There are hundreds of leadership assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership. There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.
Know your “In Versus Out Ratio”
Are people striving to get into your organization or are they trying to find ways to get out? It is pretty easy to assess if people want to get in because you will have a long line of individuals contacting you to ask in what way they can join your group. Some people are very persistent, and it is a good sign when highly talented people ask you to keep looking for a spot for them.
The second measure is harder to assess because when people want to get out of your organization, it is not always obvious. The telltale sign is if individuals are “looking for other opportunities.” Usually a leader does not know what percentage of his or her population is trying to find alternate employment. That is because if lots of people want out, there is likely very little trust in the organization.
With low trust, people will hide the fact they are looking for a different job out of self protection. The best time to find a job is when you already have a job, so people can go years while looking around to find a better position. Likewise in an environment of low trust you might be afraid for your employment if your boss knew you were looking elsewhere.
It is obvious that when people are looking elsewhere, they are not giving 100% of their best to the current organization. If there are several people in this situation it can really sap productivity and morale.
So the yin and yang for a leader is that if trust is high, people will generally be wanting in and that information will be rather transparent due to the long line. If trust is low, the number of people wanting out is a hidden number.
My bottom line for all leaders is to ask if they know the ratio of people wanting to get in versus out. If they have a good idea, then they are good leaders. If they have no clue, it reflects poorly on the quality of their leadership. It is a simple and remarkably accurate barometer.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-392-7763.
In any organization, there are situations where supervisors accommodate problem employees rather than confront them. Ignoring wrong actions models a laissez faire attitude on problem solving and enforcing rules.
It also enables the perpetrator to continue the wrong behavior. In a typical scenario, the problem festers under the surface for months or even years.
Ultimately escalation of the issue reaches a tipping point when something simply must be done. By this time, the problems are so horrendous they are many times more difficult to tackle.
A common example is when workers stretch break times from the standard 20 minutes to more than 30 minutes actually sitting in the break room.
The total duration is more like 45 minutes from the time work stops until it resumes. The supervisor does not want to appear to be a “by the book” manager, so the problem is ignored every day.
When things get too far out of control, the unfortunate supervisor is forced to play the bad guy, and everyone suffers a major loss in morale and trust.
I once worked in a unit where one person suffered from acute alcoholism. His abusive behavior was enabled because his supervisor did not dare confront him. The excuse was that his process knowledge was so important to the organization that he could not be fired.
Finally, the situation became intolerable. When they called him in to confront the facts, he had been out of control for 15 years. His reaction to the manager was, “What took you guys so long?”
Following months of treatment, he became sober and was able to go on with his life as a positive contributor. Unfortunately, he was old enough by that time to retire; the organization had acted too late to gain much benefit from his recovery. The problem was clear, yet for years nothing was done.
In every organization, there are situations like this (not just health issues – tardiness, too many smoke breaks, or abusing the internet are typical examples). Leaders often ignore the problem, hoping it will go away or fearing that the cure will be worse than the disease.
The advice here is to remember the comment made by my friend, “What took you guys so long?” and intervene when the problems are less acute and the damage is minor. In his case, that would have been a blessing; the man died a few months after retiring.
Taking strong action requires courage that many leaders simply do not have. They rationalize the situation with logic like:
• Maybe the problem will correct itself if I just leave it alone.
• Perhaps I will be moved sometime soon, and the next person can deal with this.
• Confronting the issue would be so traumatic that it would do more harm than good.
• We have already found viable workaround measures, so why rock the boat now?
• We have bigger problems than this. Exposing this situation would be a distraction from our critical work.
The real dilemma is knowing the exact moment to intervene and how to do it in a way that preserves trust with the individual and the group.
Once you let someone get away with a violation, it becomes harder to enforce a rule the next time. You also run the risk of appearing to play favorites when you try to clamp down on other individuals.
The art of supervision is knowing how to make judgments that people interpret as fair, equitable, and sensitive. The best time to intervene is when the issue first arises. As a supervisor, you need to make the rules known and follow them yourself with few and only well-justified exceptions.
