communications

Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

You have seen the big uptick in hate crimes locally and nationally. Perhaps you have read articles about the impact of political divisions on work activities. I remember when I was a kid that racial and religious slurs were common language – and cringe every time I hear someone decry political correctness when what they mean is freedom to say such things again. The SHRM magazine even has a cover this month on “The Age of Rage.”

Are you seeing evidence of employees arguing more or ignoring each other instead? Have you had any incidents of harassment or discrimination in your workplace? Have you felt a need to address these issues but wondered how to do so?  Are you just hoping to avoid this topic?

First, the laws have not changed. If you are covered by EEO laws because you have 15 or more employees, you may wish to remind all employees of the harassment and discrimination rules as a part of an employee newsletter or meeting. Tell them also that diversity has been shown to improve business success and profitability which helps them keep their jobs.

Most importantly, your values have not changed. If your values include respect, ethical behavior, communications, trust, a positive workplace – or many others – remind staff of these values and how you expect people to demonstrate them at work. Pushing a political viewpoint on others or ignoring/harassing those who disagree with one is not a behavior you want to allow in the workplace. Harassing people who are different from one is another area you want to make clear is unacceptable.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, listen to your staff more. Ask a trusted employee about any […]

By |April 24th, 2017|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

Creating a More Effective Organization

Do you look for ideas and innovation from your employees? Does your work require creativity? When you think about these questions, if you look to continue to grow your small business, the answer almost always turns out to be yes. Management is a critical aspect of ensuring growth and continued success. Ed Catmull’s book CREATIVITY, INC is worth your time. Not something I say about many business books.

While this book is about building Pixar and focuses on artistic creativity, his management insights apply to most organizations. The theme of trust runs strongly through the book but always with real business insights and ideas. For example, on the issue of micro-managing:

“One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear doesn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”

The issues of managing the organization and inevitable failures are another frequent theme.  For example, on leading an enterprise:

“When I say that the fate of any group enterprise, and the individuals with it, are interconnected and interdependent it may sound trite. But it’s not. What’s more, seeing all the interdependencies that shape our lives is impossible, no matter how hard aor long we look. … Acknowledging what your can’t see – getting comfortable with the fact that there are a large number of two-inch events occurring right now, out of our sight, that will affect us for better or worse, in myriad ways – helps promote flexibility. You might say I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors […]

By |April 17th, 2017|culture, Executive development|Comments Off on Creating a More Effective Organization

New Overtime Tips

The salary level test for the Fair Labor Standards Act is rising on December 1 to $913 per week ($47,476 annually.) The duties test and salary basis test are unchanged. This means you must take action by December 1 to review the impact on your organization and make any needed adjustments. Many small organizations do not understand or comply with the duties tests –  this can present significant legal and financial risks if an employee or ex-employee reports you to the state wages and hours agency or seeks out an employment attorney. You may have seen legal ads for failure to pay overtime cases on TV in fact.

I did a webinar for the Alexandria SBDC on the new overtime rules – both the webinar and the annotated slides are available free. The webinar or slides can guide your thinking and action planning so that you are ready.

The New Overtime Law Webinar

The annotated slides

Guidance from the US Department of Labor  –  https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

It is smart to get started now on assessing the impact of the new salary level on your organization, as well as reviewing your compliance with existing duties test rules.  This process includes assessing what makes the most sense in terms of your desired or existing culture and extensive communications.  Ideas for these areas are included in the webinar and slides.

By |August 8th, 2016|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on New Overtime Tips

Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, cities were convulsed and some burned, ‘Chicago ‘68′ became a cliche for demonstrations and strong-arm police tactics. One sunny day I was deep in the beautiful wilds of Minnesota trying to find the farm of a woman whose husband had been shot down and was missing. By 2am, long before the days of social media, she was calling me terrified by the horrible calls and threats she was already getting.

Today we also face turbulent times, compounded by social media and cable news coverage. The ‘fog of war’ hurts us all. Many people are fearful for their personal future and their ‘tribe.’

What does this have to do with your business?

The conditions of our culture are reflected in our work. People spend a large portion of their lives at work. You have the power to create a better place and one that allows all your employees to be their best selves. We know that this actually increases financial success and growth. It will help your employees.  It might just help our country turn this current climate more positive too.

First, have you created a climate of respect?

