by Bill, Leadership, Management

Leaders Need to Be In the Moment

No Comments 06 April 2014

In the last month I have had fairly strong conversations with three coaching clients about their growing tendency to “multi-task” while in meetings, including one on ones with team members or other business partners. Specifically, I’m referring to the tendency to allow an e-device (phone, tablet, or monitor) to occupy a seat at the table equal to or greater than the humans.

 

First things first, a disclosure. I’m rather partial to my devices, too. In fact, in a recent university management class lecture I remarked that, as with Charlton Heston and his guns, my iPhone would have to be pried from my cold, dead hands.

 

Not unlike those who sneak a peek at their watch during church services, it wasn’t that long ago that meeting participants would occasionally take a quick glance at a device that was secreted below the table on their lap. A quick tap or two, and it was back to the business at hand. No more. Today, the ringing, beeping, reading, tapping, typing, and yapping are all out in the open. It’s as if we’re suggesting that we can listen (really listen) to and converse meaningfully with others around us while we’re occupied with tangential or wholly unrelated matters streaming from our e-devices. Sure we can… And pigs can fly, too.

 

 

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

To those who would argue that they’ve got a special multi-channel port installed in their head that allows simultaneous parsing of disparate input, I say, “Fine, I don’t believe you, but I’ll give you the argument.” But what you cannot do is prevent or mitigate the utter disrespect for the people around you caused by the clear suggestion that you’ve got better things to do than listen to them at that moment.

 

While such behavior may have become more commonly accepted, it is no less rude or injurious to relationships.

So, not to put too fine a point on it, we either need an industrial-sized vat of Ritalin in every conference room, or the discipline to turn the damned things off when we’re supposed to be listening and conversing with others. And, as we’ve heard from hundreds of flight attendants, “Off means off.” Here are a few related thoughts:

 

 

1. Try to be a little more mindful about when you do and do not engage with others in the workspace. If someone pops the proverbial, “have you got a minute?” question, and the reality is that you really don’t at that point in time, consider responding to the effect that you want to be able to give them your undivided attention, and seek a mutually agreeable time to meet.

 

2. If you are running a meeting, make it a point to visibly turn your device off at the opening, thus sending a pretty clear message throughout the room.

 

3. On the premise that even some of us Boomers can still “hold our water” longer than we can hold a cold device, build sufficient break time into meetings so as to allow participants to visit the restroom AND reconnect with their devices, without having to do so simultaneously.

 

What’s in it for you as a leader? First, you will likely find that meetings are a lot more efficient when unencumbered by the dawdling and awkward pauses that are caused by various participants reconnecting with the meeting after their device dalliance. More importantly, over time you will earn considerable respect as one who actually listens and is “in the moment” with people when you’re meeting with them. That alone is worth the price of admission.

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  A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

 

 

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by Bill, Management

Be As Judicious About Adding Headcount at Work as You Are at Home

No Comments 27 March 2014

By many measures, the U.S. economy is in spring-like mode, pushing up new green shoots and showing greater signs of vitality. Consumer confidence is up. Ditto for hotel occupancies and rates, manufacturing output (yes, we still make stuff here, e.g., Shinola.com), and corporate profits. Have you noticed the stock market? And, dare I say, hiring shows signs of strengthening.

 

On that last point, I’m going to go a little counter-cyclical with the advice. Hire ‘em if you need ‘em, but hire slowly and thoughtfully, for two reasons:

  1. The decision as to who does and does not wind up on an organization’s payroll is arguably the single most important decision any manager has to make. The differences between slugs, stars, and misfits are many, they are usually predictable, and they inevitably wind up in the laps of coworkers, customers, and shareholders alike. So take the time to use a robust, thoughtful selection process. Remember, there are no mulligans in this game.
  2. Unless you just don’t care about your reputation as a place to work, hiring thoughtfully also means being just as sure as you can be that the need for this person isn’t going to go away any time soon. If any reasonable doubt does exist, our advice is to hold off on hiring pending better visibility, and opt for stretching existing resources via overtime or contractors. The damage that occurs to your employment brand from bingeing and purging is considerable, and again, it’s preventable.