It is not possible to treat everyone always the same because people have different needs, but you must enforce the rules consistently in a way that people recognize is both appropriate and disciplined.
Be alert for the following symptoms in your area of control. If you observe these, chances are you are enabling problem employees.
• Recognition that you are working around a “problem”
• Accusations that you are “playing favorites”
• Individuals claiming they do not understand documented policies
• Backroom discussions of how to handle a person who is out of control
• Denial or downplaying an issue that is well known in the area
• Fear of retaliation or sabotage if rules are enforced
• Cliques forming to protect certain individuals
• Pranks or horseplay perpetrated on some individuals
These are just a few signals that someone is being enabled and that you need to step up to the responsibility of being the enforcer.
Sometimes supervisors inherit an undisciplined situation from a previous weak leader. It can be a challenge to get people to follow rules they have habitually ignored.
One idea is to get the group together and review company policy or simply ask what the rules are in this organization. Often people do not know the policies, or pretend they do not know, because the application of rules has been eclectic.
This void gives you a perfect opportunity to restate or recast the rules to start fresh. It can be done as a group exercise to improve buy-in. When people have a hand in creating the rules, they tend to remember and follow them better.
If you are not a new leader but are in a situation where abuse has crept in, using this technique and taking responsible action can help you regain control and credibility.
The reward for making the tough calls is that people throughout the organization will respect you. Problems will be handled early when they are easier to correct. The downside of procrastinating on enforcement is that you appear weak, and people will continually push the boundaries.
The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.
You have probably been in a situation where you have felt micromanaged. You were given something to do, but then badgered about exactly how to do it.
This happens more in low trust groups, and it often creates a further degradation in trust. We usually fault the manager for this problem because he or she is the one hovering and giving the minute and detailed orders on how to do the job.
While it is usually a overzealous manager who is the root cause of micromanagement, there are several things the employee can do to mitigate the problem. This article is about those things you might try if you have an intrusive manager.
I once worked for a manager who was the king of all micromanagers. I learned about his reputation before ever going to work for him. During my first few weeks, I went way overboard in my preparation.
I would anticipate any potential question he might have and be prepared with data to support my conclusions. When he would suggest something to try, I usually could say, “it has already been done.”
I would communicate my plans to him every day (including weekends) and ask lots of questions about what was wanted. He never had an opportunity to get to me because I always got to him first. After a while, he basically left me alone and did not micromanage me very much for the next 25 years. We got along great, while he continued to micromanage others.
This experience led me to create a list of tips you can use to reduce the tendency for a boss to micromanage you. Granted, this will not be 100% effective in all cases, but these steps can really help reduce the problem to a manageable level. Note: I will use the male pronoun here for simplification, but the same concepts would apply for both genders.
1. Anticipate what the manager will suggest
Work to understand the point of view of the manager, and figure out the suggested methods so when he says, “Do it this way,” often you can say, “That’s exactly how I am doing it. Or you might say, I tried doing it that way, but it created too much scrap, so I am now doing it a better way.
2. Be sure you are clear on the expectations
Often the manager has been somewhat vague on the precise deliverable. Before going off to do a task, take extra time to verify what the boss really wants in the end. If it is a long or complex set of activities, see if you can get some sub-goals that you can deliver along the way. Go the extra mile to identify not only what the objective is but if the manager has any preference for how the solution will appear.
3. Get to the boss before he gets to you
This technique really helps when you have a voice mail or text connection with the boss. Get familiar with the timing of communications and preempt the instructions with a note of your own. For example, if the boss has a habit of catching up on his micromanaging tasks during the lunch hour, simply provide an update to him at about 11 a.m. every day.
4. If the boss is getting intrusive, surprise him
It stops a micromanager dead in his tracks when he tries to tell you how to do step 3 and you tell him you are already on step 8. Step 3 was done yesterday, and the results were supplied to him in his e-mail inbox. The boss is blown away that you made so much progress.
5. Seek to build a trusting relationship with the micromanager
Micromanagement has its roots in inadequate trust. If the boss really trusts you, it means there will be less worry on his part that you will do things incorrectly. That means you are left alone to do things your way.
