Should Rules Cover Everything from Soup to Nuts?


On the first day of class, a button-down-shirt high school teacher opened his class by announcing thirty-eight rules.  Rule Number twenty-three read, “There will be a consequence for anyone who jumps out of the second-story window.”

For the first time in memory, six students were caught jumping out of the window.  When asked why, one student replied, “Well, we had never thought about jumping out of the window.  I guess we took it as a challenge.”

I do understand that discipline is important, and I am aware that rules are necessary for defining unacceptable behaviors and applying consequences.

I am also aware that attendance rules do not eliminate absenteeism, and social media rules do not prevent employees from wasting time on Facebook.

Some organizations have elaborate, detailed handbooks that cover everything from soup to nuts.  These handbooks usually include many, sometimes confusing, disclaimers such as:  this is not a contract; all policies are subject to change; and if a rule contradicts a policy, the rule will prevail.

There are no prefab options for good discipline.  I say keep your handbook thin and limit it to a few, not exhaustive, rules.  The best way to maintain good discipline in the workplace is to hire employees who are self-disciplined.

 

When The Pronoun “I” May Be More Effective Than “We”


While jointly writing checks to pay bills, one party says to another, “We need more stamps.”  While the first party may simply be acknowledging a need, he/she is more likely, by implication, making a request of the second party to buy stamps.  Communication by implication is fraught with risks.

Consider these implied messages from mangers to employees.

“We need to be more responsive to clients.”

“We need to improve our on-time deliveries.”

“We need to reduce overtime.”

In each of these examples, the person hearing “we,” may not see the need to do anything differently because the manager has retained co-ownership of the issue.  Consider making the requests with the pronoun “I.”

“I would like for you to be more responsive to our clients.”

“I want you to improve your on-time deliveries.”

“I would like for you to reduce overtime in your department.”

By using the pronoun “I,” the manager owns the expectation and more clearly assigns the responsibility for achieving the expectation to the employee.

I understand the importance of teamwork and I get “there is no “I” in team.  I also believe that leaders who use the pronoun “I” more clearly identify their expectations.  And they do so without diminishing teamwork.

 

Should You Practice Power Poses?


Two employees chat during their lunch break.

“Did you meet the new boss?”

“Yes.”

“What did you think?”

“I’ve heard that she is smart, but she has a limp handshake and doesn’t look you in the eye.  I’m not sure she’s cut out for the job.”

We’ve known for some time that your body language contributes significantly to the images that others have of you.  The Wonder Woman stance–hands on hips, shoulders back, legs slightly spread–communicates confidence and power.

Researcher Amy Cuddy and others suggest that you can actually increase your self-confidence and power by practicing power poses.

Cuddy asked subjects to sit for a couple of minutes in high-power poses—hands behind the head, leaning back, feet on a desk.  Another group sat in low-power poses—bent forward, looking downward, hands folded.

Later, those who practiced high-power poses scored higher in simulated job interviews.  Interviewers saw them as more confident, authentic and comfortable.

Cuddy and associates suggest that your body positions actually change the chemistry in your brain.  For example, high-power posers’ testosterone levels increased and cortisol levels decreased.  This resulted in the ability to be comfortably assertive.

Tiny tweaks in your body posture may actually result in big changes in your ability to persuade and influence others.

 

 

Don’t Be a One-Trick Pony


The president selected Johnathon–a no nonsense, high-performer– to lead a low-morale team that had consistently missed performance objectives.

Johnathon announced to his team, “Your performance disappoints me.  You can do better.  I will change what I need to and I expect you to meet all performance metrics.  I will inspect all activities closely and take quick, corrective actions where needed.”

Employees grumbled, griped and blamed failures on unrealistic expectations, vendor problems, a warehouse fire, and bad weather.

Johnathon, anchored like a rock in a sandstorm, continued pressing.  He made changes, terminated a couple of employees, some quit.  The performance needle began vibrating upward.

After a few months, the president said to the team, “You have performed a turnaround beyond my highest expectations.”

Jonathon impatiently asked for even more from the team.  Turnover became an issue again, excuses emerged, and performance stalled out.  Eventually, the president removed Jonathon.

Johnathon’s methods jerked a group of carless whiners into a high-performing team, but he could not sustain the success.  Effective leaders are not one-trick ponies, they adapt.  Structure often turns bad performance into good, but support and freedom is necessary to sustain high performance.

This May Not Work for You, but . . .


Felix said to his manager, “I have an upset customer who claims we should be responsible for repairing a product still under warranty.  However, I think the customer caused the damage by improperly servicing the equipment.”

After listening further, Felix’s manager gave him a specific checklist of actions to take with the customer.

Felix approached the customer and began working through his manager’s suggestions.  The customer remained disappointed and later wrote a nasty complaint on social media.

Later, the manager asked Felix, “Why didn’t you get that issue resolved the way that I told you to?”

Felix responded, “I did exactly what you said. He just wouldn’t listen.”

I recall asking a friend how to get a stubborn horse to take the bit.  My friend said, “Now, this may not work for you but this is how I do it.”  Then he successfully performed the feat while I watched.

Of course, the next day as I tried to execute my friend’s methods, the horse resumed his bad behaviors.  However, I knew that I still owned the issue and did not consider my friend accountable.

Felix’s manager, I believe, should have put qualifiers on his suggestions.  Felix would know that, although the manager offered advice, the customer issue was still his to resolve.

Eat the Live Frog First


Ascham admitted, “As I was driving to work, I knew I needed to talk to Reginald.  He has an ego as big as the parking lot.”

Reginald, an employee with excellent work skills, sometimes produced excellent work– sometimes not.   Last week, Reginald disappointed his team with a sloppy analysis on a critical issue.  When questioned, Reginald became defensive, blamed others and stated, “I don’t think this is important anyway.”

Ascham said, “When I arrived at work, Reginald was on my mind; but I decided to respond to a couple of emails.  It took longer than I intended.  Then I got a call from the vice-president asking for a status update.”

Mid-day approached and Ascham had still not contacted Reginald.  “I intended to stop by after lunch but decided to go back to my office and update a couple of proposals,” Ascham said.

Just prior to leaving work, Ascham finally stopped by and had the awkward conversation with Reginald.  “If I had taken care of this first,” Ascham said, “I would not have worried about it all day.”

Mark Twain said that if the first thing you do each day is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that this is probably the worst thing that will happen to you.

Leaders Set Expectations High–But How High?


Compare the philosophies of two leaders.

“I say the sky is the limit.  I ask my team to do more than what they are capable of doing because I want to get all that they have to give.”

“I try to be reasonable.  I don’t expect my staff to be super humans, but I do ask them to do what I know they can do.”

More than six in ten of my workshop participants think the first leader gets better results.  Considerable research and my personal experiences suggest the second leader accomplishes more.

Before employees commit to going all in for some leader’s high-flying vision, they must believe there is an eighty to ninety percent chance of success.   Unrealistic pipe dreams do not fuel sustained employee effort.

If a team historically performs in the bottom ten percent of an industry metric, I can assure you neither the team members nor the leader has a clue of how to become Number One. Figure out how to get into the top half.  When top-half performance becomes reality, the leader can adjust the expectation to “let’s take aim on the top one-third.”

While moving from a top one-third position to industry leader is hard, members are more likely to buy in because, from where they are, the expectation seems realistic.