Here are two real examples and very contrasting ways to deal with death in the workplace. Have you experienced these? Which do you prefer?
The Death of a Colleague: No Grieving Allowed
Pete worked for his company 40 plus years. He worked his way up to executive. He continued to work into his 70’s as a troubleshooter for the company. I remember meeting him when I started working there. I asked him why he was successful, and he leaned back in his chair and laughed. “I didn’t go to college!” Then he told how he’d spend time with the employees every morning, talking to and listening to what was going on with them. After a while, we didn’t see him much. began hearing rumors about his whereabouts: on the golf course, a secret assignment etc. Finally, the real answer came out that he had died. There was no meeting, email, or announcement. We had to dig around to find out the arrangements. The bottom line was that it’s done, he’s gone. “Next!”
The Death of a Colleague: Compassion and Caring
Contrast the above behavior with another company. One Friday evening, one of the owners of a successful smaller company, Bill, died unexpectedly. Upon learning of this, his business partner quickly contacted the management team and had a phone conference that weekend. Monday morning, all managers held meetings with their teams to share this shocking news. Another manager meeting was held after that, to check in on them and their employees. An all-employee meeting was organized later that Monday morning, including a luncheon for everyone, to gather, grieve together and talk. At the luncheon, the business partner talked with compassion about the person who had died and with empathy for all those at home and work. The grieving process was discussed and support was provided to all that needed it. Questions were handled about ‘what’s next’? As much as possible, fears, anxieties, and concerns were handled delicately. Later, serious and funny stories were shared about Bill’s commitment to their mission/vision/values. Assistance was given throughout the week until the visitation and funeral. Communication was delivered openly with understanding and care.
Co-workers are our extended families. Coping with loss is a very personal thing. It affects all of us in different ways. It can’t be ignored. Psychologists say it’s important for people to share their feelings about the person that died, and use employee assistance or other programs to talk about things. (if they are available)
It seems to me that in too many organizations employees are regarded as cogs in the wheel, to be discarded casually and often without recognition. The emotional side of people’s lives is sorely overlooked. Companies can learn to do much better. In a few companies and with some leaders, employees are valued partners. Compassion and empathy are part of their culture. Wouldn’t it be honorable if it was the rule of corporate behavior instead of the exception? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.
Over the years, I have coached leaders confronted with management problems that sometimes conflict with the very ethics that a company proclaims. I admire most people who are managers. They are hard working, stuck right in the middle of an organization and bombarded by customers, executives, employees, shareholders, and vendors. When things go well, employees or executives most often get the credit. When things go bad it’s the managers who are blamed. I empathize with them. Managers, collectively, do make the biggest impact on a business’s success. At the same time, they can step up their game and help minimize the impact of the daily whirlwind. Check out these problems–how would you handle each one?
3 Management Problems: What would you do?
A manager’s team was behind on most goals. Then he caught his top performer stealing. If he let this person go, results would suffer more, and his job was on the line. It’s time to decide, what would you do?
Another manager learns first-hand from customer complaints about a defect in one of their company’s best-selling products. He researches the issue, identifies a pattern across the organization and documents his findings. He brings it up to his boss, who listens and says she will take care of it. Nothing happens. The manager brings it up two more times and no feedback. Problems and complaints are increasing. What’s the next step?
While business is decent, a manager’s boss raises some prices, cuts employee hours, and reduces expenses across the board to improve profits. Managers are expected to pick up hours to fill out the work schedule. He also starts mandatory half-day manager meetings on Saturdays to plan, redirect, and learn how to win. Essentially, he beats people up for a few hours. All managers are told this will continue until results improve. Now what?
Considerations for Handling Management Problems
In dealing with any management problems keep in mind these guidelines:
Define the issue clearly by gathering all the facts you can-reports, customers, employees or other managers.
Review your company policy if one relates to the situation.
Ask, what are my options and potential outcomes? If appropriate include other people in identifying this.
Ask, what’s the right and prudent thing to do, not necessarily the expedient thing to do?
Then, take action as soon as possible.
Follow-up and reinforce.
Remember this quote by philosopher Meister Eckhart, “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” In summary, how we handle management problems is about our character. Dr. King said it eloquently, didn’t he?
Famed management theorist Peter Drucker wrote over twenty years ago, “We have a dearth of leadership.” This is even more true today but not for the greatest leaders of all-time.
