Category Archives: encouragement

The Project: Bonus Behavior

bonus

This is the third in a series of articles detailing some of the management behaviors that took place while a certain department was working on a very labor-intensive project.  This won’t be detailing the project specifically, but how management handled the stresses on the department resulting from the project.

It was in one of the team’s staff meetings that Sarah announced that Ilene, for all her hard work on the project, was to receive a bonus.  With great fanfare, she presented Ilene with the bonus, thanking her for all her hard work.

The staff clapped for Ilene, for not to do so would have attracted Sarah’s attention, and nobody wanted that.  It wasn’t that Ilene didn’t deserve the bonus. She did.  She had worked many hours as the primary person on the project.  Always known for her good cheer, she was popular with her peers, and was always ready to pitch in to help one of her fellow co-workers.  No, it wasn’t that Ilene was either disliked or didn’t deserve the award that caused the undercurrent of tension in the conference room applause.

Then what was it?  It was the face that Ilene alone was being singled out for a bonus for her work.  Many of the staff felt that the only way Ilene was able to head this project was that many of her duties had been temporarily shuttled to other people in the department.  Thus, while Ilene had her hands full with the project, the other staff members, already burdened with the work in their job, now were faced with additional responsibilities that they were accountable for.  This led to extra hours, staying late, working night and weekends, and some very stressed and tired people.

Even this would have been overlooked by the staff if they had also received some recognition for their efforts.  They hadn’t, and that bothered them.  If you just walked in and heard Sarah, everything was done by Ilene and she managed to do everything related with the project without any assistance whatsoever.

The staff didn’t even look to monetary rewards, though that would have been nice.  They were reasonable people, and being such, recognized that the department didn’t have the financial resources to hand out checks to everyone from the department who helped out in some way.  The management and leadership, though, didn’t even offer a hearty handshake to them to thank them for their efforts.  Instead, they were just given more work to do and the expectation was set that it had to get done.

What could have management and leadership done?  How about each area head take their group out to lunch on the company to thank the staff?  How about giving one half day off to each member who took on some of Ilene’s work during the project?  How about an ice cream social for the teams as a thank you, and then announcing they had the rest of the day off, and management would cover the office for the rest of the day?

No, none of that was done.  Management had made one person, Ilene, very happy, and made the rest of the staff feel as if they didn’t matter whatsoever.  Morale would sink ever lower, people would get frustrated and leave, and management would shake their head and wonder why.  After all, didn’t they just give Ilene a bonus to show their gratitude?  They would continue with their blinders, confident that they were managing things well.

As for the staff?  Well, they probably would be told that they didn’t appreciate anything management did for them, even when management didn’t do squat.

A Little Support Goes a Long Way

Help and Support Sign

As I approach my 200th post in this blog, I thought I would shake things up a bit and present a story of a truly good manager and the lessons that this manager’s actions hold for all the Sarahs and Maxines in the management and leadership ranks.

Mitch was understandably depressed.  Having received yet another rejection for a job he applied and interviewed for, he began to question what was wrong with him. Was it his approach?  His appearance?  His talk or mannerisms during the interview?  His age?   He really wanted to know, but most of the recruiters he spoke with would not provide him with anything more than the legally approved and safe, “You just weren’t right for the job”.  He smiled a bitter smile at all the ‘experts’ out there who say that you are supposed to be brave enough to get feedback on yourself so you can do better the next time.  How can you do that if the employers won’t give you anything more than the standard answer?

He wanted feedback on his search to have Sarah’s organization be one he saw in the rear-view mirror of his life.  He was following all the advice.  He was trying to improve where he could and add to his professional and experiential credentials wherever possible.  It all seemed for nothing, and he was tired and dejected.  He know somewhere, somehow, he would find the strength to go on, but at times like these, he wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm.

Mitch realized one of the advantages he had was that, unlike some of his friends, he was employed still, and grateful for that fact.  It also meant he had the advantage of speaking to people in the workplace who might be able to provide some insight on his professional demeanor, habits, and standing.  That advantage also proved a challenge, however.  Who could he speak with?  Who could he trust?  Who could he both gain some insight from and know that the conversation would be private?  After considerable thought, Mitch chose to ask Phil.