6. Call him on it
The boss needs to understand that for you to be empowered and give your best effort to the organization, you need to be free to use your own initiative. I knew a technician who brought a set of handcuffs into the office. Whenever his boss would try to micromanage him, he would just pull out the cuffs and slip them on. The message was loud and clear, “if you want me to do this well, don’t tie my hands.”
My rule of thumb on micromanaging is that credibility and communication allow you to manage things as you see fit. Lack of credibility and communication often lead to being micromanaged.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, email@example.com or 585.392.7763
Every supervisor knows that productivity is a bottom-line measure that is the net result of the entire culture within her operation. Productivity takes everything into account and is a brutally honest reflection of the level of engagement of the workforce.
After studying trust for about 40 years, I believe that the level of trust within a group is an accurate predictor of the engagement of workers in the group and thus their productivity. I believe the average organization manages to extract only about 30% of the inherent productivity that is within the resources that are already onboard.
Even if I am wrong by quite a bit, it is still safe to say that any supervisor would be wise to first think about improving trust before requesting more resources to get the jobs done. In many of the organizations where I have worked, the productivity of the groups can be doubled and still have some headroom left before people are maxed out. That is why culture is often the sleeping giant in most organizations.
Let’s examine why the lack of trust is such a drag on organizational productivity by describing just a few example reasons why the correlation is so high.
Trust increases productivity
The enemy of productivity is waste. Here I am not talking about physical waste, although that is also involved. I mean that when someone is not performing at peak capability, his or her spare capacity is waste to the organization. Here are four ways that trust improves productivity directly.
1. People abusing the rules
It is easy to spot time being wasted when you observe how many workers do not follow the prescribed rules of the organization. If the morning break is set for 15 minutes, you will see workers away from their functions for roughly twice that time or even more.
The same phenomenon occurs with lunch breaks and smoke breaks (if allowed at all).
With a culture of high trust, people follow the rules as cast because they understand why they are important.
2. Poorly trained workers
In many cases the training given to new employees is sketchy and incomplete. If workers do not know how to run the operation as designed, then not only are they going to cause waste, they will be in danger of becoming injured in certain circumstances.
In a culture of high trust, supervisors are fully aware and follow the rules of proper training.
3. Distracting conversations and arguments
It is easy to observe people in production jobs spending a lot of time bickering among themselves. Curiously much of the wasteful banter is about not having adequate resources to do the work. I once knew a worker who would spend at least 70% of his day griping about that there is not enough time to get his work done.
Higher trust means that people get along better and do not get distracted by useless bickering. This is because higher trust is the result of respectful behavior.
4. Poor setups and staging of materials
If the area has not been set up for maximum workflow using “lean” principles and proper supply chain methods, then the workers are subject to be “waiting for work” frequently, which is a pure form of waste.
A culture of high trust is based on running the operation as it was designed to operate without glitches and hassles.
Trust improves morale
Everyone feels better in an environment of high trust. Coming to work is not a burden; in fact, many people truly enjoy the camaraderie at work. Great supervisors are able to achieve a light and buoyant environment.
1. Supervisors have gained the respect of the workers
Workers in a culture of high trust recognize they are there to do a job, but they are happy to do it because of the respect they are shown by supervision. When people are properly led, they almost universally enjoy their work and do it with pride.
2. Workers participate and buy into the vision
Workers understand that their labors are for a reason, and that reason is to make a better future for themselves. They do not feel ignored or beaten; rather, they are enlivened by the challenges that are put before them.
3. Rewards are appreciated
As the workers perform well over time, the management effectively reinforces the good work and that helps perpetuate the excellent productivity.
Take the time to invest in a higher trust culture in your organization. You will see remarkable improvements in productivity as a result.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763
Are morale and happiness really the same thing? We say that people at work have high morale when they are happy, but does one always follow the other?
I can imagine that they are linked in some way, but it is possible to have high morale even if you are not particularly happy with your current job.
Since this article will explore subtle differences between these two words, it would be wise to start with an attempt to define each one:
Happiness – is about feeling good. It is a state of well-being, satisfaction, and contentment.
