Do You Earn Loyalty?

Recently I’ve heard from a lot of people who I have worked with in the past, and all of them have made a point of telling me that if I ever decided to run a training function again, that I should call them up so we can work together again.  After a few of these comments I realized that I have earned their loyalty.  How did I do that?

Managers should be trying to earn employee loyalty because in the process they are creating a great working relationship.  Building trust, empowering, being a coach or even a sounding board are ways we show our employees that they matter.  It goes back to Servant Leadership, and realizing your purpose is to enable your team to perform their best.  It is not about you and your needs, it is about them and their needs!

Looking back over the past 30+ years I’ve been working, only a handful of managers earned my loyalty.  I would work for them again in a heartbeat!  All the others would have to pay me double to put up with them again, and some of them couldn’t come up with an employment package to ever entice me back.

Loyalty on the job is often expressed with a desire to outperform the requirements of the job.  It is a willingness to be fully engaged, and the real test often comes if one leaves, the other soon follows to the new company.

If there is a negative to building loyalty with your staff, it is when you have to leave.  Especially if where you are headed there is no room to take people with you.  I experienced this when I became a consultant.  I watched my team struggle with my replacement, and there was nothing I could do.  When the company went out of business a year later, I had to watch all of them lose their jobs.  All I could do was to act as reference, and help them find work.  I guess that too was earning loyalty.


It really is Okay to Fire an Employee

Last week I read with some interest how Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, terminated the COO that she had hired.  The way people were going off on her over terminating someone’s employment for not meeting goals was off the chart.  Putting aside this guy walked away with millions in a package, I was dumbfounded that she was taking all this heat over doing her job!

Yet, let’s look at how often we really terminate or fire an employee for not meeting their job performance.  Oh sure, we terminate quickly for fraud, stealing, harassment, or other inappropriate behaviors, but how often for just not getting the job done?

I watch people everyday of the week, under perform their jobs, in fact just plain not perform and they celebrate another anniversary with the company.  They milk their jobs for everything they can get, without bothering to give back what is expected.  Some are incompetent, and others are just good at hiding their lack of accomplishments.  I applaud people like Marissa Mayer for taking the step of terminating the guy she hand chose for the job when she realized he was not able to meet the expectations.  Good for her!

You are not doing your company any favors by keeping unproductive employees on the payroll, and you really are not doing these employees any favors by telling them it is okay to under perform.  As long as you have done what is necessary to create a work environment with realistic goals, then you have the right to terminate them if they do not produce.

But before I sign off on this topic, I would like to play devils advocate for just a moment.  What should happen to the leader that sets unrealistic goals, provides little to no support and ends up terminating their entire team?  Should they too lose their job? I am of the belief that managers should pay a price too if their staff is unable to perform.  I also think that managers that lose their entire staffs through resignations should be terminated too, because they are not doing their job if people want to leave.

Strategic Human Resources

I’m noticing a real common thread that divides human resource departments in all size organizations, and that is whether they are strategic planners, or reactive players.  Those that are most successful and admired are the strategic planners and those that are becoming unemployed are the reactive players.

I spend most of my consulting time in the small to mid-sized organization where my skills are in higher demand, this trend of every company needs a human resources department is being squashed by the perception that HR is just a clerical role.  Talented HR managers are being laid off and their entire function is being assigned as additional duties to an administrative person to handle the paperwork because they are only putting out fires, and not preventing them.

While I admit there is a lot of clerical work to HR, for that matter all jobs have a clerical component, some HR departments have made it their only function.  So when it comes time to save money, out goes the department.

I recently met a new client that has been the HR Director for his company for 21 years.  The time alone impressed me, because he had to be making a difference to the business or he would have been history a long time ago.  Yet what he wants to accomplish this year is all based off a strategic plan for all 12 months.  When I asked him when he wanted to start the project we were talking about, he knew exactly when, because it fell in after other projects would be completed and before other projects could even begin.  What a pleasure it will be to work with this kind of a planner.

