Don’t Reward Uncooperative Employees While Punishing Cooperative Employees


During the discussion of a serious design wreck, it quickly became apparent that only Juan and Hershel had the specialized talent to restore the project’s schedule.

When Hershel accurately perceived the project’s need for extra work, he spoke up. “I have family obligations the next couple of months and will not be able to work weekends.”

Although the manager was aware that Juan had been putting in a lot of hours on another project he said, “Juan, I hate to ask but do you think you can bail us out?”

Juan nodded and said, “I think I can be of help.”

The much-relieved manager accepted Juan’s offer. Although the manager may not have been aware, Juan also had upcoming personal obligations; but he was not the type to let personal issues impact his work.

Perhaps unintentionally, the manager’s decision had the effect of rewarding uncooperative behavior (Hershel) while punishing cooperative behavior (Juan).

Some would say that Juan should not have agreed if he thought the manager’s request was unfair. But I say it is the leader’s responsibility to avoid stacking work on cooperative team players while allowing self-serving, whiners to skate by with less effort.

 

Why Fans Boo Referees But Not Players


It’s the opening game of the season.  The receiver for the home team takes the kickoff in the end zone and fearlessly charges up field.

The standing crowd claps and cheers as the under-sized scat-back flattens three defenders on his way to the fifteen-yard line.  Spectators continue to roar.

Why?  The youngster made a bad decision that cost the team five yards.  If the receiver had downed the ball in the end zone, his team would have begun play on the twenty-yard line.

The crowd cheered because the youngster gave a heck of an effort, even though the result was less than desired.  Fans and coaches know that fan approval motivates the team to continue striving during broken plays, fumbles and interceptions.

During the game, players (and coaches) make many mistakes; but fans seldom boo their home team.  (By contrast, referees make very few mistakes and fans frequently yell bad words at the refs.)

Some days stuff happens.  When stress and blood pressure rises, it is tempting for leaders to show their displeasure (“boo”) to employees.  But this may be just the time that a loud cheer for “effort” is more beneficial.

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.

I’ll Be Your Huckelberry


During a management meeting, the president said, “I’m not sure we can save the Western Division. Sales continue to decline, employees keep quitting and morale is in the pits.”

Managers sat quietly, fidgeting with their devices and avoiding eye contact. After what seemed like an eternity—probably fifteen or twenty seconds—Albertson spoke up, “I’m your Huckleberry!”

All eyes turned to Albertson. “What did you say?” asked the president.

“I’d like to lead the division,” replied Albertson. “I think we need to replace a couple of people, reduce the number of brands, and improve relationships with our dealers. Give me six months. Then we can reevaluate.”

When you observe a troubled department, consider volunteering to lead the group. But first, make sure you are empowered to replace personnel and improve customer service. If you do these two things, you have a chance of improving performance. Higher management will see great value in you. That’s how legends are made.

Of course, there is a chance you will fail; but if management has already labeled the department “terminal,” you will not likely be stigmatized.

The phrase, “I’ll be you huckleberry,” apparently appeared among the Knights of King Arthur and more recently as a movie line from Doc Holiday to Wyatt Earp. Translation, “I’m the person for the job.”

 

Four Actions to Consider Before Adding Headcount


We are running forty days behind plan,” complained Jeremy the plant manager. We’ve applied lean manufacturing concepts. We’ve reduced cycle time.  We’ve maxed out overtime.  Our only hope of catching up is to add people.”

“How many?” asked the site manager.

“At least thirty full-time plant workers.”

“How long to catch up after we get the thirty on board?”

“Should be meeting schedule in about four months after all are hired.”

After considerable debate, the site manager reluctantly agreed to add thirty employees. Fast forward six months. The additional wages and benefits spiked labor costs. And the plant is still forty days behind.

An influx of new people almost always challenges quality and safety practices, teamwork suffers, meeting time increases, decisions drag out, disruptive behaviors surface, and customer and vendor coordination requires more time.

Before adding headcount, in small or large segments, consider four actions.

1. Replace inadequate producers who have been given several chances.
2. Remove support personnel who are not critical and replace with operators.
3. Eliminate bureaucratic approval processes that bog down decisions.
4. Evaluate supervisors and replace those who are not effective leaders.

Should you still think you need to add employees, be deliberate and select carefully.

 

To Get “Buy-In,” Ask People To Do What They Are Capable of Doing


Shortly after Julie Walsh assumed the role of plant manager, she discussed with her front-line supervisors the need to reduce rework.

“During the last three quarters,” Julie announced, “only about fifty percent of our product passes all inspections on the first effort.  I think we need to get this down to ten percent by the end of six months.”

“That’s too much,” responded a supervisor.  “We won’t get buy-in from our employees.”

“How do you suggest we get buy-in?”

“Well, I think we need to discuss these metrics with the employees and get their suggestions on what is realistic.”

“Based on my experiences, with the changes we are implementing, I believe this is realistic.”

“You may think the goal is realistic, but I’m not sure our employees think it is.”

Push back is common when leaders ask employees to step up their performances.  Many leaders respond by asking employees for their opinions.  This usually results in some haggling followed by an eventual compromise and grumbling on all sides.

Leaders, in my view, have a good idea of what their people are capable of achieving.  When leaders’ and employees’ perceptions differ, as they often do; I say leaders should stick with their opinions.

At the end of the period, we may hear from employees, “I didn’t think we could do it.”  From leaders, the winning comment is, “I knew you could.”

How Much Do You Value ‘Effort’ Versus ‘Outcome’?


outcome-effort-17Two managers are discussing which employee they should select as project manager for an engineering team.

One of the managers said, “When complex challenges arise, we always turn to Article.  He consistently gets us focused on the right things.  His mind is exceptional.”

Another manager who supported Marcus said, “True, but Article doesn’t work very hard.  He never misses a break and I think he spends a lot of time on social media.  If anyone comes within ten feet of him, he starts taking—usually about whichever team won last night.”

Marcus’ sponsor continued, “I understand that Marcus does not have Article’s skills, but he makes up for it with perspiration.  It may take Marcus a little longer but he sets the standard for hard work.  I think we need to reward effort.  Look, no one here matches Article’s IQ.”

Both employees are well-liked, respect the team’s core values and are dedicated to the company mission.  It’s just that Article, with God-given talent, achieves specular outcomes with less effort.  Marcus, being blessed with high energy, gets results.  He’s just not the genius talent.

No doubt, most of us would be delighted to have either employee as our leader.  I chose Article.  As much as we value “effort,” it is “outcomes” that determine our success.