About geraldgraham

Professor, author and management consultant.

Tell Employees Now or Wait?


Maybe Yes No Red Dice Representing Uncertainty And Decisions

“I’ve just reviewed our recent performance data, and we may need to change some work assignments,” the vice president reported in his Monday morning management meeting.  “But I want you to keep this in the room for now.  I’ll know more in a couple of weeks.  We can communicate the changes at that time.”

Although the vice president’s decision represents a typical approach, the result is usually exaggerated rumors and fear.

In most employee surveys, among the highest ranked items is, “the need to know about changes that impact me.”

“I believe in quickly communicating changes,” a manager said to me.  “But I don’t want employees worrying about things until we know for sure what we are doing.”

Employees are great at reading the tea leaves.  They notice whether orders have ticked up or down, and whether their managers spend more or less time in meetings, on the phone or traveling.  Many employees have contact with customers, vendors, information technology staff, regulators and truck drivers; all of which are information sources.

I say it is far better to err on the side of communicating too much too soon.  Employees will have greater confidence in leaders and the rumor mill will be less active.

 

The Participative Planning Illusion


(Part 2 of 2 Parts)

After assuming his CEO role, Harris’s message to employees was, “I believe we have a lot of opportunities for bringing on new products and improving our promotions.”  Harris further explained that he had scheduled a retreat with his seven direct reports to firm up a strategic plan.

Prior to the retreat, Harris and his team researched industry trends, competitors’ strategies, and the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses.

During the retreat Harris unfolded his vision of investing heavily in product development and changing promotions to rely more on social media and celebrity sponsors.

After vigorous and extensive debates, team members enthusiastically agreed that they emerged from the retreat with sound plans for improving products and promotions.

Following the retreat, Harris and his team presented goals, timetables and metrics to all operating managers.  After making a few modifications based on managers’ suggestions, all divisions understood and readily accepted their responsibilities.

The antidote to the illusion of participative planning is for the leader to initiate a clear vision and strategies.  Of course, the leader should encourage suggestions and accept improvements.   Also, particular departments should have some latitude in how they execute their contributions to the plan.

 

The Participative Planning Illusion


(Part 1 of 2 parts)

“I believe in participative planning,” the new CEO announced.  “I’m asking all departments to submit their views on our mission, goals and strategies.”

The CEO organized an oversight committee to guide the process.  Over the next few weeks, employees throughout the company met and debated their future.  “Our challenge,” said one team leader, “is to focus on something we can agree upon.”

As a deadline approached, teams scripted mission and goal statements.  However, most teams focused on their particular interests; and as you might imagine, there was little coordination among the different functions.

As the next deadline beckoned, to finalize a plan they could agree upon, the oversight committee converted most suggestions into abstract statements, such as: “Our vision is to be the best at what we do.” “Our goal is to deliver high quality service.” “We want to expand.”

While employees were engaged in their planning frenzy, the CEO opened a new division, successfully introduced new services, and redefined dealer relationships. None of these ideas surfaced via the participative planning process.

Participative planning is an illusion.  Neither cars, smart phones, airplanes nor most other great ideas emerged from planning groups.  To think you can convert the suggestions of hundreds of employees into a coherent plan is simply unrealistic.

 

 

Learn to Embrace Change


I recently asked an acquaintance, “How are you doing?”

“I am in a state of complete confusion,” he replied.  “In just the last six months, we have opened a new territory, restructured my division, upgraded our computer system, and my long-time assistant has retired.  I’ll be so glad when things get back to normal.”

The irony of my acquaintance’s statement, of course, is that his condition is pretty normal.

Changes in the workplace are so prevalent that they should not cause surprise.  As one manager said, “We don’t have programs on overcoming resistance to change; we just assume that managing and adjusting to changes are an understood part of the job.”

Should you feel blown about by the turbulence of continuous change, look for ways to make your job easier.

If the change is legal and ethical, support it. It is not necessary for you to like the change; and it is likely that some employees will resist—no matter what.  Don’t spend all of your time explaining the benefits.  Everyone already knows what they are—to make things better, faster and cheaper.

Do try to remove as many “unknowns” as you can and enjoy the ride.  Your team will embrace the changes more quickly and with less stress.

My First Day on a New Job


“I went home with a headache, a stomach ache, and doubt,” is the way a new employee explained his first day on the job.  “I spent half of the day in an onboarding session, but I don’t remember much other than places I can’t park.”

When the new employee got to his work station, the person showing him what to do seemed distracted and impatient.

The expression, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” certainly applies to an employee’s first day.  Unfortunately, most organizations overburden new persons with tediously, boring informational sessions.  You may not be able to change that routine; so, when the employee gets to you, make the experience enjoyable.

Treat the person like a welcomed guest; exchange appropriate personal information; explain what you like about working there; show the employee around; and make sure other team members meet and greet.

Although the new hire may have experience, be sure to get a friendly, high performer to teach him how you do the job here.  For the first couple of weeks, make it a point to chat frequently, answer questions and offer support.

Leaders Must Address Backbiting


Melanie said to Layla, her manager, “Don’t tell Josh I said it, but he spends a lot of time on social media.  And he blames us for not getting reports to him on time.”

Unfortunately, many members of Layla’s team seemed to be very critical of each other.  As a member summed up the situation, “I’ve never seen so much gossip and backbiting.  People appear to be friendly, but behind your back they are uncommonly critical.

Petty and immature behavior among team members is serious and should be addressed.  Consider these actions that Layla could have taken.

When Melanie complained about Josh, Layla should have said something like.  “Have you clearly communicated your concerns directly to Josh?  If not, I want you to talk to him.”

Melanie would likely say that she had and it did no good.  At that point, Layla should call Josh into the meeting and ask Melanie to explain to Josh her concerns.  And Josh would have his turn to respond.

Backbiting among team members is less when members know they will be forced to confront each other with their criticisms.