Did You Hear Me?


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If you are talking directly to someone and make any kind of statement, the expectation is that a response is warranted. Then why the flip can’t people respond to a text or email message? The sender starts to over think their message with assumptions that are not often based in reality. Did I offend? Was I not clear? Are you ticked off now? Did technology fail?

I love the two-sided reaction should you dare not respond to their message. Total indignation that they were ignored even when they regularly ignore others.

In the training world, any trainer that forgets to check for understanding is not performing their role correctly. Maybe it is years of living and coaching these principles that make me respond. Some folks over play to make sure they always end the conversation, but I would rather deal with a bunch of “okay” and Thumps Up emoji’s to utter silence.

So do your world of friends, family and co-workers a favor and respond to their written words as if they were standing in front of you speaking out loud. In the end the world will appreciate you more.

Does Your Manager Know How to Manage?


indian-old-man-clipart-13If you are like a majority of souls in the American workforce these days you have a manager that struggles with basic managing skills. Unless they are from the Baby Boomer Generation, they were probably never trained how to communicate with staff and were left to figure it out for themselves. Some skills can be self-taught, while other skills need to be learned from others.

Most managers will find it hard to self-evaluate, so think about how well your manager communicates in the following categories, and maybe take note of how well your manager knows how to manage you.

 

  • When you interviewed with your manager, did they really know what kind of person and skill set they wanted for the job and ask appropriate questions to reveal if you were a good fit? Or did you have to control most of the interview in order to keep the conversation productive?

 

  • Did your manager conduct an orientation on day one that introduced you to your work area, fellow staff, and facilities and assign someone to shadow until you got oriented?

 

  • Did your manager communicate in writing and verbally your initial job functions and expectations? Did they do this every time they increased or changed your responsibilities?

 

  • Did your manager arrange for internal training and/or guided on the job training with another employee? Do they check in with you after any training to see how they can help you use what you learned on the job?

 

  • Does your manager know how to deliver constructive feedback, coaching and motivation to keep you focused and productive? Does your manager reward and recognize a good job?

 

  • Does your manager know how to communicate and evaluate overall performance so that you feel it helps you improve as well as feel valued?

 

  • Does your manager conduct regular staff meetings that keep the team informed on progress, accomplishments and changes?

 

I want all of you to remember that the above abilities to communicate to staff are basic skills. They are not in any way leadership level competencies, but skills every single manager in America should be able to perform if they are managing people. If they fail at any of these basic skills, they fail in their role as a manager. This is why it is so unfair to promote people into supervision or a management role just because they were good at the function they now manage without added training in management communications.

The CYA Leader


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How come so many leaders practice CYA Leadership? It is a version of what Ken Blanchard would call a Self-Serving Leader, but even Mr. Blanchard never spent time writing a book or training program on how to become a self-serving leader. Rather, he was my source and guidance on the leadership style I chose to implement called Servant Leadership. (www.kenblanchard.com)

Leadership Training authors are a mile wide and another mile deep, and not a single one of them has endeavored to train people on how to lead by covering their own backside. And yet, every single company can point to at least one leader that spends their entire time looking out for them and screwing the welfare of the team or staff. Why?

Maybe it is just another natural human flaw, and why it was necessary to train the evil out of their souls and replace it with kinder and gentler actions. Leadership Principles where discovered to guide us on how to lead and how to treat others properly. While I always enjoyed training leadership programs, and participants equally loved the content, it amazed me that in the end I was training them to treat people fairly and with respect. What a concept!

As a society we reward the CYA Leader with support and praise, and we dump on the compassionate leaders that are willing to compromise and negotiate win-win outcomes. Look at our political environment and the way the main stream media covers the CYA Leader. You can lie, cheat and steal and get away with anything if you are a CYA Leader, but if you are not you are ignored or made to look different and false.

There are discussions about a longing for a time when our leaders in politics and organizations where honest and trustworthy, and yet we have always had to deal with both. The issue today is that we are rewarding CYA Leadership and thus creating more of this leadership style. That has to stop! I learned a long time ago in compensation planning that you get what you incentivize people to do for you. Stop rewarding CYA Leadership and you will end up with fewer CYA Leaders.

