Do You Create a Jekyll and Hyde Issue at Work?


Lucius said, “My new manager is very friendly.  He’s always asking about my kids and he likes to talk golf.  I thought we had a good relationship.”

Lucius continued, “Yesterday, the boss got upset because he thought I had not done enough to help to a younger employee.  I tried to help the new guy but he ignored my advice.”

To Lucius, the manager was unpredictable because he seemed to turn from “nice guy friend” to “jerk boss.”  Author Bruce Tulgan calls this the “Jekyll and Hyde” problem.

The Jekyll and Hyde issue emerges when managers build relationships based on sharing personal matters at work.  Eventually, a manager will need to have an awkward conversation about a work problem.  Employees are surprised because they see the relationship flipping from boss-friend to corrective-parent.

Managers, Tulgan believes, should save most of their personal talk for after work, social events and other encounters.  At work, the boss’s role is to keep people laser-focused on quality, deadlines, customers, safety.  This requires constant work talk.

Effective leaders strive to create trust and rapport with employees by mature discussions about what is going well and what needs improving.  For most, there would not even be a relationship were no for the work.

 

Focus Your Message With Props and Anecdotes


Some time ago I was on program with a popular speaker.  As we arrived on stage together, I noticed that he had one of the hotel’s towels in his hand.

“What are you going to do with the towel?” I asked.

“I never make a presentation without a stage prop,” he replied.

During his talk, the presenter raised, lowered, flapped and twirled the towel a half dozen times as he told stories that drove home customer service suggestions.

Pictures are fine.  PowerPoint slides are good so long as they contain only a few bullet points.   By all means avoid numerous slides—for an hour presentation, think five or six, not fifteen or twenty slides.

Slides with detailed information are brutal–enthusiasm killers.  If you want to send participants scampering out the door, read long descriptions on the slides.  If your message requires a lot of detail, put it in a handout.

Reinforce your message with anecdotes, examples, stories, pictures, diagrams, an artist’s rendering; maybe even a stage prop.

When your audience leans forward, interrupts, asks questions and argues a point, relax and enjoy the event.  Participants are engaged.  You are communicating effectively.  You will not need audience surveys to know that you have connected.

Effective Leaders See Their Employees as More than Just a Bunch of Numbers


In an all-hands meeting an excited manager reported,  “Our on-time delivery was 98.9%; we reduced scrape rate by 4%; margins increased 2%; rework rose by 3%; 93% rated us high on customer service; attendance averaged 97.6%; we had no lost-time accidents and no near misses.”

The manager told his story on four-color, animated PowerPoint slides with graphs and emoji’s.  After the presentation, the crowd buzzed with questions and comments.

In a debriefing, a direct report said, “I think the employees appreciated the show.”  Another added, “Yes, there was a lot of energy in the room.  The employees were engaged.”

However, returning to their work stations, an employee commented, “Down here we are nothing but a bunch of numbers.”  Another said, “All management cares about is making their numbers.”

All organizations, large or small, profit or not-for-profit, must deliver the numbers to be successful.

But it takes a set of humans to operate the maize of systems and processes that produce the numbers.   Effective leaders spend time getting to know and respect employees as unique beings with complex needs and dreams.

When leaders care about their employees as persons, they are less likely to see themselves as “just a bunch of numbers.”

 

If You Chase Two Rabbits, You Will Not Catch Either One


After a manager presented the departments’ ten objectives for the upcoming quarter, a supervisor asked, “Which are the most important?”

“All are important,” the manager replied.  “We have to achieve all of them.”

Another employee said, “Sometimes, we get surprises and it may not be possible to achieve everything.”

“Yes,” added another, “and some are in conflict.  When there is a quality issue, do I fix the glitch and miss the on-time; or do I ship on-time, knowing the product may be returned?”

The manager stated, “I expect you to make every effort to achieve all of the objectives.”

The manager’s comment shut down the discussion but did not address the issue.  No one believes all of the objectives are equally important.  To paraphrase a quote from George Orwell’s novel, ANIMAL FARM, “All of the objectives of the department are equal but some of the objectives are more equal than others.”

For an agricultural promotion, a state representative said, “We are Number One in egg production but not Number One in chicken production.  You can’t be Number One in both of those.”

We achieve great things by laser-firing our efforts toward being good at one thing at the time.  “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one,” states an old proverb.

How to Motivate Employees with Pseudo-Set Framing


“Things occur in three’s and seven’s.”  This phrase rings in my ears when I train my pup to point and hold birds.  I first heard the phrase while attending famed-trainer, Delmar Smith’s workshop for amateur dog trainers.

Successful dog training requires mind-numbing, repetitive activities.  To stay focused, I set targets of completing three sets of seven’s; sometimes I vary it to seven sets of three’s.

Many years later, I read in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology” that researchers Kate Barasz and others report that people have an irrational need to complete “sets” of things. Their experiments show that pseudo-set framing (describing things as groups) significantly improves results.

Rather than asking employees to perform the same task hundreds of time during a work day, consider breaking the tasks into groups of ten’s or twenty’s.

You seek a twelve percent improvement in some performance metric; break the request into four phases with each phase representing three percent.  If your team is in tenth place, challenge them to improve three places.  Then ask for three more.

How do you eat the whole elephant?  Take three bites at the time.  Think “sweet sixteen,” “six pack,” “two for the price of one,” “top ten,” “one dozen,” “five, ten, fifteen . . .”

How to Respond When Squeezed Between Boss and Employee Requests


Top managers, in different organizations, discussed sensitive issues–combining departments, potential layoffs, prospective mergers–with their direct reports. All top managers requested that they “keep this in the room for now.”

In every case, rumors surfaced and employees questioned their immediate managers who made responses like:

“Where did you hear that?”

“I’m not at liberty to talk about that.”

“I’ll let you know something when I know something.”

“If I were you, I’d just do my job and not worry about rumors.”

These responses, and other similar ones, do two things. One, mid-managers maintain loyalty to their bosses by “keeping the information in the room.” Two, although unintended, the responses actively encourage employees to believe the rumors and pass along grossly exaggerated versions.

Unfortunately, managers too often find themselves squeezed between their bosses’ requests and employees’ questions. While it is not always possible, I suggest that managers strive to honor their bosses’ while maintaining employee confidences.

For example, “While I do not have an answer for you at this point, I want you to know that we are seeking decisions that best serve our customers while valuing our employees.”

Do You Practice Seagull Management?


VP Roberto surprised Julia with a request.  “I need a plan that will reduce headcount in your department by ten percent.”

Several times, Julia approached Roberto to discuss options.  Each time Roberto responded with something like, “I’m pretty busy.  Give me your best plan and I’ll look at it.”

After considerable thought, Julia produced a plan for ten percent reduction.

Roberto responded, “We have too many supervisors.  You need to lose some supervisors.  I don’t want all of the shrinkage from employees.”

Julia responded, “I will be relying heavily on my experienced supervisors.  There is going to be a lot of confusion when we start realigning duties.  And I can’t just demote a supervisor and expect to get the commitment we need.”

“I can’t accept the plan,” Roberto said.  “I’ll take it from here.”

Roberto’s eventual decision had no resemblance to Julia’s plan.  Of course, the department was confused and disheartened.  Turmoil continued for many months.

Roberto could have eased some of the confusion had he stayed more engaged with Julia.  But Roberto chose to exemplify Ken Blanchard’s seagull management—he flew in, made a lot of noise, dumped on everyone and then flew out.