many managers, the end of the year means performance
review time. A performance review discussion can leave
the employee feeling motivated and appreciated, but if
it is poorly handled, it will do just the opposite, and
it will damage the relationship.
are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:
Mistake: Only focusing on the last few months or on a
Solution: Keep an electronic file (or a three-ring
binder) for each employee, and throughout the year add
notes and samples of the employee’s work. Some people
like to use Post It Notes, because they are easy to
insert and less likely to dislodge.
Mistake: Over-emphasize the negatives and skip over the
Solution: In addition to the above suggestion, ask the
employee to do a self-assessment. The employee will be
sure to include examples of things he or she is proud
of. This will be a welcome reminder as you reflect on
the past year. Also, during the discussion, make sure
you give ample time and detail to all of the positive
contributions the employee made.
Mistake: Using subjective words that judge the person,
rather than behavioral descriptions of the person’s
performance and actions.
Solution: You will cause defensiveness and resistance if
you guess your employee’s motives or judge him/her as a
person. For example, “You were very inconsiderate
because you” judges the person. A better example is,
“When you didn’t invite me to the meetings on the Baker
project, it kept me out of the decision-making process.
That caused problems for the project later on, when you
needed my help in the eleventh hour.” The trick is to
describe behavior specifically (rather than judging it)
and tell the person why that hurt them.
Mistake: The words and the written review don’t match.
If you only tell the person they need to improve and
then you gloss over it in writing, the employee doesn’t
know if it’s really important to fix. On the other hand,
if you write it but don’t mention it, the employee feels
like they’ve been blindsided.
Solution: Be consistent and only write what you say,
with the same kinds of descriptions and examples.
Mistake: Soften or sugar-coat the review because you
don’t want to hurt the employee or make the person
Solution: Employees deserve to know the truth, so they
have an opportunity to improve. In addition, if an
employee has poor performance and applies for another
job in the company, and their performance review is
glowing, the next supervisor gets stuck with a turkey.
That artificially inflated review will make you look
weak and ineffective. In addition, it isn’t fair to the
good employees, who really earned a good rating.
Mistake: Retrofitting the rating so the person gets a
often happens when there is a numeric formula for
determining ratings and salary. Instead of rating the
person where they belong, the supervisor wants everyone
to be happy, so works backwards from the salary number
to determine the rating. This isn’t fair to anyone.
Solution: The purpose of the performance review and
salary increase are to let people know where they stand
and to reward their contribution. And if they don’t meet
expectations, they should get a clear message that they
need to step it up. If you aren’t comfortable delivering
this message, you probably shouldn’t be a manager.
Mistake: Not allowing enough time for the review.
you rush through the review, simply hand the review to
the person and ask them to sign it, or answer the phone
during the review, you will be telling the person they
really don’t matter very much to you.
Solution: Allow at least an hour for each person. Turn
off your phone and computer and give your employee the
undivided attention he or she deserves.
When personality, not performance, is the issue
Nov. 12, 2015
am searching for some information and advice on an
employee I have. I am at a loss for what my next step
is. I can’t fault this employee for anything regarding
DOING her job. She does her duties well and in a timely
manner. I can always count on her for that. The problem
I am having is with her personality.
noticed almost immediately after her arrival here that
she would try and force a friendship with me, to the
point that she would drop in unannounced at your house
on the weekends (even when you never told her where you
live). And she would always call - just to chat. She
started to bring me small gifts and my children small
gifts. It was all very uncomfortable.
While I am friendly with all my employees, I try and
keep my personal life separate from my job. In the past,
I have been good friends with fellow employees and it
always backfired. So, I tried to speak with her about
it being unnecessary to do such things. None of it
worked. Finally, out of frustration, I just started
withdrawing from the situation. Since that time, she
has “laid off” me and moved on to others.
that point, her paranoia started to become apparent.
Pretty much on a regular basis she would ask me whether
or not I was going to fire her. I tried to calm her
fears on that subject. None of it worked.
Then, it started getting back to me that she was talking
about me behind my back - and none of it nice. She
would complain about every action I took, whether it
regarded her, her job, or her division, or not. I tried
to speak with her about that. She became very hostile
and started shouting that if I wanted her gone to just
fire her. It was a very ugly situation. At that time,
I wrote her up for her behavior.
I was able to speak with her when she was calmed down
she expressed to me that she felt like I was trying to
get her to quit. Which is the farthest from the truth -
as far as her job goes; she is one of few people I can
count on. I tried to reassure her that was not the
case. But, again - none of it worked. But, I feel like
this all stems back to her trying to be my friend. I
have tried dropping comments about how I feel toward
office relationships. I don’t know how to explain the
reasons for not being her friend. Nor do I think I
should have to.
Sadly, I am now convinced that she is suffering from
some disorder that affects her thinking and behavior. I
have noticed symptoms of bipolar and paranoia. I have
also had a half a dozen other employees bring certain
traits of hers to my attention. I don’t know what to
do. I do not want to see her go but I want to see her
get the help she deserves. And I need some peace in
this office. Not only for myself but for all
admit I am sure I have not handled the situation to the
best of my ability. I have never had to deal with this
situation. Please help. What could I have done
better? What can I do? What can I say?
She needs professional help, so stop kicking yourself
for not handling her correctly. On the contrary, I think
you handled the situation quite well, given the
you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), I
recommend an immediate referral. They will be able to
recommend someone who can diagnose her behavior and
direct her to a qualified person to help her.
you don’t have an EAP, suggesting that she get some
counseling could backfire. Given her paranoia, she is
likely to overreact and explode, just as she has in the
past. She will probably think that this is a validation
of her worst fears.
Instead, I recommend a straightforward, consistent
approach that includes telling her exactly what behavior
is problematic and how it is hurting her. Beating around
the bush with her hasn’t worked, so clearly explain why
you aren’t friends with employees. Tell her that her
work is excellent and you would not want to lose her.
Explain that her constant need for reassurance is
unnecessary and time consuming. Tell her that you will
have one-on-one meetings with her each week, to go over
her work and give her direct feedback, if she feels it
would be helpful. Summarize your conversation and send
her a copy.
an added step, and to be certain that she is on track,
you may also want her to summarize your weekly meetings
with a brief summary emailed to you. Explain, “Since it
seems as if you and I are on different pages - for
instance you think I am trying to fire you - I’d like
you to summarize our meeting each week, to make sure you
and I have a clear understanding of what we discussed
and any action plans you have agreed to do. That way, I
can verify that we are in agreement and you won’t worry
she continues to have outbursts or other inappropriate
behavior, document it and call it to her attention
she can’t turn it around and continues to be a serious
disruption, I would tell her, “I feel it is only fair to
tell you what could happen if this continues. You could
lose your job. I hope you won’t force me to do that.” If
she doesn’t seek treatment and the behavior continues,
all you can do is react to the behavior she displays.
Don’t mistakenly think that you can’t fire her because
her work is well-executed. Behavior at work is just as
much a part of performance as the technical outcomes.
Sadly, she is self-sabotaging and I suspect this is
exactly how the story will end. You can only hope that
she will get help before her self-fulfilling prophecy
When, and why, executive coaching makes sense
Oct. 29, 2015
Executives are often expected to run across a battle
field, carrying a heavy load of employee and customer
problems, dodging competitive bullets, while jumping
over political landmines. The job requires a tool bag
that includes communication skills, persuasive
presentations, political savvy, analytical skills and a
rucksack filled with sophisticated techniques and
tactics. That’s why I love coaching these folks.
executives bring a technical expertise with them as they
climb the ranks, but some of the subtler things - people
- politics - polish - can be their undoing. The idea of
executive coaching has caught on across the country
faster than a cold in a kindergarten. And I think the
reason is that it makes sense.
Companies turn over coffers of cash to executive search
firms and spend company resources grooming, growing and
promoting people into their executive suite and when
they falter, it’s a misstep that can be felt all the way
through the organization because of the impact they
Executive coaching, if done well, can pinpoint the
specific behavior that needs to get buffed or
overhauled. It focuses a laser beam on the area and
teaches the executive a new way to perform. While a
seminar or a conference can create awareness or educate
an executive about new trends or teach some skills, the
intense coaching experience goes right to the heart of
the matter and creates specific homework designed to get
results immediately. And that’s the fun of it for me. I
love to craft the transformation.
make no mistake, changing your “soft skills” is anything
but soft. It’s a boot camp with you as the only recruit,
so the pressure is on. And the behavior changes can
range from purging small, quirky behaviors to exorcising
major career killers. Here is a sample of some of the
spoken and unspoken rules that can trip up executives:
Credibility is tough to build and easy to lose.
Executives, who think their career’s protective shield
is the results they get, are sure to step on an internal
mine or two. Sometimes they think the way to challenge
an idea is to challenge their peers in front of others,
only to discover later that the cultural norm is to
challenge privately and build consensus before the
Executives who are perceived as doing things for
themselves rather than the organization are sure to be
attacked. If they are seen as arrogant or know-it-all,
they will attract snipers from all camps.
others are too technically focused and duck all that
“political stuff,” so their ideas are ignored or
trampled in the fight for better productivity and
Inability to manage
employees without being either too hands-off or too
For many executives, their rise to the top came up
through one department. Suddenly, they find themselves
directing multiple disciplines and working with many new
constituencies. Selecting the right management staff and
working through them to reach the people in the
organization is sophisticated stuff.
takes a battle plan of one-on-one and cross functional
meetings, with an organized system for tracking people,
projects and outcomes. Executives need to stay at the
30,000 feet level but have a system that allows them to
swoop close to the action when they need to.
