by Bill, Leadership, Management

Leaders… You Really Need Truth-Tellers

No Comments 15 January 2015

My last real (corporate) job was an eleven-year run with a very fast moving “550 mph warehouse” as the company’s founder and CEO has been known to put it.

Shortly after I accepted the job offer but before the start date, my new boss, a blunt talking former FBI agent summoned me for a little extra pre-game face time. A central theme of his message was that, in my new role, he expected a lot of mental errors to be made, without which he said, “You won’t be moving fast enough to stay relevant and impactful.”

I intuitively got the part about making mistakes, but the “lots of mistakes” part was a little bothersome. The first image that came to mind stemmed from car racer Mario Andretti, who is fond of saying that, “if everything becomes clear, you’re just not going fast enough.” In the movie screen of my mind, that was quickly replaced with scenes of all those nasty on-track wrecks. I quickly set out to create some mechanisms and safeguards that would allow us to generate and try out lots of ideas, yet be able to quickly identify and avoid or remediate the stinkers.

Just as a race driver has spotters positioned around the track to advise him or her that there is a wreck in turn 2, an oil slick in the back straightaway, that the car is smoking, or a competitor is getting ready to pass, I wanted some real-time, ultra clear feedback on the issues and opportunities around us. I quickly became a proponent of having “spotters”, or people I affectionately referred to as “truth-tellers.” As a first step, everyone on staff, everyone was told that they had not just a right, but a responsibility to turn the streetlights to yellow or even red if they thought we were about to crash, and they had a better idea.

Occasionally, someone would use this permission (really it was encouragement) and act, but for the most part, my organization was like a lot of others where you find greater deference to authority than there should be and, even though it was about the last thing I wanted, fear.

So, within my direct team, I built enhanced relationships with four of the stronger performers, Diane, Bernie, Walter, and Brad, who were specifically and overtly tasked with being truth-tellers. All of them had specific instructions to find and interrupt me at any time, close the door, and tell me in no uncertain terms that my baby was ugly, that we were getting ready to do something really stupid, or whatever the case might be.

Thankfully, all of them took this role seriously, and as a result, kept me (and our business unit) from experiencing a lot of wrecks. Usually, I agreed with their counsel, some of which was pretty tough. Diane told me once that I had just offended someone, and if what she heard was true, she didn’t blame the person for being offended. She allowed that she had just sent a fruit basket as a peace offering, and that the only thing that basket needed was my apology to go with it. Yikes! Sometimes I didn’t agree with them, or was just hard-headed, but in every case, I tried to show my appreciation for their caring enough to say something.

So what does this have to do with you? In a word, everything. The pace of operating a business gets quicker by the day. The workspace is less collegial. Most managers no longer have the luxury of having an assistant sitting right outside their door to serve as an arranger, a fixer, a soother of ruffled feathers, a consigliore, an early warning system, a Diane. And despite the words that are widely mouthed, tolerance for mistakes continues to go down. That’s right, down. Think about it – most business analytics don’t differentiate very well between a learning-based error and a common variety screw-up. So, every error is recorded, quickly digitized, and your batting average just went down.

A few thoughts:

  1. It’s incumbent upon you to have a few of your own truth-tellers, people who care enough about the organization, its mission, and you to tell you how they see it, even when it’s something you really don’t want to hear, but need to know. Find them, cultivate the relationship, and show that you appreciate them.
  2. You need to be mature enough to not shoot or otherwise abuse the messenger. In the first two minutes of a “Got Your Six” presentation, former U.S. Army Lieutenant Becky Kanis Margiotta, @beckykanis offers a crisp, clear, professional, yet profane (think Army speak) example of how her boss reacted to being awakened in the middle of the night over a communication systems problem. Aside from a new expression, you’ll likely learn something from her example.
  3. Be courageous enough to provide the same service for your boss, if they want it… repeat, if they want it. If you do, bear in mind that this role involves having enough discretion to use the proper time and venue for the messaging, and then having the short-term memory of an Alzheimer’s patient once you’ve delivered the news.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find that if you give this a try, you’ll be able to operate a little faster, safer, and more productively. Your thoughts as always are welcome.