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  A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

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Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Team Perform Like a Champion

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Team Perform Like a Champion

No Comments 24 March 2014

climbing-mountainAs an executive coach, part of my job is to help clients learn from and avoid getting their own version of some of the scars on my back. One of those scars came at an early age. As a young, 20-something leader I did my best to ensure that my team had its share of talent, a firm grasp of our mission and priorities, and as much preparation as we could arrange. We performed at a consistently good, but not great level.

 

In retrospect, I was unknowingly limiting our progress by playing too tight, playing not to lose, specifically, not to lose my job. As a result, I wasn’t having much fun at work, and the people around me weren’t either. And then a day came when my boss took me out to lunch, and when we finished, we were really finished, with only one of us still having his job.

 

After some reflection and getting a new job (a better one), I realized that getting fired wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and resolved to double up on my self-awareness, and loosen the necktie just a bit going forward. As a result, some things changed in my approach to being a leader, and our results got better, a lot better.

 

I really hadn’t thought much about that episode in my life until recently when I read an article written by Michael David Smith about Seattle Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll. In the interview, Coach Carroll said, “It really took me getting fired a couple times, getting kicked in the butt, to get to where I am now.” In case you missed Super Bowl 2014, where Coach Carroll is right now is a pretty good spot.

 

It would have been hard for anyone watching Super Bowl 2014 not to notice that, though the players on both sides of the field were immensely talented and well coached, Carroll’s players, from the very start, were playing the game a little looser, and visibly having more fun.

 

Indeed, the Bronco’s jitters showed early when the Seahawks scored on the very first play from scrimmage after Denver’s center prematurely snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head. Before they knew it, the Broncos were down heavy, and the game was out of hand.

 

Okay, so how does this translate for the average, non-NFL manager who is simply trying to get the wash out every day? Here are three things to keep in mind:

 

1.     You’ve got to manage you before you can hope to lead others.  And that starts with you being an optimist, keeping some fun in the game, and making sure that your players aren’t slowed down by fear (yours or their own). A Chinese proverb suggests that, “A man without a smile must not open a shop.” That applies just as much to the role of a leader as it does a shopkeeper. People will not follow a sour, grumpy pessimist for long. After being told by a client many years ago that I needed to smile a little more, I’ve made it a habit, particularly on days that I know are likely to be stressful, to wear a rubber band on my wrist as a private reminder to smile. It works. (I guess it’s not private any more, though.)

 

2.     Be “the iron.” It has been said that it’s not the mountains we have to climb, but the grains of sand in our shoes that keep us from doing our best. That axiom is certainly true in the workplace. Our jobs as leaders involve spending time removing the impediments from the path of our team, making sure they have the tools, the processes, the wherewithal to do their very best work each day, every day. My co-author and business partner, Richard Hadden likens that to the effect that a hot iron has on a wrinkled shirt, as he advises leaders to, “be the iron.”

 

3.     Let people know that you care about them, not just as players or cogs in the wheel, but as real, pulsating human beings. You don’t have to become buddies, in fact, it’s better that you don’t, but you can still demonstrate in lots of ways, some large, but mostly small, that you care about them. Start by taking an interest in them, what’s important to them, what their goals, aspirations, and fears are. In order to do this, it is vital to listen, really listen. One tip that works for me is, when talking with someone, to make careful note of their eye color, and then, in real time, “read” the words coming off their lips. If I’m doing that, it’s much harder to engage in what I call the opposite of listening, which is waiting to talk, while formatting what I’m going to say next.

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  A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

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Bad Apples

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Bad Apples

No Comments 03 March 2014

bad-apple-smallRecently, in preparation for a long, 1200-mile road trip (nasty winter weather coupled with living in a high airfare market causes one to do things like that), I shopped for juice, fruit, and bottled water to take along as car snacks. While picking through the bin of Honeycrisp apples, I couldn’t help but notice that commingled with my objets du desir were some Red Delicious and McIntosh apples, together with bruised and indeed rotting Honeycrisps. Not wanting to spend time sorting the grocer’s fruit, I grabbed two Honeycrisps and moved on, rather than searching for more.