Inability to tailor
a presentation to the audience
If there is one thing that smacks new executives in the
face, it’s the amount of time and focus that goes into
presentations at this level to their own organization,
to their peers, to sales, to customers, to outside
groups, to the board. The farther they get from the
front line, the more important crafting an effective
skill set ranges from being “folksy” and conversational
to delivering a compelling, executive summary. And did I
mention being able to tango and cha cha, when you are
asked those tough questions?
Being either too
accommodating, or too resistant
You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If you
take on too much work, in an effort to look like a good
soldier to your superiors, you can weigh down your own
troops. Or, you can appear to be too rigid and
protective of your own organization, so they can meet
their goals, but you end up looking like you are not a
team player with a sense of urgency. The art of
“pushback” reaches critical importance at this level.
perceived as insensitive or even a bully
Executives who have risen to their position early, but
failed to change with the times, usually see their
corporate image fade like a photo in the sun.
Anyone who thinks they can be a bull in a china shop
regarding sexual orientation, race, religion or gender
hasn’t been paying attention to the rising cost of
People expect to be included in decision making, not
bullied into predetermined solutions. They expect to be
treated with respect and dignity and not screamed at by
a drill sergeant. The diversity of the workforce today
is unparalleled. In age demographics alone, this is the
first time we’ve seen four generations in the workplace.
Getting them all to march united across the battle field
is no small task.
Respect and fairness are the very core of good
Oct. 29, 2015
am 32 years old and have worked as a computer programmer
for 10 years. Recently, I was hired for a managerial
position with another firm. I look forward to the job,
but am uneasy about being the manager. I feel confident
in my work skills, but not as confident about my
managerial skills. (I applied for a job with a new
company as a technical worker, and they offered me the
will be supervising six people. Would you consider
writing about the “essentials of management”? I’m sure
you have written about this before, but I never thought
it would affect me. I know there are golden rules of
management that I am unaware of - and I don’t want one
of the people I will be supervising to write a letter to
you - about me!
doubt you will get a letter written about you as long as
you continue to be eager and open to learning about how
to manage people. I suspect it’s the ones who think they
know it all and aren’t introspective about their skills
who get letters written about them.
Perhaps the best guide to managing others is to think
about how you would like to be managed. I’ll boil it
down to my version of the basics. But make no mistake;
just because they are the “basics” doesn’t mean that
they are easy, and just because they are common sense
doesn’t mean that they are very common.
People want to know what the goal is and what your
expectations are. Too many managers just hire people and
put them in a job and then never tell them anything more
about the mission of the business or future goals of the
organization. No matter what kind of organization I work
with, employees at all levels express a keen interest in
wanting to know where the organization is going and how
they fit in. Talk about the mission and goals during
staff meetings, when decisions are made, when praising
someone, when people are hired ... in other words, all
2. Treat your employees with the same respect you would
show to the CEO. If you deeply believe this key
principle, you will listen closely to what they suggest
and follow up on your promises to them. You will value
their contributions and tell them so. If they disagree
with you, you will be open to their point of view.
Find out what their career goals are and make every
attempt to help them grow and succeed in their jobs. If
you challenge them with interesting work and let them
try out their ideas, you will see your employees get
excited about their jobs and become motivated to get
better results. This doesn’t just mean a once-a-year
career chat. It means seeing yourself as a full-time
mentor to your employees.
4. Communicate with them as adults - honestly and
straightforwardly. When you share the good news, the bad
news, what you do know and what you don’t know, they
will learn that they can rely on you to give it to them
straight. This ties right back into having respect for
them. This means giving them feedback that is clear and
immediate, yet tactful. It also means saying, “I was
hoping you could all help me solve this problem because
I really don’t know what to do.”
Care about your employees as whole people. Find out
about their children, discover what their hobbies are,
pay attention to their trials and triumphs outside of
work. I’m not suggesting that you become their best
friend - it can be a mistake to get too chummy - but
taking the time to know what makes your employee tick
will help you know how to create a bond as a leader that
will make people feel like committing to you and to the
Build their confidence and self-esteem. No matter how
old we get, these two things are at the core of who we
are as people. One of the best ways to create
willingness to try something new or do something extra
is to reinforce and recognize the behaviors we want more
of. One of the biggest complaints I hear is “I always
hear about it when I do the wrong thing, but he never
notices when I do something right.” Positive
encouragement is a tremendous tool to shape behavior and
When making decisions, strive for outcomes that have a
three-way balance: they are good for the
organization/customer, good for the team and good for
the individual employee. Managers get themselves into
trouble when they get out of balance on one of these.
For instance, if they take only the employees’ side and
can’t see the organization’s perspective, they will be
well-liked but ineffective. If they take only the
organization’s perspective and fail to consider the
employee’s needs and views, they will lose employee
know there are many more “golden rules” but these have
always been the ones I have used the most, and have seen
work the best.
Reading “tells” is as important in the workplace as in
Oct. 22, 2015
Joanne knew she her boss was nervous, even though he
didn’t say a word.
Peter instantly saw that his peer was defensive, even
though most people in the room didn’t recognize anything
reason Joanne and Peter were able to read the reactions
of their colleagues is because they knew how to read
their “tells.” A tell is a gesture or mannerism that
someone uses frequently and predictably. Most of the
time, they don’t even know they are doing it but if you
know what to watch for, you will have an advantage in
any conversation with them.
One of my female colleagues picks up a piece of hair and
bends it in a specific way, whenever she is tense or
Another colleague’s voice goes up to a high pitch when
she is pushing her idea.
client of mine laces his fingers together and puts them
behind his head and spreads his elbows, whenever he
feels challenged, or disagrees with something being
A friend of mine flexes her arm and hand in a certain
way - almost like a spasm - when she feels judged, or is
trying to get others to agree with her.
friend taps his toes or fingers when he is bored or
Another friend’s ears get red when he is embarrassed or
female colleague flushes pink on her neck and chest, and
looks down, when she disagrees.
I pick my cuticles when I am impatient with someone.
what is your tell? If you don’t know, ask the people who
know you best. In fact, ask them to describe your other
body language habits while you’re at it. For example,
many years ago I was in my boss’ office describing
something important. He was reserved by nature and
somewhat introverted, while I am an unabashed extrovert.
I noticed his eyes and head were moving as I spoke. It
dawned on me that he was watching my hands gesture
wildly as I described the scenario! From then on, I
tried to make it a point to hold my hands in my lap -
and I assure you it wasn’t easy.
Another example of a body language habit comes from a
colleague who tends to talk with his eyes closed when he
is thinking about what he is saying. It goes on for
prolonged periods and it feels odd to his companions. A
different person looks away for long periods and doesn’t
make eye contact. Someone else I know coughs (a short
fake-sounding cough) whenever he reads something out
loud (a holdover, he says, from the embarrassment he
suffered as a kid, when he had to read in front of the
There are other body language cues that come out when we
are nervous or feel under a spotlight. For example, when
I coach leaders in presentation skills, I often see
defensive body positions. Because public speaking is
stressful and makes many people feel exposed and
vulnerable, they reflexively protect their most intimate
body parts. Men will sometimes use the “fig leaf” pose,
with hands in front of their body, while women will glue
their elbows down along their sides and gesture in front
of their chests. It’s also why so many people prefer
standing behind a podium. Of course, they would never do
this in a normal conversation and don’t even realize
they are doing it in front of a group.
I sparked your curiosity? For the next few days, pay
attention to not only what is being said but what their
body is doing. Watch your boss, your spouse, your
children and friends. They are the most important people
in your life and they make wonderful subjects to study.
Your skills will improve over time and will give you an
advantage in your communications with them. It will
trigger you to be more empathetic, help you to stop and
probe for unspoken disagreement, and make you realize
when to back off, all good moves that will help you be a
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Oct. 16, 2015
Trust. It’s at the core of any meaningful relationship.
And it’s certainly a key requirement for any
organization interested in creating and keeping a
motivated, committed workforce.
You can’t automatically create trust - it must be
earned, one behavior at a time. It’s almost like each of
us has an emotional bank account. If you are treated
well by your manager, a “deposit” is made in your
account. But when a personal violation occurs, a
“withdrawal” is made. If your manager treats you well
over a long period of time, trust builds and an
occasional withdrawal is no big deal. But when an
account is empty - or even has a negative balance -
trust has no foundation on which to build.
company has many employees with empty accounts and low
trust, any attempt to implement any changes and
improvements will be met with skepticism and resistance.
Cultural change requires a personal commitment from
everyone. Building trust must come first.
Saying “Trust me” won’t work. Only day-to-day actions
can prove that management is trustworthy.
are some behaviors that will help you to invest in your
employees’ emotional bank accounts:
Trust is destroyed when employees are constantly
surprised by inconsistent treatment. Surprising them
with negative feedback at performance review time;
changing priorities without explanation; and changing
the rules arbitrarily are the kinds of behaviors that
convince employees to be suspicious and on their guard.
They see that the top has the power to knock them off
balance whenever they want to.
management has a big role to play in establishing the
values they want to operate from. If the top managers
aren’t in alignment, there is little chance that their
behaviors will be consistent. Mixed signals destroy
Instead, say what you’ll do and do what you say. Keep
the promises you make or don’t make them at all. If you
need to change direction, explain why. Treat all
employees like the most important customers you have -
because they are.
Tell the truth.
this were easy to do, we’d all be doing a lot more of
it. Many managers hoard or hide company information from
employees. They think knowledge is power and they want
it all for themselves in the hope that it will give them
job security. They don’t tell poor performers the truth
about their need to improve. They don’t admit when they
don’t know the answer or admit that they’ve made a
Telling the truth is closely related to the first point
- being consistent. If you tell the truth consistently,
you will build trust. Whether the news is good or bad,
employees will learn to rely on you for a straight
Treat people with respect and dignity.
