Make Good Business Decisions, Not Popular Ones

I believe that the most difficult part of being a true leader is the ability to make the tough call even when it meets resistance. Do we tell people untruths to avoid hurting their feelings? Do we avoid negative but necessary feedback in order to keep people “engaged”? Yeah, it happens all of the time…and at the same time it’s doing that person a disservice as they don’t know that they need to do better and our places of business suffer from a false sense of success.

Today I am over at Performance I Create, where we dive a little deeper into the issue of worrying more about image than the true success of those we are chosen to lead. Here is a quick sample:

whatrightnot-easy…those in power want to seem like heroes/heroines and good guys, but we must be careful not to make critical business moves based on popularity alone. The temporary spike in popularity will crash even harder when the audience sees that the promises can’t be fulfilled or that the decision has actually made things worse. My advice to decision makers is simple…

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you share this post with anyone that you know who is struggling with being liked versus being effective.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Real Bosses Sit Back and Listen

While flipping through the radio stations one night this week I stumbled upon this completely horrible song. But ironically, the guy said something that resonated with me because I was really trying to think of a title for this post. While I’m sure the context in which he meant it was different than mine, it still stuck with me when he said, “Real bosses just sit back and listen…”

When counseling managers, I hear all too often of unnecessary, unproductive confrontations and negative conversations. The conversations remind me of those had with children when one says something…and in an effort not to be outdone, the other just has to rebut, and it becomes a situation where no one wins.

When there is too much talking, not enough listening and someone is so busy trying to prove or drive home their point, messages get lost in delivery. The way something is said (especially when it has nothing to do with the actual issue at hand) can trigger certain emotions that cause all negotiations to shut down. Managers seek satisfaction by throwing verbal darts in an effort to exert authority and prove their case. Unfortunately, those darts and making employees feel as if they are “losing” are more likely to cause the difficult employee to avoid coaching, become combative and unwilling to listen…and even worse, passive aggressive and disengaged. So when you feel as if you “won” the discussion, did you really?

No one ever wins those back and forth battles…in person or in email. Managers often loose credibility and leverage simply because they talk too much, always feeling as if they have to justify a directive or decision after the fact. Leaders communicate what they want, not defend what they do. Clear communication up front allows you to sit back “like a boss”, instead of constantly having to defend your position.

What Is Your Best Defense?
like_a_bossWell-placed silence can be a powerful weapon in an effort to get results in one-on-one, difficult conversations. Tactical conversation can help people to actually hear what’s coming out of their own mouths, while giving difficult people a chance to put their foot in theirs. Well-placed silence helps one choose battles so that there will be enough energy to ultimately win the war. That being said, it’s ok to let people feel as if they are in charge or winning, especially when you know that you have a legitimate case. THE truth will come out if we manage our reactions properly, speak when necessary and keep our comments direct, fact-based and unemotional.

Back and forth battles give difficult people ammunition to continue in their manipulative and unproductive ways. Strategy, patience, calculated conversations and well-placed silence give managers the endurance and edge they need to get much needed buy-in and behavior change. And it’s those qualities that will enable managers to not just feel as if they’ve won a fight, but to actually win the war with the whole team in tact.

What Will You Give Up To Make It

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

ToughChoices1-1Today at Performance I Create, we discuss THE most hated requirement of success, sacrifice:

…when you want success or wish it on other people we must be realistic and prepared for what comes with that territory. Success, however you define it, typically starts off uncomfortable. Reality is that the initial stages of “making it” suck. It’s down right unnatural. We must allow ourselves to be pushed … 

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Pissed Off For Greatness

I’ve never been a huge Baltimore Ravens fan (partially because they’ve beat up my TN Titans too many times), but I did enjoy watching Linebacker Ray Lewis play. Lewis, a future Hall of Famer and amateur “preacher”, was known just as much for his hard hitting, sideline to sideline play as he was for his “motivational” speeches.

I air-quote motivational and preacher there because while he was great a firing people up, people admit that they didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It was as if he was speaking in some kind of deep biblical, mythological, gridiron code. Whatever it was, it fired his teammates up to the tune of 2 championships in twelve years…and several victories in between.

