Management

Are We Helping You Build A Successful Career? How Will You Answer?

The second question under consideration from our discussion on exit interviews is; Are we helping you build a successful career? The idea behind this question is to solicit how management can help you be a success during your tenure with them. Keep in mind, if you’re successful so is your manager and the company. Not to mention happy customers which lead to strong sales and great profits.

Take a moment and ask yourself this; why do you think your manager would ask you this question? Could it be, they see you as someone with high potential and want to know how they can help you succeed in the company? If that is the case, then don’t you think you owe it them and yourself to have the essence of a clear plan with goals, outcomes, and metrics? Don’t be caught flat-footed. Allow me to make a simple but effect suggestion.

Many have the belief that a successful career plan requires spending hours upon hours of planning every possible step. It is true planning is required. But not on the level, some believe. Let me suggest that you think and plan in ninety-day increments. Doing it in this manner allows you provide specific areas where you manager can assist you in your career development. It allows for measurable results along with the opportunity to make adjustments.

Good and talent people are hard to find and keeping them is important to the organization. So when you’re asked the question Are we helping you build a successful career, be ready with a response along with examples of where you could use their help. By having your ninety-day plan developed, you can provide specific areas where you can use their help. Not to mention, it opens the line of communication between you and your manager. To where she is really looking to help you, and not just asking a perfunctory question.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2016


Why The Question: Are We Helping You Be Effective in Your Current Job? Is Important

In a recent post, I mentioned three questions that a manager should be asking of their employees. As a reminder the questions were: Are we helping you be effective in your current job? Are we helping your build a successful career? Are we helping you have a fulfilling life?

Let’s consider the first question, helping you become effective in your current job. It may seem obvious why a manager might ask this question. Logic would dictate, the more effective you are, the more productive you would be in handling your assign tasks. But, I submit there is more to it than just making you more productive.

Every manager or supervisor goal is to have competent people working for them. The more effective you are at your job, the mover effective they can be at their job.

With you becoming more effective in your current job, you win, and you start to receive more challenging assignments. Your manager wins, as they now have an employee who can take on more responsibility and she too can assume more responsibility. She has an employee who she is comfortable in knowing that she can count on you to do a good job. The company wins as it now has two employees (you and your manager) who are more effective and productive in their roles. The customers win as they are dealing with a company that has highly trained and effective employees.

So if asked the question are we helping you be effective in your current job. Be prepared to answer the question honestly and straightforward. If you feel that is not happening, then be clear and concise on what you need to make it happen.

Here is a suggestion. Instead of waiting to be asked this question by your manager, why not be proactive. Take this question and work out some talking points to discuss with your manager on how you see yourself being more effective at your current job. Request a meeting with your manager and discuss these points along with asking for their help in making both of you successful.

After all taking some initiative is never a bad thing.

We will discuss the next two questions: Are we helping your build a successful career? Are we helping you have a fulfilling life? In our next blog post.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2016


The Exit Interview Questions You Should Ask Before People Leave.

A recent article in entitled “Making Exit Interviews Count” Harvard Business Review April 2016, caught my attention. It was discussing the importance of doing exit interviews. I realize that this particular topic may cause to say “Wilson what on earth are you talking about?” I don’t blame you, in fact if you found yourself saying,”strange topic to bring up since you haven’t written anything for three months.” Again I am forced to agree with up to a point. Let me explain.

First, I admit it has been three months maybe longer since my last post. For that, I once again apologize. At times, it is difficult coming up with topics that I feel are worth writing about. But, hey, as I have said before it’s my Blog so I can write about whatever I desire. With that in mind, I’ve decided to cover a number of issues that I believe relate to issues around management, diversity, team building, accountability, trust, communications, along with developing a strategy to be a star in your organization.

Second, which brings me to the topic of Exit Interviews. Well, this is one of those topics I’ve chosen to cover briefly for no other reason than this is my blog. Look, if you really want to know about Exit Interviews grab a copy of the April 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review and read the entire article. But, there is a simple concept that I wish to borrow from the article. It has to do with these three questions by the article writers that I think should be asked prior to an Exit Interview. In fact, I believe a good manager should be asking these of his employees on a regular basis they are:

  1. Are we helping you be effective in your current job?
  2. Are we helping you build a successful career?
  3. Are we helping you have a fulfilling life?

