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

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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!

Now What?

I am fresh back from a wonderful conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASHRM) and I am still pumped up and excited about my profession.

As I emptied my conference bag and began sorting through all of the pamphlets, pens and notes, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now what?”

We go to all of these conferences for development , fellowship, and to meet our Social Media peers and friends in person, but what good is all of that development and fellowship if the organizations that we return to don’t see and reap any benefit?

What are we going to do? What are we going to change? How are we better and will the colleagues we work with daily see it? Or are we just going to hoard all of the cool stuff we learned and keep all of the free pens and water bottles to ourselves.

I saw something special in that convention center, and because of that I’m motivated to share until my colleagues get tired of me.

I had the pleasure of working with my Performance I Create colleagues as the Social Media team for the event. We had a ball, sharing session content, promoting social media, blogging, etc. As the River Center staff began breaking down the exhibit tables and attendees were clearing out, we thought that our work was done. Just then a volunteer approached us and said that there were a couple of attendees that really needed to talk to us. Agreeing, a couple of us walked out to where our Social Engagement Portal was (that staff broke those tables down fast!) and we were immediately hit with a series of questions about how “Social” could help them in their workplace. They wanted to know how to move their thoughts from ideas to execution…and which tools and mediums would be best for what they were trying to accomplish.

connectAs we engaged them (my colleague did most of the talking, ahem), you could see light bulbs not only coming on but exploding. The concepts we spoke of were not complicated. They just needed some of that stuff that we teach and talk about to come off of the screen, out of the blogs and made plain to them in person…right there in their hands so that they could grab it and implement. What they needed was the knowledge that we had gained from doing…ideas that we got from conferences….strategies that we picked up from our peers. They needed it to make sense and tie in to what they were dealing with every day in their organization…and that if they had questions afterwards that they could reach out and get support.

“Don’t just help light bulbs come on, help them explode!” – Justin Harris, 2014

That’s what stuck with me. That’s what made me realize that it’s not that the people upstairs from me don’t care to do things differently, it’s that they don’t know exactly where to start. They have ideas, but they need help planning. Those of us that say we’re experts are needed to reach out occasionally and break it down for them. Because sometimes our messages are too big and they can’t run with that load. If we break the messages into manageable chunks, focus on process instead of the presentation, we’ll see more people grab hold and put the stuff in action.

So it starts in my shop. Being the change that I talk about and helping others to implement. Helping others to get involved and learn more about the tools of our trade. Because the Resources that we have are no good if we are not sharing them with other Humans.

Unlocking Your Full Potential

I look for analogies and learning opportunities in everything. And while making sure not to miss any teachable moments with my children, I often find myself over-analyzing the shows they watch on television and pointing out the life and work lessons in them. I’m actually amazed that my son is still willing to watch his shows with me.

Saying that, one of my son’s favorite toys/shows is Lego Ninjago. Short synopsis, the four main characters are young ninjas that are charged with battling evil doers trying to take over the city of Ninjago and surrounding areas. Early in their development, their Sensei (Wu) taught that each of them had special and unique powers/abilities that they must find within themselves and tap into. This process was often referred to as “Unlocking Their Full Potential”.

Throughout the season, the four ninjas competed with one another, fought alongside one another, trained and eventually believed in their abilities enough to evolve into the Ninja masters they were born to be. But just like with any team, drama and issues arose because some evolved and unlocked potential before others. So as expected, egos were bruised, jealousies arose and self-doubt set in.

Don’t we all know someone like that? People that are so talented and driven…but never quite realize and/or unlock their full potential. Is that you? Carrying so much promise inside, only to have that potential stifled by fear and uncertainty. Do we too often put our dreams on the shelf and under-perform because we’re worried about what others will or won’t say about us or how are teammates might react.

After 13 episodes, the formula for successfully unlocking one’s full potential looked something like this:

SenseiwuteaAccept Tutelage
When someone is available to teach and mentor, take advantage of it! We miss our opportunities to grow and evolve sometimes because we fail to listen to those that have been in our shoes once before. Sometimes we have to just shut up and listen. There are no new issues, just different people having them. There is wisdom out there to be obtained, we just have to be receptive enough to apply the principles that we acquire from those that have been there before.

Patience Is Still a Virtue
In seeking to unlock full potential, one must understand that just because others around them are moving up and ahead, the time still might not be right for you. Be happy that promotion is in the neighborhood and stopping at your neighbor’s home. Being happy and celebrating others for their good fortune will make your wait better and may even bring about something even bigger and better for you! We must be careful of what we ask for because we just might get it before we are ready for it. But that wait makes receiving it just that much better.

Ninjago GroupThere Is Strength In Numbers
We shouldn’t have to go through everything alone. As strong as we are, we still occasionally need support and someone to help us fight through our development difficulties. From cheerleaders…to people to bounce ideas off of…to people to emulate, we need a good team. And don’t worry about your ideas or opportunities being taken from you, as true potential can’t be stolen from you because it’s predestined to be yours. There is no need to be guarded because those around can’t take what’s rightfully yours…and celebrating your successes are a lot more fun with a great group of supporters.