This is not conditional. Even if they screw up or do
something nasty to someone else, you need to set a clear
example that people can trust. Does this mean you coddle
poor performers or “look the other way” when mistakes
are made? Not at all.
the contrary, it means treating them like adults who
deserve to know the truth. For example, if they’re
failing on the job, they deserve to be told and given a
chance to succeed. But if they don’t succeed, they can
be “helped out of the organization” in a dignified way.
The rest of the employees will be grateful. They will
see that you can be trusted to reward the right behavior
and that everyone - even the worst performers - will be
treated with dignity. But they will also be expected to
take responsibility for their own behavior.
One of the best ways to demonstrate that you trust your
employees is to treat them like colleagues who are as
committed to the organization as you are. Give them
information about customers; tell them what the vision
and goals of the company are and discuss how they fit
in; tell them what you know as soon as you know it.
Ask for input and listen to it.
You don’t trust people who do all the talking and don’t
listen to your opinions and ideas. Your employees don’t
either. Trust is built when employees know you will take
time to listen to them and involve them during the
decision making process. Telling them after the fact
creates BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again).
Trust isn’t something you can demand from someone else
until you’ve taken steps to deserve it.
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Oct. 9, 2015
“Just imagine that the audience is naked.” Anyone who
has ever taken a workshop on how to make presentations
has heard that one. But in a situation where you face a
hostile audience or you are asked a challenging
question, you’re the one who feels as if you’re standing
there in your birthday suit.
If you are expected to make presentations to employee
groups, shareholders, industry peers or the public,
chances are you’ve been challenged by a member of the
group at some point in your speaking life.
Increasingly, my firm is asked to help an executive
polish his or her presentation skills. It’s becoming
more important as companies realize the value of
face-to-face communication in building commitment to
changes and forming partnerships with constituencies.
For instance, some executives are now expected to hold
regular “town hall meetings” with employees at all
levels. These meetings provide a great forum for give
and take but it’s the “take” portion that causes
presenters to sweat.
Presentation skills don’t come naturally for most of us.
In fact, it’s number one on the list of things most
feared by Americans. It’s daunting enough to just stand
up there and talk, let alone be grilled or attacked by
the audience. The good news is that group behavior is
fairly predictable and predictably fair.
are some strategies for you to clip and save. You can
pull them out the next time you’re asked to speak:
A member of
the audience disagrees with a point you made in your
presentation and attacks you in front of the rest of the
not to do:
Do not respond with a condescending remark or attempt to
justify your position. I recently heard a speaker say,
“Apparently you didn’t listen to my whole speech or you
would have known I made that point.” Then he went on to
restate a portion of his speech that everyone had
already heard. Ouch! The audience instantly turned
against the speaker.
Never get into a shooting match with a member of the
audience. You will lose, even if the person is a flaming
fool. Here’s why. The leader is in a position of power
and authority, and if he or she appears to “argue down”
a dissenter, or get defensive in front of the group,
credibility is lost. Each member of the audience
recognizes that the audience member who is being
embarrassed could be them.
better approach is to let the arrows pass right through
you. For instance, say, “I appreciate your perspective.
What do the rest of you think?” Almost without fail, a
group will rise to the occasion and moderate the
situation for you.
the person has a personal axe to grind, or is
inappropriate in other ways, another approach is to
gently cut him or her off by briefly restating the
opinion in neutral words and thanking the person before
moving on. For example, “So, if I understand you
correctly, you feel that managers are power hungry
people who climb on the backs of their employees to get
what they want and to look good to their superiors.
Unfortunately, you must have had some very negative
experiences. Thank you for sharing your perspective.”
audience member who asks a question that is really a
thinly veiled challenge.
not to do:
Don’t take the question at face value and answer it. For
example, if the person asks, “Don’t you think there are
a lot of people who will disagree with this policy?”
don’t respond with, “No, I think the policy is fair.”
The audience will know you have tried to dodge the real
issue and it will make them uncomfortable. Once there is
dissension in the group, they will not be able to settle
down until it is resolved. Ignoring it generally causes
a flurry of conversation in the hallway and at break
time. The audience needs the leader to bring closure to
What to do:
for more information. The more you show sincere respect
and try to understand the point they are trying to make,
the more the audience will settle down and respect the
leader. “It sounds as if there is more behind your
question. What specifically do you think some of the
problems are?” will draw out the real issue and force
the person to be straightforward about what they really
member who begins to take a lot of time to tell personal
stories, express their views, or asks numerous questions
about an issue that only has importance to that
not to do:
Don’t get caught in the trap of conducting a lengthy
one-on-one dialogue in front of a group. The audience
will begin to check their watch, shift in their chairs
and even leave the room. They expect you to respectfully
cut it off. Another mistake is to cut the person off too
abruptly. For instance, interrupting the person with,
“We’re running behind schedule. We have to move on” will
insult the person and may make the person more
Look for an opening, briefly summarize the person’s
point and say, “I’d be happy to discuss this with you
after the session or at break.” Then neutralize it with,
“I’d be happy to discuss any personal experiences or
problems any of you have after the session. I wish we
had more time but unfortunately we’re forced to stay on
audience member who expresses a contrary viewpoint that
others seem to agree with.
What not to do:
Don’t evade this one or play down its significance
Stop, restate what the person said, ask the rest of the
group if they agree. Then spend the necessary time to
explore the opposing viewpoint. If you don’t listen to
the majority opinion, you will shut them down and lose
them for the rest of your presentation. Ironically, even
if the rest of the group disagrees, they will resent it
if you don’t listen to what members of the group have to
Public speaking is a tremendous career builder. If you
are able to handle tough situations with grace and
dignity, your audience will respect you and listen to
your ideas. Trust the group to help you succeed.
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Sept. 24, 2015
am relatively new to my position (1 year) and I work in
a high-tech industry. I have a peer who works with me on
a variety of projects (he’s been here two years) and
here is where the problem comes in.
is a scene stealer - always using big, buzz words to
“wow” the higher ups and making sure he gets credit for
things. The problem is that he doesn’t have very good
follow-through on projects and in actuality, is more
talk than action. He is very political and this drives
me crazy. I end up doing some of his work and when I
have to pick up the pieces I become furious. He just
goes on his smiling way, kissing up to all the
hesitate to talk to our manager because I am afraid I’ll
look like “sour grapes.” In the meantime, my attitude
toward my co-worker is getting very cool. Can I take any
action without hurting my standing with my boss and the
people in the company I do projects for?
Political animals tend to show their stripes over time
and I will bet your co-worker will eventually be found
out. You may not even be aware of how much your boss and
clients already know. Most people are wary of people who
snow them with $25 dollar words when 10 cent ones will
do. The irony is that the harder he tries to impress
them the phonier he’ll look.
Often, people who are trying this hard are secretly very
worried that they’re not measuring up. These impostors
either don’t have what it really takes to perform or are
operating under the assumption that it is only who you
know, not what you know, that counts. They spend more
time strategizing than acting and can get very
threatened when they feel someone has discovered their
game. Your co-worker may even stoop to dirty politics if
he feels it could help him advance. In other words, be
the same token, don’t let him dump all over you and then
steal the credit. The trick will be to remain objective
and cool about how to get the credit that is due you.
way to do this is continue to perform exceptionally well
for your clients. If you are doing things for them that
they aren’t even aware of, make sure you mention what
you are doing or keep them updated by memo, with a copy
to your boss. Don’t be shy about passing on compliments
you receive to your boss.
you find that you are picking up the pieces your
co-worker doesn’t complete, you are helping to cause the
problem. You are making it easier for him to slack off.
Smoke him out by being “too busy” with your own half of
the project to bail him out.
sure you’re protected by being crystal clear about who
is supposed to do what before beginning a project. It
wouldn’t hurt to summarize this in a memo to your
client, upfront. This will force him to complete his
share or be discovered.
Writing memos about what you both have agreed to do and
updates about your progress may seem like an unnecessary
nuisance. But it will not only give you credit in a
subtle way - it will make you feel that you are taking
constructive action to protect yourself. It will also
give you a positive way to manage your resentment.
this problem persists, you may also want to ask your
boss some “naive” questions. Questions such as, “I’m not
clear about who is supposed to be doing this part of the
project. I thought I was only supposed to do the
research, not write the report. Did I get that mixed
up?” This will give your manager an opportunity to
intervene and you won’t look like a “tattle-tale.”
It may be difficult for you to be a team player with
your co-worker. Keep in mind that there may be times
when you should help him out. The flip side is that you
shouldn’t hesitate to ask him for help if you should
Don’t bad mouth him to your boss and be careful who you
complain to about him. Above all, don’t try to find ways
to make him look bad to your clients. Clients don’t want
to know about any personal problems you’re having. They
only care about results. You will look unprofessional
and petty if you try to get them involved and the
credibility of your entire unit will suffer.
the end, excellent performance, assertive management of
your projects and professionalism will speak the truth
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Sept. 17, 2015
people only talked to each other, most of the conflict
in the workplace would disappear. Instead, it seems when
we are wounded by someone or disagree with something
they’ve done we end up talking to everyone except the
person who’s directly involved.
wander down the hall and talk to a co-worker ... mention
it to our lunch buddies ... complain about it to our
spouse. We spread the negative poison around the
organization, drag unwitting co-workers into the fray,
sully reputations and, in the end, erode the trust that
comes from open, honest, face-to-face communication.