Recently, in Davos, Switzerland the global business and political elite gathered for the World Economic Forum. While these leaders reveled in the perceived better economic news, some concerns were aired about income inequalities and leadership distrust. Ironically, an Oxfam study reported that 82% of wealth generated in the last year went to the top 1% of our population. In addition, the 2018 Edelman’s Trust Barometer was released and showed continued large-scale distrust in business and government around the globe. Trust in US institutions declined 37% across the board. In China, the trust level is perceived high. Yet it’s a government-directed response, as China moves to rate the trustworthiness of each of its citizens.
Do you see the problem here?
Misconceptions about “Real” Leadership
The job or position title doesn’t make you a leader. Few managers or politicians understand that. They may have the power but they don’t have the respect. Most leadership gurus define leadership as ‘influence’. I don’t agree. I believe leadership has to be a positive influence. The leader title has to be earned. The likes of Kim Jong-un, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Andrew Jackson, and Mao Zedong are not leaders. They are mass murderers or tyrants. This non-leadership also applies to the business people who either rule their companies or teams like dictators or use the company as a playground for their ego or for personal profit. Some that come to mind are Lampert of Sears, Raines at Gamestop, Jeffries formerly of Abercombie and Fitch, and Menard of Menards. For these people, there is a night and day comparison to the greatest leaders of all-time.
The 5 Greatest Leaders
In a survey of historical leadership, five people come to mind that leave a legacy we can all learn from. Their leadership approaches are in stark contrast to most in power today. They each have similarly admirable traits but also highlight a distinguishable characteristic that sets them apart. Each focused on giving not taking. They are the greatest leaders because separates them at a quantum level above nearly all other so called leaders.
Lincoln grew up poor in the western frontier and was mostly self-educated. Lincoln gained the title of “honest Abe” as a store clerk. When he learned he had shortchanged a customer a few pennies, he walked miles to correct the situation. This happened a number of times and people grew to appreciate his integrity. Because of this, he would often be asked to judge disputes, which led him to practice law.
Yet, his most enduring quality was his perseverance through difficulties that prepared him for his future role.At one time he said, “You cannot fail unless you quit.” He lost eight political elections, failed in two businesses and suffered a personal nervous breakdown, becoming bedridden for six months. This led him to say, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”
As the 16th US President, he served his nation in some of its darkest hours during the Civil War. He helped preserve the nation, abolish slavery, and strengthen the United States for a significant world impact in the years beyond.
Mr. Gandhi was born and raised in the Hindu merchant caste system. He was an ordinary boy but one with determination to do well. He was trained in law in London and experienced racism in South Africa as he began to practice civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer. Returning to India he became an activist, organizing peasants, farmers and laborers to gain social justice. He gained leadership of the Indian National Congress which led to nationwide campaigns for self-rule. Thirteen different times he was arrested and put in jail. Gandhi said this about his struggles, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
He appealed for non-cooperation through his book, Hind Swaraij.Gandhi’s non-violent approach confounded British rule. He said,“ In a gentle way you can shake the world.”His approaches captured the attention globally, and rallied civil rights and freedom movements. It all eventually led to India’s independence. His humility is highlighted by his quote, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It was never about him but rather about the Indian people and justice.
Mother Teresa was born in Albania and became a Roman Catholic nun. She served in Ireland and then moved to India. She became disturbed by the perpetual poverty that she saw every day. She tirelessly served the dying and poor by living among them and giving each person comfort. Her relentless compassion touched the hearts of people worldwide. She founded the Missionaries of Charity. It eventually grew to 4500 sisters in 133 countries. Few people have been respected or admired like her, for her devotion to those others often forgotten about or shunned. Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox–that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years for his activism and beliefs about freedom and equality. After first being abused and tortured, he suffered there through inhumane treatment and illnesses. He also earned his Bachelor’s Degree and smuggled out a draft of his book, Long Walk to Freedom. Upon his release from prison, in the midst of racial tension and political instability, he negotiated with F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid. They realized the Nobel Peace prize for their efforts. He eventually became the first black President of South Africa. He changed a nation by his selfless but resolute leadership. He demonstrated reconciliation and forgiveness for a “rainbow nation.” He created a multi-racial government. His devotion to peace and unity gave him a global stage and audience. Mandela reminds us, “Forgiveness starts here. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus had no formal degree or credentials and didn’t lead a multi-national company. His ministry lasted only 3 ½ years. In that time he helped the poor, sick and ordinary people all the time by healing and with miracles that no one could explain. With authenticity, he declared, ” As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” He spoke of God’s mercy and forgiveness. This all stunned and challenged the status quo of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called them hypocrites. This also scared them, and eventually he was wrongly put to death on a cross for being a heretic, which he himself predicted would happen.
