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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Everyone Wins When You Help Employees Provide Value


One of the things I love about being in leadership development is that everyone always bring you these rich stories that sometimes causes you to have an “a-ha” moment.

A major retail chain recently did something that, for a retail company, needs to be lauded. In retail, you have a workforce that is largely made up of hourly employees. They are the people that face the customers each and every day. Good mood or bad mood, they must keep the stiff upper lip and remember that the “customer is always right.”

One of the challenges all retail companies face is the weekly schedule. Trying to place people in slots, or work around challenges in their lives, is an enormous uphill battle both for the manager as well as the employee.
Facing a challenge and everyone wins
This company addressed that challenge head on and empowered their hourly workers to take charge of their schedule. In a nutshell, the employee makes their own schedule. They now have ownership and flexibility, and the theme of this program is that it allows associates to accommodate events that come into their life.

Imagine for moment that you are one of those workers, whether you are a single parent, college student, taking care of an elderly parent, or whatever. You are now empowered to set your own schedule. Outside of the weekend and certain key days, you are in charge. If you need to swap a day with someone, you are empowered to just do it as opposed to bowing to some manager and waiting for their verdict.

The response from their workforce, as it was told to me, was huge win. The workers thought they would never live to see the day that this would happen.
I am always encouraged when I see companies step up to the plate and look at situations and decide that yes, we can do this.

Empowerment going forward is the key
I was traveling a few weeks back, and when I came back to my hotel room, for some reason the key would not work. I tried reinserting it numerous times but I kept getting a flashing light. A member of the housekeeping staff saw my problem and came over and tried her key. She apologized and called the front desk, and they in-turn called the maintenance supervisor, who came up to my room with a crew of people.

Being a leadership development person, I watched the workplace dynamics of this play out — four people standing around my room trying to get me in. When I was finally let in, the supervisor came over and apologized profusely.

“Mr. Mclees, why not have dinner on us tonight?” he said. Knowing that I had dinner plans, I thanked him and politely declined. But he did not give up. “Why not have dessert on us then?” That suggestion I agreed to.
The residual impact of empowerment
My question to him was how, and why, did you do that? He said that each employee is empowered to grant these types of offerings when a customer is inconvenienced.
I thought of that story as I flew home. As I prepared for my next business trip, I noticed that my work location was centered around a few hotels. When I saw that the hotel that I had recently stayed was among them, my choice was easy. From this point on I will try and give them as much of my travel business as possible for the way they treated me as a customer — and all because of one interaction.

One of most interesting books that I have read over the past few years is Employee First, Customer Second by Vineet Nayer, CEO of HCL Technologies. HCL is a leading global IT services company. This is the firsthand account from a CEO about how he transformed his organization, taking it from decline into an engine of vitality and growth.

This book gives you a ringside seat to his transformational journey in turning conventional management of people upside down.

In a nutshell, he empowered his employees and they engaged his customers and turned around a company that was in a downward spiral.

Where is the value zone?
Vineet Nayer coined the phrase “value zone. This zone is the interface between employees and customers. Every employee that works within this zone is capable of creating more, or less, value. The mission was to do everything to enable those employees to create the most value possible.
Nayer wanted management to be as accountable to the people in the value zone as the people in the value zone are to management.

What they found was that this approach produced far more passion, because it proved that management understood the importance of employees in this “value zone.” They trusted them to do what was needed to be done in a way that they believed it should be done.

The small things win
Sometimes we look for the big initiatives to get back on track, but more often than not, it’s a small amount of respect and trust that causes the groundswell.

Empower employees, and both the employee and the organization wins. Treat them with mistrust and a lack of respect, and no one wins. It is as simple as that.

Oh, and by the way, when I returned from dinner back at the hotel, that slice of pound cake with raspberry topping capped off a powerful day for the “value zone.”

Peter Mclees, Principal

P. S. Smart Development Inc. has an exceptional track record helping restaurants, stores and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.

A Five-Step Plan to Turn Around Underachievers

Enough about toxic bosses. What about sorry workers? Yes, that’s right, sorry. Some people need training, some need coaching. But some are just plain sorry—the proverbial bad apple that spoils the barrel. And when you find bad apples, the best thing to do is throw them out, right? Well, no. Even sorry workers can be saved. Follow these steps:

1.  Get wise. Good workers are often frustrated because their bosses seem oblivious to the underachievers in their midst. Satisfaction surveys and exit interviews should include questions to gauge employee perceptions of how management handles poor performers.

2.   Get help. You may be a great manager in every other respect, but let’s face it: Exercising discipline means engaging in confrontation—something most people find difficult. If you’re uncomfortable tackling performance issues, ask your HR department for assistance, or seek training to develop the skills necessary to make the task less daunting.

3.  Get going. Don’t let problems fester until dismissal seems the only option. As soon as you notice employees veering off course, take steps to steer them back. There’s truth in the saying that if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile. Stop them at the inch, and you may never have to go down the longer road.

4.  Get inquisitive. When counseling poor performers, don’t just tell employees what they’re doing wrong and what they should be doing instead. Ask them what’s going on. It may be easier to approach an employee if you view the situation as a mystery that needs to be solved. Perhaps the employee is undertrained. Perhaps family or health issues are taking a toll. Or perhaps the employee just needs to understand that you expect a higher level of participation

5.  Get ready. Never assume that a single conversation will resolve a serious problem. No matter how productive the chat or how sure you are that the matter has been handled, take time to document the discussion. Should you decide to terminate, you’ll need to demonstrate the steps you’ve taken to resolve the problem—beginning with your first effort.