Are You Listening to Your Human Resources?


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I began my banking career working for small savings & loans and community banks in the 80’s where failure was a regular occurrence. I ended up at Bank of America for the last third of my banking career, and landed up loving the quality, strength and strategic thought they put into daily decisions. It is why 30 years later I am still a loyal customer!

While I always root for the small to mid-size bank to succeed, it never ceases to amaze me how they regularly step on themselves when times get tough. The current Corona Virus environment has required changes in branch hours because of customer contact and yet you see entirely different approaches to the business of caring for employees based on the size of the bank.

While all banks have cut back customer contact hours, the larger banks have publicly pledged to keep their front line employees employed. Many have increased their pay because of the added risk they are taking to service clients, others adding bonus pay. The smaller banks are not rolling out the extra blankets for their employees and are lucky if they get a mask. It may be easy to say they lack the money, but it is not that simple or sinister either.

Larger corporations, banks included, invest in talented human resource people that participate as part of the strategic team rather than a service group. So when the Chief Human Resource Officer reads about what Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, US Bank etc. are doing for their employees they come to the table with more than a similar plan to match benefits. They say, “What will this do to our workforce when they discover what the competition did versus what we are doing?”

Great HR makes the leadership team think about the ramifications of decisions. Where many leaders live in the moment, HR must live today and for tomorrow. Sadly, small to mid-size companies don’t have strong HR or if they do they are not allowed to act in a strong way. They are told what to do and never encouraged to be engaged.

This is but a single example of how an engaged HR can benefit your organization. Unleash your corporate potential by taking off the limits of your HR leader. Listen to them more, and understand how your daily actions can impact the future.

The Self-Serving Leader Becoming Obvious


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In a time when it seems we have more people taking the time to do more for their family, their neighbor, their employee and their customer I am warmed by how many people are focused on others. And yet the real self-serving leaders who never ever give a hoot about anyone else’s needs besides their own are becoming more apparent in contrast.

Often it takes some concentration to see if the actions and decisions of leaders are having a positive impact on others or are designed to benefit the leader only. Yet in this time of social distancing because we want to minimize exposure to the Wuhan Chinese Covid-19 Virus (covering all bases here) policy decisions leave little doubt as to whether leadership is of the servant style or the self-serving style.

 

Example 1:

My local community market, like all markets, was cleaned out weeks ago when the self-induced public panic grabbed people and they bought out everything they could lay their hands on. The store has been receiving daily shipments, but the hoarders are buying things before they get unboxed. So the owners decided to open 2 hours later and close 1 hour earlier for restocking. They are also limiting quantities so more people have a chance to purchase what they need.

 

Example 2:

As a travel agent I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone most of last week, but when the cruise industry worldwide decided to close up shop for 30 days, I was totally shocked. We are talking millions of dollars in losses, and yet the mantra of “our number one priority is the safety of our passengers and crew” became the focus over profits.

 

Example 3:

Many of you know that my roots are in the banking industry, so it is with constant fascination that I watch what happens in this industry. While many jobs in banking can be performed from a home office, many must be done within a facility and a banking branch is the most obvious. So what happens when the government is asking people to practice social distancing and customers refuse to use technology to bank? The logical decision would be to cut branch hours which I saw one bank do this week. Yet, although the employees will have 3 less hours a day with customers, leadership wants the staff to hang out for the full day to answer phone calls. I guess only customers are contagious and employees can’t catch it from each other.

 

So look at the decisions being made by your leaders recently and if you had any doubt as to whether they are Servant Leaders or Self-Serving Leaders it should now be quite obvious.

Hang in there everyone!

Do Your Leaders Ever Apologize?


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If you work in a corporate environment on planet Earth, then you are surrounded by human beings that sometimes make mistakes. Yet over the years I am surprised when I run across a Leader that actually apologizes when they make a mistake.\\\

Whether it is a bad assumption, a misread of a situation, a forgotten promise or a false accusation it is rare at best to ever hear a genuine apology coming out of the mouth of a senior leader. There might be a lot of explanations and finger pointing but hardly ever do you hear “I’m Sorry” slipping over their lips in your direction.