Where did we ever get the idea that confronting someone
face-to-face had to be such a horrible encounter? Are we
all so worried about being “nice” that we’ve opted for
being spineless? And when did we get confused about the
perils of telling people the truth? What about the
perils of not telling them the truth? Our organizations
are paying a big price for this “smile to your
face/behind your back” communication style. It’s costing
millions in wasted time and lost productivity in
addition to a human price in broken trust and lost
don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating brutal honesty
and confrontation that strips away self-esteem and
dignity. I’m talking about the respectful, caring
communication that says, “I care about our relationship.
Something’s bothering me and I thought it was important
to talk to you about it directly so we could reach an
think most people are afraid. They’re afraid of hurting
someone’s feelings. They’re afraid of sounding
“negative” or “making waves.” They’re afraid of the
backlash that can come from a conflict that escalates
into a fight. They’re afraid of de-motivating their
employees. They’re afraid of not being liked. They’re
afraid of collecting political baggage. They’re afraid
of not getting ahead or losing their job.
you’re guilty of side-talk instead of straight-talk,
here are some behaviors that can help:
the “best intentions” approach.
people don’t intentionally wake up in the morning and
think to themselves, “I’m going to really hurt her
feelings today!” Most people have the very best
intentions. But it’s those good intentions that keep
getting us into trouble because other’s don’t know our
intentions - they only judge our actions.
approaching another person about a conflict say, “I’m
sure you had good intentions when you ... but let me
tell you how it looked from my perspective...” Rather
than waving the finger of blame in someone else’s face,
just talk about the affect it had on you.
Use the “I’m
just getting your advice” approach sparingly.
lot of damage can be done by going to person after
person “seeking advice” about how to handle a conflict
situation. It can become a way to see how many people
are on your side. It can also be a sneaky way of
poisoning the well for the other person; everyone’s
heard your “side” and so the other person suffers
political blows no matter what the outcome.
looking for things for which you should take
beauty of opening any conflict resolution session with
self-disclosure is that you bring the other person’s
defenses down immediately and problem solving can occur.
Be as open
and honest as you can, while preserving their
self-respect and dignity.
is the very heart and soul of building trust.
Sugar-coating your message or smoothing over the
seriousness only destroys trust. If you respect the
other person and want to remove barriers that are
getting in the way, the only way to build trust is to be
open, honest and straightforward. But in order to
preserve the relationship you must let people maintain
their dignity and save face.
this sound pretty basic? You bet. It also is just plain
good common sense. But common sense isn’t so common - we
all have to work at it.
Fear is a great motivator
Sept. 10, 2015
is a great motivator. I highly recommend it for leaders
interested in short term, instantaneous results. It
causes employees to jump through hoops to please you and
it will just about guarantee that you will rarely hear
much bad news. In fact, you will feel safe and secure
knowing you are in complete control.
course, ruling by fear does have a few nasty side
effects ...but nothing that a few more threats and
insults can’t cure. Here are some tried and true
techniques that are sure to inspire just the right
amount of “motivation” in your employees:
Yell at them in front of peers and customers. This is
sure to make them feel mortified and humiliated. There’s
nothing like showing them whose boss to get their
attention. It’s sure to make them dig in and apply
themselves to solving the stupid mistake they made and
they will have renewed incentive to try to please you.
Assume they aren’t trying to do the job the best they
can. Don’t let their thin excuses about trying something
new or helping the customer deter you from their real
intentions. If you assume they are trying to slack off
or sabotage the work they won’t be so quick to pull the
wool over your eyes next time.
Threaten your employees by telling them they are going
to lose their jobs. This is particularly effective if
you want them to work extra hard on a special project.
Another tip is to tell them that only the very best
workers will be spared. This added motivation makes them
work harder than ever before.
Keep them off balance by changing the work rules to suit
your needs at the moment. This way, everyone will have
to be nice to you to get any favors. Think of how
powerful you’ll be! Don’t let charges of “inconsistency”
and “unfairness” bother you. After all, you made the
rules and you can bend them. You’re the boss, aren’t
Don’t tell your employees what you expect of them. This
will give them too much information. It always leads to
chaos. How can you control their every move and keep
close tabs on them if they’re off on their own doing god
knows what? Besides, if you don’t tell them what you
want upfront, you can change it as often as you like.
Don’t give too much feedback. This is exactly what they
want so don’t fall for it. If you don’t tell them
anything - or just tell them when they make a mistake -
you’ll be able to keep them confused and cowed. Only
give negative feedback so they are always inspired by
how smart you are. Only really smart people are able to
spot the flaw in everything. If they ask too many
questions about their performance, see number 3.
Change priorities suddenly and often. This is a great
way to keep their attention focused on you. If you are
good at this people will have to check with you all the
time about what to do next and you won’t ever have to
leave your office. It will also make you look very
informed and important because you will react to top
management’s wishes ... and you know how demanding they
Don’t show them the strategic plan or the company or
department’s goals. They aren’t as sophisticated as you
are so they wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway.
(See number 7)
Threaten them by saying top management is watching their
every move. This is very useful if they stop jumping
every time you issue an order or they are reluctant to
take on more responsibility. If you scare them about
some far away, distant, menacing rulers, they are sure
to do whatever you tell them.
Only tell your employees the bare minimum. Operate by
the “need to know” philosophy. Those people who preach
“two-way communication” are out of their minds. Don’t
they see how employees can use this information against
you? And for heaven sakes, when you do talk to them,
don’t allow any room for questions. That’s why emails
are much better than meetings.
Don’t let employees out of your sight. You won’t be able
to check on everything they do. It’s particularly
effective if you peer over their shoulders while they’re
working so they know you are on to them and alert to any
mistakes they are about to make. The more you do this,
the more mistakes you will catch them making.
Reward employees who squeal on each other. This will
make all of them loyal to you and you alone.
you don’t follow these steps you could start to build
trust and honesty in the workplace and if that ever gets
started, there’s no telling what could happen.
Overcontrolling managers breed failure in their
employees and in their own careers
Sept. 3, 2015
“All of us were thrilled when Ed was promoted as our
manager. We all respect his technical skill and
knowledge of the field. What we didn’t expect was Ed’s
unwillingness to let go. It’s really creating some
serious morale problems around here."
worked for someone like Ed. Worse still, maybe you are
someone like Ed.
problem is a common one: a highly competent technical
performer is recognized with a promotion to a managerial
post. As a manager, the individual can’t keep his
fingers out of the day-to-day work of his employees.
Overcontrol kills. It’s as simple as that. It kills your
career as a manger and the careers of your subordinates.
As a manager who won’t let go you find yourself working
harder and longer than anyone else in the unit. You are
constantly “rolling up your sleeves,” “staying close to
the work,” “just checking” and “making sure it’s done
the subordinate under such a manager, you can feel
distrusted, underutilized, stressed and resentful. “Why
bother” is often heard around the coffee machine. After
a while, the good performers leave and the mediocre ones
will slip to new lows.
Overcontrol can be caused by many things. Some of these
managers believe no one can do the job as well as they
can. Others may be fearful of their own boss. Some
simply don’t want to stop doing the technical work that
has given them strokes and satisfaction.
Whatever the motivation, overcontrol will hurt your
career as a manager: It gets you from both ends and
traps you in the middle. Without a groomed replacement,
you can’t move up. And if you don’t delegate authority
to season and develop your replacement, you’ll never be
free to tackle new responsibilities yourself.
if you’re over-supervising, ask yourself:
I often tell my employees how to do the details of their
I take assignments back, after delegating them, because
my employee runs into a problem?
I do work that could be done by my employees?
After delegating an assignment, do I frequently check
with my employee to “see how it’s going?”
When my employee runs into a problem, do I rarely ask,
“What do you think you should do?”
I put off or ignore managerial responsibilities like
performance appraisals and career-development
you answered “yes” to some of these questions, you may
be too close for comfort.
you are overcontrolling, face it and fix it.
Start by setting some goals for yourself. For example,
“During the next month, I will not check on any project
until the due date.”
delegating an assignment, resist the temptation to
elaborate on the “how to.” Instead, only discuss the end
result you desire. Provide resources if the person is
inexperienced or the work is new to the employee.
into the task of learning your real job - managing
others. If you give it half a chance, you may find it’s
twice as rewarding as you ever dreamed it could be.
It takes more than attending meetings together to be a
Aug. 20, 2015
My company has recently begun the “team approach.”
Basically what this means is people from several areas
of the company are being asked to work together on a
variety of projects. This is great in theory but the
practical matter is that these teams are losing steam.
There is fighting between members, some people just stop
showing up, and some supervisors don’t seem to be very
supportive. They don’t adjust these employees’ schedules
so they can attend meetings or do the work that is
necessary between meetings. People are getting
discouraged and fed up. What do you think is the
theory sounds so simple: take people from different
areas of the company, give them a problem to work on and
empower them to solve it. The “T” word is shouted from
the tops of most corporate pyramids these days but few
understand the special dynamics required to create Teams
that work. Like individual ingredients in a recipe, they
don’t make a cake unless you put them together right.
There are three basic ingredients needed to make teams
work - a Common Goal, Permission and Information.
COMMON GOAL: Most individuals have been programmed to go
after their department’s goal. Turf is built up over
many years and it doesn’t go away because an executive
says, “work together.” Rivalries flare unless the group
spends time defining and agreeing to a common goal. Top
management needs to help shape the goal and agree to
give it the priority it deserves.