Morale – is about having enthusiasm. It is a state of confidence, loyalty, fulfillment, or common purpose.
Think about some job or activity that you have had in the past that you really did not enjoy very much. You were not cheerful while on the job, but you might have had high morale because it was getting you somewhere.
A good example might be working toward a college degree. I recognize that, for most people, reading textbooks, writing papers, and taking exams are not fun activities.
I remember many times being very unhappy with the stress of being a student, yet while not enjoying the work at all, I still had very high morale because I knew the education would pay off in the end, which it did.
Lack of education does not doom a person entirely, but it severely limits the potential to experience all that life has to offer. This limitation lowers the potential for happiness. In “Kodachrome,” Paul Simon wrote: “…and no, my lack of education has not hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall.”
Let’s find an example of the reverse situation: Happy, but with low morale.
There are numerous ways this can happen. You might be in a situation where you are working for a leader you do not respect and who tries to bribe people into being engaged in the work by letting them get away with things and giving away perks beyond a reasonable level.
This leader has one thing in mind: make people at work happy. Well, he can accomplish this and make me happy about all the goodies he is providing and that he lets me go home early whenever I want.
Although I may be happy, I suspect my morale would be low after a while. Reason: I am not challenged and am given things that I do not deserve.
Another example might be when working on a specific project that I know is important. I am working in a not-for-profit organization. Here I am happy because my labor is going for a good cause. The result of my work is helping many needy families.
I have to tolerate the fact that my boss is a hopeless micromanager who needs to know the details of everything I do and wants me to do everything how he would do it. I can be happy with my contribution to society, but my morale is low because of the working conditions I must endure for the privilege of making that contribution.
The concept of motivation is more closely linked to morale than to happiness or satisfaction. Motivation is a state of desiring to do something, and for the most part, it is generated intrinsically rather than by external factors.
Some valuable insight about motivation and happiness was provided over 60 years ago by behavioral scientist Frederick Herzberg, who taught us with his “Two Factor Theory,” that the controlling factors for happiness are different from those that generally cause motivation.
Herzberg called the things that keep people from becoming unhappy “hygiene factors.” These would be things like pay, bonuses, nice offices, clean restrooms, comfortable furniture, and parking close to the building. If the hygiene factors are missing, then people are going to become dissatisfied, but piling on more hygiene factors is not the way to create higher motivation or morale.
The “motivating factors” of responsibility, accountability, autonomy, flexibility, caring, and other less tangible factors have more power to create morale and motivation.
We see that there is a general trend that happy workers have high morale, and I grant that is usually the case. The two concepts are not the same, and neither are they hard-wired together.
To have the most productive workers, not only do they need to be reasonably happy, but they must simultaneously have high morale. Leaders need to test for both conditions.
1. Most of the time happiness and morale go hand in hand, but it is not always the case.
2. In trying to improve morale or motivation, it is not a simple matter of making people feel happier. You don’t just add more perks.
Exercises For You
1. Imagine you are at a party and, surprisingly, Frederick Herzberg himself shows up. You want to ask him some questions about his Two Factor Theory. What three questions would you ask? How do you think he would respond?
2. Name a good way to make someone happier. Now name a good way to increase someone’s morale. See the difference?
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, email@example.com or 585.392.7763
Numerous studies have found over 50% of mergers and acquisitions fall short of expected results, primarily due to the failure of the cultures to integrate well. Why, then are CEOs so cheerful when they head into one of these major restructuring activities?
In my book, Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, I discuss 30 different systemic problems with making mergers work and give antidotes to each of them. In this brief article I will describe what I believe are the five most serious problems and suggest ways to mitigate them.
1. Relying too much on the mechanical process
When MBA students learn about M&As, the content usually is focused on the financial and legal details of setting up a combined entity from two unique groups.
Topics covered include asset valuation, due diligence, negotiation, legal aspects, management structure, and numerous other organizational things that must be considered. Few programs give equal attention to the cultural part of the equation.
Students are left to assume that the culture simply “sorts out” by itself over time. That oversight is huge because cultural issues are usually the root cause of merger problems.