Respect is more than superficial equality and basic manners – although those might be a good start in some workplaces. Respect includes valuing everyone without implicit bias or overt discrimination based on how different they might be from you. It involves creating a climate that values fairness and good faith and trust. It includes everyone in the organization treating each other well and positively. It includes neither hiring nor retaining ‘jerks’ who damage interpersonal relations and destroy trust. If your own behavior or emotions get in the way, it means learning how to control yourself […]

By |July 14th, 2016|culture, values|Comments Off on Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

An effective listener must direct and guide many discussions including performance management, dealing with customers, interviewing job applicants, among others. One aspect of better listening is learning how to gather information via smarter questions. This is the second on major aspects of listening skills. See also http://shrinsight.com/communication-tips-listening-skills/

Requests for Information

A major type of questions are requests for information. The six common types are:

the invitation to talk
open-ended questions
fact-seeking questions
comprehensive questions
probing for specifics
encouragers

An invitation to talk is a statement rather than a direct question but it invites the person to talk about a given subject. For example: ” I’d like to hear about the goals you have for this year”. Invitations to talk feature:

It focuses attention on a specific topic but gives a wide range of options to the person responding.
Its use keeps your views from influencing the response you will receive or tipping your hand about what you want to hear.

Interspersed with direct questions, it can keep a discussion or interview more comfortable and less like an interrogation.

Open-ended questions are good ways to start a flow of information because they call for an extended answer and cannot be answered “yes” or “no”. They give people room to respond and communicate that you are interested in the response.

For example: “Do you like your job?” can be answered yes or no and is closed-ended. Rephrased as “What do you like most and least about your job?”, it communicates that you really want to know details and their ideas.

Fact-seeking questions are designed to elicit very specific or factual information. They are questions with a narrow, more precise focus. Here are some examples:

What did you do to resolve the customer’s complaint?
How do you want our current policy changed?
What training have […]

By |February 8th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

Communications are a critical aspect of every manager’s role. Successful growth and many performance management processes involve feedback situations. The need is for timely, objective and specific feedback to reinforce good performance and to correct problems before they become bad habits. These discussions require specific skills including good communications, active listening, coaching and counseling.

The Supervisor as Communicator

Communicating is a basic function underlying most of your management activities. You have four primary audiences: higher management – if you are not the founder, your peers, your staff, and those outside the organization.

Higher management should be informed of:

problems or difficulties in achieving your goals
suggestions for improving operations in your unit
praiseworthy performance of your staff

Your peers need to know things which help coordination or impact their work:

problems or difficulties which hinder their effectiveness
progress or data which assists their planning
suggestions for resolving common problems

Your staff must know your expectations and objectives:

role of the work unit and how it fits into larger picture
goals and objectives of the unit
work unit performance – achievements and issues
feedback on personal performance

Persons outside the company may also need to be communicated with to:

explain the contribution of your work unit to their needs
describe company actions, policies, or plans
respond to questions or criticisms

As a manager, a prime function is to get things done through people. Your ideas become effective only as they are communicated to others and thus achieve the desired actions. Employees’ ideas and suggestions are also vital to your success as an organization. Thus your communications need to be designed to encourage understanding and willingness to contribute. You communicate with words, attitudes, and actions. How well you manage depends on how well you communicate in that broad sense.

“Top Ten” Communications Tips

10. Clarify your ideas before […]

By |August 12th, 2015|Communications|Comments Off on Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

Managing Performance 4: Getting Work Done Effectively

A key managerial role at every level is guiding and developing employees. The performance and success of your staff is the key to your own success. Your ability to build trust with your staff and to keep them actively involved in the company’s and their own success will improve your own and your work unit’s productivity. Research shows annual performance appraisals have no significant effect on individual productivity. What does work is an interactive program where manager and employee meet regularly to discuss work plans, performance, expectations, problems, and goals.