The notion of cross-functional teams is outside of the
traditional, hierarchical mold. It’s naive to presume
that the old structure won’t get in the way. Many
supervisors have come up through the ranks and are good
soldiers. They know how to give orders and delegate
duties. Some of them can learn new behaviors -
listening, facilitating and giving the team more
control. Some can’t. Their old role was to gather
information to make decisions. Now their role must
shift to helping the team gather information to make
their own decisions. This new role is just as important
and even more complex.
who coordinates a cross-functional team? If a
multi-department team is formed to work on a task, have
an advisor; someone at a higher level who will resolve
political turf issues and who can act as a sponsor for
their work. If a team is formed to work together on a
more regular basis, it may make sense for them to report
to the same person. Dotted line reporting relationships
can also be used when a department (functional) person
is on a cross-functional team. For example, the person
reports (solid line) to his or her department head and
“dotted” to the project leader. This dual accountability
is designed to create the right alignment.
top managers grant the most important permission. If
resources aren’t provided, if the project isn’t a
priority, if they give no clear charter, it will stall.
INFORMATION: In the past, information was the privilege
of rank. Information was power. The top held all the
cards and only showed one when they needed something
done. Now employees are asking them to show their whole
hand, so they can understand the big picture. Employees
want to know what management knows so they can make
smart decisions. Often, employees don’t know what they
don’t know. It’s management’s job to tell them, educate
them, and help them. Management also needs to outline
boundaries and taboos so the team will have a clear idea
of what is expected and what is off-limits.
people have spent their entire professional careers
learning a technical specialty. Then they are thrown
into a team environment and expected to understand group
dynamics, shared accountability, and organizational
politics. Most can’t run a meeting, they don’t know how
to deal with peers who don’t cooperate, and they don’t
know how to manage the process of a shared project.
Training is part of the answer. Some comes from guidance
provided by managers or outside help. And the rest comes
from a shift in culture that creates the right
environment for learning to occur.
The number 1 mistake leaders make
Aug. 13, 2015
Recently, I’ve had a performance evaluation which was
very unsatisfactory. I’ve been employed at this hospital
for over 10 years. Now suddenly, my work “needs
improvement” and I have three months to do it in,
otherwise, “be written up.”
There are 22 areas on this evaluation that you need to
meet requirements with 30 pages of documentation to
prove they have been met. There is an additional
document, a peer review from two-three persons with 27
areas that are rated. This peer review carries a lot of
weight and is confidential. This peer review has a lot
of negatives according to my supervisor, such as
questions are: Is this legal? Can a peer go around
saying and writing anything about a co-worker without
proof or evidence? Where can one obtain names of
attorneys that are experts in employee rights in case of
firing? How much severance for 10 years’ employment is
customary? (Incidentally, the boss has hired two new
persons at $6.00 an hour less than my hourly rate with
no open positions.)
have only two years left to go before I can collect
Social Security, so I am not particularly anxious to
look for a new job.
have advice for both you and your boss. First, you would
be wise to listen to his feedback and take steps to
improve your performance. Second, your boss must be very
specific about what it is that you need to change
...”non-professional behavior” is too vague to be
Although I think peer reviews provide valuable input in
a team environment, they should not be used as a club to
beat the co-worker. The manager must take the
responsibility to observe each employee, firsthand, so
he can support and pinpoint the peers’ feedback and then
work with the individual to help him or her improve.
key word in your letter is “suddenly.” After 10 years,
you “suddenly” need to improve. Either your boss has
been telling you (or hinting?) for a while and you
haven’t been listening, or your boss has been putting
off telling you and things have been building up and he
is fed up. Perhaps the peer input has forced the issue.
Another possibility that can’t be discounted is that he
is trying to replace you with cheaper labor. Although it
is tempting to believe that, the fact that your peers
have given you a negative rating suggests that your
performance is the real problem.
are right to feel indignant about the general nature of
the feedback. I suggest that you go back to your manager
and ask for more specifics. However, I would wait until
you can do it calmly and with an open mind. Explain that
you are frustrated and upset about the feedback because
you don’t know why they said it and you can’t correct it
if you don’t know what it means.
listen carefully to his response. If he doesn’t have
specifics tell him that it is impossible for you to
improve during the next three months. If he does have
specific details, don’t get defensive. Listen and force
yourself to write them down. This will keep you from
getting into an argument and provide a record for you to
refer to later.
think about what he said and decide what you can do to
improve. Schedule another meeting with your manager and
discuss what you want to do to improve and get his
advice. Although you are feeling hurt and angry, you
only have two years left before you can leave on your
terms, so why not make it as pleasant as possible?
Lawyers who specialize in employees’ rights can be found
online. Frankly, you will be far better off (whether you
ever file a suit or not) to take proactive steps now,
such as asking for details and trying to improve. If you
are fired, the company doesn’t have to give you any
severance, but if they do, a rule of thumb is one or two
weeks severance pay for each year worked.
Surprise feedback is not an easy thing to hear and it’s
even tougher to listen to. It’s in your best interest to
The number 1 mistake leaders make
Aug. 6, 2015
was recently demoted at my current company with no
substantial reason except reorganization. I always got
A+ reviews and good raises. I was never told to work on
any weaknesses or develop areas I needed work in. In
other words, I thought I was doing a good job. If I
wasn’t, the company never told me and, thus, never gave
me the opportunity to improve.
I feel just terrible - humiliated, a failure, hurt at
not getting a raise that I really depend on, etc. What
do you think is going on? Is this company trying to get
rid of me? What do you think of this tactic? Do I have
any legal recourse here? I worked very hard - was
conscientious - put off extended vacations and dragged
myself to work when sick. What happened?
someone else is being hired for my previous position. Is
this the “politics” that goes on in companies now? Is it
who you kiss up to or how hard you work that gets you
hope your letter is read by every manager who would
rather remain silent than tell employees what they need
to improve on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve
heard derailed employees say, “If I had only known what
to improve, I would have gladly worked on it but I
thought everything was OK.”
workplace would be a more effective - and happy - place
if managers would remember the golden rule of bad news:
“If I had that problem, would I want MY boss to tell
ME?” If the employee’s behaviors are hurting his or her
career, it’s the manager’s responsibility to provide
feedback and coaching.
you do a post-mortem on this situation you may learn
some things that could help you in the future. Bear in
mind, however, that you may never know the whole truth.
First, let’s consider the fact that someone was hired
for your previous position. Your boss is probably not
being open with you. For example, if your position had
been eliminated in a reorganization, it would be easier
to see how this demotion could occur, given your high
ratings in the past.
your replacement has exactly the same job you held, the
“reorganization” was your boss’s way of dealing with a
performance issue he or she was unwilling to confront.
Even if the job has been expanded, you need to ask
yourself, “Why didn’t my boss tell me about the required
changes and help me develop the necessary skills?” “If
the job has gotten bigger, were the qualifications
beyond my abilities?”
Consider the bigger picture. Does your manager have a
new boss? Could this decision have been made by someone
other than your supervisor? Perhaps your manager was
happy with your work but someone else above him or her
you examine the last few years of your performance,
think about how easy it is to confuse “hard work” with
“smart work.” By that I mean dragging yourself in to
work when you’re sick and putting off vacations is
laudable but you’ll notice there is no category called
“DEDICATED” on your performance appraisal. These things
deserve a pat on the back but don’t necessarily qualify
you for more money by themselves - it’s how effective
you are that keeps you in the winner’s circle. Does your
definition of “effectiveness” and your boss’s definition
Another question for you to investigate is, “How valid
was my A+ rating all these years?” Although it will be
difficult for you, I’d suggest that you ask your boss
for some feedback. However, since you haven’t heard
about any weaknesses before, your manager may have a
problem telling you now.
Before asking your boss to give you constructive
feedback, you’ll need to manage the anger and bitterness
you surely must feel. You don’t want this meeting to be
explosive. Your manager may have avoided honesty in the
past because he or she was afraid of hurting your
feelings or making you angry. In order to get the truth,
you will need to manage your emotions. It may help to
say, “I’m confused by the mixed signals I’m getting. I
need to know what areas I need to improve on if there is
some problem with my performance.” Listen carefully to
the answer and don’t argue with it. Instead, ask for
more specifics and examples until you feel satisfied
that you understand what your manager is telling you.
company is probably not trying to get rid of you. If
they were, they would have used this “reorganization” to
eliminate your job and fire you. Perhaps they value your
many technical skills but feel you were over-extended in
your former job. Without feedback from your boss, it’s
impossible to know exactly what the real reasons were.
you have more information, you have some decisions to
make. For instance: Is your new job a good fit for you
and worth keeping? Are you too embarrassed to stay under
any circumstances? If you get some negative feedback,
can you work on it in your new job? Does this demotion
mean that you are dead-ended in your present company? If
I pursue legal action what will that buy me?
Whether you decide to leave or stay, be more assertive
about soliciting performance feedback in the future. Ask
your boss for advice and coaching on your work long
before the performance appraisal, so that weaknesses are
addressed before they can become problems. Stay in tune
with shifting organizational priorities so that you can
anticipate changes. Most important, make sure you have a
clear understanding of your boss’s priorities and
expectations. You were blind-sided on this one. I’m sure
you will never let this happen to you again.
Cure poor work habits with feedback
July 31, 2015
I am a manager in a small manufacturing firm. I would
like to know your thoughts on how to address
under-performing employees who have not been dealt with
and have been tolerated for years.
An employee whose poor performance has been tolerated
for years is a festering sore in a work group. The
infection is likely to spread to the rest of the area.