****
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Some New Year’s Coaching for You

No Comments 06 January 2015

Another new year has begun, and many of us are now in the process of embracing it, with hopeful ambitions to tidy up our bodies, our lives, habits, homes, you name it. Clearly, we do so with varying degrees of enthusiasm and Commitment (capital ‘C’ intentional), but to be sure, no one enters 2015 with the hope that things will actually get worse. Not to put a damper on the freshness of the season, but some things will get worse if we don’t pay proper attention to them.

Over the last year, most U.S. businesses have felt something of a breeze blowing, and for the first time in a long time, that breeze is mostly at our backs. As a result, orders are up in many organizations, to the point that the need to hire has reappeared. Yay!!

Indeed, throughout much of tech-world, and until recently the energy space, real hiring has been occurring, to the point that, for many job vacancies, the number of openings exceeds qualified candidates. In lots of other organizations, that same need is apparent, but management has resisted hiring, preferring instead to make do for a while longer by utilizing temps, contractors, and/or increasing hours of incumbent staff. Concurrently, workers in greater numbers are voting with their feet and leaving their current jobs for greener pastures.

As a result, we’re seeing some undesired, and thus far relatively undisclosed downside impact. Specifically, the candidate-challenged and tepid hiring approaches are leading to a growing number of people on the payroll who would otherwise have already had some closed door discussions, or been asked to leave. Managers in very large numbers, concerned about their ability to fill position vacancies, have silently but decidedly lowered the bar of acceptable behavior and performance, to wit they find themselves trying to get the daily wash out with a growing list of folks who really need to shape up or be on someone else’s payroll… preferably a competitor’s. We are seeing it throughout the entire spectrum of the employment market.

What to do about it?

Stop  Ignoring It: First things first, it’s important to realize that ignoring the problem only makes it worse, for everyone. Tolerating sub-par performance or people who, to put it charitably just don’t fit, is not the answer. Indeed, not only is their own output subpar, these folks are one of the greatest sources of frustration and annoyance to star performers, who quickly grow tired of carrying their own water and others’. Put  in more selfish terms, continuing to look the other way puts you at risk of being fairly branded a leadership failure. Let’s not go there.

Take Action: Make it a point (no, a promise) to begin having conversations, this week, with… 1. People who could at least become C-players with a modicum of coaching, 2. Some of the people you’ve been leaning on extra hard (your stars), to thank them for their extra effort, and let them know that you appreciate it and them, 3. Your own boss (and HR as appropriate) to initiate conversations about moving some people on to their next station in life.

Get Back in Recruiting Mode: The best managers I’ve ever worked with are always in recruiting mode, even when they don’t have any approved reqs, because they know that the likelihood of the ideal candidate having an opening in their dance card at the exact moment when they do have a need is slim.

Sharpen Your Own Skills: In all likelihood, this situation didn’t sneak up on you. Rather, you’ve been aware of it for some time, but avoided taking difficult action because you were a bit uncertain of your own skills, and besides, you had more fun stuff to do. Bone up on your own coaching skills. A good place to start is with a great book. We recommend “The Coach” by Starcevich and Stowell.   It’s not pretty, it’s not new, but it works. (We don’t get paid for recommending it.) Alternatively, look within your organization for a course or seminar that might be beneficial to you; or, find a coach to work with.

Whatever you do, get started. Time is not your friend at the moment.

 

****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.

by Bill, Management

Let Your Employees Sign Their Work

No Comments 09 November 2014

unnamedAs I have done on quite a few occasions over the years, I recently took a new Gitman Bros. dress shirt out of the bag. As I was removing the pins from the shirt, two things struck me almost simultaneously. 1) A little printed tag indicating that my shirt had been “Pressed By NO. 8” was conspicuously pinned to the shirt, and 2) The shirt seemed unduly and unusually wrinkled for something that had supposedly been pressed and then carefully folded. A look thru the rest of my suitcase (I was on a business trip) offered a clue as to the likely source of the wrinkles. It appears likely that the TSA might have had some fun with the bag as it passed thru “security.”