Each of us has something special on the inside that is just waiting to come out and shake the world up. The only thing holding it back is us. Once we listen and learn how to tap into it, exercise patience and surround ourselves with the right influences, there’s no telling how far we can go and how much evil we can defeat.

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Screw Your Pay Grade

When workplace responsibilities become “coastable”, employees often float under the radar until annual review time and ultimately retirement, all while abandoning their ability to be accountable. That lack of accountability, according to Paul Samulski, “diminishes execution and individual and team performance. It creates and reinforces a culture of blame. While everyone is busy pointing fingers, deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, and customers stay dissatisfied.”

When employees don’t take accountability, they complain. It’s everyone’s fault but theirs. They don’t want to do anything, but hate for others to be called upon to help. And when things go wrong and they are questioned, they give the infamous line…

It’s Above My Pay Grade
The ultimate cop out. This phrase makes me want to scream not only because it’s the worse excuse to avoid work and maintain the status quo, but because it’s always followed by a buck being passed. If this employee were denied an opportunity and told, “It’s above your paygrade”, they’d be ready to fight and then sue. But given the opportunity to slither out of working, it so easily flows from the lips.

This is why it’s common to see lower-ranking employees given more access and/or privileges by management than their higher-ranking counterparts because they:

  • Are trusted to actually do something with the access or information
  • Are willing to learn to get things done while taking chances and being resourceful
  • Are ready to take responsibility for their newly acquired skills and duties

Instead of spending so much of our attention on employees suffering from “It’s above my pay grade-itis”, spend more quality time in developing your more energetic and ambitious employees. The ones that will accept the extra assignments and go an extra mile or two or three. The ones that care about accomplishing the office or organizational goals and not just doing enough to cover their butts, collect a check and have health insurance. Either three things will occur with those “itis” stricken employees once the engaged ones begin to get the attention, praise and promotion:

  1. They will realize that it truly benefits them to buy-in and help the organization or office succeed.
  2. They will realize that there is no place for that their type of attitude and find employment elsewhere.
  3. They will continue to whisper, complain and be stagnant, only to end up working FOR the very employee that they once ridiculed and griped about. And if that employee was trained correctly, they will encourage them to come along for the ride or managed them right out of the building.

What Would Happen If…?
What would happen if…employees looked for and asked for tasks or projects that were “above their pay grades”? Our annual reviews would be full of examples and instances where we “Exceeded Expectations” instead of simply “Meeting”. We would build portfolios of skills that would make us more promotable.

What would happen if…managers stop creating and allowing a culture of blame to exist in the workplace? While they take the opportunity to identify and develop the willing talent, they must also create and foster an environment of accountability by not addressing mistakes as faults but manageable opportunities. When managers blame, employees blame. They didn’t start off disgruntled.

What would happen if…we stopped hiding our gifts and talents from our managers for fear of being asked to do more work? If we communicate and embrace our talents, we would more often find ourselves being asked to perform job duties where we operate in our gift….actually enjoying what we are doing! The fulfilling jobs can’t be offered if no one knows that those are where your strengths lie.

“Work for the pay grade you want, not for the one that you’re in.” – Justin L Harris, 2014

Rules of Engagement: Nine Minutes On Monday

Since ruHRelevant? was started in July 2012, we have stressed how critical relationships are when it comes to employee performance. I’m not a proponent of managers trying to be buddies with employees, but a certain level of trust and rapport must be established to have a truly productive and engaged workforce.

Leaders cannot manage unless they know what makes their people tick, what motivates them in that specific environment, and what their career goals are. But one step further, they must know how those goals tie into the mission of the organization.

20140124-204413.jpgIn Nine Minutes On Monday, James Robbins draws the perfect road map on how to build these relationships by taking 9 minutes a week for planning and execution to help foster this very trust.

The charge from Robbins is to take a few moments on Mondays to plan out the development of your employees. Not just a blanket “I’m gonna develop folks this week!” but pinpointing who and what kind of attention each individual needs to be successful.

On Monday, most managers (smart managers) are planning out their week;

  • what goals need to be met
  • which deadlines are most critical
  • which review they must deliver

But equally as important is taking time to map out which employees need your attention that week not just based on production or an issue, but determined by

  • Who haven’t I had a chance to speak to?
  • Who do I need to know a little better?
  • Have I asked that employee what they might need specifically from me to make their job easier or more meaningful?
  • Have I uncovered this employee’s workplace or developmental needs based on conversations that we’ve had?

The book begins by helping leaders to understand their role; whether they are meant for management or are they merely someone that was good at doing the job. Once it’s established that you’re meant to lead, the book, that has nine chapters representing the nine drivers of employment engagement, helps you create small actionable goals that will help you to inspire and motivate your staff.