Three excellent questions that you as a manager you should be asking your employees constantly. Why? Well, take a moment and think about it and I will discuss it in our next post.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2016


The Elephants Dance at EMC and Dell

Well, the elephants are dancing once again this time it is at EMC and Dell. The most recent announcement is that Dell will by EMC. So for the folks at both companies the days of fretful anticipation will start as to when the inevitable layoffs will start arriving.

In the meantime those in power will be working out their packages that will make them millionaires and leave them in good standing as potential venture capitalists for those looking for startup money or starting their own venture. But for the majority (my guess mostly EMC people) what this latest corporate demolition means is many people will be wondering and worrying what their future will become. For some, retirement might be their best option. For others it will be a series of job searches. Hoping they can land a job before their expiration date of nine months of unemployment renders them to the untouchable pile. It seems that if someone regardless of their skills not hired in that period, now deemed undesirable by HR.

So that flurry of activity happening in both companies is not employees paying attention to the work at hand, it is those who know they have skills desired elsewhere, are feverishly sprucing up the resume and making the network calls they know will be helpful in their new employment search. What is funny, this is exactly what some of the elephants want to happen. It lessens the blow of selecting people to fire, I mean downsize.

As I’ve often written when the Elephants in the corporate office start dancing things break. It’s just too bad it’s the good hard working individuals. Who labored under the legend that companies really care about their most valuable asset, their employees. When in reality it is how golden is their parachute.


The Performance Review Must Die Part 1

Professor Culbert author of Get Rid of The Performance Review, wrote; “It is time to finally put the performance review out of its misery.” I could not agree more.

What we call a performance review or performance appraisal (note, I will use both of these terms interchangeably) is quickly becoming a relic. The performance review a procedure no longer useful in the assessment of team or individual performance. However, like the bureaucracy that gave it birth, it manages to hang on to life despite numerous attempts to eliminate it, or replace it with something that is more representative of actual individual and team accomplishments.

You are probably thinking I am bitter due to receiving less than stellar performance reviews. I always received outstanding reviews but, I also knew much of the time they were not always an accurate representation of what I had – or didn’t – accomplish for the timeframe of the review. Like any employee, I wanted due recognition for my contribution and accomplishments. However, I also knew they did not cover everything not to mention the time when I discovered verbiage describing a project I worked on a year prior that hand nothing to do with the current review cycle. It was the start of my realizing this process was a useless and formulaic process just to satisfy HR requirements. My confirmation came when I noticed an increase in my weekly salary.

There is an unwritten rule never let the money precede the review. To do so meant you violated the Wizard of Oz principle around giving out raises. Employees are supposed to think their annual performance review is necessary for them to receive an increase in pay. It is leverage over their employees. It is the smoke and mirrors trick that a good appraisal equals good raise. Maybe in a small company of less than 100 employees. However, once you get into the corporate arena, it is not about performance as one is lead to believe. It became apparent to me when my last manager broke this rule. Here is what happened.

It was that time of year when was do for my annual performance review. When I picked up my pay stub and opened it, I noticed an increase. I did the calculation it amounted to a 5% pay increase. I quickly realized what happened. I received my raise without the formal review and discussion. As I proceeded to his office to discuss it with him, he saw me and notice I had my pay stub, and he waved me into his office and explained what happened.

You see he missed his deadline to get all his reviews into HR. So in favor of getting my increase into the current cycle, and feeling the review could come later. He pushed through the increase without the review promising HR he would meet with me before it showed up in my pay. His intent was to get my pay stub before I did and met with me to and let me know I was getting a raise, and we would meet later to discuss the review.

We had an awkward discussion, but it did not matter. You see the appraisal was not that significant, as we both knew what my accomplishments were, and I understood the folly of the review process having managed people before. We hand an understanding as long as kept him up to speed on what I was doing, with no surprises he would leave me to my own devices. Besides we met regularly to discuss progress, so we both knew what I was and wasn’t doing. The review was just the formal paperwork process HR needed to justify a salary increase. Culbert described it best when he said: “It is a pretentious, bogus practice that produces nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.” I agree with his statement that the review process is a bogus practice producing nothing. Let me explain.