But I was stuck on the first item. Who is “NO. 8”? Is NO. 8 a person, a machine, or simply a tool of Gitman’s marketing folks who want me to believe that some extra care went into their product? Actually, I already believe the “extra care” part because they are fine, well made (in the U.S. no less) shirts.

Alright, let’s get to the larger point. In an age of mass customization (e.g., how many thousand combinations and permutations are there for a Starbucks coffee beverage?) why don’t we make better use of opportunities to let our people ‘sign’ their work?

A person doesn’t have to be an artist, author, musician, or gang member to want to take personal credit for their work. Throughout much of recorded history, builders have customarily placed a “corner stone” as a reference and billboard in their buildings, bridges, and other projects.  Unlike their counterparts whose name badges always seem to be hanging backwards to assure anonymity, smart restaurant servers and bartenders are quick to introduce themselves and thus take credit for the experience you are about to have. They evidence considerably greater pride in their work, and I promise you, they make more money, as do their employers.

When people are allowed/required to “sign their work” it makes a significant difference both in the quality of the work and the person’s willingness to “own” it. Indeed, the Marriott hotel where I was staying when I got the wrinkled shirt allowed (required?) housekeepers to leave a short handwritten, signed note for each guest in the room, every day. Call me a sucker, but when someone named Mathilde leaves a note advising me that it has been her pleasure to refresh and restore the room, that matters, to me, and ultimately to Mathilde via more generous tips. It matters even more on those occasions when she and I have a chance meeting in the hallway and she asks if I’d like extra towels or anything else for the room. My perception of the guest experience goes up, as does Mathilde’s income. Ca-ching. And, by the way, it leaves a better taste in my mouth than the “Envelope Please” program that Marriott recently kicked off.

So what about your team? How can you up your game by having more signature work?

  1. Start by hiring only those people who evidence pride in what they do. You can hear it in their voice, notice it in their speech (if you’re listening), and see it in their step. Ask them in an interview what their level of work pride is on a 1-10 scale, then have them offer specifics on how (and when) that has played out for customers and employers. Are they speaking confidently or fumbling with words when they answer?
  2. Give people more opportunity to own their work. Give them public credit, introduce them to others who might be beneficial to them, and let more of their work “shine” by having primary ownership. Make it a point to let your teammates know that, whenever possible, you will not rebrand their work as a departmental effort.
  3. Be quicker to coach or remove those who persistently fail to take responsibility for their work.

Now, as for the folks at Gitman, please tell me who or what NO. 8 is.

 ****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.

by Bill, Leadership

Leadership Means Making Hard Decisions

No Comments 29 October 2014

HardChoicesAheadSignRecently, after a New York City-based physician returning from treating patients in Africa turned up with the Ebola virus (after having also traveled the streets of New York), and a nurse returning from similar duty seemed to evidence precursor symptoms of the disease, the governors of New York and New Jersey both reached decisions to involuntarily quarantine those deemed to pose a risk to the population.

At the urging of generals and military families alike, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has drawn a somewhat firmer line, announcing that, for the near term, military personnel stationed in Africa will (not might) be quarantined for twenty-one days before returning home.

The howls from the media, medical professionals, and others have reached, dare I say, a fevered pitch, and that’s okay. We’re all entitled by the Constitution to voice our opinions. There are two things we need to understand, though:

  1. Our rights as individuals end at the tip of our neighbor’s nose, lip, ear, what have you. I have every right to say what I want and to risk my own life, but that right doesn’t extend to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater or imposing my risk on my neighbor, let alone an entire population. Those rights that we enjoy come with certain responsibilities.
  2. Whether in the workplace, government, or military, leaders bear the burden of making decisions that impact both individual and collective rights. That’s what they are appointed and get paid to do. Sometimes we like those decisions and sometimes we don’t.