He organized a core group of twelve mostly uneducated disciples. After his death, his disciples shared that he rose from the dead, and they began the Christian faith. Although people that believed him were persecuted for centuries; he now has 2 ½ billion followers which form the largest religion in the world. He is admired as a holy man or prophet by many who know about him. His book, The Bible, is an all-time best selling book ever.
The Success Secret of the Greatest Leaders
The five greatest leaders, it was seldom or never about personal gain, power, pride or their pocketbook. Their “success secret” is they took the path of servant leadership. Their cause mattered more than their own lives. If we could only startle the leaders of our day to emulate their life’s examples! They would realize that leadership greatness is not about gaining–it’s about giving. What a difference it would make!
“The zone” is a point where athletes reside when they are at their peak performance, even while almost at ease. It’s been called the Holy Grail of sports.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it as being ‘in the flow’. He said in his Ted talk, “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other… Sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
Too many managers are frantic, anxious, unsure, even full of fear. Their actions instill doubt, worry and ambiguity in their teams. Extraordinary leaders find “thezone” as well. When they do their work, it is excellent but done seemingly naturally and effortlessly. It inspires their teams to reach a new level of performance.
Two Ingredients to be in “The Zone” as LeaderLeading Naturally
Relentless preparation is the key to be able to do anything like it’s a natural talent.
Geoff Colvin shares his insights on this in his book, Talent is Overrated. Great talent still takes hard work. Great leadership, then, does also. An Olympic athlete puts in 10,000 hours of practice to be an elite competitor. Stars in any field diligently and deliberate apply themselves. They learn new techniques, study them and practice them. They attend training, get coached, and consciously and subconsciously work at getting better. This is above and beyond just doing the job. Colvin feels 10+ years of this kind of effort is required. Yet, it’s a lifetime endeavor for any professional.
Research shows that most managers receive less than one day of training per year. That’s why research likewise shows that 82% of managers aren’t fit for their job. Other studies show failure rates of 50-67%. Now, where do you want to be? The standard for excellence comes from the best companies in the world who provide 58-65 hours of training and education a year to each employee. In addition, to reach an elite level of leadership take on dedicated reading, experience reviews, online training, and video-based training every day and every week.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s what it takes to learn something so well that you perform as a leader exceptionally well, naturally, even without thinking about it. Concert pianists, professional ballad dancers and Oscar winning entertainers make this kind of effort routine. Why not you? In time daily experiences and thoughtful learning become a seamless entity in the leader’s mind that reaches for outstanding results in every experience.
Think about this. In my consulting business, our projects or coaching assignments most often involve a company or executive’s under-performance, or a desire to reach significantly higher goals. Inevitably, what the company and its management team couldn’t achieve in 1-4 years of effort we begin changing in 1-4 months. Why? Preparation, of course, but also excellent execution. A leader that does this understands how to motivate a team, and bring it together quickly while hitting on all cylinders. At our organization we teach and apply the High-Performance Formula. It involves using well-prepared skills in the right areas and at the right timing. Here it is:
Any manager can do this if they have honed their skills and knowledge time over time. When the pressure is on, conflict arises, or problems escalate, you execute a plan of resolution, brilliantly considering the above. Each area requires certain knowledge and skills. Essentially you communicate with and involve the team positively each step of the way. You don’t worry about it. You aren’t desperate. You calmly and fearlessly deal with the whirlwind of issues through your team–effortlessly. You are in “thezone” and it transforms your team and results.
Pulling this all Together
A friend of mine named Rick worked for same retail outfit for pretty much his whole career. Rick was studious about everything. (Most of the other managers act that way, they just did their jobs.) He was always learning about his product, marketing programs, leadership and customer service. Then he took action on things. He first worked for the company as a sales employee and quickly moved his way up to store manager. He was so good that they made him a troubleshooter. Why? Because he took positive action that energized his team. He did it time and again. The company would put him in low performing stores and within a few months they started making money again. Soon they wanted to promote him to the corporate headquarters to run a region. He turned them down so he didn’t have to move, and could be close to home and help raise his three boys. Instead, he bought one of their franchises and started his own business.
I remember him calling his employees to a meeting early on. He said, “I can treat you as hired hands, or professionals. Hired hands punch in and out on a clock and are only paid an hourly rate. Professionals do what has to be done and share in the success of the business. Which way do you want me to treat you?”