For example, the Daimler-Chrysler merger in 1998 was a classic debacle that cost Daimler nearly $36 billion over a decade. The magnitude of a loss that large, was almost $10 million per day for 10 years! The major reason for the breakup was the failure of the two cultures to integrate.
To improve the M&A process, it would be helpful to give the cultural integration equal footing with the legal and financial aspects of the activities from the start.
2. Loss of objectivity leads to inadequate planning
Top leaders can easily see the benefits, and they look seductively attractive. The costs and hassles seem to be manageable, so not much energy is spent on internal culture issues or potential external problems for customers.
The upside of the deal is championed, while challenges are pushed aside. Objectivity gives way to passion for the deal.
Anyone who questions the validity of an assumption or brings up a potential problem is labeled as “not a team player,” so reasonable dissent is extinguished.
Here are three antidotes for this situation:
1) have a trusted Devil’s Advocate on the senior team who will prevent myopic optimism,
2) explore potential problem areas and design solutions that mitigate risk, and
3) calculate the ROI based on the best guess of the benefits, but inflate estimated costs and problems, because real costs will surface later and often be larger than anticipated.
3. Lack of adequate training
Leadership training is crucial during any kind of reorganization. Many organizations back off on training for leaders because there is so much chaos during the integration that most leaders are “too busy to sit in the classroom.”
Antidote: Bring the classroom to the chaos. What better time is there to do leadership development than right there in the middle of the crucible? Skilled L&D professionals can leverage the urgent need for solutions into pragmatic problem solving and motivational skills.
Supervisors are also in urgent need of leadership training during a reorganization. Reason: they form the critical trust link between the management layers and the workers. Changes faced by each supervisor are stressful personally, yet this individual is vital in creating order for the other people.
Weak or bully supervisors often come unglued due to the pressures of a merger. They need training and assistance in order to perform their function when it matters most.
4. “We Versus They” Thinking
From day one, the leaders must not only preach the avoidance of “we versus they” thinking, they must model it and insist on it.
I often hear language that indicates lack of full integration years after a merger has been supposedly completed. It is essential to replace parochial thinking with “us” type language and actions.
One way to help speed the integration is to co-locate the groups. That is often impossible in the short term, so transplanting some key resources from one group to the other is another way to make it harder to tell who “we” are and who “they” are.
5. Loss of Trust
In the anticipation of a merger or acquisition, adrenaline drives expectations of what the merged entity can accomplish. It is easy to assume the individual needs will be resolved and team cohesion will somehow settle in quickly.
That is usually not the case, and often bitter feelings linger on, hurting the integrated organization for years.
Candid and frequent communication is needed to keep people informed and allow top managers to feel the angst of workers. It is in these interfaces that trust is either maintained or destroyed by the behaviors, words, and body language of senior leaders.
Ten Best Practices
Anticipate a bumpy ride, and expect that significant psychological calming is going to be needed at times. Here are some additional ideas that may be helpful:
1. Be clear and transparent throughout the process.
2. Create design teams early to help people connect with the future more quickly.
3. Include the customer in every decision, especially during the chaos phase.
4. Assume the risk of setbacks willingly, and do not let unexpected issues spoil the overall process.
5. Invest in some Emotional Intelligence training for people in the organization, especially management.
6. Celebrate positive movement in an integrated way to model the spirit of the merged culture.
7. Bring in a grief counselor to help people cope with the loss and the transition.
8. Train leaders to model the integrated behaviors, and do not tolerate silo thinking.
9. Consider cross-locating or co-locating people, where possible.
10. Prune redundant resources delicately with a sharp scalpel rather than a long line of guillotines.
There can be times of joy and accomplishment during any merger or acquisition. It is possible to maintain trust, even amidst the chaos. After all, the vision for the whole activity is a brighter future.
The wise leader will recognize that changes of this magnitude require extraordinary effort and patience to achieve the anticipated result.
By focusing the same level of effort on establishing the right kind of culture as they do on the financial and legal aspects of reorganization, leaders can ensure they meet or exceed their goals.