For those of us who hold a leadership role, formally appointed or otherwise, I will submit that we have at least three obligations with respect to our decision making:

  1. To actually make the decision. Those who would follow us need to know that when a decision is required, we will actually make one. Making no decision is in itself a decision, and almost always the wrong one.
  2. Our decisions should be timely. Perhaps the 2nd greatest failing in our decision-making (next to not making a decision at all) is deferring the decision until it’s too late. In his book, My American Journey,  Gen. Colin Powell advocates against waiting until you have all the information: “Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70% range, go with your gut.” In other words, don’t wait until you reach the end of your runway to take off.
  3. Utilize an appropriate fact-gathering process, then make your decision(s) on the basis of what you genuinely believe to be the right thing to do, NOT  what is popular, politically correct, or aimed at pissing off the fewest people. In the aforementioned book, Gen. Powell’s 18th precept is that, “Command is lonely.” Yes it is, General… yes it is.

****
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.

 

by Bill, Leadership, Think About It...

Ebola and a Lesson on Leadership

No Comments 20 October 2014

Since passage of reform legislation in March 2010, the U.S. healthcare industry has struggled with wrenching change brought on by movement of the tectonic plates underneath the delivery and payment sides of the industry. With the introduction of competition from new sources (e.g., diagnostics and urgent care via Doc In a Box), and the early melting of fee for service payment models, much of the industry is under tremendous pressure to adapt to completely new realities.

Particularly among hospitals, which are seeing demand for their services and assets shift, and in some cases decline, new fiscal pressures abound. As is too often the case whenever there is belt tightening going on, one of the first shoes to drop inevitably lands on the organization’s training regimen, as if working your way out of an earnings problem by dumbing down the organization is ever a workable idea.

We saw some of that play out on the world stage recently with the Ebola episode in Dallas, where it became painfully evident that protocols for handling even one Ebola-infected patient had not been fully worked out, let alone communicated and trained. The patient died, and a lot of good, talented people were unnecessarily exposed to potentially lethal health risk. So what’s that got to do with leadership, the focus of this blog? In a word, everything.

As leaders, our first obligation to the women and men who follow us into work every day is NOT to improve market share or optimize next quarter’s earnings, but to make sure that they leave work at the end of the day in the same (or better) condition than they got there. Second, it is our duty to see to it that they are equipped, by virtue of training, tools, and trust to do their very best work, and accomplish their mission. In other words, they deserve a fair shot at success. Indeed one of the cruelest things we can do to someone is to put them in a position where they are destined to fail (or worse).

As you go about your business this week, take stock of how well prepared and how safe the people on your team are. Do they have what they need in the way of training, tools, information, and trust to do their jobs successfully? Safely? Make sure, damn sure, unless you want to get to write a letter like this:

http://texashealth.org/images/letter-to-the-community-101914.jpg

 ****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Leadership

On Caring and Waiting

No Comments 09 October 2014


Recently, oral arguments on what could prove to be a landmark labor relations case (Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc v Busk) were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case hinges on claims by two former employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, a Nevada-based contract staffing firm, that, in their assignment at an Amazon.com fulfillment center, they were required to wait upwards of twenty-five minutes (on their own time) at the end of each shift, to clear security before exiting Amazon’s premises. The two workers have advanced a claim that, as the wait was purely for the benefit and at the behest of Integrity (and Amazon), they should be compensated for the time spent waiting. Integrity feels otherwise. What makes this an even bigger deal is that copycat suits against other retailers are in the cue.

Two admissions before proceeding further:

1. We tend to be well-satisfied Amazon customers and vendors who are generally in admiration of their operation.

2. As evidence of the fact that I am a recovering HR exec., I couldn’t care much less about the arcane legal arguments as to whether or not Amazon, or Integrity Staffing in their stead are legally liable to pay for the time. That said, if you’ve never seen a dozen well dressed attorneys dancing on the head of a very small pin, this could be the time to watch.