Not unlike my experience in the market, our customers come into contact every day with the efforts (or lack thereof) of mis-sorted, burned out, and mistakenly hired workers. As leaders, the quicker we can identify and deal with those situations, the better it is for all concerned.

We’ve all heard the saying that, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.”  There’s actually underlying truth to that statement. An apple that has been dropped or otherwise damaged gives off ethylene gas, which poses a risk to nearby fruit, thus reducing its desirable properties and shelf life. They may not give off prodigious quantities of ethylene gas, but workers who, by virtue of pace, preference, or behavior don’t fit the organization are equally toxic, and need to be removed. To those who might think that sounds rather cold and callous, I would submit that it is considerably more inconsiderate to ignore such a situation, and perpetuate the damage over a longer period. Indeed, the damage that accretes to that person’s coworkers, not to mention customers and your reputation as a leader are incalculable.

Sometime this week, I would encourage you to ask yourself the following questions, and then act upon the outcome.

  1. Who are my three best people?
  2. Why do each of them stay with me, and with this organization?
  3. Conversely, do I have anyone who clearly doesn’t belong here?

Hopefully, each of these questions will result in a meaningful conversation with the affected employees. In one case you’ll be asking how we can do more of what keeps the person here, and what impediments to their progress might be removed from their path. In the other, you’ll be admitting a problem that each of you knows about, and resolving to correct it before another week passes.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

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Avoiding Burnout, by Bill, Management

Working With Admin. Assistants to Really Amp Your Effectiveness

No Comments 15 January 2014

With the advent of cell phones, sophisticated voice messaging systems, scheduling software, and widespread word processing capability, the footprint of administrative assistants (AA’s) in the workplace has shrunk considerably over the last dozen or so years. This has been aided and abetted by the desire to cut every last dime of assailable cost from the corporate budget.

 

It is rare indeed today for a first or second level manager to have dedicated administrative support. Those at the director and VP level usually find themselves widely sharing AA’s, with personal assistants generally confined to the senior ranks.

 

The net result? In the main, I would suggest that we have been penny wise and pound foolish. The mere fact that virtually every manager today complains righteously of feeling as if their lips are strapped to an information fire hose is but one sign of the price being paid. But I digress, that is not the point of this piece. Rather, I’d like to focus on the wiser use of AA’s by those who are fortunate enough to have such services available to them.

 

 

Not unlike a marriage in one’s personal life, achieving a productive, mutually beneficial relationship with an Administrative Assistant takes time, work, and most of all, trust. Lest there be any doubt, it’s worth it. A dedicated, full-on professional AA can do more to lighten your load, remove impediments, warn you of unseen risks, and advance your career more than anything I can think of.

 

Here are six things you can and should be doing if you really want to reap the rewards of this very special relationship.

 

1.     Hire carefully.  Looking for an AA is not quite a search for a soul mate, but it’s close. Find someone who is smart enough to understand the intricacies of your job; whose strengths offset your weaknesses, someone you can confide in, someone who will tell you the truth, and who will be a terrific “front door” to your office. Look for a problem solver with good interpersonal skills – someone who can get things done without pulling out the “evil boss assistant” club.

 

2.     Invest considerably in making sure they understand (really understand) the company’s business and your role in it.

 

3.     Share your goals and aspirations with one other.

 

4.     Spend time with them daily, whether in person or by phone or videoconference. Probably 70% of that time should involve you listening to them.

 

5.     Vest considerable responsibility in them. Share output from important meetings (involve them directly if you can), give them control (or at least heavy influence) of your calendar, and seek their input on decisions. Encourage them to let you know when you’re about to ‘step in it’, or already have, and thank them for it.