By the way, just because my spell checker keeps underlining the word “demotivate” does not mean it’s an illegal word. It is not in many dictionaries, like Websters, but it does exist in some of them, like The Cambridge Dictionary.
There is even an organization ( Despair Inc. ) that sells demotivating posters and other strange products. I love their motto, “Motivational products don’t work, but our demotivational products don’t work even better.”
There is also a fun website completely devoted to demotivation.
In this article, I reveal some truths and myths about how leaders motivate and demotivate.
My thesis on motivation is that leaders really cannot motivate individuals. When leaders use the word “motivate” as a verb, as in “We need to motivate the team,” it is incorrect usage.
What leaders do is create the culture in which people react with high motivation. A prime example is when leaders create an inspiring vision, shared values, and an environment of high trust, where people feel valued.
Motivation comes from within an individual, and a person working in a culture of trust is more likely to feel motivated.
Once motivation is generated within someone, that person owns it. The sad truth is that the precious commodity can be snatched away from that individual as quickly as a seagull can snatch a discarded scrap of bread at a beach picnic.
I believe that leaders can easily eliminate the motivation within a person. Many leaders are masters at it, demonstrating their skill numerous times a day.
Taking away the motivation of an individual is easier than doing the Chicken Dance.
Here is my top 10 list of things that leaders do to demotivate people at work. See if you agree, and let me know if you have pet peeves of your own to add to the list.
1. Trivialize what an individual is doing or make fun of the employee
2. Claim credit for the good work of an employee
3. Give an assignment, then micromanage the employee
4. Ignore the employee when he or she does some spectacular work
5. Punish the employee who brings up a concern
6. Play favorites or appoint a relative to a position of power over others
7. Insult the employee by drawing attention to what he or she cannot do
8. Engage in sexual or other forms of harassment with the employee
9. Set impossible goals and berate the employees for missing them
10. Demand honesty from the employees but demonstrate low integrity him or herself
In reality, there are thousands of ways a leader or manager can demotivate an individual who has already been inspired to become motivated.
Elite leaders realize that the way to encourage top performance is to set up conditions such that individuals motivate themselves, and then stand out of the way and let them turn the motivation into positive action for the organization.
My advice for leaders is to create enduring trust, which is the environment for high motivation, and then when motivation occurs, don’t kill it.
Accountability is a very popular word these days. In my consulting practice, the word comes up on a daily basis. I have written articles on various aspects of accountability, from the attitudes that make it more constructive (not always negative) to how leaders should feel more accountable for their own actions before blaming others.
This article outlines five principles of accountability that can help any leader do a better job in this critical area of performance management.
The five principles are 1) Clarify Expectations, 2) My Contribution, 3) Care, 4) Comprehensive and Balanced, and 5) Collective Responsibility. Putting these five practices in play on a daily basis will improve the performance of any organization. Let’s see why that is:
People must understand expectations to have any shot at meeting them. In some complex situations, a written document is required, but most of the time it is a matter of spelling out what the requirements are and gaining a verification that the employee has truly internalized them.
Often a failure to perform at the prescribed level can be traced to a misunderstanding between the supervisor and employee.
Supervisors sometimes make the mistake of assuming the employee understands what is required because he or she has heard the instructions. To verify understanding it is critical to have the employee state in his or her own words the specific requirement.
It needs to be framed up in terms of the specific action to be done by a specific time and with certain level of quality level. The employee can decide how to accomplish the task, but the deliverable must be crystal clear to avoid ambiguity.
Having the employee parrot back the expectation has the additional benefit in the event the deliverable is fuzzy. The supervisor can take the time to reiterate the specific deliverable before the employee attempts to do it. This saves time, money and reduces frustration.
Often the supervisor will attempt to hold an employee or group accountable when the reason for the shortfall was a blockage caused by the supervisor rather than the workers. Most people will do a good job if the culture and environment set up by management are conducive to working well.
When supervisors micromanage or otherwise destroy positive attitudes of the workers, they are contributing substantially to the shortfall they see within the workforce. They are quite often the root cause of the problem, yet they find it convenient to blame the workers for not toeing the line.
