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.”

 

Don’t Make Your Job Hard


(Part 1 of 3)

“How do you like your new job?” I asked Willard who was promoted from a skilled position into management.

“It’s a much bigger challenge that I expected,” he replied.  “The first few weeks were fine.  Everyone seemed cooperative.  But more recently it just seems to be one thing after another.”

Willard and I continued talking and surfaced practices that were actually making his job harder.

For example, Willard spent a lot of time coaching, retraining and helping a staff member whose performance, at best, was marginal.  The staff member, a long-time employee, had never been great but Willard liked the person and was dead-set on making him better.

Even though Willard spent weeks coaching and mentoring, performance did not increase; but the employee’s frustration and resentment did.  The stress needle for the entire team popped hard to the right.

I suppose it is conventional wisdom that managers can improve departmental performance by strengthening the weakest link in the chain.  And the temptation to help struggling performers is even greater when they are friendly.

However, managers who focus their efforts on their lowest producers—and all departments have one or more employees who consistently produce less than others—simply make their job harder.  You can make your job easier by accepting this truth.

Why Appeasing Impractical Demands Does Not Work


“After we introduced changes for tracking orders, two vocal members of my team argued that they did not need to comply because part of the process did not apply to them.” A manager said to me.

“Was their complaint valid?” I asked.

“Not really.  They just didn’t want to change the way they were entering data.”

“Were they good team members?”

“I would say ‘no.’  They performed OK but complained a lot.”

“What did you do?”

“It required a little extra work on my part, but I finally agreed to carve out an exception for them.”

Less than a month later, the same individuals demanded upgrades for their workstations.  The manager explained that their workstations would handle the process if they would just install the revised software.  Of course, the whiners had their reasons for not liking the software revisions.

As tempting as it may sound, attempts to appease demands of aggressors almost never placates them.  Caving to impractical demands begets more demands—not improved cooperation.  And why not? Complainers, who get results, are emboldened to continue demanding more and more.

The more effective way to deal with unreasonable demands is to simply refuse to comply with the demands.

A Thin Line Separates Leaders from Followers


“As I discussed options for resolving a major issue, I realized that my team was divided,” a manager said to me.

“What is your position?” I asked.

“I have an idea but I’m not too confident.  I’m sure the vocal members of my team oppose my view.”

“Have you clearly stated your position?”

“Probably not. At this point, I guess I’m inclined to go along with the strong voices on my team.”

Should leaders listen to their team members?  Yes.  Should leaders voice their positions?  Yes.  Should leaders persuade and be persuaded?  Yes.

Then how do leaders handle divisions created by muscular voices promoting contradictory solutions?  This dilemma, I believe, is the thin line between leading boldly and following aggressively.  Persons in leadership positions who simply strive to get in front of a parade are not leaders.

When facing critical issues, often more complicated than the tax code, real leaders birth their own vision and create their own parade.  They may observe, listen, consume data, consider several alternatives–even encounter multiple failures—but their passion, regardless of obstacles, promotes their unique dream.

Leaders who are blessed with insight plus high moral and ethical standards lead us to greatness.  Leadership that is absent of moral and ethical standards take us down a rabbit hole.

 

How the Word “Because” Increases Your Influence


“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine?”

“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

In a famous study by Ellen Langer and others appearing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, sixty percent of the persons in line complied with the first request.  Ninety-four percent complied with the second request.  Why?  The second request contained the magic word “because” which triggered giving the reason.

Best-selling author, Nancy Duarte, says that most do a good job of explaining what they want.  But they are pretty inept at explaining the “why.”

For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday?”  The “what” is clear (environmental audit) and the “how” is apparent (attached spreadsheet).  But the “why” is missing.

When asked about the missing “why”, the manager said, “The reason is obvious.  Failure to document could result in consequences.  The other party may or may not have been aware of the manager’s assumption.

Increase your persuasion by ensuring that the word “because” is part of the request.  For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday because we need the documentation to prove compliance to the auditors?”

 

Five Steps in Transitioning to Remote Work


(Part 5 of 5)

The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt accelerate the already fast-moving trend of working remotely; but if you are still transiting employees to laptop freedom consider identifying:

Tasks. Work done on computers can be performed in outer space if there is an internet connection.   Customer service jobs were among the first to go remote; but purchasing, accounting, human resources, medical records, and education are moving out quicker than ever.

Employees.  Very gregarious individuals and those who drift to social media when the boss is out may not be good candidates.  Conscientious performers with great keyboard skills will likely produce wherever.

Policies.  Enact clear and practical work policies for the former 8 to 5’ers.  Does the job require instant availability during work hours?  Or, is it OK to mow the lawn at 2:00 p.m. and complete job tasks at 2:00 a.m.?  Are pets allowed near remote workstations?  Spouses?  Children?

Tools.  Ensure that all remote workers have the proper apps for video conferencing, collaborating and chatting.

Transition.  Allow individuals to work offsite one day a week for six months.  If things go smoothly, transition to two days . . . three days . . . full time.  

Like death and taxes, remote work is here to stay.  Companies who demand worker presence 40-hours a week will likely be left with low efficiency producers.

 

How to Ensure Effective Meetings of Remote Teams


Ten minutes into a remote meeting, unusual sounds began emanating from Walsh’s monitor.  A participant wrote in the chat room, “Walsh, you need to mute your mike.  You have some nasty things going on there!”  Walsh remained unaware as the video images of other members revealed obvious attempts to refrain from laughing out loud.

Guidelines for effective remote meetings include:

Purpose.  State an objective, such as:  The objective of this meeting is to _____.  Add an agenda of 2-4 topics and send to participants at least one day prior to the meeting.

Structure.  Define the meeting date, time (account for time zones) and length (30-60 minutes.)  If some team members are physically present, require all to participate as if they were remote.

Etiquette.  Even with professionals, establish meeting rules such as:  mute mikes when not talking, leave your video on, look into the camera, avoid distractions (noisy jewelry, folding papers, barking animals) and multitasking (texting, emailing, taking calls).

Training.  Train all members on the features (file sharing, chat rooms, white boards, polling, recording) of your video conferencing software.

Engage.  Begin with 3-5 minutes of informal talk among members.  Ensure that every member has a responsibility—report on an action item, comment on another member’s suggestion, provide status updates, respond to periodic polls.

Follow-up.  Make summary notes (Consider recording the meeting and making it available to all staff members.) and distribute them by the end of the day.