In 2012, ol Ray Ray was brought in to speak to the Stanford Basketball team before a game. The greatest line in the sermon…I mean, speech was “I’m pissed off for greatness!” Never lacking in the passion and pissivity department, that line shook something in my spirit. In a sport that requires one to be violent, one must indeed be pissed off to execute. To deliver bone-crushing blows and to put your body at risk the way the players do, one must dig deep, channel something from within and play angrily.

When we go to work, we’re pissed at people all of the time, but we don’t use that to our advantages. We actually let it work to our competitor’s advantage. While I’m not condoning tackling people by the copier (not all the time) or stiff arming someone to get the best seat in a meeting, I am saying that we need to take the stuff that we do not like in our offices and use them to fuel some change. Channel the anger that we feel toward policy, “the man”, or lazy teammates and shake some stuff up!

Are you tired of that lady that meets you at your desk every morning before you can even put your bag down…messing up your morning flow and throwing off your focus for the first half of the day? Take that pissivity and use it to let people know what your boundaries are…because a happier, focused you equals a happier, focused team.

Your employees not performing, thus making you look bad? Don’t just chalk it up. Channel that anger and let it motivate you to do something drastic and different. It’s ok to show emotion as a manager. It’s ok to be tastefully and necessarily forceful. Just be specific, respectful and don’t over do it.

Can’t stand that fact that people aren’t following up with you and giving you feedback? Use that feeling of neglect as the inspiration to get out of the fetal position from under your desk, walk straight into the office of the person in the To: field of your email and initiate a conversation about your opinions and ideas.

Unknown-2Get pissed off for greatness! Get hype and make the play everyone else is afraid to! Because like a former employee of mine once told me, it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on…and by not standing up and putting a foot down we sometimes end up with a foot on the back of our necks. So get out there and tackle somebody (figuratively)! Score a touchdown (in the boardroom)! Knock the ball loose (when someone tries to screw you over)! And like Ray said in that speech,

“…you got to go out and show them that I’m a different creature now than I was five minutes ago…because if you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that mean you ok with being mediocre.” 

Huh? Anyway, get fired up and go make a difference while everyone else is just making noise…and get your celebration dance ready!

HR Through Rosy Colored Glasses

Working at a University, it’s impossible not to walk around and feel old as you see thousands of young and eager faces going to and from class. While I don’t work directly with students much, I get “drafted” every year by dozens of them to do interviews for their Human Resources or Business classes. I laugh because I wonder if their syllabi say that they must interview an HR professional or if my name specifically is on them. I think I’ll ask next time.

Every conversation I have with them goes the exact same, which shows me a few things. The same, generic interview questions are provided to them and most importantly, hardly any of them really know what they are getting themselves into majoring in HR.

I try to be as candid as possible when I discuss what I do. I also am not one to sugar coat, so I’m surprised that I haven’t gotten an email from the faculty concerned about what I’m telling them. But when you speak to someone that is in “the trenches” so to speak, you should hear the not-so-pretty, non-glamorous, non-text book type of accounts that we’ve encountered since we’ve been out of school.

It reminds me of this song by Bill Withers that was re-recorded by John Legend called” I Can’t Write Left-handed.” In the song, they tell the account of a young man returning home from war. In the conversation Bill Withers had with him, the young man spoke of his experiences and said that “Being shot at didn’t bother him…it was being shot that really shook him up.”

He goes on to account in the second verse:

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fighting, fighting every day
And looking through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway

Oh, but something that day overlooked to tell me, Lord
Bullets look better, I must say
Brother when they ain’t coming at you
But going out the other way

glassesWhile I’m certainly not comparing our jobs to that of soldiers, because Lord knows I couldn’t be one, our students and young professionals are given these same tinted lenses to wear. No one taught me how to navigate in the business world once I graduated. They didn’t tell me that it would be hell to find a job. They didn’t tell us that dealing with employees and their issues would be stressful. They especially didn’t tell us how the decisions we would make in our HR offices could affect the professional lives of those same employees. The theory around reductions in force, layoffs, terminations, workplace bullying, poor communication between managers and employees and performance issues and self-esteem doesn’t even come close to actually having to deal with it day in and day out.