Stopping the spread of the disease means you must treat
everyone who shows symptoms the same way. Your challenge
is this: If you have allowed the employees’ work
standards to slip without consequences before, you have
lowered the standard of what you will accept. If you
attempt to change things, the poor employees will cry,
“Foul!” and the good employees will cheer.
can be a very difficult thing to do and requires a fresh
strategy, a strong backbone and a solid plan to get the
employee back on track.
Before you begin, imagine the worst thing that could
result from confronting the problem and ask yourself,
“Am I willing to go all the way to resolve this
problem?” Then talk to your boss and Human Resources and
ask, “How much support and back-up can I count on from
you?” If you don’t hear encouraging words, you may want
to execute a more conservative strategy. For example, if
the person is close to retirement, you will probably
have a different plan than if the person had 15 years to
biggest problem to overcome is the fact that you are
suddenly expecting a performance level you haven’t
required before. One way to establish a new baseline is
to move the employee to new job tasks. I hesitate to
suggest this because “passing the turkey” is probably
what caused this problem in the first place. It's likely
that past managers didn't confront the problem and
passed it on to the next manager. So, rather than moving
him or her to a new boss (who would surely add your name
to his political hit list), reorganize the tasks within
your work group or within the individual's job. This
will allow you to wipe the slate clean so you can impose
a new standard.
Next, sit the employee down and spell out what the new
expectations are, how they will be measured and what the
consequences are for poor performance. Once the new
baseline is drawn, you must follow up to make sure the
standards are being met. A word of warning here: This is
not a trap. It is tempting to think, “There! Now I can
finally fire this guy if I can catch him messing up!”
This isn’t fair play and wouldn’t help your case if the
the employee a reasonable amount of coaching and
training and, above all, constant feedback on his or her
performance. If he or she is doing well, be quick with a
pat on the back. Sometimes poor performers have never
felt appreciated and have turned sour because of it. If,
however, the employee’s old habits and behaviors don't
change, start with a verbal admonishment and move to
written memos and finally a final written warning of
most difficult part of disciplining an employee is the
pacing. If you are too quick to issue ultimatums and
don’t give the employee a chance to improve, you will
look as if you are trying to set him up to fail. On the
other hand, if you don’t step in early and monitor the
situation through ongoing performance discussions, you
will allow your own standards to slip by implied
in the end, the employee is fired, he should be fully
aware of why it happened, what he could have done to
prevent it (but chose not to do) and how straightforward
and supportive you were. In effect, he chose to fire
you can't move an employee or change the job tasks, you
have a tougher challenge. In this case, analyze the
standards you have set for all the other employees in
the work group to see how uneven they are. If you are
going to clamp down on one, you must hold all the rest
to the same expectations.
all the employees that starting “now” it will be
necessary to meet the standard and why. Employees
deserve to know why a certain level of performance is
required...and that it’s not just an arbitrary number
chosen at the whim of management. If they are out of
touch with their “customers” (internal or external),
find a way for them to get direct feedback on how
important their “product” is and how it is used. Letting
employees find out what the customer requirements are
for the work they produce is more powerful than an
eloquent lecture from you. If their “customer” is the
guy on the next machine, get them together with everyone
else who contributes to the final product and discuss
how their quality affects everyone else’s.
Confronting a long standing problem is never easy.
Managers who do deserve to be rewarded because they help
the problem employee get back on track, help the morale
of the work group and improve the bottom line.
Micro-manager produces negative macro effect
July 23, 2015
Listen in on what it’s like when a micro-manager is the
like to make sure things are done right in my
department. I’m accountable for the results and I want
to make sure my employees are working up to par. After
all, I have to answer to my boss about mistakes. My
employees just don’t have the experience I have ... and
if I don’t check it I can’t be confident it’s the
caliber of work I want representing me and my
Employee: My boss is always looking over my shoulder.
He’s always telling me how to do every little detail
even though I’ve been doing my job for several years.
It’s as if he doesn’t trust me or he thinks I’m
incompetent. If I’m doing something wrong or if I need
to improve something why doesn’t he tell me ... I want
to grow and develop on my job. Sometimes I just want to
say, “Here! Why don’t you do it? You’re going to pick it
apart and redo it yourself anyway!” I’m not making a
contribution ... maybe I should just leave.
Manager: My employees just don’t have a good idea of the
big picture ... the politics of the situation. And they
don’t need to know what’s going on, especially about
political and strategic issues. They don’t need to know
that to do their jobs. I keep them out of trouble by
guiding them through their projects.
Employee: My manager doesn’t tell me anything. He
doesn’t share information about the company’s direction
or about political sensitivities I should be aware of.
He’s forever checking on my work and then changing my
priorities - but he doesn’t tell me why. It’s very
frustrating because I’m operating in the dark half the
time. If he trusted me with more information, I’d be
able to use my own judgment and I’d be able to
anticipate problems before they happen.
Manager: The downsizing going on is targeting people
like me. I’ve watched my peers get laid off and I’m
worried about becoming one of them. The way I’m
protecting myself is by making myself indispensable and
visible. I need to look good so I don’t find myself on
the hit list. I don’t want my peers or employees to look
better than I do. I also have to fight for resources to
make my department look better than other managers’
departments. These are dog-eat-dog times.
Employee: My boss used to let me attend meetings outside
of the department occasionally but not anymore; now he
attends them all. He went to a convention about the
latest technical developments instead of letting me go.
He uses my ideas and reports as his own and never seems
to mention that they came from me. I’m glad he thinks
they’re good ideas but I’m not getting any of the
credit. I think he’s threatened by me ... why else would
he be trying so hard to keep me locked up and invisible
to people above me?
Manager: I get input and involvement from my employees.
I meet with them to give them a chance to discuss new
policies or procedures. I always have an “open door”
Employee: My manager only meets with us one-on-one. Only
rarely do we have a department or unit meeting. When we
do get together, he does most of the talking about some
new rule or there is a company-wide announcement. When
he does ask for input, he argues with us about our point
of view or acts like we don’t have all the information
and only his ideas could work. Why does he go through
the motions of asking us for our ideas if he’s only
going to implement his own ideas?
Micro-managers suffocate their employees’ initiative.
They are so narrowly focused on themselves and the work
that they don’t take a broader look at the people who do
the work. Micro-managers are classic examples of the
Peter Principle - good performers who were promoted once
too often. They should have been left where they were to
do the work they do best.
Micro-managers are often a product of their
organization’s culture. If the top manager shows the
behavior, it often cascades down throughout the
organization. Because when the top boss expects managers
to be personally involved in all the details, other
levels of managers are likely to be expected to do the
same. They don’t want to look out of touch.
Organizations that don’t identify the leadership
characteristics they want for managerial jobs often
promote the best technical performer and hope for the
best. Unfortunately, those technical performers are
often ill-equipped to perform successfully in their new
not take the time to train and coach the leaders in your
organization? And before you hire or promote the next
manager, define the leadership behaviors you’re looking
for. Everyone will be glad you did.
if one of your direct reports is a micro-manager, the
best thing you can do for him or her is to give honest
feedback through a direct conversation - citing clear
examples. Or, by bringing in an outside coach who can
gather the employee feedback this manager needs to hear
and guiding him or her to make a course correction. Most
micro-managers don’t realize that their justifications
are misguided. Rather than helping their credibility and
their career, micro-managing is a career derailer.
Sherlock Holmes can solve corporate culture mystery
July 16, 2015
have been experiencing a critical personnel problem
within our firm during the past few years. Many of our
employees have been with the company for at least 10
years. Due to changes that occur over such an extensive
period of time, these employees have developed an
“anti-corporate” attitude. New ideas are flatly rejected
and each employee clamors for the credit and recognition
for any successful idea.
situation is causing severe morale problems among newer
employees and they are leaving as fast as they join the
firm. The older employees can’t be terminated because of
the knowledge and skills they possess.
do we deal with this situation and maintain the old with
clue to solving this case may be in the last sentence of
the first paragraph. A group of people will always
adjust to their environment in order to cope, so a good
place to begin looking for answers is in the way they
respond to the workplace. As a corporate Sherlock
Holmes, your job is to identify the rewards and
punishments that have created this situation and find
ways to solve the mystery.
this group is quick to reject new ideas and eager to
take credit for any idea that works, what caused this?
My hunch is an unskilled boss or an authoritative
corporate culture has something to do with it.
Here are a few clues to investigate: If a new idea was
tried and failed, were they criticized? Did their boss
cultivate “pets” who had good ideas that were rubbed in
the faces of the rest? Does your company expect its
employees to check their brains at the door? Were new
ideas shoved down their throats before they were tested?
Did new ideas always seem to result in demands for
higher productivity? Did new ideas add work that was
never rewarded? Was individual competition rewarded over
“anti-corporate” attitude grows from a feeling of being
used by the system. Anti-corporate feelings can only
grow when employees don’t feel a part of the company.
Unfortunately, once negativism sets in, so does
skepticism and sarcasm. This gruesome threesome is tough
to drive out.
The first place to consider making a change is in the
leadership of the group. Even if the manager is
reasonably good, the old order of things needs to be
shaken. This group needs a people-smart manager, who has
a clearly demonstrated understanding of human
motivation. If this new boss is a well-respected,
well-liked manager in your firm, all the better.
next thing to do is find a way to train backups. It
worries me (and should worry your management) that “you
can’t terminate” these older workers because they are
the only ones who know the job. These employees are
holding you hostage!
Change your reward system to favor cross training and
cooperation. Giving a “training bonus” to employees who
train others can do this. If your company can’t give
money, give significant non-monetary perks, such as
flexible hours or Friday afternoon off. Don’t be
conservative. This is a time to ring the bell of change
and you don’t want anyone to miss it.
ways to listen to these experienced workers. One idea is
to get them together in a weekly meeting to brainstorm
solutions to problems. Don’t tease them with fake
meetings, however. If you aren’t prepared to let them
try their own ideas and reward them for their effort,
don’t yank their chain. This won’t work unless their
manager is a skilled meeting leader and believes in
employee involvement and empowerment.