 

6.     Pay them. Fight even harder for their money than you do your own, and come bonus time, don’t forget who helped you earn it.

 

 

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

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Avoiding Burnout, by Bill, Leadership, Management

Go Ask Your People

2 Comments 12 January 2014

One of the traps that newly appointed managers at any level commonly fall into is in believing that, to be worthy of their job title and pay check, they must have at the ready the solution to every problem, and the answer to every question. I’m speaking from experience. I’ve been there. As a young, 20-something manager, I spent a couple of years choking on the self-imposed burden of instantly and unilaterally producing the correct response to every issue that arose. Fortunately for me, that was in an era when the pace of the game was about one-tenth what it is today.

 

 

Indeed, this trap often becomes the downfall of those who don’t realize quickly enough that appointment to a position of leadership does not (repeat, does NOT) mean that they have the market cornered on brains and ability, or that they are responsible for doing all the thinking. Anything but.

 

 

To be sure, we are paid to anticipate problems, to solve them, and to fill information voids, but the burden of leadership seldom (if ever) mandates that we be the sole source provider of knowledge or solutions. Some suggestions:

 

 

1.     Go ask your people. If you’ve done even a moderately good job of staffing, there are people on your team, and others within your network who are smarter than you, and who probably have a much better view of the situation. Ask for their ideas, and then have the good sense to listen, both to what they are saying and what they aren’t saying. Bill Marriott, whose name is over the door of a lot of our favorite hotels is fond of saying that the four most important words in any manager’s vocabulary are, “What do you think?”

 

2.     You get paid to think. As reflected in chapter 6 of our book, Rebooting Leadership, good leaders make it a point to carve out thinking time (you read that correctly) in the course of their day. There is simply too much stuff coming over the transom on a daily basis for managers to do otherwise. As writer William S. Burroughs was known to have said, “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”  Our advice is that you carve out a half-hour (more if you can) of dedicated thinking time in the most focused part of your day. Try it for a couple of weeks. We don’t think you will regret it.

 

3.     Some fires need to burn themselves out. As a former baseball player, youth-league coach, and student of the game, I learned fairly early on that enthusiastically swinging at every pitch is a quick path to exactly one place – a seat back on the bench after an unproductive turn at bat. The same holds true for managers.  Above all else, we must be vicious masters of our time, priorities, and resources, and we can’t do that if we’re swinging at everything that comes into view. Some of the opportunities and indeed some (perhaps many) of the problems that come our way are best dealt with by leaving them alone. Let them burn themselves out or find another rightful owner. To be sure, once in awhile you’ll guess wrong on these and find it necessary to go back and put out what has become a bigger fire, but it is still the better option.

 

 

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

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by Bill, Leadership

Feed the Opportunities, Starve the Problems

No Comments 11 December 2013

OpportunityLife is short, the game is often fast, and each of us makes choices daily about the things we should devote time and attention to. I try to live by a simple, six word motto that tends to keep me focused on higher yielding activities… Feed the Opportunities, Starve the Problems.

Its meaning to me is that, given a choice, I feel that my time, talents, and resources are better spent on endeavors that hold upside potential. Some of those endeavors (projects, ideas, relationships) are commercially oriented while others are not. The motto is resident in both the business and personal sectors of my life, assuming that it’s still possible to differentiate between the two.

As for the ‘problems’ part of the equation, to me, they are like weeds in the lawn. You should neither ignore them, nor make them the beneficiary of a lot of time and attention. My preference is to poison them or pluck them. I certainly don’t want to fertilize, water, or do anything to encourage them. Problems that threaten the mission or priorities should be dispatched on sight, or, as my old FedEx boss, Jim Barksdale put it, “When you see a snake, kill it.”

As with a trout facing upstream to feed from passing bugs and other morsels, the workplace (and life in general) present us a never ending flow of things to chew on. And, like the wily old trout that has learned to be very selective in what she eats, the manager must also discern which of the items in their flow represents a viable meal, versus something that has ‘hooks’ in it, isn’t worth the effort to chase it down, or is simply too big to swallow.