Where most leaders feel that admitting fault and apologizing somehow diminishes their stature, it is often the reverse that results from a simple gesture of being humble. We all make mistakes, so admit it and say you are sorry if any of the responsibility lies in your chain of command.

A recent event took place where a manager overstepped in a performance management task by taking a different approach than company culture would dictate. It was also during a time when the HR Director wasn’t on top of her game either and overlooked the errors. So the effected employee didn’t bother to complain because they didn’t want to make waves. Four months later a Senior Leader discovered the situation and rather than apologize and seek some kind of forgiveness, they pointed fingers that several people didn’t live up to our standards.

When I heard this story, knowing the senior leader, I was disappointed in her behavior. It was so out of character because I have always seen her as a Servant Leader, and one that would have no problem with a simple apology to begin cleaning up the mess.

What are we so afraid of if we apologize? When have you been owed an apology by a leader that you are still waiting on hearing back?

 

Avoiding Reality – Good for Vacation, Bad for Business


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I balance my days between helping management teams become more successful and selling dream vacations as a travel agent. Most folks are seeking a vacation that takes them away from the everyday grind for a brief period of rest and relaxation. They are seeking a way to escape their realty and I completely understand that goal. What bothers me is those people that seek to avoid reality at work and believe things will work themselves out by ignoring it.

Take a sale organization that is not growing. They have sales people and goals, but measure activities not sales results. They lack sales managers that know how to individually motivate their team members, and senior management believe the activities they did 40 years ago will have the same success today. What signal is being sent if you fail at attaining your goals, but keep getting paid? What good is setting a goal for the New Year and not changing the support system?

Same organization wanted a corporate training function and hired a trainer to be their new training officer. Knowing this company has growth plans through acquisitions, I highly suggested they find an experienced training director with a strategic background. But in an effort to avoid reality and save salary dollars, they hired an inexperienced person that is now responsible to develop training plans for the new company. His solution was to ask existing staff “what topics should they train?” Instead of laying out a plan that would understand the goal, he is thinking and acting like a trainer not a leader.

Senior Managers at this organization are some of the nicest people you ever want to meet. While competent in their operational skills, they lack leadership abilities. They never learned leadership competencies, and basically aged into their current roles. You see this in a lot of companies today. If you just stick around long enough you get to run the department. The saddest part is they don’t see a lack of competencies. They avoid reality because it involves them changing too. In this case if the CEO would get a grasp on reality he is the perfect type of leader to turn things around. However, until the fog lifts nothing is going to change.

 

Lying Leaders and Smart Staff


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I can bet everyone reading has witnessed live presentations either in person or by phone where their senior leadership get up and espouse a bucket of lies while spinning a narrative that doesn’t exist other than in this leader’s mind. The staff sits and listens to the words and must control their laughter in the reality gap.

These leaders want to believe things are working well, and so they feel that if they speak as if it is going well that somehow the reality is different. They know dang well that what they are saying is not based in fact, but rather in fantasy. But could they really come out and say, “our culture is changing and not in a good way.” Well, yes they can and yes they should.

 

Imagine you are in the audience of your company and listening to the CEO talk about the company.

(Imagine that each of the thoughts in the parenthesis below is your thoughts.)

CEO: “Everyone is excited about the upcoming merger and is looking forward to the company’s expanded capabilities” (Maybe you are since it was announced you are being retained, but we have not been told if we have jobs.)

CEO: “Our New Training Department is up and running with new programs available to all employees.” (And when is this going to happen, because it is not happening now?)

CEO: “The results of the employee opinion survey were all positive with improved scores over last year.” (They must not be including my feedback this year.)

CEO: “We have some of the best managers at all levels that are respected by their staff and work well with others.” (Have you met most of the managers around here?)

 

In my travels in the world of Performance Improvement, I have found very few honest leaders. Most feel they need to project a vision rather than speak about reality. If they only realized that this sends a false message that they are happy with how things are working now so there is no need to change.

