Increase Your Influence via Reciprocity


(Part 1 of 5 on Increasing Influence)

“I have a dilemma,” Braylon confided to a friend.

“How so?”

“Araceli asked me to analyze three software programs for her department.”

“You are an expert on software.  What’s the dilemma?”

“Jaxson wants me to upgrade materials for his new-employee orientation program. I don’t have time to do a good job on both.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I think I’ll respond to Araceli’s request.  I’ll tell Jaxson my schedule is full.  He has something on file that he can use.”

“Are you sure that is the right priority?”

“I’m not sure but I can’t refuse Araceli’s request.  She saved my bacon last month.  She created very clever brochures that boosted attendance at our recognition dinner.”

Braylon is responding to the concept of reciprocity—responding to a positive action of another by repaying the person with a positive action.

Reciprocity is a powerful motivator.  To increase your influence, look for ways to help others.  Extend yourself to welcome new employees.  Be quick to share your skills with struggling team members.  Do not wait to be asked.  Anticipate and volunteer.

By adding value for others, you build a reservoir of goodwill.  When, in the future, you need to exert your influence, you are more likely to get “yes’s.”

 

The Five Toughest Personnel Decisions


Part 1 of 5

A manager said to me, “I’m concerned about Jacob.  He has really struggled during the last few months.”

“How long has Jacob been with you?” I asked.

“Almost fifteen years.”

“What is Jacob’s performance history?”

“He’s been a pretty good performer, not great but reliable.  The volume in Jacob’s job has increased dramatically and we have become very dependent on technology.”

“Have you trained Jacob sufficiently?”

“Yes, we’ve offered extensive training.  In reality, the job has probably outgrown Jacob’s abilities.”

“Do you have other tasks that you could assign to Jacob?”

“Not really.  We are fully staffed and I’ve shifted tasks as much as I can.”

When a job outgrows an employee’s abilities, I think the company should try to reassign the employee to other tasks.  However, as in this example, reassignment is not always practical.

Another option is to continue coaching and training and hope to get the employee up to speed.  However, this usually does not work.

As tough as it sounds, the better option for both the organization and the employee is to compassionately remove the person from the organization and assist him/her in finding a better fit with another company.

 

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.

 

In God We Trust; All Others Bring Data


(Quote from the late W. Edwards Deming)

“I know that is your opinion,” stated a manager, “but where are your data?”

“I don’t trust the data,” responded the specialist.  “I rely on my gut-feelings.”

In the era of big data, analytics and algorithms, how important are your instincts?  Back in the day, Ford Motor Company’s Edsel model was probably the most researched automobile of the time.  Still, the product was a colossal failure.  You might say big data failed.

A recent Fortune Knowledge Group study reveals that six in ten executives rely on gut feel and soft factors when making big decisions.

Recently, Google quickly and accurately predicted the spread of flu by tracking people’s online searches.  Soon, Amazon will send you products before you order them because they will be able to predict what you want.

Do you want your doctor to rely on years of schooling and experience?  Or, would you prefer a computer-generated diagnosis based on a hundred million cases?

Of course, effective decision makers will continue to use both data and instinct.  But I suggest that decisions improve as we rely more on data and less on gut-feel.

I’m reminded of the Dilbert comic strip quote, “Where do you stick your head when you listen to your gut?”

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.