What does matter is that this should never have become a legal issue in the first place. About the second time that someone from Amazon or Integrity management noticed the backed up security line, efforts should have begun to overcome it. Really. Think about it. This is a company whose very existence is based on convenience and speed. How I can order something on Saturday, or even Sunday sometimes, and have it Monday is amazing. Never mind what they can do with their Kindle devices. Remember who has been talking lately about using delivery drones in order to get stuff to you faster? Nothing, nothing sits around there and waits.

The very presence of a long queue (that should keep our British fans happy) is evidence of the kind of systemic defect that keeps people from doing their very best work (or even wanting to), and when prolonged, drives them crazy. It’s just the kind of thing that good leaders are supposed to take care of. We get paid to get the system off our teammate’s backs so that they can do their best work.

In a speech at the U.S. Army War College, Gen. Melvin Zais told a group of assembled officers that, “If you care, you make sure that your soldiers don’t have to stand around and wait… because the only (repeat, only) reason that soldiers stand around and wait is because some dumb, jerk officer didn’t plan it right, or planned in such a fashion that his soldiers would have to pay for him not wanting to miss a deadline.” Nuff said.

Our suggestion to you is this: Make it a part of your daily (yes, daily) routine to find and root out the kind of systemic defects that keep your people from doing their best work. They will appreciate it, and then reward you with better work.

****
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Think About It...

Show Some Appreciation to Hotel Housekeepers

3 Comments 15 September 2014

Marriott International announced today that it has partnered with A Woman’s Nation, a Maria Shriver venture, in implementing a housekeeper gratuity initiative, “The Envelope Please”, in more than 160,000 North American hotel rooms. The plan is that clearly marked gratuity envelopes will be left each day in guest rooms as a reminder that someone who doesn’t make much money cleaned the room. Hint, hint.

Before going further, let’s establish that we are unabashed Marriott fan-boys. We’ve written about them in our books, used some of their management practices as exemplars in speeches and seminars, and we lay our heads on their pillows… a lot (4 nights in the last week alone between us.)

Though I’m not sold on the notion that guest tips should be the primary way to get housekeeper pay into the liveable wage arena, I have always made it a point to tip generously. We’ve done enough work in the hospitality sector to know first-hand how hard these people work. I’ve also traveled enough over the years to realize that a lot of travelers, including some fellow road warriors conveniently run out of cash when it comes to thanking someone who isn’t standing right there in front of them. My bet is that the majority of these non-tippers will remain so, whether there’s a gratuity envelope placed conspicuously on their bed or not. Regardless of what they might say, for the most part, their lack of tipping isn’t due to ignorance of the custom. It’s due to being cheap.

Here’s what I would rather see:

As some hotel properties are now doing with newspapers (especially since USA Today went nuts with its prices), a notation is made on the hotel bill that a newspaper convenience fee has been assessed. If the guest asks, the fee is immediately removed. I would suggest a 2% housekeeper recognition fee be routinely added to room bills. If a guest declines, the hotel deducts the fee from the guest bill, but leaves the 2% in the kitty at its own expense. To be blunt, it will get lost amidst the myriad other (and less worthwhile) taxes and fees already added to our hotel folios.

As a frequent guest, I would welcome this approach in that it keeps me from having to keep small bills on hand, remembering to tip daily, it’s more easily recorded for tax and reimbursement purposes, it goes on the credit card, AND (housekeepers won’t like this part), the income is tax reportable to them as it should be. Further, I’m willing to bet that a majority of the aforementioned cheapsters won’t want to have a public conversation upon checkout about the fee, so they will just go along with it. The ones who do may be worth losing as customers anyhow. (They could be making a lot of towels disappear, too.) As a final benefit, going through hundreds of thousands of little envelopes every day involves knocking over a lot of trees unnecessarily. Besides, there is too much marketing and promotional debris in the rooms already.

However you do it, please try to remember that behind every freshly made hotel bed, laundered towel, dust-free dresser, and clean bathroom is a person who made it that way; someone who, just like you and I, likes to get a little recognition. Come out of your pocket with a couple of bucks. If for some reason you can’t do that, say hello to them or leave a Thank You note. Yes, a Thank You note.

