When Placed in Command, Take Charge


Ellis, a newly-appointed supervisor joked to his group, “Well, I guess they couldn’t find anyone else to take the job.  I’ve worked alongside you for three years.  You know what to do.”

In another division, Janice was also promoted from her group to be the supervisor.  On her first day, she held a meeting and laid out her expectations.

“My top priorities are: (1) we meet our quality metric 100% of the time, (2) meet 98% of all deadlines, (2) improve customer satisfaction scores by 15%, and comply with all attendance and safety policies.”

Performance in Ellis’ group actually declined.  One employee said, “Some just waited to be told what to do; others more or less plodded along with half-hearted efforts.”

By contrast, one of Janice’s employees reported.  “We all knew what she expected and we stayed focused.  Both performance and morale soared.”

As the late General Schwarzkopf said, “When placed in command, take charge.”

This does not mean that you know everything, refuse to listen, rule by fear or turn into a dictator.  It does mean that you should have a plan, be clear, stay humble, listen and act like a leader—a good one.

Tell Employees Now or Wait?


Maybe Yes No Red Dice Representing Uncertainty And Decisions

“I’ve just reviewed our recent performance data, and we may need to change some work assignments,” the vice president reported in his Monday morning management meeting.  “But I want you to keep this in the room for now.  I’ll know more in a couple of weeks.  We can communicate the changes at that time.”

Although the vice president’s decision represents a typical approach, the result is usually exaggerated rumors and fear.

In most employee surveys, among the highest ranked items is, “the need to know about changes that impact me.”

“I believe in quickly communicating changes,” a manager said to me.  “But I don’t want employees worrying about things until we know for sure what we are doing.”

Employees are great at reading the tea leaves.  They notice whether orders have ticked up or down, and whether their managers spend more or less time in meetings, on the phone or traveling.  Many employees have contact with customers, vendors, information technology staff, regulators and truck drivers; all of which are information sources.

I say it is far better to err on the side of communicating too much too soon.  Employees will have greater confidence in leaders and the rumor mill will be less active.