The employee being reviewed comes to the session thinking he is there to discuss achievements for the evaluation period. They come to the meeting with a detailed list of what they did during the review cycle with a preconceived notion of receiving a rating of outstanding. They also believe part of the discussion will focus on their development so they have prepared several items they would like to go over in this area. The employee believes this meeting is about him and his contributions to the team and success to company bottom line, so, there is an expectation of receiving an increase for all his hard work.

The manager responsible for conducting the evaluation session comes not to praise the employee but to exert and ensure his dominance over the employee. He does not intend to discuss the employee’s accomplishments. Any discussion on the part of the employee about accomplishments is short-circuited with, “here is how I think you did. Followed by “here is how you need to fix it, and this is what I want you to do next.” This does not lead to any meaningful rapport between manager and subordinate around accomplishments. It quickly degenerates into a process of the manager controlling the conversation and conveying the message he is the determinant factor of the employee’s rating and any increase they might receive. So that carefully crafted list of accomplishments; it falls by the wayside. Also and hope of discussing developmental needs is tossed aside because the manager told you what you to correct and how to do it, so why would you need any development?

Recall what Culbert called it, “a pretentious, bogus practice” an accurate description of the process. He also stated it produces nothing. That is not entirely right. It creates angry and disillusion employees. It generates managers who are inefficient and detrimental to the company. Disillusion employees incompetent managers will result in poor customer service, crappy products, and completely no accountability all because of the company’s inadequate performance appraisal process.

The bogus practice around the appraisal process is that management has not incentive to improve the process. They are very comfortable with the way their ill-equip manager are handling the entire process. If they were not, then they would handle it in an entirely different way. I am not saying all companies are blind to the failed process of providing meaningful employee reviews. Many have adopted a 360-degree process believing this will provide a more accurate rendering of a person performance because the information is coming from multiple sources. Unfortunately, this process also is corrupted. It, usually, happens when any of the following occurs as pointed out in a Forbes article entitled: The 7 Reasons Why 360-Degree Programs Fail

  1. The boss does not get involve discounting the program
  2. The 360 questions are too vague
  3. Personal comment or vague comments are made rather than constructive comments
  4. No plan set for receiving the feedback
  5. No follow-up post 360 plan if one does happen it only happens once
  6. Lack of confidentially
  7. Focusing on the weaknesses and forgetting about the strengths

The interesting thing about this list it is everything that is wrong with non-360-degree review processes. So replacing one system with another that suffers from the same problems as the system already in place is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results that is the definition of insanity. For those who say they have a 360-degree review system that is working fine, go back and check better yet read the following article by Harriet Edleson: Do 360 evaluations work?

It is past time to get rid of the performance review. However, it is not that easy especially in large companies. There is a workaround, but that comes in part two.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved


Market Basket – One for the Books For Sure!

How many of would risk your job for the CEO of your company? Would you join a picket line for six weeks with no pay demanding the reinstatement of the CEO of your company? Let’s say you’re a long-term customer of the company would you support the employees in their protest? What would be your motivation to support the employees of this company if you can find what you need elsewhere?

Under normal circumstances most employees and customers pay little attention to the firing of a company CEO. From an employee standpoint many see it as part of their company’s business cycle, CEO’s come and go so to speak. Customers have a similar view, unless they have stock in the company then they wonder how it will affect the stock price with the firing of the CEO. Neither will worry about the CEO welfare as they both believe he’ll be fine financially. So the concept of both employee and customer joining forces and protesting the firing of a CEO by walking off the job and boycotting, well, it’s unheard of until now. Enter Arthur T. Demoulas recently fired by his board of directors, and now six weeks later, the reinstated CEO and now majority owner of Market Basket. A position he regained with the help of both loyal employees and customers. A level of loyalty and support CEO’s can only dream about that is if the do dream.

Adam Vaccaro of the Boston.com provides a good account of what took place. However, that’s not the focus of this post. My focus is on the embodiment of what we consultants often talk about when it comes to leadership and customer loyalty. Let’s start with discussing Artie T (as he’s called by his loyal employees) leadership style.