As managers, we are well advised to be ever mindful of our mission and priorities when deciding what to devote our time and attention to. Our first choice should nearly always be to deal with those things, be they problems or opportunities, that pertain to our mission and priorities. Again, if a “problem” threatens the mission, let’s snuff it out. After that, in my own case, my personal bias is toward focusing on the opportunities, be they big or small, and quickly ascertaining if I can add value to or capitalize from them. If so, I’m likely to give them a go.

For better or worse, this motto holds true in my choice of relationships, too. My wife calls it arrogant, and there’s probably some truth in that assessment, but to put it bluntly, I’m not interested in “projects” per se. As an example, I would much rather mentor and/or support a person who is working hard at succeeding in life and who deserves a break, than someone whose ox is chronically in the ditch chiefly because of their own lack of effort or focus.

Having benefited from the kindness of strangers throughout my life, I derive real delight from quietly “paying it forward” for someone who deserves a break. And this season presents some wonderful opportunities to do just that. So, in that vein, I’ve got some errands to run. I’ll see you on the other side of the holiday.

 

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by Bill, Management

When Recruiting, Consider the Size of a Person’s Motor

No Comments 21 November 2013

streetcar-desireIn the earliest days of FedEx (or Federal Express as it was then known), I had two duties as an HR manager that occupied the lion’s share of my time… (1) Finding copious quantities of people (the right people) sufficient to maintain a near vertical growth curve, and (2) trying to get them paid before their patience with our little merry band wore out.

     Second things first. Due to a dearth of cash, and a relatively unsophisticated infrastructure (all the money was going to support revenue systems), new workers often went four or five weeks before seeing their first paychecks. It was neither deliberate nor funny, but at the time we joked about this being the FedEx version of a new hire probationary policy. If you made it thru the first month or so, we would finally get around to paying you.

     More to the point of this post, the first (and larger) focus of my attention involved seeing to it that my staff and I successfully recruited several dozen (or more) new teammates every week. Most were hired for Cargo Handler (package schlepper) or Courier (pickup and delivery) positions that were (and still are) the very heart of the company.

     After watching this process play out with hundreds of thousands of applicants and tens of thousands of new hires, I was left with some clear and distinct impressions. None of them were novel, or even new, but they were powerful. The most powerful by far was the absolute connection between a person’s desire to do the work and their ultimate success. Thinking back over that ten-year period, I can recall case after case where a nominally qualified applicant became an unqualified success with us due chiefly to their desire, the size of their heart. Yes, they were ‘qualified’ in the traditional sense, but desire was the super-qualifier.

     My reason for bringing it up now is this: Modern resume templates and recruiting software have no ability to express or detect desire, or measure the size of someone’s motor. Moreover, recruiters (and by extension their software) are primarily disposed toward ruling applicants in the initial search stages out of consideration based on an absence of linkage with select key words and phrases that are used as absolute search criteria. Hence, too often, the DNA of desire is left out of the picture.

     Don’t get me wrong. I am not (repeat, not) anti technology. In fact, I tend to be an early adopter. That said, every time I experience bland, lethargic, or indifferent service, which is pretty often, I wonder if the deliverer of that service didn’t have the heart to be there in the first place, or perhaps an uncaring management has daily poured cold water on that flame.

     Some suggestions:

  1. Do not let your applicant tracking system or other recruiting software be the only means by which an applicant is rejected from consideration. Just as the gold miners on the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush series occasionally re-run the ‘tailings’ from their sort process, do the same with your resume intake.
  2. Get personally involved with applicants earlier in the process. Yes, I know this puts extra demand on your time, but it is worth it. One way of accomplishing this is by doing group screening interviews, or inserting a telephone screening earlier in the process. Spread that extra effort by involving managers and those who aspire to leadership roles to a greater degree in the process
  3. Stop the ridiculous policy of rejecting as unqualified or unworthy those who are out of work. Contrary to popular belief in some recruiter circles, there is still a lot of talent and desire practically begging to get in the game.
  4. Take some chances with people who are minimally qualified, but evidence a clear penchant for learning, and a warrior spirit. I’ll bet you dinner that more often than not, they will work out.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Leadership

On Broken Glass, Apologies, and Obamacare

No Comments 15 November 2013

Baseball - Broken WindowWhen I was fourteen, I took over a friend’s paper route for the summer. I don’t quite remember how that came to pass (I doubt that I was jumping for joy at the notion of getting up every morning at 4AM), but here’s something I do remember from that experience.