I recall one VP who lamented that “all my people are lazy.” As I dug into the situation, it was evident that the bully attitudes of the VP had caused people to become apathetic and perform only when beaten.
The VP blamed the workers, but he was clearly the source of the problem. He could not understand this connection of cause and effect. If this VP was replaced by an empowering leader, those “lazy” workers would quickly become productive and show high initiative.
When giving feedback on performance, especially if performance is not at the level expected, be sure to treat the employee the way you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed.
The Golden Rule provides excellent guidance in most cases.
There are some exceptions where the Golden Rule breaks down (suppose I enjoy being yelled at and confronted), but they are rare. If the manager demonstrates real care for the individual, even when the feedback is not positive, the employee will usually respond well to the input.
Comprehensive and Balanced
This principle means that the leader must take the big picture of what is going on into account when deciding if an individual is meeting what is expected. There may be a specific reason for not living up to the agreed performance that is totally out of the control of the employee.
If a dog is left locked up in the house all day, it is entirely possible you will find a mess on the floor, even if the dog would have loved to have been let out.
Make sure that the feedback is balanced such that you account for the good things they do as well as for times they fall short. Since most people do things right far more than they fail, your holding people accountable should normally be a positive discussion.
Rapport and trust are destroyed when employees only hear from management when they are having problems.
If the accountability discussion has the flavor of everyone, including the manager, being responsible, then that feeling of a family working together will permeate the discussions, and they will be more fruitful.
When the manager points the finger at a specific worker and fails to involve the other people who also make up the system, the employee feels picked on. This results in hard feelings and creates more problems than it solves.
These five C’s will help you create an environment where holding people accountable is more productive and effective. Try to remember these principles when you are dealing with the people in your life.
Are you dissatisfied with the level of trust within your organization? If so, recognize that you are not alone. Few organizations have achieved a state where they are delighted with the trust that exists. Part of the reason is that trust is a bit like money; no matter how much we have, we usually want more of it. Most of the organizations I see have a significant deficiency of trust that shows up in all kinds of performance issues including apathy, shaky teamwork, poor attitudes, negative morale, low productivity, high turnover, absenteeism, and even revolt or sabotage.
Leaders of the organization point to the symptoms and declare that the employees are at fault for the low trust. The leaders are expending high energy to communicate the vision and values, they are making expectations crystal clear, they are attempting to hold people accountable for performance lapses, they are making sure everyone gets paid on time, so the problem of low trust must be with the employees or first line supervisors, right? Not necessarily!
One critical nature of trust is that it is reciprocal. When you extend more trust, it reflects back to you in nearly all cases. It is the same phenomenon we often hear about with people participating in any activity: “You get out of it in proportion to what you put in.”
I have coined what I call the “First Law of Trust.” If you are a leader, and are unhappy with the level of trust in your organization, the first thing to do is find ways to show more trust in your employees. There are numerous other things that are important to do, which I have written about in other articles, but the first thing is to extend more trust to others. It seems impossible to some leaders who complain, “But how can I trust them when they prove daily that they cannot be trusted.” That attitude is at the core of why there is low trust to begin with. It is a vicious cycle.
To break the cycle, leaders need to find ways, even small ways at first, to demonstrate higher trust in employees. This will seem unnatural to both the leader and the employees at first because of the history of behaviors and reactions in the past. Leaders feel like extending any kind of trust is stupid until the workers start behaving in trustworthy ways, and workers believe the leader must be up to some kind of trick to force them into more work.
I discovered the reciprocal nature of trust many years ago when my daughter was very young. She often wanted me to “twirl” her, which involved grabbing her wrists and carefully spinning around backward (gently at first to not pull her arms out of the sockets). She would fly out horizontal, hair flying in the wind, just loving it. When I would put her down, there was always the familiar refrain “AGAIN.” So I would twirl her again, this time longer and farther.
Upon remembering the numerous times I twirled her, I realized that I had never dropped her. The reason is that her unconditional trust in me required me to reciprocate in a way that kept her safe during the process. So it is with everyone, if we extend trust to them, they will be inclined to show more trust in us.