Start with problems that are relatively easy to fix, so
they see quick results and know you mean business. If
they need training in how to participate in
problem-solving meetings, bring someone in to teach them
(and their boss) the skills. Praise all ideas and reward
team successes with theatre tickets, pizza at lunch or -
better yet - let them split a percentage of the money
their new ideas save the company.
to find ways to break up old cliques. A few hard-core
leaders may need to be moved or their jobs changed to
create a new power balance. If some employees sabotage
your attempts to create a new atmosphere, deal with them
quickly. Talk to them privately about what you see them
doing and ask for their cooperation. If repeated
conversations fail to get the desired result, begin to
document their lack of cooperation and warn them that
they could lose their jobs. As much as you would hate to
lose an experienced worker, you can’t afford to let them
scare off new talent that is the future lifeblood of
you can crack this case, you will create the kind of
healthy corporate culture that will encourage the old
and new employees to work together to help your company
Open door policy is the key success for manager
July 2, 2015
was recently promoted to a supervisory position over my
unit. There really isn’t much of a supervisory training
program at my company so I’ve been teaching myself
through books and the like.
thing that I know is very important is to keep an “open
door” policy. The problem I have with this idea is that
every manager I have had in the past has said he had it
but no one ever used it. People were hesitant to
approach the boss with problems or just to talk because
of some of the problems it caused.
have a good relationship with my unit after having
worked with them for seven years as their peer and then
the backup supervisor. They seemed to feel good about
coming to me then but I’m concerned that the open
communication will soon end as I take over as their
boss. Do you have any suggestions?
can see why you were promoted. You care about the right
things! One of the most important jobs of a supervisor
is to stay close to his or her employees. Managers who
lose touch lose out - in low productivity, morale
problems and lack of commitment among workers.
Employees don’t listen to what their manager says, they
watch what their manager does. An “Open Door Policy” is
only as good as the manager behind the door.
have a good history with your work unit but that doesn’t
mean they aren’t watching you like a hawk for any
changes in your leadership style. They know you have
always been under someone else’s wing and now your own
personal style will finally emerge.
are some ideas to consider:
When an employee comes to you with a complaint, spend
more time listening than talking. Ask the employee many
questions about why he or she is concerned and how this
is negatively affecting them. Ask what they have done to
try to resolve the issue. Then ask “How can I help you?”
If you feel that your intervention is important and
essential, discuss how you might help.
careful, however, that you aren’t jumping in where you
shouldn’t. Often, employees will test a new boss to see
where the new line is drawn. Don’t take their problems
on your shoulders if they haven’t done all they can to
try to solve the problem on their own first. For
example, don’t get trapped into playing dad or mom when
employees complain to you about some work issue
involving their co-workers. Encourage them to discuss
conflicts with each other individually or in team
When an employee comes to you with a personal problem,
stay objective. There is a fine line between being
empathetic and being sympathetic. If, for example, an
employee is going through a divorce and she is telling
you messy details, don’t commiserate or offer advice.
Instead, listen empathetically and respond with comments
such as, “That must have been really tough for you.”
Avoid making judgments such as, “He really is a rat. I
couldn’t stand being married to someone like that. If I
were you ...” You never know how your words will be
repeated and to whom.
You open yourself to other problems when you get too
deeply involved in someone else’s personal life. For
example, the employee who is going through a divorce may
expect you to “understand” when she starts having an
Keep confidences. Nothing will slam that “open door”
faster than betraying a promise. For example, if an
employee has a problem with another manager in a
different department and he comes to you for
confidential advice, don’t jump the gun by calling that
manager and explaining the whole situation. Stay out of
it and coach your employee to take some action on his
However, if an employee reveals something to you that
you know you must act on, be honest about what you must
do and why.
you find out that an employee has made a serious
mistake, don’t explode. Chances are, the employee feels
as horrible as you do and doesn’t need a finger wagged
in his face. Instead, call the employee in and ask him
what happened and why. Ask him what he is going to do
about solving the problem. Resist the urge to solve it
yourself. If you snatch the project away from your
employee, you’ll demoralize him and punish him instead
of treating him as he should be treated - like an adult
who needs to solve his own problems.
situations are where you’ll show your true style.
Employees will study and remember how you react in these
situations and will forget everything else. If you blow
someone’s head off, don’t be surprised if they treat you
as if you always have a loaded gun ... behind a closed
of these ideas have a common theme. Treat your employees
as independent adults who may need coaching and a
friendly ear but not a parent or a psychologist. If you
do, your door will never be a barrier to open, honest
Meetings present a maze of problems
June 25, 2015
If you want to get the most out of the meetings you
lead, you must know how to manage different situations
as they come up. Any group of people working together
will bring a wide range of needs and abilities that you
can direct, much like a traffic cop at a busy
Before we look at some problem situations, let’s
consider the important leadership characteristics that
establish a healthy, participative atmosphere. Without
these, your meeting may never get off the ground.
Don’t be a road hog. Let them do at least 76 percent of
the talking, or more.
Don’t use your meetings to get on your pulpit or podium.
Be positive and encouraging by looking for the merit in
people’s comments and by encouraging incomplete, unusual
or hesitant ideas.
Protect members from
Nothing will choke off participation faster than
immediate evaluation or put-downs. This protection
includes allowing everyone to get in their “two cents
worth.” Be honest and good humored about admitting your
mistakes and not having all the answers. Don’t be afraid
to tell the group when you’re upset, tired, distracted
or in doubt. Being human can build trust and
credibility. If you do, the group will stay on your
Paraphrase and clarify
when all else fails, these two techniques will probably
save you. They are key, meeting-leading skills.
let’s look at some familiar problems and how to handle
them, as discussed in the book, “How to Make Meetings
Work,” by Michael Doyle and David Straus.
Avoid the temptation to fill the void. Wait for a while.
If nothing happens, ask the group what the problem is.
People may be confused, bored, lost or deep in thought.
Don’t be a mind-reader, and never assume.
for suggestions on what to do next. If nothing is
offered, make a suggestion yourself and check out their
acceptance. Or, ask each individual for his or her
thoughts at the moment.
may be a good time to summarize what has happened up to
this point. You might even suggest a short stretch or
break, or ask them if it’s time to move on to the next
point. The important thing is to stay on their
everyone talks at once, good ideas are lost and nothing
is accomplished. Say, “Hold it, everybody. We will
accomplish much more if one person speaks at a time.”
Sometimes people are impatient and excited, or afraid an
idea will be lost if it isn’t blurted out. Deal with the
interrupter immediately. People will be watching to see
if you protect their right to speak.
Don’t play favorites, either, even if the interrupter is
a VIP. You could say, “Please hold on to your idea a
moment, Frank. Let’s let Mary finish what she was
Ramblers love meetings. They can smell a meeting from a
department away. They often use this forum to voice
complaints or share their years of experience.
may have a lot of good ideas to offer, but lose them on
a restless audience. Force yourself to listen for a
useful idea. Then, wait for a natural pause or break,
confirm your understanding of the point in the story and
ask someone else for an opinion.
important to hear conflicting viewpoints, but when
someone’s idea or personality is attacked, it’s time to
blow the whistle.
Paraphrase the attacker’s idea, but leave out the
personal references. Attack: “Where did you get an idea
like that? You obviously haven’t had any experience
dealing with that department.”
paraphrased response: “Let’s make sure we are capturing
your criticisms. You feel that this suggestion is
unrealistic and unworkable?”
Sometimes people are hesitant to state an objection.
Whispering to someone nearby can destroy the
concentration and trust in your meeting.
directly at the conversers. If that doesn’t work, say,
“It looks like you have some ideas on this. Would you
like to share them with the group?” Don’t embarrass
them, or the group may protect them and turn against
someone is silent, doodling or reading, don’t play
“gotcha" by saying, “What do you think about that,
Claudia?” She may be thinking about the problem at hand
or preoccupied. Perhaps she shouldn’t even be there if
she has no interest in the discussion.
could try to bring her into the discussion by saying,
“Claudia, I’d like to hear your ideas on this. I’ll give
you a moment to think. How about you, Jerry?”
Ego and leadership - do you know any OE types?
June 18, 2015
“It’s all about Charlie,” my colleague muttered, as we
waited for him once again for a meeting. “He never
thinks about anyone else’s schedule; his is always more
important - and he’ll let you know it.”
Fifteen minutes later, with a few quick jokes and a
dazzling smile, he swept into the room. Before long he
was on his email, and then stepped out to take a call.
What’s going on here?
strength is a necessary character trait for leadership,
but it can be a career derailer if it’s not in balance
with other behaviors such as empathy and collaboration.
Over time, Charlie’s self-absorbed behavior will erode
the support of his colleagues, no matter how well he
performs his job.
do you recognize an over-developed ego? It feels like
arrogance, if you’re on the receiving end. The
over-developed ego - I’ll call it the OE type - will
typically jump in and out of meetings, disrupting the
agenda. He or she will take calls during a one-on-one
conversation. The OE will steer meetings to outcomes
they want, blowing past other’s ideas. Often, the OE
will have a larger than life personality, and sometimes
that manifests in charm and charisma, other times the OE
type acts like a bully. Either way, they aim to win.
types with talent often rise to the top of their field.
