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.

 

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.

Avoid an “It’s your turn” Justification for Decisions


Jacqueline cheerfully announced to her team, “Because we’ve had a great year, the company will pay all expenses for me and one of you to attend our national meeting in Orlando.”

After an awkward silence, Helena said, “I’ll go.”  Since Helena was an excellent performer who was respected by all, many nodded their agreement.

After returning from the meeting, Helena held informal luncheons and briefed team members on what she had learned.  Everyone benefited.

The next year, the company offered the same perk.  Jacqueline announced the decision to her team; and after a brief silence, Helena offered, “I don’t mind going again.”

“Thank you for volunteering,” Jacqueline responded.  “The meetings are informative and fun.  Perhaps we should send someone else this time.  Stanford, wouldn’t you like to go to San Diego?”

“Sure,” he replied.

The perk continued as an annual event.  In Year Seven, although he was a marginal performer with a whiney attitude, the department sent Randell.  Why?  Because it was Randell’s turn.

I see too many managers use an “it’s your turn” justification to allocate schedules, trips, accounts, projects, equipment and the like.  While the motive is to be fair, the result is:  stars are overlooked while marginal producers receive unearned rewards.

 

Leaders Avoid Becoming Prey to Bullying Employees


“I am exasperated,” proclaimed Jamison, “I’ve bent over backwards to help Jerry.  He shows no appreciation.”

“Is Jerry a good employee?” I asked.

“He has good skills but if he does not like a task, he starts griping and does just enough to get by.”

Jerry was friendly and nice when Jamison became his manager.  But after about three weeks, Jerry began coming in a late.  When Jamison approached Jerry about his attendance, Jerry responded rudely, “We’ve been working too much overtime lately.  Why are you on my back?”

Jerry is a bullying employee.  He saw that Jamison was a kind, caring manager and perhaps vulnerable.  Jerry first endeared himself to Jamison (an effort to cause Jamison guilt feelings).  Later Jerry tested Jamison with rude behaviors.

While Jamison was compassionate and well meaning, Jerry saw him as vulnerable and he escalated his defiant behaviors.

Maybe it is the “law of the jungle,” but aggressive employees seek out leaders who may be vulnerable and they test them with inappropriate but acceptable behaviors.  Appeasing and patient leaders may actually encourage increased employee aggression.

When dealing with predatory animals, school-yard bullies, or aggressive employees, one must respond confidently and firmly to avoid becoming prey.