Phil was an executive in the company who didn’t act like an executive.  From a working class background, he had never left those sensibilities behind and really looked out for his people.  He had come to his standing honestly, and had a great amount of respect from those who worked for him.  Mitch had seen this early in Phil and had kept in touch with him throughout his career at the company.

Phil was delighted to hear from Mitch, and readily agreed to meet him for lunch.  After listening intently to the reasons Mitch wanted to speak with him, and understanding the confidentiality of the matter, he and Mitch began talking.  After the talk, Phil began his assessment of both the situation and of Mitch.

While Phil was distressed to hear what was going on with Mitch, he assured Mitch that, from his perspective, Mitch had a good number of strong gifts, and that from Phil’s vantage point, he used them well and professionally.  Based on his interactions with Mitch, Phil could see no glaring professional gaps in Mitch’s presentation, presence, or demeanor.  In other areas, he was honest when saying he didn’t see anything glaringly bad, but also had not interviewed Mitch, so could not be as sure that there weren’t issues.

Phil then went and examined the strengths that Mitch had, and asked Mitch to consider using those strengths in a different career path than Mitch had considered.  He laid out his argument that there were other callings out there where Mitch might be a worthy candidate, and some he might enjoy.  Phil promised to keep an eye out for these opportunities with his colleagues in other organizations, and encouraged Mitch to look for them himself.

Finally, Phil drew upon his own job hunting experiences, including the one to find his current position, and acknowledged it was a tough market out there.  The job doesn’t always go to the best or brightest or even the most qualified.  ‘It’s a numbers game, when you come down to it.’, was his advice on the matter, and told Mitch he had to keep up the fight and find that one special employer who would recognize all that Mitch had to offer.

Mitch thanked Phil warmly, with Phil wishing Mitch success and offering to meet on a regular basis to see what was happening.

Now, what just happened there?  It may look like a failure, as Mitch was no closer to finding a way out than at the beginning of the lunch.  Phil provided no instantaneous solutions or cures for Mitch.  Yet, what Phil did in that short span of time was an indicator of what made him such a good manager.

What he did was provide Mitch with two great gifts — hope and possibilities.  He took time to analyze Mitch’s attributes and give an analysis of them, not a cursory, ‘You’re just fine!’.  He took time to bolster Mitch’s resolve with stories of his own that related to Mitch’s situation.  He provided Mitch with new possibilities to explore that were good for Mitch, and opened up new vistas to explore.  In the big picture, Phil gave his time to Mitch and made Mitch the center of the universe over that lunch, which was something Mitch needed.

In doing that, Phil showed one of the greatest skills a manager can have…the ability to listen to and interact with their employees.  A manager who can put the employee at the center of their world for a short amount of time has employees who know they can trust and work with their manager, and thus want to work with their manager to achieve great things.  The goals are still the same, the work has not decreased one iota, and the manager hasn’t made any concessions.  Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.  The employee sees they matter to the manager, and that the manager is willing to listen and to brainstorm new possibilities and help the employee see their own potential.

A good manager helps every employee see the greatness within them, and then helps shepherd it to the forefront.  It is the best investment they can make in their staff.  Sadly, too many don’t want to do it.

 

Cast Adrift

Penguins Cast Adrift

It happened as it usually happens at the company.  The employee is called into his or her manager’s office and is told that they are no longer employees of the company.  The security guard is summoned, the employee’s keys, purse, or such is brought to them, and they are escorted out of the building.

Yet, this isn’t an article about that process.

A note is sent out to the staff informing them that the employee isn’t working there anymore.  There was no time for goodbyes, no time for a hug, and there is no invitation by the manager or anyone in leadership to come discuss how this firing might affect them.  And affect them it does.  Each time this ‘rip off the bandage’ approach is taken, it makes the employees who are left behind a little more nervous about their jobs, a little more wary to say anything, and never knowing if their turn will be next.  Seeing that the company really doesn’t have any secret information that could be accessed by the employee to give to competitors, the employees wonder why it has to be that way.  They are never given an answer.

Yet, this isn’t an article about why the process has to be that way.

