s the little things that make huge differences and it’s the little things that those in charge do that employees pay the closest attention to. Employees can tell when their managers don’t have their back, and more importantly they know if they’re being used or undervalued. Once these trusts are damaged, it’s very difficult to regain them.

Managerial ego must be set aside to save team cohesiveness and to boost productivity. When those that lead think that no one can do it better than them, they’ll find themselves forced to do it themselves.  Unfortunately for them, a prerequisite to being in charge is having someone willing to follow your lead.  When employees don’t believe in who they are supposed to follow, they’ll simply choose their own path…oftentimes right out of the door.

* CYA = Cover Your Ass

Does Your Performance Eval Stack Up?

Check out my latest post over at Performance I Create, where we are discussing everyone’s favorite time of the year, Performance Evaluation time! Here is a sample:

performance-evaluationIf you’ve ever dreaded delivering a Performance Evaluation or if employees would rather get a root canal than sit through their review, your evaluation may need to be updated. The only reason for a manager to dread the process is if they know the feedback will lead to push-back and conflict. Employees hate them because they are tired of hearing opinionated fluff.

Please click HERE to view the remainder of the 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!