Getting Your Feet Wet

thLGANSBI5Imagine being employed for 3 months, getting paid and having very little accountability to produce any results.  Would you take that job?  Some like me would go stir crazy, but many work for companies in many industries that call the first 90-days of the job “time to get their feet wet.”

I must be getting old, because I still remember when the first 90-days was about showing what you are made of, and if anything, over achieving during this probationary period.  Now all too often companies allow new employees to get comfy first, learn the culture, and kick-back before performance objectives begin.

When you factor in the time it takes to recruit a new hire can take 90-days or longer before an offer is extended and accepted, time is wasting away when we then allow this new hire another 90-days to get their feet wet before we get any return on the investment.

I often advise on the building of internal training departments, and before a training manager is hired, I will recommend that a training plan, and a detailed list of tasks for the first 90-days be created before interviewing candidates.  This gives the conversation some meat about expectations and it gives the applicant / new employee a better understanding of what will be happening right from day one.

Allowing time for new hires to ease into the job is rarely a company-wide policy, but rather a manager’s policy.  This means that it can be hard to determine how wide-spread the idea is around the organization.  However deep it is, Human Resources can control the behavior by insisting that each new hire have a 90-day plan at the start of orientation.  When a plan does not exist, then the potential for a long grace period will exist.

What is your opinion of a 90-day break in period?

Get Promoted by Screwing Up

The news these past few weeks on the multiple scandals from Benghazi to the IRS and the AP/Fox phone records are all sending a message of how one gets promoted or retains their job after screwing up the one they had.  If any kind of performance management is being delivered we in the public are not privy to it, and no one other than the guy who resigned 2 weeks earlier than his planned exit are even losing their jobs.

In the private sector when things go this wrong people usually get fired.  The CEO never gets away with playing the absentee card as an excuse to avoid scrutiny, and lesser events have caused a complete turnover of staff and leadership.  But in government, we the people look the other way.

I was once described by a direct report who was a manager that I had a very forgiving nature.  This comment resulted because I would not endorse firing someone over the infraction committed.  I do realize that we are all human, and I give as some would say, plenty of rope before I hang someone.  For the most part, I believe in a warning system that alerts an individual to performance issues, and I give them time to correct the behaviors.

Now while most of the time I am slow to fire and quicker to coach, I do have a few areas that simply allow the individual to go straight to unemployment.  They usually involve ethical issues like stealing, fraud, and lying to me.  None of these behaviors in my mind allow for a second chance with me and the company paying us.

Never have I moved an employee into a plum role to pull them out of the spotlight.  Never, ever have I promoted someone for bad behavior.  And one time I fell on my own sword when I caught a vendor committing fraud and was overridden by my manager to fire them.  I resigned and my boss was flabbergasted.

Never forget that those not directly involved in the performance issue you are dealing with are not watching.  When someone gets fired for unethical behavior it sends a clear message that the same punishment could await a similar action.  Likewise, promoting someone for bad behavior sends the message of how we get promoted; Just Screw Up!

Earning Trust

For most new relationships, both personal and professional, I begin by trusting the other person.  I often leave myself wide open, but I find that most of the time that when trust is freely given, most people will make sure they don’t lose it.  Because while I may freely give trust to another upfront, it is virtually impossible to earn it back if you have later broken that trust with me.

There has been a lot of talk lately about our politicians, especially the President, struggling with maintaining trust.  And in the case of most politicians, it often boils down to trust is telling the truth, and no matter how awful the news, being honest from the beginning.  Anything else leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and it is real hard to regain trust when you are caught lying.

I can almost handle something not happening as promised when after all good intentions, the plan doesn’t work out as first communicated.  But when you want to lie about it, mislead, or draft a clever story to replace the truth, I can’t give you my full support again.

I once had a manager that was a real character in every sense of the word, and when it came to playing the game to win he pulled out all the stops.  Difficult was one of his leadership characteristics, but so was honesty.  Although he was more than a challenge to work with 100% of the time, he never lied to me.  I can’t say that about everyone I’ve ever worked with, and so I trusted him and still do today.

A leader in the workplace, and in public service would do well to concentrate on building and maintaining trust if they want long-term success.  Because once you develop a reputation for being untrustworthy, it is something you will live with forever.

Time for Vacation

I’m kind of an odd duck when it comes to the real spirit of a vacation.  To me these infrequent days and weeks each year are more about the break from the normal daily routine then they are about the destination and activities.  So when I take vacation, I really leave a lot of my routine behind.

Whether I go on a cruise, travel to a foreign destination or stay home, vacation must be a break in what happens everyday from what normally happens.  So to begin with I give up email, and the computer in general for the time off.  OMG, you say!  How can he live without social media?  Heavens, will he still be breathing by the end of the week?

The sad reality for a lot of people is that they feel indispensable at work and in their personal world.  They cannot disconnect ever!  They feel they must be available 24/7 to their employer, family and friends.  The big news flash is that if something happens to you the world will go on.  You will be missed, but the world will go on.

So if we can get a grip on how dispensable we really are, and that work will wait until we return, then we can relax and unwind.  Taking time to experience a real vacation allows your mind and body to rejuvenate and when you return you are in much better shape to tackle the challenges that are usually waiting for us.

I’m taking next week off, which means, no computer and sadly, no blog for the week.