How Declarative Statements Increase Influence

(Part 1 of 2 Parts)

While working on a project with a tight deadline, Jessica made a critical error and it did not seem to bother her too much.

When Emma, the team leader inquired, Jessica said, “It doesn’t matter all that much if we are late.  They don’t expect us to complete these projects on time anyway.”

“Jessica,” Emma explained, “the deadline is important.  I want you to correct the error and help get the project back on schedule because it will improve customer satisfaction and revenue.”

Emma used the pronoun “I” and the word “because” in a declarative statement to express her opinion about Jessica’s behavior.  This influence tactic is frequently used and can be quite effective.

However, I have observed that many influencers shy away from using “I” and prefer to substitute the pronoun “we.”  For example, “We need to do what we can to get back on schedule.”  The use of “we” by Emma would have made her expectation of Jessica far less clear.

Some influencers also leave out the word “because.”  Emma by including “because” explained the reason why the schedule was important.

Declarative statements that include both “I” and “because” increase the likelihood of influencing the behaviors of others.



Four Signals that Suggest Termination

While participating in a management meeting, I witnessed an intense discussion about whether Alex, a long-time employee, should be terminated.  Most admitted concern about Alex’s performance but several were hesitant fire Alex.

Managers who argued for keeping Alex made statements like:  “Alex has been with us for a long time.”  “Technology has changed his job a lot.”  “He’s not a bad person.”

Managers struggle with termination decisions because they realize employees need income for food, clothing, and shelter; and often, to support family members.  Peers, even though they realize that their workload is overburdened by a slacker, may still worry about the forever absence of a work associate.

Below are four signals to clarify the appropriate time for pressing the termination button.

The low-performing employee . . .

  1. . . . is unresponsive to coaching and training.
  2. . . . shows little or no enthusiasm for the job.
  3. . . . complains excessively about managers’ decisions.
  4. . . . has shown little, or no, improvement for six months.

If any one of the four statements apply, a caring termination is likely better for both the company and the employee.


How to Begin a New Leadership Assignment

“I’ve just been asked to lead a newly-formed division of our company,” a manager said to me, “and I’m unsure about what leadership style is best.”

“Do you know the performance history of the people that will be on your team?” I asked.

“Not really.  Most will be new people.”

“I suggest that you start by explaining your expectations—performance objectives, metrics, policy compliance—and identify two or three cultural themes (cooperation, teamwork, customer focus, for example) that you value.  Encourage team members to offer feedback.  Should a suggestion represent an improvement, accept it immediately.  If you disagree with a suggestion, tell why.”

When performance of a team is unknown, I think a leader who begins with very clear expectations and guidelines is more likely to get the team’s motor running.

As the weeks go by, the leader will quickly learn which members are the better performers.  Likewise, marginal producers will reveal themselves.  The leader should provide much support and more freedom to top performers.

For marginal producers, the leader can reduce freedom by focusing on performance tracking, process compliance and specific coaching.

On any team, effective leaders treat members differently because members behave differently.


Do Not Overlook This Sign of Leadership Failure

“I may have to remove Walter (the western regional manager),” a CEO said to his human resources (HR) manager after his annual tour of their four regions.

“Really?” replied the HR manager.  “He’s only been there a year and his region is doing pretty well, not great but better than two others.”

“I know but after I explained the changes in our benefits plan to the employees, I did not get a single question.  At all other locations, I was bombarded with questions after my presentation.”

The CEO further explained that lack of employee response suggested that Walter might be a bully leader, and he asked the HR manager to investigate.

After spending several days in the western region, the HR manager reported that employees were indeed afraid of Walter.  Several highly productive employees had recently quit.  A few employees said that Walter, prior to the CEO’s visit, had threatened termination for anyone who made him look bad.  The culture was oppressive, harsh and stressful.

A couple of weeks later, the CEO called Walter to the office and terminated him.  Shortly afterwards, under new leadership, the western region’s performance improved markedly.

The lack of spontaneous and open questioning of leaders’ decisions by employees often indicates failed leadership.


Why Remote Work is Here to Stay

While COVID-19 has been a booster rocket for workplace changes, the trend toward out-of-the-office work had been spiking prior to the pandemic.

If you have not made the adjustment of leading employees that you cannot see, get ready because by the Year 2028, three-fourths of all industries will employ people working someplace other than a company office.

Here is why:

  • Millions of dollars saved in real estate costs.
  • 67% of managers of remote workers say they are more productive.
  • 63% show fewer unscheduled absences.
  • 25% report less turnover.

And what do employees think about working remotely?

  • 80% wish to work from home, at least some of the time.
  • 24% say they would take a 5% pay cut to avoid commuting.
  • 75% report fewer distractions.
  • 78% say they have less stress.

Decades ago, I worked in an office on the twenty-third floor of a downtown building in a large city.  Even though I enjoyed the work, I clearly recall the lengthy commute, congested traffic, limited parking, window-less offices, the boss’s office a few doors away and the relief of weekends.

Although fifty years later, these conditions still exist for most; I think they are short-lived.



Don’t Make Your Job Hard

Part 3 of 3

Willard, an admitted perfectionist, overlooked tasks that were well-done and focused on fixing everything that did not meet his standards—even things that had little impact.  One employee said, “Willard can walk into a room, spot a pencil laying in a corner and commence a ten-minute lecture on the value of an orderly workspace.”

Willard expressed his philosophy as, “I don’t want them to think that I’m ever pleased with their performance.”

Willard approached his weekly meetings like a hand grenade with the pin pulled.  Staff expected to be chewed out for something that Willard perceived to be amiss or less than perfect.  Employees began building elaborate defenses for their actions.  And worse, a few members began hiding information and even falsifying data in attempts to avoid Willard’s wrath.

As pressure increased, performance dipped.  Some good employees left. No one took initiative to solve problems and opportunities were ignored.  Willard’s stress level increased and he had trouble sleeping, He feared that he was failing and began flailing even more.

Willard made his job hard by focusing on failures.  Of course, effective leaders seek improvements and they correct mistakes quickly, but their major attention focuses on glorifying improvements and celebrating successes.

Don’t Make Your Job Hard

Part 2 of 3

“I was in management for a few weeks when a large company bought us,” Willard explained.  “The new owners said there would be no major changes.  But in the first month, they required us to transition to their IT system for tracking job status and costs.”

Willard continued, “I understood why the new company wanted consistent processes, but my staff was very confident in our current system.  A tug of war ensued between my staff and corporate.”

“How did you handle that?” I asked.

Willard said, “I waffled back and forth between supporting management and advocating for my employees.  My team fell behind schedule.  Corporate officials grew impatient and told me to get my group in compliance.  At the same time, my people became frustrated because they thought I was not supportive enough.  I just felt like I was caught in a vise.”

Managers who try to straddle the fence between their team members’ wishes and corporate requirements just make their jobs hard.  Willard’s job would have been easier had he explained corporate’s reasons and said something like, “I’m confident we can meet the schedule for transitioning to the new system, and I’ll support you every way I can.”