Leadership:

Warren Bennis said “managers do things right leaders do the right thing.” Artie T realized the right thing to do was take care of his people and everything else would follow. He did this by developing a culture that allowed employees to be successful and rewarded them accordingly. He understood that profit came not because of him, but from the hard work of his employees. As the company and profits grew he paid well and provided good benefits. He followed threw on items he said he would. He established a foundation of trust among the employees. It resulted in employees truly believing they “were the most valuable asset” something often said by management but not necessarily believed by those who say it and those who hear it.

At Market Basket both the employees and the customers are important. In an interview Artie T told the reporter that they were in the people business first and the food business second. Now that’s someone who has his eye on what is important.

If your employees feel they are just the proverbial cog in the wheel, it will reflect on how they interact with your customers. Think Comcast and the now famous viral recording of a customer trying to disconnect his service.

Focus and Employee Development Leads to Customer Loyalty :

Ralph C. Stayer CEO of Johnsonville foods in his book Flight of the Buffalo, asked this question, “is every person in your company focused on delivering great performance for his/her customers? Focused and motivated employees will delight their customers. For six weeks Market Basket customers boycotted the stores in their areas. They refuse to shop at their favorite store until the reinstatement of Artie T as CEO. That’s customer loyalty.

It came about because he made sure his employees were focused on delighting their customers. He did this by asking this question, “is the person becoming more capable?” meaning is the employee receiving the training and development they that will allow them to grow? Having a promote from within philosophy with emphasis on continuous learning doesn’t hurt either.

All this leads to retention of top talent, a loyal customer base.Things he clearly understood, and so did his employees and Market Basket customers. That’s why both employees and customers took the action they did and it paid off.

We appreciate being treated respectfully when we’re about to spend our hard earn money. As customers we have numerous choices and we won’t patronize businesses who don’t understand this. The employees of Market Basket understood this, that’s why they greet every customer in a sincere and friendly way. As a friend told me shopping at a Market Basket reminded him of the local neighborhood grocery store before they all became chains. He also said he noticed it was like a local meeting place when people and employees engaged in friendly conversation because they knew each other.

So when the employees went out on strike to get their leader back so did their customers. Which is something unheard of and will make for some very interesting business case studies. Yes this clearly one for the business books.

 


Stop It!

Management is indeed a difficult job. As a manager you are responsible for a number of things. Making sure the projects your department is responsible for are on track. Meeting HR deadlines for performance appraisals. Seeing to that your direct reports are receiving the right amount training and coaching when and where necessary. It’s a wonder that you get anything done.

As a consultant and coach I often hear about all the work that managers have to do with little or no resources and an ever shortening of time to complete projects before receiving a new set of number one priorities from their boss. The complaints of being overworked are never-ending. But, when pushed on why they don’t take action to correct the problem I get blank stares. Let me explain.

When I inquire into what is getting in the way of their ability to complete work, I hear they often have to redo work that they delegated. For some reason it doesn’t met their expectations of quality. When asked why I get some ambiguous response. So we take some time to break it down to review the process of delegation. Eventually we find a fixable problem and the manager is thankful for the assistance and has her plan for making the adjustments with high hopes. I would like to say that’s the end of it and we can proceed to other issues that require addressing, but, the problem comes back, because I hear the same complaints. Naturally I wonder is it something I’m not conveying am I not be clear enough.

After going through this process a number of times I realize it’s not me. I don’t say that to brag but as a fact. What it turns out to be is the manager doesn’t want to change. They really don’t want to remove the obstacle because it’s become their bragging point with other managers. Sounds strange I know, but, managers – especially middle managers – feel they need to have something to always complain about, call it a cause celeb. It provides them their set of war stories they convey to fellow managers at other companies. It’s reminiscent of the old joke about the man who goes to the doctor and tells him hurts every time he flaps his arms, he asks what he should do. The doctor tells him to stop doing what is causing him pain which is flapping his arms. Simple, but for far too many extremely hard to do.

I’m convinced that managers don’t really want to learn how to successfully delegate, if they did, they wouldn’t always be signing up for the newest how to delegate course thinking they’re going to learn some new technique. When all they have to is apply what they already know and stop taking work back that isn’t meeting standards. They don’t want to stop.