The manager, of course, felt they had good reason to let go of the employee.  Maybe the employee was under performing.  Maybe they were put into a job that they simply couldn’t handle.  Maybe their conduct was less than professional.  At the same time, maybe it wasn’t any of these cases, but just a case where the employee was thrown into the job without proper training and was trying their best.  Maybe the employee was staying late or coming in early, or on weekends, as this particular employee was, in order to get the work done.  Maybe the employee deserved firing, or maybe they were running full out to try to be successful in a job where they could not if they stayed on the job 24 hours a day.

Yet, this isn’t an article about that type of unfairness.  Well, not really.

What this article is about is what did the manager do to help make this employee successful.

How many times have you heard the company you work in say that people are their most important asset?  How many times have you seen a manager of the company, their representative, back up that motto with any action?  If you have, and have seen it many times, make sure you go into your manager’s office and give them a very big ‘thank you’, as you definitely have a good manager.

In the case of the terminated employee, that motto wasn’t put into action.  There was no tangible action to help the employee succeed, either by truly looking at the workload and if it was feasible to do, whether the employee had the proper tools or training, whether what they expected the job to be really was what the job turned out to be, or whether it could be done by anyone, anytime.  No, the manager in question simply ignored the words and pleas from the employees regarding the workload, ignored the employee coming in on weekends to keep up with the work, and the evidence that the amount of work was simply overwhelming.  The employee could not do the job and that was that.

‘Your employees are your most important asset’…until you need to put some effort into them, and then it is too much of a burden, so you cast them adrift.  If this is the attitude that you take as a manager, or that the company encourages, don’t expect anyone to step up and give their all.  ‘All’ is not rewarded.  Trying your best is not rewarded.   They will give you the same amount of effort that you have given to them, nothing more, nothing less.

It’s time to change the company motto…Sink or Swim.

The Reorganization, Part II

complimentinsult

The staff filed into the conference room in anticipation of the words Sarah would speak to them soon.  She had sent out a meeting invitation to discuss her plans for reorganizing the department.  As she was new to the role, nobody knew if these simply meant reshuffling responsibilities or a wholesale gutting of the staff.  There was some tension among the group.

She began without preamble.  She told the group that there would be no layoffs in her plan.  She went on to say that she felt everyone was doing their jobs competently, so there was no need to replace anyone.  The tension in the room visibly eased, and there was some surprised mixed in to the emotional content.  Sarah was never one to give out compliments.  Criticism, yes.  Suggestions on how to do better, yes.  A genuine and unfettered compliment?  No.  Not really.

For that moment, the staff filled with some hope.  Maybe this was how Sarah would now lead in her new position.  Maybe she wold be more complimentary to her people.  Maybe, just maybe, she had realized that all her criticisms and micromanaging had lowered morale among the groups she managed, and now that she was in charge of the department, that she was having a change of heart and style.

That moment passed quickly with what Sarah said next.

With only a slight pause after extending the compliment to the staff, Sarah commented, “Yes, everyone is doing well.  You know if you weren’t I would have no reservation in letting you go.”  That sound you heard was the staff being snapped back to reality.  Now that she had power and nobody really for oversight, she had signaled that she would exercise that power with ruthless efficiency, firing those who did not live up to her standards without a look backward.

In the end, the reorganization would add a few new positions to the department, but offer no real growth for those who had labored hard all these years.  One or two people in existing positions might be getting a new title, but there was nothing to really strive for, or to want to achieve.

That was the lesson of the reorganization.  Do you job, don’t expect to go anywhere, and if you don’t, I won’t lose a minute of sleep in firing you.  It was not the recipe for a departmental staff to give a damn.  They would come in, do their same jobs, and do just want they had to in order not to be fired.

This was the beginning of Sarah’s legacy as leader.  Is it one you would want as a leader?

The Reorganization, Part 1

elitist

Carolyn sat in Sarah’s office presenting her view of what the organization should look like.  Sarah, since ascending to the leader’s position, had informed the department that she was going to make some changes, and invited the staff to share their ideas with her.  Carolyn had given this some thought, and had presented Sarah with a different spin on the department’s structure and its way of doing business.  Sarah thanked her for her submission and asked where Carolyn saw herself in this new scheme.  Carolyn had pointed to the spot recently vacated by Sarah, which would have been a promotion for her.