They brush off rejection and failure - in fact, they
barely notice it - as they single-mindedly plow ahead
toward their goals. That works to a point and it’s
particularly useful in an individual contributor role,
like sales. But when they find themselves in a position
of leadership, it can begin to unravel.
Rather than listen to other’s views about why something
won’t work, he or she will push it through anyway.
Resistance from the troops - both active and passive -
will stall implementation.
Rather than share the credit with those who deserve it,
he or she will wear the team’s results like a personal
badge. Team resentment builds and initiative and
Peers, who have grown tired of disrespectful behavior
toward themselves and their teams, will tend to
passively watch the OE make a mistake, rather than jump
in with corrective, honest feedback. They have learned
it isn’t heard or heeded anyway, so why try to bail him
or her out?
Senior management, who is wowed with the OE’s star
quality, will eventually have to face up to the OE’s
“dark side.” If the OE’s bad behavior results in losing
high potential employees, peer complaints, or lack of
support for the OE’s upward promotability, the senior
leaders will have to deal with that fallout. Ultimately,
the OE’s career will stall or derail.
The OE tends to hold many jobs in his or her career.
Usually, they interview well and make a big splash
early. But over time, they get themselves into trouble
with comments and actions the culture rejects.
Sometimes the OE will have a life-changing event that
will force him or her to look in the mirror. Sometimes
they will benefit from an external coach, who is tough
enough to call them on their behavior and teach them new
approaches. If they are lucky, they will get a good
manager who will call out the inappropriate behavior and
mentor them to the greatness they are capable of if they
can just get out of their own way.
Ten questions that will encourage open, positive
June 11, 2015
was recently promoted to a senior executive position in
my company. I have worked with most of my direct
subordinates for many years as their peer and now I find
myself in the role of their boss.
Fortunately, my relationship with them is very good. My
concern is that I must evaluate them at the end of the
year and complete their performance review. Please be
assured that I am not hesitant to give them honest
feedback on a regular basis. What bothers me is that I
prefer not to do a formal evaluation; I want to use the
opportunity to build our new relationship and establish
myself as more of a coach.
These people are all experienced, senior managers and
are good performers. They would resent close scrutiny of
their work and a “performance review,” yet, I want to
set a good example and encourage them to hold coaching
sessions with their employees. I find that evaluations
tend to cause defensiveness and hard feelings, with an
over-emphasis on the negative. What would you suggest?
sound as if you know the difference between managing and
leading; it’s no wonder you have a good relationship
with your team.
are not alone in doubting the value of an annual
performance review. There is new thinking about the
purpose of a review and whether or not it is really a
helpful exercise, particularly if it is the only
feedback an employee receives each year. It is much more
motivating for employees to have built-in measurements
(and coaching) in their jobs, which allows them to know
how they are doing at all times in relation to the goal.
Leaders like you know that coaching and feedback should
occur all year long. The performance review should be
nothing more than a summary of the year’s growth and
experiences and an opportunity to set expectations and
new goals for the coming year.
recommend that you hold a two-way discussion with each
of them. It will give you a chance to build your new
relationship. They will be wondering what kind of leader
you will be and they may be anxious to see if you will
change your stripes in your new job.
set the tone, give them some questions like the
following. These questions are designed to create a
positive discussion that will stay focused on the right
What did you do that you are most proud of this past
What was your biggest challenge?
What was your biggest disappointment?
If you had to do it over again, what would you do
What did you find to be the most stimulating and caused
you to grow the most?
What was the most fun?
What are you looking forward to doing in the new year?
What worries you the most about the coming year?
What would you like to say about your performance one
year from now?
How can I help you? (What would you like me to do more
of, less of, the same?)
Is your inability to delegate holding your employees and
June 5, 2015
is a star in her new job. In fact, she’s so good, her
boss has promoted her to a managerial position just one
year after she took over as marketing director of a
really love my job,” she said during our recent lunch,
“but I realize I have a lot to learn about managing,”
she confessed. “My employees are asking me for more
responsibility and yet I hesitate to delegate the grunt
work and I end up doing it all myself ... besides, it
takes longer to explain it than to do it. My boss is
thrilled with my results and I don’t want to do anything
to mess that up with him.”
has always been a sole performer who has had total
control over her own work. The shift to delegating part
of her work feels uncomfortable because she feels
accountable for the results and she wants it done right.
Like most new managers, she thinks that “letting go”
means being irresponsible.
employees are lucky; Mary is smart enough to recognize
her need to learn new skills. Managers, who don’t learn
to delegate effectively, end up with employees who feel
unchallenged and resentful. These managers tend to
plateau at the first level of supervision and wonder why
their To Do Lists are a mile long and their employees
Here’s what I told Mary: Your need to be in ultimate
control could be your undoing. Your boss won’t think you
are a star for long if you can’t “off load” your routine
work to make room for new, more challenging assignments.
Managers who are reluctant to delegate for fear of
“dumping” on their employees are missing the point.
Employees who are worth their salt want to help their
boss. In fact, bosses who treat their employees as
partners in their projects are not seen as "dumpers"
they are seen as “developers.”
Perfectionists like Mary have a hard time delegating.
Part of the challenge of supervising others is knowing
how to back off and let your employees complete tasks in
their own way. They may even discover a better way to do
good place to start is to take a look at your To Do List
each week and check the tasks that are routine or fairly
straightforward. Even though it takes time to explain
WHAT, WHY AND WHEN, it is a long-term investment because
next time there will be no need for an explanation.
careful about the HOW. It’s fine to describe how you’ve
done the task in the past but make sure your employees
know they are expected to find new and better approaches
whenever they can. Peering over their shoulders or
re-doing their work will discourage and anger them (“If
she wanted it done her way, why didn’t she just do it in
the first place?”).
is tricky. Spell out the results up front and set up
interim meetings to coach and advise. Otherwise, keep
your hands off. Ask yourself, “Does their result do the
job?” instead of “Is it exactly as I would have done
task requires a lot of judgment or decision-making or a
senior manager has asked you to personally complete an
assignment, don’t delegate it. The same is true of a
project that has high visibility with an element of
risk; don’t toss the hot potato to your employee unless
they are well prepared for the job and the visibility
could do them some good.
it very clear how much authority they have in the given
task, so your employees don’t have to ask you for your
approval at each step. If you let your employees have
some decision-making authority, they will take more
responsibility for their work because the end result
will be their own.
you only delegate the junk and keep the good stuff for
yourself, your employees will become bored, and what’s
worse, they will feel that you don’t trust them to do
the “important” work. And if your employees can’t do at
least some of the "important" work, you are to blame. A
manager’s responsibility is to expose employees to more
and more complex assignments so they learn to handle
are ultimately responsible for tasks you delegate so
don’t blame them when things go wrong. Find out why and
look for ways to avoid making the same mistake again.
And don’t delegate with an apologetic tone. They aren’t
doing you a favor; you are giving them to chance to find
challenge in their work and growth in their careers.
New teams need coaching
May 28, 2015
Many companies are implementing a “team” approach. They
are experimenting with natural teams, management teams,
self-directed teams, cross-functional teams, cells,
process teams and matrix teams. These approaches can
cause some exciting “wins” but they can also create a
lot of confusion and frustration, especially for
companies new at working this way.
instance, self-directed teams aren’t appropriate for
every company. And many companies are pursuing them as
the goal instead of identifying the goal that is best
for the customer and working backwards to figure out the
best structure to get it.
Another problem is that companies jump into
self-directed work teams too quickly, the workforce
usually isn’t prepared for it. And neither is
management. Too many companies simply deem a work group
“self-directed” send them to a few training classes and
then wonder why they aren’t taking responsibility. If
you were suddenly thrust into “taking more
responsibility” would you make a decision with little
information in a culture that traditionally blames the
person if it doesn’t work? If the culture isn’t modified
to support the teams, they will fail.
are some tips for guiding groups who are new at team
behavior and responsibilities:
1. Don’t just turn them loose. This is irresponsible and
will set them up to fail. Provide them with a seasoned
coach and mentor. Ideally, this person will be at a high
enough level to be their connection to the top of the
organization. This guardian angel can steer them clear
of political sinkholes and teach them how to gather
data, work across boundaries and sell a new idea. This
coach can also act as their liaison for setting up
training to build skills and for getting information
they need to make decisions.
When the team works on a project, give them a clear
picture of what you want and what the boundaries are.
Too often, well-meaning management decides to let an
inexperienced group solve a problem without giving them
any guidance and structure. Then the group process
breaks down or the solution is unrealistic or solves the
wrong problem. For inexperienced groups always provide a
Clarify what the authority limits are. Sometimes
managers in their haste to “empower” people send them
charging off to work on a problem only to find that the
solution isn’t acceptable. Now the managers feel that
they are held hostage and must accept the group’s
decision or risk looking non-supportive of empowerment.
and large, employees are adults who will work within the
limits you set. It’s irresponsible to presume that
employees who are inexperienced in working in teams will
hit home runs in their first game. Start out with
limited authority and work up to more freedom as they
gain experience. And don’t forget: You don’t ever have
to say yes. Just be honest and tell them the truth.
remember, the reason their solution is unrealistic may
be because they don’t know all the facts. It’s
management’s job to provide them what they need to make
the best decision. That’s why pairing up inexperienced
teams with experienced people can work well.
Don’t do it for them. One of the most difficult things
traditional managers need to learn in this new
environment is to let the employees do it. If they ask
questions guide them to find out the answers for
themselves. If they stumble don’t grab the work and do
it yourself so it’s done “right.” Use it as a teaching
opportunity and let them fix it. If they need
information from another department, let them go get it.
It’s the only way they can learn good judgment and feel
a sense of ownership.