99.9% of employees know when they are being lied to, and each time it happens the leader loses more credibility and respect. Each time a leader lies they send a direct message to staff that they are too stupid to know better so no harm no foul.

Have you ever noticed how some leaders last longer than others? I’m not talking success necessarily, but I am talking about length of service. The honest ones do better and last longer than the lying ones.

Make a list of your leaders and divide them into two columns with those that lie to me on one side and those that tell the truth even if it means delivering bad news on the other side. Now, which column of names do you respect more?

59 And All Washed Up!


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I had a delightful young lady that according to her LinkedIn profile just graduated from High School and had been a recruiter for less than 90-days, tell me that I job I could do in my sleep was not something I was being considered for because of my “age”! When I said, “I beg your pardon?” she replied, “let’s face it, your time has passed by, you are too old for this kind of work.”

Aside from being floored at the ignorance of this women’s understanding of discrimination in the workforce, I had to wonder if she just wasn’t being honest. She said what so many other employers have not said, that at the ripe old age of 59 I am all washed up.

Yes I could create all sorts of havoc in this company and no doubt get her fired, but I see no purpose in that process. The company will continue to discriminate and this young lady will only learn that being truthful with applicants is not the way to do business.

Now while this is the only time someone has come right out and said it is my age that disqualified me, I have to wonder if it isn’t the reason so many other companies have passed on my application. They land up hiring people with little to no experience and I have to wonder if they are just playing a game of chance, or they simply do not care how a training function will operate. It could be more of a matter of window dressing than actual outcomes.

Many companies have productive and focused learning functions, but many more have nothing more than a warm body that produces very little in any given year. These management teams either don’t want learning to be a focus, or what I believe, they have no relevant experience themselves with what a high output training function should be doing for their paycheck.

You have heard the phrase, “garbage in garbage out” I’m sure. It is the same with hiring unqualified people, or expecting the same results out of a function with weak and incompetent leadership.

The way I see it I have a couple of choices. I could dye my hair and get a face lift and then dummy down my resume. Or, I could retire early and throw in the towel. Your focused feedback would be appreciated.

Is Your Manager a Vacation Grinch?


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For most Americans, looking forward to vacation is part of the way they cope with their work environment. If you work for a wacky company, or a dipstick manager, vacation may be your only solace from the insanity and you look forward to the eventual escape.

Some managers hate to allow staff to go on vacation because it causes short staff issues. You may even work for a company that all hell breaks out every time someone is out sick, or takes a leave of absence, or is on vacation.

While vacation is an earned benefit right along with your salary, some managers like to play Grinch with the approval process. Your employee manual may encourage vacation notice in advance as possible to allow for planning around the absence, some managers prefer to wait until the last possible minute to approve vacations because they are uncertain if it will cause damage to the operation.

I came from the banking industry, and I will say that if something can happen to cause stress to staffing in any given week it will. It is just part of the random nature of how busy you can get. You can have a full staff and hardly any customer comes in that day, and when you are down to the bare minimum the line of customers will be out the door. But to withhold approval for an employee’s vacation because of the unknown is just a sign of immature management.

Unless you are taking a “Staycation” where you are staying home, most people have reserved flights, hotels, cars, cruises, or tours in advance. Money is rarely refundable, so the employee seeks vacation approval before they book a vacation. To expect an employee to eat the cost because their absence from work would cause a shortage at the last minute is absurd. Yet we hire absurd thinking managers all the time!

Take one gentleman in particular. He is verbally approving vacations, but is withholding a written acknowledgement of the vacation request until he is certain it would cause no disruption to the office. If they need this employee to work, the employee must cancel their vacation plans, eat the non-refundable costs and show up to work. If they choose to take vacation they will be terminated for job abandonment.

Today’s economy does not allow us to disregard employees, as they can find another job a lot easier than 3 years ago. At-Will-Employers must always keep in mind that they hire At-Will-Employees that can leave you without notice just like you can let them go without notice. Withholding vacation is a great way to irritate any employee and force them to play the resignation card. Human Resource Directors that discover Vacation Grinch Managers within the company should consider finding them a new career opportunity.