His employee engagement was sky high, and he dominated his market. Rick was in the army reserves and was called to active duty for Operation Desert Storm. He was gone almost a year. His team was so well-prepared by then, they executed brilliantly and profitably grew the business. Most small businesses go into an immediate tailspin if the owner is gone. They had no doubts about what needed to be done. They did it naturally and effortlessly, just like he trained them.
This is “thezone” of leadership–confidence and effectiveness. You know what you need to know and aren’t phased by what you don’t know or what inevitably may happen. You and your team breakthrough to reach or exceed your goals anyway.
My brother-in-law worked as a sheet metal worker most of his career. He was also worked as the union steward. His philosophy: fair and firm. He was known for his integrity. He had put in over twenty years at his company.
One day he and the whole crew came to work and found out they didn’t have jobs. A company from the eastern US bought them out. The new management said, “Your fired. We will hire back 80% of you at $2 an hour less.”
Fired and Re-interviewed for Less
Interviews began the next day.
Most employees re-interviewed, it’s what they knew for many years. My brother-in-law got his job back.
A few weeks after this, I talked to him at a family gathering.
I said, “How’s it going?” He said, “Great, we are getting our $2 back.” I said, “Good.” He replied, “You don’t understand. The crew is only working when supervisors are around, and they aren’t around that much.”
Treating Employees as Partners
Recently another manager emailed me. He worked hard for his company. As he explained, weekends, holidays and seventy hours a week. He had excellent performance evaluations. When his daughter got sick and he took some time off to help with her healing. Within a few months he was laid off. He put his heart into the business. The company said they were restructuring.
Isn’t sad that in our modern technological age, people are treated like this, and the workplace ends up in an adversarial climate? Is it any wonder employee engagement is so low. With the mountain of leadership resources, thought, training, education, books available…to me it’s ridiculous. The company above could of done so much better. Chances are they wanted to cut expenses to reach profit goals. Instead of instigating labor problems. Come on, nobody in their right mind thought the employees would like what the company did, right? For example in my consulting career I have helped clients deal with these kinds of issues through partnering with employees by:
Meet with employees to discuss the challenge and goals, brainstorm ideas and build teamwork.
Set-up small fast acting functional teams to improve quality and productivity gains.
Establish cross functional teams to identify ways to reduce waste and cost.
Initiate training for new methods for all shop employees.
Ensure supervision was well trained to communicate with the shop employees.
If needed look at alternative ways to schedule the plant without laying people off or cutting pay.
Create a bonus incentive for hitting goals in quality, productivity and waste. (If pay has to be cut, add a bonus for greater gains if goals are achieved.)
Meet with employee regularly to update progress, issues and new challenges.
I have seen employees step up and show 25%, 56%, 75%, 122% gains on their goals.
What are your thoughts or experiences on this?
Managers that use the “hammer” as their initial strategy generally cause way more problems than they solve. Companies and managers that value employees as partners reap the benefits of higher loyalty, engagement and productivity. Companies that don’t see poorer results. It isn’t rocket science, or is it?
Poor communication is on the top of the list for why so many companies have bad employee engagement. Either many leaders skipped the communication classes in school or they don’t care about their teams. Too many are like the CEO who threw a chair in a meeting, after a tirade!
These disturbing trends from a 2017 study spell the continued dearth for employee engagement. Only:
21% of employees believe their performance planning is any good.
24% of employees feel connected at work.
25% of employees feel managers are transparent with employees while nearly twice as many managers truly believe that they are.
26% of employee feel valued at work.
All of these are going backward from prior years. Is there any wonder why employee engagement stinks in many places? For example, a CEO in a highly competitive market faced huge price pressures and under-performing businesses that rocked the bottom line. Morale was seriously low and employee turnover high. When does he want to work on it? Next year sometime!!! He needs the transfusion NOW! All business leaders need to learn and understand that turned on employees increase productivity, customer service, sales and profitability!
Richard Branson’s quote identifies a solution. Any manager–first line supervisor to CEO–must master the art and science of communication. Whether an employee is listened to and feels wanted mostly depends on the relationship to their direct supervisor.
How to Eliminate Bad Employee Engagement
Excellent companies partner with employees by committing to these actions:
Value people, listen to them and help them succeed.
Treat employees as #1 in the business.
Invest in on-going training, coaching, communication and recognition for employees.
With employee disengagement so high–87% worldwide–one thing is obviously true: companies have to do a better job. Also, each manager needs to take this personally in order to make a positive difference. Richard Branson also said, “Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
What do you think about employee engagement? Leave a comment below.
