Dysfunctional Government Workers

Like many Americans, I am quite upset with the amount of dysfunction in many of our government entities, and in the individual performances of so many workers.  While I am very tempted to group all of them into one basket and say that they are all dysfunctional, that would be an unfair assessment for the many workers that bust their butts weekly for the American people.

Just like in corporate America, our government employs human beings.  So guess what, the slackers, and the thieves and cheats of the world work in both public and private industry.  While a lot of humans have high work ethics, many will get away with what they can get away with.  In other words, leaders need to step up and start managing.

I’ve often day dreamed about my first day as President of the United States.  There would be a very clear message sent that if you want to lie, cheat and steal then leave now.  If you do anything to screw with the trust the country has placed in you to perform your job well, I will make sure your employment is terminated.  If anyone tries to cover up a mistakes, all those involved will lose their jobs.  We work for the American people, not the other way around.  I would then make it perfectly clear, that I expect the same management style from everyone on the team, or they too will be looking for a new job.

I am flabbergasted at how many challenges are going on in our Federal, State and local governments.  I fault the leaders from the top down to the offending employee.  Where the hell is management?  Why are things so out of control?  Why are we growing the dysfunction rather than weeding it out?  Because there are no consequences for screwing up!

The CEO for the United States is the President, and yet I dare anyone to find me a company where the CEO is dealing with this much dysfunction and still has their job.  In any corporate function, the CEO would lose their job for any of these activities, and would be taking a lot of people with them on their way out the door.

Corporations are required to make money, while government is in place to spend money.  See the difference in the motivators here?  If government required each function to make a profit, or reduce expenses while improving productivity, we could turn things around.  Yet until we learn to start terminating the dysfunctional employees, no amount of positive changes will make a difference.  If I want my garden to grow healthy vegetables, I must constantly remove the weeds.

How to be a Successful Incompetent

If you are a competent leader and competent in the work skills needed for your job, chances are you are going to be a very successful employee.  By bringing the competencies needed to the table, you are ready to perform your job well.  Of course, work environment and the right attitude can still derail your success, but competent people even know how to work around these obstacles.

So what happens if you find yourself in a job role where your competencies and experience lack what is required?  How can you be a successful employee even if you are incompetent?  While it is done routinely in many positions, it deserves to be called to everyone’s attention.  Simply put, if you are incompetent, you must surround yourself with very competent people.  Everyone that reports to you must be able to perform their job at the highest level, so that your world runs smoothly in spite of itself.

I have practiced this exercise in my hiring choices even though I am a highly competent and skilled individual, because it builds a safety net around my team.  The more people in our group that know more than I do in a given area, allows us to exceed expectations.  I read a quote somewhere that if you are the brightest person in the room, you need to move to another room.  I honestly never like being the brightest bulb on the tree, because it limits our ability to grow.

So while surrounding ourselves with very competent people can make us exceed expectations, it can also mask incompetency in the leader.  So what happens if an incompetent leader surrounds themselves with less competent or under qualified people?

I see this frequently with government leaders, but just as often with corporate roles.  One Chief Administrative Officer in mind is so under qualified for the job it is visible in the results obtained.  Yet, he has gone out of his way to surround himself with managers in each sub department with under skilled people who “need” him to perform their jobs.  They “need” his guidance and his direction to get through the day, and it makes this CAO feel competent because he is so needed.

Human Resources, Training, Facilities, IT and Security all need to perform at top levels for the remainder of any company to achieve their goals.  So what happens when each of these functions report to an under qualified person (this CAO) who needs to be in charge?  What happens when incompetence surrounds itself with incompetence?  You have little success, and total transparency that the leader is in over their head.

Well not always.  In many cases the incompetent leaders hides behind this incompetent staff.  They blame the incompetence on the staff, thus shielding themselves.  This sadly will work, but not forever.  At least it won’t work forever at the same company, which is why incompetent leaders have to move to new companies often.

Personally I’ve never had a job I was not in possession of the right skills, and my practice of hiring even better people to surround me has been a good practice for my success.  What do you think, which works better for you?


Humans Make Mistakes

While most people know me as the training guy, at my center is a performance consultant.  This means that before I even think of how training fits into a solution set, I have spent a lot of time looking at the performance expectations and where the existing performance is today.  What I am beginning to see in the workforce is troubling to me.

With real unemployment still very high in this country, and too many Human Resource groups spending less time on performance improvement we are left with a quick fix mentality.  Hire someone, give them minimal training, and then write-up their performance every time they make a mistake.  Just like in baseball, many companies use the three strikes you’re out performance management tool.

From the bleachers of this game I am watching two things going on.  Companies are spending little to develop new employees, and get rid of any that don’t immediately perform at expectations.  While this keeps the recruiters busy (so indispensable) it also costs the company a lot of money in turnover.  And second, it is also very unfair to the employee!

Humans make mistakes.  Plan on it!  Train to it! And above all else set realistic learning curves for every single employee.

Banking is famous for turnover on the teller line.  How many of you have the same teller from year to year?  How many of you see those tellers go on to other jobs in the bank?  A very small amount of hires to these positions ever last long.  Since I have worked for a lot of banks, I’ll say “we” hire these entry-level positions and maybe if lucky give them a week’s training and then throw them to the wolves.  Limited support, and many different kinds of transactions and activities are expected of these people.  Years ago we added sales and referral goals, a lot of compliance activities and professional customer service standards.

In the old days, tellers were full-time and had 90-days of probation to work through learning their jobs.  Now we hire part-time employees working them half as many hours, double the activities they need to perform and expect perfection in the same amount of time.  But wait, do we even give them that much time?  People learn at different paces, and while some may pick up the technical side quickly and the soft skills are slower coming, we expect all human we hire to be mistake free in about the same time frame.

So what is going to stop a company from slapping a little training on a new hire, and then giving them a verbal warning the first time they make a mistake, a written warning on the second mistake, and termination on the third mistake?  Answer:  A good employment law attorney!

Yep, nothing makes a company take notice of poor practices better than a well designed lawsuit.  Make it a class action and you have the check books coming out early in the process.  It is sad though, that all this is needed to get attention, and even sadder that things will not change unless the dollars are over the top.

While I will continue to preach the gospel of a good performance process, I would also encourage you to have a good attorney only a phone call away.  I have three dear friends I can call, just in case the other two are busy.