We all have things we can stop doing we just have to identify them. In case of managers redoing work they delegated it starts with setting clear expectations around the finish product and holding the people accountable for meeting them and to stop accepting incomplete work product.

In the individual sense it requires one to identify things they don’t need to do and just stop doing them. It could start with stop listening to people who are always complaining about their lot in life. People like this suck the life out of you, and they don’t really want help they just want to take up your time and like to hear themselves talk. Cutting them lose will free you in ways you can’t image.

Managers are always looking for time saving techniques and far too many have bought into various programs and processes that claim to help them be better at time management. But, if as a manager, you don’t stop doing things that suck up your time, it won’t matter what sophisticated system you implement because it will ultimately fail because you just refuse to stop doing what you do.

For those of you who remember the old Bob Newhart show he played a psychologist People would come to him for help with their problems and he had some simple and straight forward advice, just stop it. When people would push back and ask what he meant he would look at them and say you need to just stop it.

In the wise words of Bob Newhart STOP IT.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved



Real Teamwork in Action

I’m still in morning over the fact that my boys from Syracuse lost to Dayton. But, all you die hard UNC fans no doubt are looking for new timing rules considering how that game ended. My friend out in San Francisco who grew up in Kansas and went to Kansas University and is a lifelong Jayhawk fan is still screaming at his TV. The redeeming feature for both of us is neither one of us has to have our picture taken in the winner’s jersey as proof whose team is better, both of our teams lost and won’t be in the sweet sixteen where we thought they face each other.

This event known as March Madness is indeed a period of madness. Sixty-four college basketball teams come together to determine which college get bragging rights to claim they’re the best of the best in college basketball. It’s indeed a spectacle to watch. There is lot of talent flying up and down a basketball court. The wizardry and athleticism of these young men is something to behold. Their ability to handle a basketball and leap hang in the air and make a 30 foot jump shot seem so natural is magical. When you watch a team of well-honed athletes operate in unison you realize they aren’t playing as talented individuals but as a talented team. As one commentator said, “it’s not the talent of the individual, but the ability to work together to bring out the talent of the team.” The success of a team is the combined efforts of everyone working as a unit.

What makes March Madness so much fun to watch is you get to see real team work in action. Only if managers and leaders would learn from this things might go better in the workplace.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved


A Sign of The Times

I’m at Panera’s attempting to write the first chapter of my book, when I take a break and look up and see seated at a table a family signing. Normally, I wouldn’t give this a second thought but for some strange reason I’m fascinated at what is taking place a few feet away from me. Here is a family carrying on an animated conversation that only they can understand by using their hands to communicate with each other and not uttering a sound. I’m old enough to remember the time when we used a different term for individuals who couldn’t speak which I won’t repeat here.

You might ask, Tim why is this important. I don’t know if it’s important, but, for me it causes me to wonder why so many people are insistent on making English the official language of the United States. For that matter, why, there was such an outcry about the first Cheerios commercial that featured an interracial couple, or the recent Coke™ commercial that had different groups of people signing America The Beautiful in their native tongue. Then there is what Ted Nugent calling the President, a “subhuman mongrel.” I can only image what he would call the family I’m watching.

As a society we have many problems, and we have major tendency to get upset when people don’t agree with us. But recently I’ve witnessed a major uptick in the vitriol and quickness to become offended and the slightest perceived provocation. It’s as if people are like coiled rattlesnake ready to strike at anyone who stumbles across their path.

This unbridled rush to prove oneself right and denounce anyone who disagrees with them causes them to resort to vicious name calling and accusation. No longer are people willing to reasonable discuss and debate. It’s either you agree with me or you’re against me. I ask, when did this happen?

But let me circle back to the rhetorical question raised earlier, why is this important? As an expert in leadership and innovation this is a challenge that leaders and managers have to deal with in the workplace. People bring their feelings and beliefs with them when they show up for work. Despite the old adage of leave personal problems at home when at work, the reality is that just doesn’t happen.

For managers and leaders, they face a constant challenge of dealing with the entire gamut of human emotions. With the demands to perform at breakneck speeds, its little wonder people become argumentative and intolerant of differences. But, that doesn’t mitigate the requirement to embrace the diversity that people bring to workplace. If anything by truly embracing the differences people bring to our lives we will be better for it as it open us up to seeing the expansiveness that differences offers us. The manager who can truly utilize all the assets they have is a manager who will be the most productive.