Want to eliminate your coaching mistakes? Shhh, this is top secret! Not even the CIA, KGB, MI6 or Mossad know about this! Coaching is the ‘secret sauce’ to leadership success. So few managers understand this. Therefore they make the following lethal mistakes over and over. Hardly shocking, these mistakes lead to employee disloyalty and lower performance. Duh!?
According to research, 97% of people have self-limiting beliefs that derail their careers and performance potential. Great coaches help employees overcome these to achieve incredible results. Poor managers make these lethal coaching mistakes that reinforce the self-limits. This often leads to despair for the employees and defeat for the managers.
The 12 Lethal Coaching Mistakes
Dishonesty: If you lack integrity and ethics, you lose trust. Then you lose your team.
Yell, scream, and swear: Have you ever witnessed this before? Ever notice what the employees seem to be thinking? What they do later? Now the performance isn’t the issue–the manager is, for being a jerk. Payback will come to the manager one way or another. Not all managers believe this because their ego gets in the way. As one executive told me, “It’s my company, I will do what I want!”
Attack, attack, attack: Nobody deserves constant abuse or criticism. This, like the above, is inappropriate and shuts down employees. If you have been on the end of this you know what I mean. In addition, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexual abuse or racial prejudice are illegal. As we are seeing in the media lately when this is exposed the penalties can be harsh. There is no excuse.
Not knowing the person: Trust is paramount. Great coaches take the time to build rapport and understand each employee. What are the employee’s strengths? Weaknesses? Career goals? Beliefs? Background? Motivations? Without this, breakthrough is almost impossible. Remember this quote by Bill Gates: “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.” Too many managers just look at the business numbers and act as judge and jury. Then they say, “Next!”
Talk too much, listen too little: Coaching works as a dialogue and problem-solving effort. Listening and questioning are the bedrock skills of great coaches. It’s a communication process. Without listening, a manager communicates that he or she doesn’t care. Anyone conveys this, who make one-on-one meetings a monologue.
Come unprepared: What message does this send to employees? They aren’t important? Besides, it erodes standards for higher performance for the entire team. The manager loses credibility.
Show up late for a session or keep rescheduling it or never coach: Like being unprepared, this tells the employee that your time is more important than theirs. After a while, it erodes respect. Never forget that a manager’s success comes from their employees’ success. This is one of the top excuses managers have for not coaching, “I don’t have the time.” Whoever says this doesn’t have time to be a manager, let alone a leader.
Focus Only goals: Yes, do focus on goals and progress. But make development and learning the first priority. If an employee doesn’t learn to do a task on his or her own, then improvement or better results aren’t sustainable.
Offer no help or guidance: With questioning and listening to someone, you teach an employee to be self-directed and architects of their own successful destiny. By strategically offering your input you can lead them forward faster.
Deny any responsibility: I have found that poor managers have abundant excuses: it’s the team’s fault or other departments or the economy or cutthroat competition. Excellent coaches are humble. They praise the team for good results and accept responsibility when things go wrong. Note: This doesn’t mean you don’t deal with poor performances. You do aggressively and positively. That’s part of what good coaching is all about.
Wanting to be liked versus being respected: Great coaches aren’t always the most popular. They set the highest standards, work the team the hardest, and hold people accountable to their commitments. Why? Because they are always simultaneously focusing on current performance and the greater potential. However, they do it genuinely, fairly, and consistently. Thus, they are respected. If employees want to be the best they can be, a great coach will help them get there. Someone who just wants to be liked will derail them.
Eliminating Coaching Mistakes by Taking Positive Action
The key to greatness in coaching is to sincerely desire to help others succeed. You have to work hard to eliminate the above coaching mistakes, too. Make use of the resources suggested in point #10 as well. And, get coaching and and more training for yourself. Then, continuing to learn how to unleash the potential of others by guiding them to learn how to learn how to win in their own careers. Author Tim Gallwey says it nicely: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Want to learn the keys to unlock your team’s performance this year? Consider these questions first:
What do your employees say at the bar or coffee cafe about you (the boss) or the company?
How about at tailgating before a football game or before and after a social event at Orchestra Hall?
Or at the kitchen table with their family? At work, employees may say one thing but how they talk about it outside of work is the true story.
With employee engagement dismal in so many places, there could be hidden morale problems in your organization which lead to unproductive work habits. Besides, bad news travels fast and it could inhibit your company’s reputation.