Sarah wrinkled her nose a bit, looked at Carolyn, and said, “I’m not sure about that.  I don’t think you are ready for it.”  Talking about this later, Carolyn had mentioned to colleagues how wonderful that one sentence had been for her morale and engagement in the department.  Was Carolyn qualified for the position?  Absolutely.  Her credential were impressive, her leadership experience deep, and she was well respected by the department.  This wasn’t about credential.  It was all about ego.

If Carolyn had known the history of Sarah and promotions, she still would have felt highly disengaged, but would have seen she was simply the latest in a long line of refusals by Sarah to believe anyone was ready for promotion, save for Sarah, of course.

Carolyn would have seen her own direct report, Mitch, who had proposed three times during his tenure with Sarah to receive a promotion.  Each time Sarah dismissed him with a wave of her hand, claiming he was ‘not ready’ for anything more than he was doing.  Even when an independent analysis by a consultant brought in by the department had shown Mitch was doing the job of his manager but not getting the role or pay for it, she would not budge.  She would have seen another member of the department, who after putting in 10 years in her function, be told she was not even going to be interviewed when her manager’s slot became open.  The employee left, taking with her valuable experience, and saying openly in her exit interview that the company promised promotional opportunities, but this department didn’t seem to care about its staff.  Now, Carolyn had seen this happen to her.  Nobody was ever ready in Sarah’s eyes, except for Sarah, of course.

A staff stays with a company for different reasons.  For some, it is a paycheck to get them from week to week.  They put in the requisite work, get their requisite pay, and leave.  Others come for the experience,and leave when they have received the experience they need.

A third group comes in wanting to make something of their time with the company, help it grow, and make it flourish.  Management and leadership time and time again are told they need to keep these people with the company, as they will be the ones who will help the company expand over the coming decades.  These people will work hard, dedicated themselves to their work, and be among the most loyal.

The company’s part of the bargain, however, is the also keep these people interested in staying.  This third group isn’t interested in staying in the same role for the rest of their lives.  They want to grow themselves as they grow the company.  A good leadership team and a good management team knows this and works towards making that happen.  They appreciate their people and do what they can to keep them where they can continue to help the company.

By denying that no one, except you, of course, is worthy of movement, the leader turns those loyal folks into those who just punch the clock and look for their next opportunity.  They fail at being good stewards of the company and are only looking out for their own interest.  Yes, the would be the first to scream if they didn’t get what they think they deserved, but blithely look beyond anyone else feeling that way.

Leadership like Sarah’s means that those who stay there will not be watching the company’s bottom line, but rather the clock.  They will show the exact same amount of loyalty to Sarah as she has shown to them.  She will have taught them well.  Sadly, the lesson will be look out for yourself and screw anyone else.

Lead on, Sarah.

Manners Make the Manager

 

 

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Sadie and Herb walked out of the vendor meeting wondering what just happened.  It was supposed to be a review with the vendor of the previous year and a discussion of how to improve the process for this year.  What they ended up with was an even greater pile of work.  Worse yet, the work was due to the ‘ideas’ that their department head, Ellen, had brought to the meeting and dumped at their feet without a look backward.

Ellen had never bothered to discuss with Sadie and Herb that this is part of what she wanted to discuss with the vendor.  She never had a pre-meeting debrief with them about what was on her agenda.  She wanted to be at the meeting; that was all they knew.  In short, she didn’t have the courtesy to let them know ahead of time so they could prepare.  It seems they were too unimportant for her to loop into the conversation.

Now, to be fair, Sadie and Herb knew Ellen always wanted to go further, push the envelope, and ‘keep things fresh’.  What she failed to realize was that, while keeping things fresh with new ideas and programs, she never removed anything from their already overburdened workload to make room for the new.  No, her staff was just supposed to find some time to do this, and do it well, or else Ellen would come down on them for doing sloppy work, and brook no excuses for it.

There was never the one question that they longed to hear from Ellen’s lips.  That question?  “Do you have enough capacity to handle these new items?”

Now, you may say that Sadie and Herb should be more proactive with Ellen and tell her that they simply can’t handle the work based on what they have.  The short answer is that they have.  Multiple times.  With a wave of her hand, Ellen has dismissed these comments with one statement.  “You can handle it.  You simply aren’t efficient enough.”  At times, she would deign to spend ten minutes with them, show them what they were doing wrong from her ‘expert analysis’, and breeze away, assured she had managed the situation well and that they now had the bandwidth to handle the burden.  In the wake of Hurricane Ellen, Sadie, Herb, and the rest of the department would be faced with picking up the wreckage that she had created.