     One of my ‘customers’ on the route was a bit of a grouch, and of greater importance to me, he made it a point to never answer the door when I went around collecting for my services. So, on the last morning that I had the route, I made one of those unfiltered, split-second decisions that you often later regret. I decided to wake this guy up at 5:00AM on a Sunday morning with a big, fat newspaper delivered at a high rate of speed to the aluminum panel at the bottom of his storm door. So, with my very best Nolan Ryan imitation, I launched Mr. Grumpy’s paper toward the door with everything my right arm could muster. Having failed to consider the impact of adrenalin and the difference in altitude between where I was and where the door was, the paper’s path was straight and true, but about a foot high. As it blasted thru the glass in Mr. Grumpy’s storm door, I got instant gratification from the certainty that I had awakened him, followed immediately by an introduction to the term, ‘collateral damage.’

     When I got home, I told my folks about my little mishap. They insisted that, within the hour I walk back to Mr. Grumpy’s house, clean up the mess, apologize, and tell him that I would make arrangements the next day to replace the broken glass in his door. That lesson has stuck with me ever since, and today it serves as a basis for advice I offer coaching clients and larger management audiences about building and maintaining trust.

     Recently, President Obama and members of his staff have broken some glass in rolling out the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Given that this is doubtless the largest government-induced change in my lifetime, I think it’s natural to expect some missteps and unintended consequences along the way. In all likelihood there will be more. Thinking people realize that our healthcare system simply must evolve. We can no longer keep our heads in the sand about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the existing 50 year old model.

     Unfortunately, the President didn’t have the benefit of my mom’s advice* on the art of cleaning up one’s messes. As the result of waiting way too long to acknowledge, apologize, and react to mistakes and poor execution, he has invited feelings of mistrust, and howls from the home team, visitors, and the cheap seats alike.

     And, in fairness, if the rest of us had gotten some of my mom’s advice as well, we would know that when someone offers a genuine, albeit late apology to you, you would do well to accept it and move on.

Bill’s Mom’s Advice for Cleaning Up Your Messes

  1. Be quick to own your mistakes and apologize.
  2. Do it (apology) right, and do it once. Don’t go on a guilt tour.
  3. To the very best of your ability, make it right.
  4. Move on.
  5. When someone apologizes to you, assume ‘positive intent’ and accept their apology.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

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by Bill, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Sometimes It IS About the Money

No Comments 22 October 2013

Few issues in the domain of business are thornier, more complex, and emotion-packed than that of how much money to pay someone for the work they do. Employee compensation thrusts its tendrils into considerations no less substantial than motivation, employment law, labor unions, production, and the very profitability of the enterprise. Oh, yeah. That.

Corresponding almost exactly with the arc of the Great Recession, we’ve been blinded of late by arguments put forth, like shiny objects, suggesting that the paper stuff that goes in your pocket (cash compensation) isn’t as important as the cornucopia of less extrinsic factors that have entered the deal in the workplace… things like concierge-type services, telecommuting, or participating in Habitat for Humanity builds alongside your co-workers.

Whoa, full flaps, brakes, stop! To be sure, there is considerable attraction and motivational impact in achieving a state of camaraderie, and in job-related perks that are special. Indeed, one of us helped launch FedEx, and for a while when the business was running on fumes, it certainly helped to be working alongside a charismatic CEO with a warrior spirit, to be a participant in reshaping commerce, and for every employee to have the opportunity to ride free on company planes, because the mixture of cold, hard cash was pretty lean.