How organizational talent is treated and leveraged can make or break a company. Let’s clear up one thing first: most experts agree that there is much more to creating a highly motivated and productive team than money. Yet one thing is obviously true–people have to be paid. In addition, have the potential to be paid more and earn other perks: bonuses, 401 K, profit-sharing, comprehensive benefits, career advancement opportunities, pay adjustments above and beyond the cost of living.
The best companies tend to pay better or offer other perks that make up for it. For example, Costco pays upscale for a retail organization, and their results are consistently better than others. If the pay isn’t fair a company isn’t even in the game for the best talent, let alone having highly productive people.
Research shows that companies with a comprehensive talent management focus outperform others by 18% in profit. That certainly can add up quickly and give one company an edge over another. So, what can you do about it? Here are seven ways to unlock and unleash your team’s performance.
8 Keys to Unlock Your Team’s Performance
Frederick Herzberg’s research found that advancement, learning, growth, pride, the work itself, responsibility, and recognition are the keys to employee performance. The seven keys below take these principles into consideration.
Transform your managers into leaders. It all starts here. For employees to be their best a company must create a culture that values doing business right and engaging employees as partners. This needs to be communicated in many ways throughout an organization. Once stated and shared, the management team must learn to lead to back it up. The single biggest impact on an employee’s performance is their direct supervisor. I believe leadership training and coaching should be done several times every year. The title of ‘manager’ doesn’t earn the term ‘leadership’ without genuine and proven management practices. This involves a whole series of behaviors that engender higher performance. See the next keys.
Make training and development part of your culture, not an add-on if business is great. The point is that nobody can afford unproductive employees because it’s too costly. An Accenture study showed that only 21% of employees attended a company-sponsored training program in the last five years. That’s pathetic. Can you imagine sending your country’s best athletes to the Olympics without extensive training? Poorly developed talent leads to disengaged, under-performing employees. Most companies and managers have a lot of work to do here!
Apply the employee engagement road-map.(see the above pic) This involves regularly asking for and listening to your team’s input, continuously working to improve, involving employees in teams to get things done, and interacting with them consistently. I have had manager’s employees say to me, “Get that guy out of the office and into the field to see what’s going on!” Employee engagement isn’t an action plan–it’s a partnership and value.
Do the team thing–really! For example, one company we consulted with had serious competition and competitive disadvantages in customer loyalty. Through 22 action teams, they transformed their business and results. They also implemented most of the seven keys in this post. Specifically, leaders and employees alike were trained on how to make it all work. Notice that they didn’t have the CEO give a speech about TEAM (“Together Everyone Achieves More”) and just hope things would get better.
Do more than performance management. Few employees like the current performance management systems. While every company will have a system of some sort, they need an add-on. See this post: Performance Management Sings the Blues. In summary, managers need to engage their teams with consistent positive coaching strategies. This improves communication, prevents problems, promotes development and increases results.
Communicate strategically and consistently. On most of my consulting engagements, I hear horror stories about the lack of communication in organizations. I have found four simple steps that most managers can implement immediately to improve their results: conduct weekly team meetings (To learn to do good meetings, see this: The Top Ten Meeting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them), do regular one-on-one coaching sessions, informally engage with employees throughout any given day or week, and send out only positive emails or texts. Any critical info should be in-person unless you are separated by distance; then use the phone.
Work hard, have some fun! The best manager I had also set the highest standards. Our department worked hard and achieved some really remarkable things. This manager also went body surfing with us in the ocean. He rewarded us with nice dinners, comedy club night, and a day at the zoo. We had a lot of fun working hard and playing together. Too many organizations buy into what I heard Tom Peters say once: “The entrance to Harvard Business school says, ‘He who comes here will never smile again’ “.
Recognize and reward your team genuinely but lavishly. I shouldn’t have to put this in here but it is important. I notice that during my consulting projects, I do more recognition for employees and managers than their managers or the company do. It seems the attitude is mostly “What have you done for me recently?”. I have found that with good coaching, honest group or individual recognition and praise are motivators. This a a crucial ingredient to unlock better team performance.
They Didn’t Unlock it…A Quick Case Study in Futility
Let’s identify the challenge for any of the above to be applied. Just for kicks and giggles, I picked a Fortune 500 “Company X” which has $33B in revenue. Its Indeed/Glassdoor rating is averaged at 3.5 and its American Customer Satisfaction Rating is 73.These ratings are lower than its larger major competitors. Both of these numbers are mediocre at best. The sales trends have declined in the last five years, with the company losing over $2B in revenue as well as being unprofitable each year. Whatever Company X is doing isn’t working. They haven’t unleashed anybody. I am sure they have many smart managers working there but they are not focused on people.