I remember in a particular job I had that terminations were so commonplace that I almost became numb to them. The more I had to deliver the news, the less and less I thought about what those people had to go through and what they would do with themselves once they left our building. I went from dreading those conversations to executing them without hesitation and with precision. Corrective actions became a habit and a part of my muscle memory.

T’was from these experiences that I began to understand that it was far more productive and humane to identify possible employment issues before they became terminable, and how to keep employees from meeting that fate. Unfortunately it took me having to see it to learn it, as this wasn’t taught. What was taught is that HR is about process, rules and bottom line. I know now that it’s about productivity, development and learning to make the best of the resources that we have.

I honestly believe that if new practitioners and students were shown more realistic pictures of what HR does, we’d have a stronger, better equipped crop of advocates that understand our role in companies…making a difference and not just firing the shots. At the very least, we’d weed out those that didn’t necessarily have what it took to be the right type of leader in our industry…or those that could see early on that this wasn’t the field for them.

So no, I’m not going to paint a perfect picture of what I do, because it is tough. It is oftentimes stressful and difficult. The feelings of guilt come and go as I balance emotion with logic and ultimately decide what’s best for employer and employee.

Unlike the young man in the song that was more than likely drafted to do what he did, we had choices. Those new to this profession have even more choices than we did. So while we speak and share our stories and experiences, we must tell all sides, the good and the bad, to help mold those that are committed to this industry and to give those that are on the fence enough information to make their choice…before they become the poorly equipped and uninformed HR people that we end up complaining about in our blogs and at our conferences.

A P.I.P. Shouldn’t Be An R.I.P.

It’s so easy to say that employees should just go away when they’re not performing the way we want them to or responding to our management. The hard part is not actually getting them to change behavior, it’s actually admitting that we can do more to get them to where they should be.

image1PIPs or Performance Improvement Plans are often used by companies as the last ditched effort to shape up those “troubled” employees before we ship them out. Others use them as merely a coaching tool to get the attention of their people so that other forms of disciplinary action doesn’t have to be taken. I’ve seen PIPs in memo form, worksheets and templates, and I’ve even seen them delivered in emails. But regardless of how we format them, they should all have the same elements to be effective:

  • Clear areas that our employees need improve upon to remain a part of our teams
  • Challenging, yet achievable goals and deadlines for expected improvement
  • A plan of action for achievable said goals
  • Steps in which the manager can contribute and help the employee reach optimal performance
  • Fair and consistently applied actions that will occur if the desired performance isn’t met

We cannot use the word “Improvement” in the plan if we are not truly trying to achieve it. How we communicate during the delivery, and the words and tone used during the meeting should not feel like a death sentence or as if we are setting the employee up to fail.

There is no need to rehash the issues that we’ve had with the employee, but should focus on the behaviors that cause those issues that need to be altered or adjusted. Bringing up old stuff, especially if those incidents have caused negative conflict before, will surely turn your performance improvement meeting into a counter-productive blame session where no one is listening.

If we want our employees to listen, they must feel as if they are believed in, like they can make it and that they are being supported by members of management. Not only is this communicated in the document and meetings themselves, but by actually following up frequently to ensure that the necessary steps in the plan are being acted on.

So ultimately, a lot of the responsibility comes back to the manager. Not just delivering a document so that we can check a box, but managing our employees to yield the results that we need.

And isn’t that what management is all about? Not just supervising processes and expecting everyone to fall in line, but by providing resources and teaching people how to be successful in our systems.

Joe ClarkIf we want to get rid of someone, let’s just do it and move on to the next. Like Joe Clark said in the movie Lean On Me, “Don’t f#&% around with it…do it expeditiously!” But if we actually want them to get better, we must communicate it, make them believe it and show them how serious we are about them making it through the process.