But at the end of the day, people, nearly all of us are motivated, at some level and to a significant degree, by money. We are. Aren’t you? Sure, it’s not everything, but it’s definitely in the mix. And it’s more in the mix of late for two reasons:

1. Due to a still struggling economy and a slack labor market, real hourly earnings are mired US$0.24 below the December 2008 high.

2. Employee engagement levels are abysmally low, to wit the deal in the workplace tends to be more transactional, where cash is the coin of the realm.

So chewy and multidimensional is the comp issue that an entire professional association, WorldAtWork (formerly known as the American Compensation Association), exists to help employers figure it all out.

Credible studies abound, suggesting that higher compensation won’t necessarily buy you a better performing organization. In chapter 5 of our latest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, we illustrate that with some NFL stats showing that many of the highest paid football teams in the US consistently turn in some pretty middling results.

Still, most of us don’t lead entire organizations; we lead individuals. And taken one person at a time, let’s be clear. Sometimes it IS about the money.

It’s sometimes about the money, because people who are struggling to make ends meet, or who believe they can earn substantially more somewhere else, or who feel taken for granted spend more time thinking about their comp-related woes than they do thinking about their work, their customers, and your business. When that happens, they can’t possibly be as engaged as you need them to be.

It’s sometimes about the money because, let’s face it: right or wrong, in our society, money sends a message. A message about a person’s worth. One’s composite view of his or her “deal” at work consists of at least these four factors:

  • Leadership: How do I feel about the person I report to, and the big guns who run the place?
  • Meaningful work: Is what I do valuable and important to others, and do I get frequent reminders of that? Expressed appreciation is a HUGE part of this one.
  • Lifestyle fit: Does this job support and promote the kind of life I want to live? Schedule, benefits, amenities, time demands, etc.
  • Compensation “Worth-its”: Am I satisfied with the money I earn?

You’ll notice that the above list is heavily weighted in favor of intangibles. Only one factor – the last one – is tangible. Most of us would like to maximize the mix of these elements, but they don’t all have to be perfect. If I really like my boss, and the work provides a real sense of meaning to me, I may be willing to work long and inconvenient hours for less than optimal pay. But if I have to work for a jerk doing stuff that doesn’t provide much emotional satisfaction, you’d better be prepared to fork over the big bucks, or I’m outta here. Mentally if not physically.

Think about your competition for talent. Someone else can always outbid you on the tangible; not necessarily on the intangibles.

Here’s our position, and some tips to go along with it:

  • You should never pay anyone more than you can afford, or more than they’ve earned. And not substantially more than the market dictates.
  • Without violating anything in the above bullet point, make your very best offer to attract and retain the best people for your organization, and keep them interested.
  • The question of whether or not you can afford a certain amount for a certain person must be balanced with the question, “Can we afford not to pay that certain amount?” Consider the cost both if the person were to leave, and if they were to power back. If you really are underpaying someone, do you really expect to get their best work?
  • Stay educated on what the market demands. Take advantage of current salary survey data for your industry. Your professional association probably has some. Be sure to filter for geography, profession, education and most of all, demonstrated capability.
  • You can offset the desire for more monetary compensation – to a fairly substantial degree – by paying lots of attention to the intangibles mentioned above. Especially appreciation. Simply saying “thank you” – and meaning it – can go a long, long way. It’s worth real money. But be careful about using these intangibles to justify paying less than you can, and less than you should.
  • Apart from paying “stay bonuses” or step increases, never increase anyone’s base compensation simply for hanging around another year. If given a choice, your compensation dollars would be much better spent as merit-based differentiation than endurance pay.
  • Paying people by the hour is intellectually bankrupt. Find a way to correlate people’s pay with the income or value they provide to the organization.
  • Give everyone as much information and control as possible over how much they earn. Here’s a conversation we love to hear (and have): “You want to make more money? Let me show you how.”

Until next payday, wishing you the best!

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ABOUT US

Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.

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