My favorite excerpt of the book sums in up wonderfully…

“While sending your employees off to seminars and and courses will be an integral part of their development, nothing beats the day-in and day-out coaching and mentoring by you, the boss. Most employees do not enjoy the experience of ongoing development because their manager is not sure how to do it or because the manager is just too busy and has not established it as a part of a routine.

Coaching your employees does not have to be complicated as some would have you to believe, nor does it take hours of your time in face-to-face sessions. Great coaching is quick, on the fly and practical.”

It Has To Become A Part Of Who You Are
Aristotle once told me that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Managers want excellence and they want it consistently. But managers must come to grips with the fact that just expecting great performance is not enough. It must be shown, taught and then shown some more. And in order to achieve the desired results, managers must carve out the time to individually and collectively show their employees what this looks like, repeatedly!

Because I want you to purchase copies of the book, I won’t share all of the techniques but I’ll give a sample of some of the questions to ask during your weekly planning for engaging your employees without sacrificing all of your time:

Question #4 – Whom will I give a 2nd paycheck to this week? (Connecting purpose to pay)
Question #6 – How can I help someone grow this week?
Question #9 – What model do my people need from me this week?

20140124-204619.jpgTaking these Nine Minutes requires true self-reflection from a management standpoint before going in to engage employees. They cause one to ask, “What can I do to positively impact and affect my people?” Well thought-out action, without committing too much time…resulting in true engagement. Not engagement that tries to trick employees to climb, but engagement that helps them find the motivation within themselves to keep climbing and to stay the course! And helping them to find this motivation is going to take a consistent investment into each individual.

It only takes Nine Minutes On Monday to invest in your people. Make all Nine of them count!

Special thanks to James Robbins and his team for reaching out to me and providing me with this opportunity!

Recruiters Roll Cigars

I’m always asked why I’m so fascinated with cigars. While there are several reasons to enjoy a fine hand-rolled cigar, I have a love and appreciation for things of different types, backgrounds and origins coming together to make something beautiful. I admire the thought, the process, and the detail that contributes to the cigar experience.

I guess the reason I love them so is the same reason I love being a Human Resources Practitioner. Nothing gives me more pleasure at work than being able to bring multiple people together, with varying ideas and backgrounds, and to help forge them into a cohesive, functional, successful team. When it works well, when it’s seamless, the consumer looks past the different departments, levels or ingredients and can focus on the quality of what they are getting for their money.

I’m always amazed at how skillful and point-on many of my recruiting partners in crime are at seeking out and reeling in quality talent that fit their organizations. Like Master Cigar Blenders, they are able to take the vision and mission of the organization, communicate them, and come back with people (like tobacco) that can not only do the job, but that embody what the organization is all about. Leaving lasting impressions and creating experiences that foster loyalty and has their clientele coming back for more.

It’s in the Selection
tourThere are hundreds of tobacco types in the world, but only a select few are deemed worthy enough to be included in a fine cigar. It takes someone with a trained eye, a keen sense of taste and someone who knows the industry to select a leaf:

  • that comes from trusted growers = educational background and career goals
  • that is grown and processed according to company standards = business acumen
  • that is cured and aged properly = business and industry experience, knowledge and exposure

Putting It All Together
Just because the ingredients are good individually does not mean that it will all work together. It takes hundreds of combinations and trials to get the right effect and the proper balance. Improper tobacco pairings are nasty and harmful to a brand. Have you ever had a team of extremely talented individuals that just could not seem to accomplish anything together? While it seemed like a “Dream Team” on paper it became a nightmare in the meeting room. The pieces have to compliment one another and someone has to put those pieces together.

Anyone can bring bodies into the organization, but it takes a skilled crafts-person to identify potential, evaluate current cultural strengths and recognize organization needs to recruit the best individuals for fit, balance and for “taste”.

It takes a Master Blender of People, a skilled Recruiter, to select the best:

RollingFiller – mixture of leafs that make up the middle of the cigar – the front-line employees

Binder – leaf that holds the Filler together – much like managers and supervisors

Wrapper – most visible part of the cigar, the ingredient that gives it the most flavor – the face of the organizationthe Executive Leadership

…and bring them together to create a work of art. Your successful organization.

If you know of a company that is making a difference in their industry and the community …one that offers a wonderful product and an even better consumer experience…it starts with how it was blended. It starts with the skillful Recruiter. If you see a group of employees that just seem to click…seem as if they were just made for one other…leadership that stands out for the right reasons… it was not by accident, they were selected for fit and flavor by the company’s Master Blender, the skillful Recruiter.

Theirs is a behind the scenes, sometimes thankless job, but it is necessary and critical for us to be able to consume and partake in the things we enjoy.

Be sure to check out my CigaHr blog for info, videos and cigar reviews.