These are my thoughts. We welcome your comments and ideas.

****
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Leadership

A Physics Lesson for Leaders About the Use of Power

No Comments 27 August 2014

The first lesson learned by every new leader, one that should be permanently tattooed onto their gray matter, is that by virtue of occupation they have inherited a simple, high school physics problem – There are more of “them” than there are of you. Repeat, there are more of “them” than there are of you. Translation – You are outnumbered, perhaps vastly by the group of people whom you are expected to lead. You shouldn’t let that rattle you, but neither should you forget it.

In Einstein’s theory of Mass-Energy Equivalence, Energy [E] equates to the Mass [M] of an object, times the Speed of Light [C] squared. It rather elegantly ties together the relationship among three seemingly disparate elements. Having slept through high school physics, that’s about the extent of my physics knowledge.

But here’s something I do understand. In human interactions and especially the workplace, the “Energy” of a group of people relates to their Number (mass) times the Leadership that is applied. A group of people, even a tiny group, well led, can accomplish truly amazing things. Conversely, that same group of people led poorly (or not at all) can and will become disengaged, uncooperative, or downright unruly.

Witness recent events in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, where, following the tragic shooting death of a young man, the town’s police attempted to put down a street demonstration with automatic weapons-toting officers wearing gas masks and dressed in battle fatigues.

It didn’t turn out well. Yet, the very next night, an even larger crowd was considerably more peaceful and better behaved as the result of fresh leadership in the person of Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain, Ron Johnson.

What Captain Johnson clearly understands, and what every leader needs to grasp, is the fact that just because you have a big stick doesn’t mean that you’re well advised to wave it around or use it indiscriminately, especially when the power of your personal presence and persuasion will work a lot better. Captain Johnson didn’t just permit another night of demonstrations, he led them, from out front, using his personal presence to set the tone, a more orderly and peaceful tone.

Some lessons for us:

Keep Your Powder Dry – A leader’s position power is a necessary tool, and we mustn’t be afraid to use it, but use it sparingly. There is a finite supply, and once you’ve deployed it, you have nothing left to resort to.

Keep Your Ego in Check – Being in a leadership role is not about you. Rather, it’s about your team and its mission. You needn’t remind people of your position and the fact that you can shut their water off. They get that already, and don’t react well to having it rubbed in their faces.

Envision – Jack Nicklaus, doubtless one of, if not the greatest golfer in history, encourages players to envision their shot before swinging. See the ball arcing past the oak tree, landing ten yards short, and running onto the green, pin high. Leaders should similarly think through and mentally rehearse their next move, especially if that move involves a use of position power.

****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Management

Getting Beyond the Rehearsed Blather in Recruiting

No Comments 11 August 2014

Last week I had a short, informal coaching conversation with an experienced, level 2 retail manager. Soon to be involved with staffing a new store, he was concerned about the recruiting process, and the fact that many candidates today show up with their promotional blather fairly well rehearsed, and a modicum of experience with behaviorally-anchored interview techniques. “I’m concerned”, he said, “that some of them are so well rehearsed that my BS meter may not go off, and I’ll wind up hiring a couple of bozos.”

I asked what, aside from character (e.g., the ability to reliably tell the difference between the company’s stuff and personal possessions) were the three greatest critical success factors he was seeking. His answers, in no particular order, were:

1. A self-starter – someone who sees what needs to be done and doesn’t wait to be told what to do.

2. Someone who, regardless of chronological age, is an adult. They show up prepared, don’t take more than their share of the oxygen in the room, and clean up their messes.

3. Someone who plays nice with others – it’s not always about them. They notice others,  listen, smile, care, and say thank you.

The rest, he said, he could teach them. I offered him four suggestions:

1. After a paper (resume or application) screening, begin the interview process via phone. It’s more convenient for both parties, and allows you to efficiently verify a sufficient community of mutual interest before getting dressed up.