Company X has significant employee productivity and engagement problems as well as customer service issues. Its future doesn’t look bright unless it makes serious changes. Certainly, financial management and marketing improvements are needed. In addition, the above eight principles could revolutionize the employee effectiveness of Company X. They haven’t learned how to unlock employee potential or creativity, and continue a downward spiral. My question is why haven’t they already implemented all of the above and more?
Pulling it all Together
I believe that if you want your team to be better you have to be a better leader. All of the above approaches go together. They are like a recipe. If you leave out something, it won’t taste too good. Many companies and managers seem oblivious to this. For example, one company I communicated with this year has over 100 new initiatives for their divisions. It’s ridiculous! You know that most will fail or fall short. They want more and more from their teams but seemingly unwilling to invest in them to help them become winners. When I consult with a company or coach a leader and we apply these seven keys, we unlock team performance. Results are transformed.
Commander Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space. He said this: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
If you pay attention you will notice the career warning signs that come your way. If you aren’t you may make unnecessary mistakes that lead to misery.
Are you looking for or feeling like you need a career change? The era of long-tenured employment is gone. Today people change jobs ten to fifteen times in their careers. The lack of company loyalty has spawned the lack of employee loyalty and engagement.
The best way to change a job is on your terms. Career setbacks can be devastating. Being fired, performance issues, becoming burned out, or layoffs can cause deep emotional scars in people. Research suggests it not only impact a person’s self-image but it affects relationships with family and friends.
Have you ever had a friend that got fired from a job? How about a friend that was laid off? Have you encountered a close co-worker that abruptly quit amidst some conflict at work or home? A friendly neighbor that was experiencing a corporate reorganization that changed everything, including his or her career opportunities? Or had a relative passed over for a promotion and then got really angry over it? Maybe a few things like this have happened to you.
13 Career Warning Signs
Consider these career warning signs of impending missteps, mistakes or misery. You might need to take the initiative to change jobs or your career direction. A number of these often go together and will derail your performance, while heightening the chances of someone else noticing what’s happening to you.
1. You feel depressed or frustrated or unfulfilled.
It’s hard to do your job well with these pent up feelings. Chances are your job seems harder and you are making mistakes.
2. You no longer care, much of the time.
You wake up and have to force yourself to go to work–almost every day but pay day or Friday. Also, you become very critical of your company when you talk to others. Almost everyone knows you hate your job.
3. Work isn’t enjoyable.
We work longer hours today. Except for the paycheck, if you aren’t enjoying it, why do it? Boring and routine lead to comfortable mediocrity or worse. Do you find yourself looking forward to breaks or lunch?
4. You aren’t learning anymore.
Ongoing learning stimulates the mind. Without it, a job often becomes the “same old, same old.” When was the last time you attended a training course or learning event?
5. You don’t get along with the people you are working with.
One of the top reasons people leave a job, besides a bad boss, is that they don’t like the people they work with. Has irritability or intolerance set in?
6. The passion is gone.
Are you doing this job because you love it? Or because of the pay? Hopefully both. If not, it creates a long day, week, month…year…malaise. Many people get stuck here but they don’t have to.
7. You know you are better.
If you know that you can do much better but don’t, your performance is slipping and you aren’t sick. It just might be because you just don’t want to anymore. At least not where you are right now.
8. You are comfortable.
Studies indicate that if you aren’t stretching yourself, you start to lose your edge and you get locked in a comfort zone. When this happens, others will notice the change.
9. You lack the energy you used to have.
Physical fatigue can relate to a lack of mental focus and preparedness. If your mind isn’t in the game the body won’t be either.
10. You aren’t going the extra mile.
Jim worked for a delivery service since high school. He changed jobs a few times but felt his career was going nowhere. He didn’t want to leave because of the benefits. He found himself doing just enough to get by in his job, 8-5 pm every day. What is the outlook for Jim’s future here? This is one of the career warning signs you have to act on quickly.
11. You are passed over for a job.
This is crushing. The question is: do we learn or whine? If this applies to you, where are you now? What does that tell you?
12. You aren’t networking.
Connecting with other people increases results, builds teamwork and adds spice to almost any job. If you aren’t into the job much anymore this isn’t going to happen much. It’s a far reaching loss.
13. You blame other people or situations.
People who blame others for problems, mistakes, or why they can’t do the job better are losing their personal accountability and the capability to perform at a higher level. It is an immature way to explain lack of attaining goals. Don’t let this be you.