Leadership means making your people more important than yourself.  It means creating an atmosphere where your people feel they can do great things.  It means hearing them when they say that are overburdened.  It means respecting them enough to have the conversation with them about your next steps, especially when it means they will have a greater workload.  Leadership means showing respect for the people who are going to make you look good day in and day out.

Leadership does not mean throwing work on them, being inconsiderate of their concerns, using trite phrases to dismiss them blithely, and then patting yourself on the back for being such a ‘good leader’.  If that is what you think a leader is, then enjoy the self-deception, for nobody you manage will think many good things about you or your style.

A good leader has the good sense and the good manners to know their people come first.  How are your manners?

Engaging in Illogic

gameshow

Hey Everyone!  It’s time for that new game that’s sweeping that nation, “Where’s the Logic”!  I’m your host, Chuck Lotsofteeth.  Let’s meet tonight’s contestant, a department in a company, both wishing to remain anonymous, for reasons which will become painfully obvious.

This department in question recently learned its scores on the company’s employee engagement survey.  Like most surveys, there were areas for celebration, and areas where the department could have done much better.  One of those areas for improvement was the pervasive feeling that employees could not speak freely.  They did not feel it was a safe-to-say environment.  The department leadership decided to focus on this, and began a discussion on how to fix the perception.

“Why don’t we put together focus groups to discuss why they don’t feel it is a safe to say environment”, one manager suggested.

Let’s pause here to ask…WHERE’S…THE…LOGIC!

Let’s see.  The people of the department have indicated that many of them don’t feel it is a safe-to-say environment.  So, what are you, dear manager, proposing?  Let’s get together in a group to openly discuss why we can’t discuss things openly.  How successful do you think this is going to be?

As the brainstorming continued, another manager brought up the idea that each group in the department should hold a meeting where the employees could openly discuss with the manager what the manager’s faults were.  This would clear up any misconceptions and solve the problem.

Once again, let’s ask…WHERE’S…THE…LOGIC!

It’s not a big leap of logic to believe that those who feel they cannot speak openly are those who fear their manager will engage in an act of reprisal.  Whether that manager is their direct supervisor or someone who has some power in the department, those people are the ones who can adversely affect an employee’s career.  What does this manager want to do?  Have those self-same employees openly criticize their manager.  The silence will be deafening.  Doesn’t it make sense that if the employees felt they could do this, there wouldn’t be a safe-to-say problem?

Sorry, leadership, but you will have to come up with better than the same old solution if you want to fix this issue.  First, start by looking inward and do some self-reflection.  Ask yourself, ‘is it me’?  Then, find a way to get to the truth that will provide safety to your employees.  We have some lovely consolations prizes for you.

Join us next time on “Where’s the Logic”, where we always are unafraid to ask, and where it is always safe to say!

The Stiff Wind

In my last blog, I talked about Nelson, who had been asked to provide some training in a technology that his department head thought could help boost the visibility of the department, and help it meet its goals an objectives.  That blog talked about Harriet, his manager, and how she had hijacked his presentation, as she had done on multiple occasions to various colleagues.  There was another, separate issue that hung over the room during that particular session, however.

The department head seemed to like Nelson’s presentation.  She complimented it during the meeting, and thanked Nelson personally for taking the time to put it together.  Yet, her comments during the meeting revealed that, although she would say one thing, her old prejudices still had a tight grip on her.

One of the reasons why the department head has asked Nelson to give this demonstration was because he had shown a proficiency in teaching technical topics to various audiences.  He had even been hired because of his comfort with technical topics and his ability to translate them into language that everyday employees could understand.  Yet, after several years of being exclusive in this particular category, he was beginning to tire of it.  He needed to stretch, to grow, to expand his universe.

He had opportunities to do so, from time to time.  Staffing shortages, interim periods, crunch times.  During those situations, he had been called upon to teach something else but technical topics.  He believed he had acquitted himself well, and his attendees had rated him highly.  He knew he could always improve, but with each class, he believed he was improving, and proving himself to be more than what he was hired to be.  Moreover, each time he taught one of these classes, he had given himself a reprieve from burning out.  In an economy that wasn’t fully recovered after five years, very few could afford to up and quit.  That did not mean he would always have a job, especially if the burnout had begun to show in his job performance.