The way to break down a dysfunctional culture of low trust is not to put the screws to people with additional demands and rules. Try the other approach of extending kindness and trust and see if the positive reaction you get is well worth the risk of extending more trust. If that works, then you will be encouraged to add more trust to others, and you will reap more back toward you.
A common question I get is, “How do I go about showing more trust in them, especially when they do not deserve it?” The answer is to be creative and find little ways to begin to show more trust. These small gestures may seem dangerous, or trivial, but they usually work to grab people’s attention. Here are a few examples of typical actions a leader might employ to demonstrate higher trust.
• Change the coffee money fund from a locked box to an open container.
• Stop walking around the shop floor five minutes before quitting time.
• Let the employees select the menu for the picnic.
• Stop micromanaging and let people use their initiative.
• Remove a needless restriction on a dress code.
• Publicly eliminate a procedure that is no longer useful.
• Cancel a report that nobody reads.
• Quit requiring proof of purchase for small petty cash items.
• Unlock the supply cabinet.
These are just a few examples of actions that could be taken to extend more trust in people. I am sure that if you think creatively, you can identify dozens of other ways to show more trust, and many of them will not involve a high risk of loss. If you try this technique, you will generally get very positive results. In some instances, the prior practices may have the population so jaded that they will be out for revenge at any opportunity, so it may take more creativity and time to develop new patterns.
Remember the first law of trust. It is up to leaders to break the cycle of tyranny and develop a culture where trust goes both ways and grows more robust with time. It takes some courage to change old ways, but the payoff is immense.
No, that is not a typo in the title. This article is a twist on the concept of “holding people accountable.” Those three words seem to be the mantra in management circles over the past few years. When used, these words almost always mean that someone has fallen short versus expectations, and the supervisor needs to point out that lapse and have a discussion about improving performance. If you listen carefully, nearly 100% of the time managers use “hold them accountable,” it is coming from a failure point of view.
One source of the problem is the word “hold.” It conjures up an image of holding a person’s feet to the fire. The transitive verb to hold means, ” to make liable or accountable or bound to an obligation” (Mirriam Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary). In other words, when we hold something in this sense, a force is acting to restrain it, and make it liable to a prior obligation. That is clearly negative spin rather than the alternate concept of helping people do the right thing for the betterment of the organization.
Imagine how the world would be different if we eliminated the negative concept of accountability and replaced it with a positive concept called “procountability.” In this case, the action would be to reflect on the many ways an individual is doing well and measuring up to, or exceeding, expectations.
For most people, being held procountable would be a positive experience that would encourage more of those actions rather than cause a person to cower in fear of the next chewing out from the boss. Sure, there would be times when a person did not measure up to expectations, so the procountable discussion would point out that the intentions of the individual did not produce the expected result in this instance. Some coaching may be needed, and occasionally a kick in the butt may be helpful, but most of the procountable discussions would be supportive and lead to higher productivity on the part of the individual.
The logic here is that most people come to work on most days with the intention of doing the right things. Very few people actually try to mess up at work, and if you tolerate any of these people on your team, shame on you. Get rid of them as fast as you can. So, if most people are doing the right things most of the time, we could have numerous procountable discussions relative to their successes. When a occasional lapse does happen, for whatever reason, it would be the exception rather than the rule on feedback. That difference alone would change the equation greatly. If 95% of the feedback is coming in the form of supportive comments, and only 5% coming in the form of potential improvements, the working environment would be a much better place for most employees.
Unfortunately, in most organizations that obsess on holding people accountable, the feedback employees hear from managers and supervisors is 95% negative and only 5% supportive. After a while, the culture gets beaten down, and the need for more corrective and punitive discussions becomes more frequent. The common phrase uttered by thousands of workers over the decades is “the only time I ever hear from my boss is when I screw up.”
Try reversing the logic and encourage managers to hold employees procountable rather than accountable. It will change the entire environment at work. Soon there will be a lower propensity for problems because the overwhelming volume of feedback produces a positive feeling that comes from being recognized for doing the right things.