A 4 Step Catalyst Plan to Counteract Any or All Career Warning Signs!
You can head off the career warning signs if you do these steps a little every day. You will find yourself more aware, renewed, if not inspired, to do your best to protect your current job or to get a new one.
Talk to a trusted friend, mentor or advisor that will give you candid input. Or get a coach. Honestly outline your strengths, weaknesses, and challenges. Review, brainstorm, search new ideas, discuss problems and opportunities. Dialogue like this can be rejuvenating.
Renew your learning!
Focus on a personal upgrade. Attend a couple of classes to elevate your knowledge and skills. Participate in a few online discussions to get updated on what’s happening. Enroll in a couple of online training sessions. Learning is the mother of reinvention!
Re-calibrate your goals!
Based on the above, create a one-page succinct game plan to move forward. Include 3-5 goals and key action steps. If you stay in your current job, do this plan as a way to accelerate your results. (See this Goal Planning Guide) Review it with your boss. If you want to leave, identify the kind of company you want to be in and list ten prospects.
Network, network, network!
Whether you think you are leaving your job or not, start talking with others. It can be eye-opening. Update your resume. Use online services to class it up. Brush up on interviewing and job-seeking skills. According to research, the best way to get a new job is to network while you currently working. In addition, networking adds power to your career advancement options.
Liz Ryan CEO of the Human Workplace says, “We all run into roadblocks and hardships. It’s part of life. How we deal with them is everything. I want to hire someone who has faced adversity and who overcame it. They have muscles!”
Are women better than men in leadership roles? It has been 168 years since the United States got its first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell. Twenty-nine colleges turned down her applications for medical school. She was ridiculed and told it “wasn’t women’s work”. But she didn’t quit. Finally, Hobart College accepted her. almost on a whim. The faculty and Dean really didn’t know how to respond to her. So, thinking she had no chance, they said they would admit her if 100% of the 150 male students voted yes. They voted unanimously to accept her.
After completing her degree, Elizabeth continued her studies in Europe. Just like in America, discrimination rose strongly against her. She was allowed to be enrolled in La Maternité clinic/hospital as a student midwife, but not accredited as a physician. She did gain much additional medical experience. Eventually returning to America, she starting writing and lecturing to make her way. She created the Blackwell Sisters that helped in the Civil War. Blackwell steadfastly dealt with all obstacles and went on to establish hospitals in New York and London. While engaged in medicine she championed many social reforms in the US and Europe.
Inequalities for Women in Today’s Workplace in the US
Women in America still face great inequalities in the workplace, as identified in a recent Chicago Tribune article. For example:
Women are rated lower in their competence by U.S. decision makers (mostly white males).
Pay is one third less than males in the same job, over a lifetime.
Lack of recognition or credit.
Men are promoted more on potential, women on performance.
Few second chances.
Worldwide discrimination and inferior treatment haunt women of all nationalities. Opportunities are much fewer compared to men. Incredibly, in 2017, men in most nationalities still believe that they are superior to women.
Women Leaders vs. Men Leaders
Most of the women leaders that I have engaged through LinkedIn or consulting projects continually exhibit the qualities that Elizabeth Blackwell demonstrated by breaking the glass ceiling in medicine so many years ago. Businesses, this country, and the world desperately need better leaders. In their highly disengaged state, employees are begging for transformational leaders. Research suggests compelling evidence that many women tend to adopt more effective leadership approaches and styles than men. According to personality profiler Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, men have a tendency to narcissism and hubris which often leads to serious leadership mistakes and failure. Studies show that men tend to obtain more leadership roles because confidence is confused for competence.
The Next Revolution in Leadership Thought
Elizabeth Blackwell confronted discrimination in a time that was even more male-dominated. She forged ahead and said, “My mind is fully made up. I have not the slightest hesitation on the subject; the thorough study of medicine, I am quite resolved to go through with. The horrors and disgusts I have no doubt of vanquishing. I have overcome stronger distastes than any that now remain, and feel fully equal to the contest. As to the opinion of people, I don’t care one straw personally; though I take so many pains, as a matter of policy, to propitiate it, and shall always strive to do so; for I see continually how the highest good is eclipsed by the violent or disagreeable forms which contain it.”
I believe all people have tremendous potential. It doesn’t matter where you are from or if you are male or female. With discrimination in the workplace women, women leaders become better than men simply because they work at it more. They become “students of the game.” I believe that the next great advance in leadership thought will be the power of people. I also believe that women could finally be at the forefront of this movement. What do you think?