2. Keep doing the behaviorally-based interviews, but listen more and a lot harder. In my experience, even seasoned recruiters do too much talking in interviews, consuming as much as seventy percent of the available time. The more unprepared they are, the more they talk. They don’t allow dead space (silence), which frequently prompts a job candidate to expand on a previous answer, or volunteer other information. Allow more time between interviews to give yourself time to finish your note-taking and reflect, before preparing for the next interview.

3. Build some simple “tests” into the interview process. I’m fond of leaving a gum wrapper or other small piece of trash on the floor in the doorway to my office – something the applicant will literally have to step over. Do they stop and pick it up, or ignore it? I suggested that he instruct applicants to show up for the interview, fully prepared, as if they were going to work a shift that day. His company doesn’t furnish uniforms, and it would be very easy for an applicant to stop in a store and ascertain the dress code prior to the interview, and then comply with it. And, as an additional way of checking preparedness, I suggested that he have someone call the applicant’s cell phone during the interview – to verify that it’s off, and to observe their behavior if it isn’t.

4. Finally, with respect to playing nice with others, I suggested that candidates who are still “green lighted” go to lunch with a group of three or four people who would potentially be their peers. It affords each party to examine the other in a different context.

****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Struggling Supervisors – Coach ‘em Up or Move Them Out

No Comments 04 August 2014

Confirming what many had been sensing for some time, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President, Richard Fisher said recently that increasing numbers of workers are quitting their jobs voluntarily, and concomitantly, employers are finding that it’s taking longer to fill open positions. Those are two fairly strong indicators that the job market is heating up.

But they aren’t the only indicators. For several months, we’ve been watching managers going into a defensive crouch and lowering their work performance standards in an ill-advised effort to hang onto people rather than coach, discipline or terminate, and then face the prospect of replacing them. In many cases they’re turning a blind eye to problem performers, the existence of whom is aggravating to fellow workers and customers alike.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. They’re not yet well-assured that they can get quick internal approval to replace.
  2. They know that hiring a replacement off the street will take time (the talent pool isn’t deep yet for many positions), and it will likely cost them more money.
  3. There’s more than a little guilt involved, as the involved managers know in many cases that the individual is struggling because they themselves have not had (‘er taken) the time to properly train and coach their staff members.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of level 1 supervisors and managers. And, sadly, nowhere do we pay a higher price for this condition. Having an inept or uncommitted level 1 manager wreaks havoc in an organization. Think about it. These are the folks who represent the “last mile” in the management communication and strategy execution chain. They have more daily touchpoints with frontline workers than anyone else, and thus have the capacity to disenfranchise greater numbers of solid performers – the very last people you want to lose.

Three suggestions:

  1. Take a hard look across your organization at your level 1 and 2 managers. Which of them seem to be struggling or experiencing abnormally high rates of regrettable turnover? Find out why, and get them some help if needed. If it’s too late or they are misplaced in their role, take action now, while you still have options.
  2. Resolve to make leadership ability a “must have” for anyone placed into a management position. Specifically, before putting someone into a leadership role at any level, there should be credible reason to believe that they have the courage to make and communicate tough decisions, the humility to realize that they put their pants on just like everyone else, better than average judgment and interpersonal skills, and that they are comfortable in their own skin. Absent any one of these factors, it doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are. Keep looking.
  3. And speaking of looking, you could do a lot worse than to spend time daily working on your talent pipeline. Make daily efforts to give internal candidates, your leaders of tomorrow, some coaching or encouragement. And at the same time, make sure that your external pipeline is well stocked.

****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

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.

VIEW DEMO VIDEOS

Get "Contented Cows Daily Edition". A series of 30 three-minute video leadership lessons delivered daily to your inbox. Click here to learn more.

OUR ONLINE STORE

Subscribe to our blog
Enter your email address:

Email:
For Email Newsletters you can trust

OUR BOOKS


Be notified when Bill or Richard will be speaking in your area, and possibly preview or piggyback a program.

Contented Cows on Twitter

SHARE THIS SITE

Share |

© 2014 Contented Cows. Powered by Wordpress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium Wordpress Themes

Three Pieces of Advice for New Leaders - Bill's latest article on HCI Click here