The family I was observing has left and I can only say that I feel a bit richer for having the opportunity to witness their conversation. It’s provided with a memory that I can call up reference regularly when talking about the need to value and embrace diversity.

The challenge to you, is, can you bring forth such a memory? I hope you can.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved



Bullying At the Work Place

I recently read a Seth Godin’s blog on bullying. He had some interesting insights, he described bullying:
“As intentionally using power to cause physical or emotional distress with the purpose of dominating the other person. The bully works to marginalize people. In an organizational setting, the bully chooses not to engage in conversation or discussion, or to use legitimate authority or suasion, and depends instead on pressure in the moment to demean and disrespect someone else—by undermining not just their ideas, but their very presence and legitimacy.”

Seth pointed out that bullies are thieves. Costing companies’ money in productivity and employee retention. Having a bully on the work force prevents individuals from working up to their full potential resulting in the need to be constantly hiring. The average cost of hiring a new employee is somewhere in the low six figures when you factor in the lost salary of the employee who leaves with the cost of replacing her. All because there is a bully at work.

Allowing a culture where bullying can take place is a major managerial defect and one that requires correction if the company hopes to be competitive. But, there is something else needs to happen, employees need understand how to handle conflict and not be conflict averse.

Handling conflict is not something that comes easy to people. Most would rather avoid conflict if possible. But, when something affects your livelihood, developing the ability to deal with conflict will serve you well. I’m not suggesting fighting but, finding a way to let someone know you’re not someone to bully. There are numerous ways of dealing with conflict, but, here are two you can start with.

Understanding Bullies are Cowards:

They are cowards, as Seth stated, they get their power through intimidation and the lack of conversation and discussion. Think of it as the boss says something along the lines “You don’t get paid to think.” In a world where more and more work is down by knowledge workers, thinking is the major form of generating marketable output. Recognizing, that most bullies, are not necessarily strong performers, and anyone with more than two brain cells can outdo most bullies, your knowledge of what you do, how it gets done, along with developing new and innovative techniques places you miles ahead any workplace bully.

If you’re making money for your company, and management has any sense at all, they’ll want to keep you as you’re a money-maker for them, whereas, the bully, well, they’re a dime a dozen. Since you can out think them you represent a threat and seen as someone they can intimidate.  So, use your god given brain cells and just out think them you’ll win every time.

Having A Strong Network:

Keep in mind a point that Seth made about how a bully works, undermining ideas, and legitimacy. Developing a strong network both inside your organization and outside, will aid you with dealing with this problem.

If you’ve developed your network where people know you and your work, they can vouch for you in the area of your performance, then much of what a bully does will be negated, and seen for what it is, feeble attempts to undermine you and make you seem illegitimate.

Having a strong network also allows you to put feelers out on opportunities at other companies that would be more conducive for you to work. You, have the skills and talents that can be parlayed into a better position that allows you to thrive in a less confrontational environment, where management values talent.

Bullying has been with us since Esau bullied Jacob, and it will continue to be a problem as long there are more than two people occupy the same space. How one deals with it is dependent on one’s willingness to recognize the depth and extent of their personal power. In the case of Esau he bullied his twin brother Jacob, because he was a hunter and provided food his family, he was his fathers favorite.  But one day he came in from the hunt hungry and wanted some of Jacob’s stew.  In fact he demanded it, Jacob keep his wits and made a deal that involved birthrights. Being hungry and not thinking he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, allowing the blessing of the first-born to pass to his brother. Why, because Jacob was smart (knowledge at work her folks) enough to bargain with his brother for something he knew was important down the road.

Bullies are short-term thinkers and only look for immediate satisfaction. You on the other hand need to think long-term and use your knowledge to your advantage. Some will tell you that you need to approach your work situation like a chess game and think several moves ahead, I would suggest you consider it like a game of go, where you’re not only thinking several moves ahead, but you’re also thinking about positioning where you gain ground on your opponent and they find themselves boxed in, out smarted, with no escape.  

Once you’ve won, you might want to consider offering them a bowl of stew.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved



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