Another client, with about the same amount of employees is still procrastinating on a key project, because “the timing isn’t right yet.”  She is putting out fires, and her team is walking out on her to look for other jobs.  The place is a total disaster and I’m hoping we can stop the bleeding before she loses everything.  I looked at her LinkedIn resume and noticed that in the past 20 years she has worked for 9 different companies.  Could it be that she is unable to demonstrate value, and either she or the employer decides to end things?

Unlike my strategic client who is about to celebrate 22 years with a single company, my reactive client may lose her job soon and be looking for a new employer.  Something tells me it might be worth a look at strategic planning as a job skill for HR.

Back To Work Week

It is almost, and I say almost, humorous to see how few people are really engaged in their work during holiday weeks.  This past year with Christmas and New Year’s Day smack dab in the middle of the work-week slowed down a lot of corporate functions.  Many people were on legitimate vacations, and yet many more took the opportunity to do very little during the slow work week.  Yet, the week after it is the complete opposite.  Have you noticed that this has been back to work week?

Everyone is playing catch-up this week, returning emails and phone calls, setting appointments and moving agenda items along.  It is a whirlwind of activity, that I fully expect will last through next week before leveling off to normal levels.  This phenomena occurs to us individually when we are gone on our own vacation, and in fact the week prior and the week after are often just plain crazy to compensate for taking a week off.  Yet holidays, no matter what day of the week they fall on, challenge the workforce within your company and your business partners with a shared experience of crazy.

Now as I’ve said many times, I’m kind of an odd duck when it comes to the normal behavior of others.  I look and plan forward all the time, so when I see weeks coming up that could be slower than normal, I start building in projects for work and home that make good use of that time.

As an example, being self-employed in a home office has me at home during the slow weeks of the business year.  Since I know I am not traveling or will be setting up meetings, I look for projects that make good use of my being stuck at the house.  This past year I’ve been staring at a very old cement driveway that needs replacing, and yet between my availability to be at home and working with the right weather conditions, it has been a moving project for some time.

I also live by a school, with parents and kids walking past our house twice a day, and the thought of guarding my new cement driveway during the drying time to prevent injury or defacement was not appealing.  Then it occurred to me that the holiday break from school was also going to be a holiday break at work too.   Working with my contractor, and the weather channel, we chose the last day of school to begin demolition, and a 5 day process that kept me at home until all the work was completed.  What was a disruptive process, was minimized because I chose a quiet week for the job.

Now while I can’t drive on it for a couple more weeks, it is completed, with no injuries and no handprints either.  It is back to work week for most of the country, and I am ready to go too!

Working To Be Productive

It takes a lot of work to be productive.  If you are not on top of your time, then the day will get away from you and very little gets done.  We all make lists of the tasks that we want to accomplish, yet for many in the workforce the distractions get the upper hand daily.

The most unproductive days of the year have to be the day you return from vacation.  That day is spent weeding through the paper piled up on your desk, listening to stories and updates from staff members and an inbox of emails that number into the hundreds.  What appalls me though is that even though your company is paying you to play catch-up all day, for some employees they can milk this period of catch-up for a week or more.

I once had a potential client tell me that she was unable to talk with me that week because she was preparing to be gone on vacation the following week.  Fair enough I thought, as she wants to ensure that things run smoothly when she is gone.  So I asked to get on her calendar the week she returns, and she said she would not be available since that week she has to go through all her emails.  So I asked for time the following week and she clarified by saying that the first week back was to read her emails, and the second was to respond to them.  Were you counting with me?  One week to prepare to be gone, one week to be gone, one week to read emails and one week to respond to emails.  We landed up finding time to talk the following week.

Being productive is hard work.  It requires each of us to focus on doing the most we can each and every day we are getting paid, in order to move our agenda forward.  Our companies are paying us to be productive, so we should work towards giving them their money’s worth each day.

Daily tasks lists do a lot to provide focus, but they should also be paired with master task list for each month, and they should be tied to annual productivity plans and goals.  It is not rocket science, but it does require both work and a sense of accountability.