It had been a long road, but Nelson had, class by class, created a reputation of being able to teach topics that didn’t require a mouse, keypad, or computer program.  He just wished that the department head was able to see this.  When, in the meeting, she mentioned that, if anyone needed assistance with some professional skills training, they were more than welcome to contact Harriet, Nelson saw that much of his work had been for naught.  It was not that the staff could contact Nelson or Harriet.  No, they could contact Harriet…period.  If they had technical questions, they were more than welcome to contact Nelson.  The walls were still there, never to be scaled, and never to be broken down.  Nelson sighed, packed up his equipment, and shuffled back to his desk, wondering when he would be so burned out that he could not even keep up the pretense of enjoying his work.

Any job applicant will attest to the fact that companies boast the fact that they want to grow their employees.  Phrases like ‘develop from within’, ‘hire from within’, and ‘create bench strength’ are widespread on company websites and in company literature.  As the story above relates, sometimes it stays on the literature and never makes it into corporate culture.

The management ranks will say that it is the employee’s primary responsibility to develop themselves.  After all, the manager cannot take the class for the employee, can they?  While this is true, managers have a big part to play in the employee’s development.  Beyond allowing it to happen, they also have to be open for the employee to grow.  If a manager has mentally slotted the employee in a niche, and the manager never expands that thinking, no matter what the employee does, they won’t be able to grow in the company.   A manager with a limited imagination can be as devastating to an employee as the lack of funds or the lack of ambition on the employee’s part.  Leadership has to open their own mind to the possibilities of their people in order to allow that growth to happen.  They have to see the employee in a new light.  They have to take off the blinders.

If you have ever tried to walk against the wind on a particularly windy day, you know that you make very little progress in the face of such stiff resistance.  The wind is unyielding.  After a while, you tire and find shelter, hoping to either get your own second wind, or waiting out the wind storm.

Good management should be the wind at the backs of their employees, not the one that is impeding their every step.  Want to be that enabling wind?  Throw out your preconceptions.  View your employees in a new light.  Allow them to see new vistas.  Live up to what is on that website and brochure.

You, dear manager, might find a whole new group of people you never thought existed.

Hijacked!

Nelson knew that, as presentations went, this one was nothing special.  Still, when the head of the department asks for you to give a presentation on how a piece of technology might be able to help you reach your customer base better, you give the presentation.  The time frame given to him to prepare was short, but he made the most of his time and was ready when the time came.

The presentation started out pretty much like Nelson had expected.  Then, about 1/4 of the way in, his manager, Harriet, whispered to him to mention a certain feature of the program.   Nelson gave some quick, but silent thought on this request.  Harriet had been there when the department head had requested Nelson present, so she knew what the department head wanted to learn.  Why then would Harriet ask Nelson to discuss something that was completely off the topic?  Regardless, Harriet was his manager, so he dutifully discussed the item and then veered back towards his presentation.

Until she once again asked him to discuss another feature of the product.  Again, it was completely off topic and cut into Nelson’s time, but he discussed it and once again veered back to the topic at hand.  Realizing his time constraint, and that he had other topics to present, he judiciously cut what he was going to say.

The third time Harriet interrupted, she didn’t ask for him to discuss something, but for him to cede control to her so she could present the topic herself.  Wanting to avoid any unpleasantness, he did as she asked, and then silently fumed as she went along happily discussing what she wanted to discuss, burning up his allotted time with her topics.  Even the head of the department weighed in on Nelson’s side, indicating that Nelson had other items to present and that time was growing short.  Nelson politely asked to take control of the presentation back, hurriedly finished the other topics, and packed up.

As he was packing up, some of his colleagues stopped by to either ask him what Harriet was thinking or to offer him sympathy.  This was not the first time that Harriet had hijacked a presentation that was someone else’s.  She had a long history of taking over, uninvited, a presentation, a meeting, or gathering that was clearly the property of someone else, merrily careening along while the other person sat and steamed.  She, most of the time, was perfectly oblivious to this, thinking she was helping the person.  In truth, she was alienating a lot of folks in the department.