All the success!

PM in the AM

10 Common Leadership and Management Mistakes

Avoiding Universal Pitfalls

Avoid common leadership and management mistakes.
Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. – Oscar Wilde

It's often said that mistakes provide great learning opportunities. However, it's much better not to make mistakes in the first place!

In this post, we're looking at 10 of the most common leadership and management errors, and highlighting what you can do to avoid them. If you can learn about these here, rather than through experience, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble!

1.   Lack of Feedback
Sarah is a talented sales representative, but she has a habit of answering the phone in an unprofessional manner. Her boss is aware of this, but he's waiting for her performance review to tell her where she's going wrong. Unfortunately, until she's been alerted to the problem, she'll continue putting off potential customers.

According to 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, failing to provide feedback is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don't provide prompt feedback to your people, you're depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance.
To avoid this mistake, learn how to provide regular feedback to your team.

2.    Not  Making Time for Your Team
When you're a manager or leader, it's easy to get so wrapped up in your own workload that you don't make yourself available to your team.
Yes, you have projects that you need to deliver. But your people must come first – without you being available when they need you, your people won't know what to do, and they won't have the support and guidance that they need to meet their objectives.

Avoid this mistake by blocking out time in your schedule specifically for your people, and by learning how to listen actively to your team. Develop your emotional intelligence so that you can be more aware of your team and their needs, and have a regular time when "your door is always open", so that your people know when they can get your help. You can also use Management By Walking Around, which is an effective way to stay in touch with your team.
Once you're in a leadership or management role, your team should always come first - this is, at heart, what good leadership is all about!

3.     Being Too "Hands-Off"
One of your team has just completed an important project. The problem is that he misunderstood the project's specification, and you didn't stay in touch with him as he was working on it. Now, he's completed the project in the wrong way, and you're faced with explaining this to an angry client.

Many leaders want to avoid micromanagement. But going to the opposite extreme (with a hand-offs management style) isn't a good idea either – you need to get the balance right.

4.     Being Too Friendly
Most of us want to be seen as friendly and approachable to people in our team. After all, people are happier working for a manager that they get on with. However, you'll sometimes have to make tough decisions regarding people in your team, and some people will be tempted to take advantage of your relationship if you're too friendly with them.
This doesn't mean that you can't socialize with your people. But, you do need to get the balance right between being a friend and being the boss.
Learn how to do avoid this mistake with our article, Now You're the Boss. Also, make sure that you set clear boundaries, so that team members aren't tempted to take advantage of you.

5.     Failing to Define Goals
When your people don't have clear goals, they muddle through their day. They can't be productive if they have no idea what they're working for, or what their work means. They also can't prioritize their workload effectively, meaning that projects and tasks get completed in the wrong order.

Avoid this mistake by learning how to set SMART goals for your team. Use a Team Charter to specify where your team is going, and detail the resources it can draw upon. Also, use principles from Management by Objectives to align your team's goals to the mission of the organization.

6.     Misunderstanding Motivation
Do you know what truly motivates your team? Here's a hint: chances are, it's not just money!
Many leaders make the mistake of assuming that their team is only working for monetary reward. However, it's unlikely that this will be the only thing that motivates them.

For example, people seeking a greater work/life balance might be motivated by telecommuting days or flexible working. Others will be motivated by factors such as achievement, extra responsibility, praise, or a sense of camaraderie.

7.     Hurrying Recruitment
When your team has a large workload, it's important to have a full team. But filling a vacant role too quickly can be a disastrous mistake.

Hurrying recruitment can lead to recruiting the wrong people for your team: people who are uncooperative, ineffective or unproductive. They might also require additional training, and slow down others on your team. With the wrong person, you'll have wasted valuable time and resources if things don't work out and they leave. What's worse, other team members will be stressed and frustrated by having to "carry" the under-performer.

You can avoid this mistake by learning how to recruit effectively, and by being particularly picky about the people you bring into your team.

8.     Not "Walking the Walk"
If you make personal telephone calls during work time, or speak negatively about your CEO, can you expect people on your team not to do this too? Probably not!

As a leader, you need to be a role model for your team. This means that if they need to stay late, you should also stay late to help them. Or, if your organization has a rule that no one eats at their desk, then set the example and head to the break room every day for lunch. The same goes for your attitude – if you're negative some of the time, you can't expect your people not to be negative.

So remember, your team is watching you all the time. If you want to shape their behavior, start with your own. They'll follow suit.

9.     Not Delegating
Some managers don't delegate, because they feel that no-one apart from themselves can do key jobs properly. This can cause huge problems as work bottlenecks around them, and as they become stressed and burned out.

Delegation does take a lot of effort up-front, and it can be hard to trust your team to do the work correctly. But unless you delegate tasks, you're never going to have time to focus on the "broader-view" that most leaders and managers are responsible for. What's more, you'll fail to develop your people so that they can take the pressure off you.

10.   Misunderstanding Your Role
Once you become a leader or manager, your responsibilities are very different from those you had before.

However, it's easy to forget that your job has changed, and that you now have to use a different set of skills to be effective. This leads to you not doing what you've been hired to do – leading and managing.

Key Points
We all make mistakes, and there are some mistakes that leaders and managers make in particular. These include, not giving good feedback, being too "hands-off," not delegating effectively, and misunderstanding your role.

It's true that making a mistake can be a learning opportunity. But, taking the time to learn how to recognize and avoid common mistakes can help you become productive and successful, and highly respected by your team.

All the success,

PM in the AM