For Nelson, this presentation was certainly not a make or break situation.  Still, the fact that the head of the department, in full view of Harriet, had asked him to make this presentation meant that he had some stake in this issue.  Harriet, by hijacking it, had cut into not only his time, but his demonstrating his ability to run part of a meeting seamlessly and with authority.

Maybe you think you are only ‘helping’, or that you simply want to contribute to the conversation.  What you are being perceived as, however, is someone who cannot have the spotlight fall on someone else.  You must get into the action and make the audience know that you are there and a force to be reckoned with.  When this happens to someone you manage, you send out an even more dire message — I don’t trust you to do this alone and am going to ‘save’ you from yourself.

You don’t have to be the kid who was in the greatest number of yearbook photos in order to impress your management.  You don’t need to diminish someone else’s worth because you think you need to enhance your own.  People need to succeed or fail on their own.  A good manager knows when to let go of the bicycle and allow their employees or colleagues to ride solo.  They will run along side of the person, be ready to help if they think the person is going to fall, but knows how to step back and just be a participant.

A good manager knows when to stand just outside of the spotlight and simply applaud.

All You Do is Wave Goodbye

Author’s Note: This blog is the first in a series regarding development within a department and the role management has to develop their people.  While the topic has been covered previously in this blog, a few recent stories have come to me that indicated the subject was ripe for further investigation.

It was the third time in as many months that the same phrase was heard.  The phrase, “I’m leaving my job” was first uttered by an administrative assistant in the department who went to another part of the company because of a better job offer.  The second time was a mid-level employee who was quitting the department and company altogether for a better job offer.  The third person had just announced to her supervisor that she was pursuing the former job of the first ‘quitter’ because it offered more money and it would get her on a better track to job improvement.  Or, in other words, a better job offer.

The third employee’s supervisor sighed and said she understood.  She realized it was a small unit within the department with very little chance of upward mobility, though the supervisor herself had managed to get a promotion about a year ago.  There would only be movement if there was someone in that unit that left or was dismissed from their position.  It was a recipe for a revolving door.

Taking a broader view, the department had already lost two employees to someone else, and while the third employee wasn’t looking on leaving the department at present, she was going to leave her current job for the same reason…no chance for advancement.  Who knows how many others were looking to leave the department, but had not found the right opportunity yet.

Management’s reaction to each one of these real or possible departures?  Oh well, we’ll miss you.  No exploration of why the person was leaving, no asking them to stay, no negotiation…nothing.  Just a wave goodbye and a dab of the eye with a tissue.  Even when an employee was bold enough to explain why they were leaving, the reasons were buried in statistics about departures from the company as a whole.

Why do people leave a company?  There are many reasons, of course.  The old adage, “People join companies but leave managers” is a popular and justified one.  It could be the company itself doesn’t care about their people and is simply a bad company.  It could be that the person is simply restless, even though the company itself is comparatively good to them.  It could also be that, once the person is in their job, the company does nothing to keep them there.

  • How could a company and its management do that?
  • Keep the job interesting with new assignment, varied duties, and interesting opportunities
  • Don’t just say the company prefers to hire from within, but live those words, showing how much you respect the corporate family
  • Encourage employees to submit new job descriptions that would vary their work
  • Align work to the employee’s strengths instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole
  • Prepare the employee for the next level and then ascend them to it

Sadly most companies don’t do this, but are more interested in filling a hole, and once it is filled, ignoring the person.  As long as the work is getting done, don’t worry about the occupant of the position.  They are expendable.  You can always find another one of them.  So what if it costs upward of $75,000 to onboard a new person in the position.  It’s the company’s money, right?  The only time job growth seems to come with this short-sighted attitude is when management themselves want to move to the next rung of the ladder.  Then it seems to be important.

I once had a manager who believed that job growth was the sole province of the employee.  What I tried to tell her many times was that without the support of management, that growth will never come.  Keeping an employee engaged and wanting to stay in a company is a partnership between the employee and management.  Both have to bring something to the process in order for it to work.  Good managers realize this and do what they can to encourage growth.  Other managers just sit back and use empty words like, ‘it is up to the employee to do everything’.

Without that partnership.  Without management taking an active role in the development of their people, the employees will take those steps alone.  Most of the time, however, those steps will be right out the door.