The best leaders have constant check in with their employees and inherently understand how to balance a team to focus on the “we” and the “me” — they have a pulse on their workers so that everyone has a sense of how to make the team work together towards a common goal (focus on the “we”) but to also balance the individual so that each worker knows that they are playing to their talents and strengths (focus on the “me”.)  Marcus Buckingham, SHRM2015

Tip 1. Work Planning and Standards

Work planning underlies much of a supervisor’s and work unit’s effectiveness. It is important to ensure work is completely effectively, on time, and within allocated resources. Standards are the established expectations on how work will be done. These are also often driven by the demands of customers, regulatory/industry or ISO standards, and the need to create a consistent environment for achievement. They include:

clearly identify expectations for performing the work
specify requirements and minimum levels of acceptable performance
define accountability
provide reference points for measurement
support improvement efforts and excellence

Tip 2. Manager Defines Work Objectives

A manager’s role in work planning is to establish specific work goals and measurements which enable the work unit […]

By |July 28th, 2015|Performance Management|Comments Off on Managing Performance 4: Getting Work Done Effectively

Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?

The goals of any performance management process or system are productivity, continuing improvement, and accountability. If you are hiring effectively, most employees want to contribute and succeed in their work! Founders, executives, and managers play key roles in ensuring that individuals have the skills, tools, support, and knowledge to do so.

Performance management is an on-going work routine designed to help ensure that each person becomes and remains a highly productive, effective contributor. It is a cycle which includes action from orientation through termination.

There are nine discussions which have been shown to have a major impact on productivity. These are:

Orientation to the work unit
Initial work assignment discussion
Orientation follow-up
Agreeing on work assignment plans and measurements
Career coaching
Recognizing consistent progress
Recognizing above-average performance
Counseling and correcting substandard performance
Regular,on-going performance discussions

Note that some of these are relatively formal, scheduled discussions.  Others can be ‘catching the person doing something well’ and saying so, on the spot skill coaching or advice, or other less formal communications.

New employees want to know about the overall business and where and how they fit in. Providing the information they need to succeed, as in the first three above, helps convey your expectations clearly and provides a blueprint for success.

Discussing and agreeing on work assignments affects the individual’s sense of positive involvement. It gives both of you an opportunity to address issues and clarify expectations. When work plans in whole or in part are developed jointly, the risks of misunderstanding and poor performance are reduced. Realistic standards are more achievable. So is success for you both and for your company!

Career coaching involves providing information and feedback. It includes ‘how to succeed here’ talks, discussions of the individual’s goals, as well as future plans of the organization so that an […]

By |July 5th, 2015|Smart practices|Comments Off on Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?

HR Learnings from Marshawn Lynch

The frenzy around the Super Bowl provides all sorts of ideas for any small business. That around Marshawn Lynch certainly speaks to basics of managing employees.

Lesson 1. High potential employees need support to grow.

Even when you have terrific people working for you, you need to understand and support their growth. Marshawn Lynch is a top level player who clearly does not like responding to reporters and feels his comments are not reported correctly. He has been fined for not speaking to them. Yet the NFL does minimal speaking training. And if you follow the NFL, you know a lot of other players forced into answering reporters questions who do not do so very well.

I have worked in many companies where we invested heavily in training customer-facing people in speaking skills – from the CEO on down through individual contributors. Most of us are not comfortable giving speeches or public presentations – or even talking to internal meetings. Some surveys show a fear of public speaking that is only slightly lower than that of serious injury! And even those who are willing to speak need a lot of practice and preparation to actually be good. This is true for many other aspects of work where you want your people to contribute too.

What are you doing to ensure your people have the right training and development opportunities to grow and develop your business?

What are you doing for your own professional growth and development?

 

Lesson 2. Check your compensation philosophy and structure.

Does your pay program actually support your values and goals? The NFL expects every player to be available to talk with reporters before and after games and at events. They do not reward such behavior, instead they […]

PROBLEM EMPLOYEE – OR GREAT ONE WAITING?

Dealing with performance issues is a critical component of any founder or manager’s job. Since this often involves conflict and difficult emotions, many people put this off. That often means they do not deal with problems until it is too late to effective solve them. Firing and replacing staff is disruptive and expensive at best. Often you can avoid getting to that stage by more effective performance management.

Remember: your success is directly related to the performance of your staff.

What causes inadequate performance?

Far too often, it is failures in the system rather than the person. Management experts from Peter Drucker on, list the most common causes of inadequate performance as:

* employee does not know what is expected
* employee does not know how to do the task
* work processes interfere with good performance
* feedback on actual performance quality is not given to the employee
* there is negative consequence for good performance

These issues must be addressed first if they exist. It starts with hiring the right person for the right job. Orientation to your workplace, systems, and expectations is important too. Looking regularly at how your processes and systems work  to see that they are efficient for your current needs is vital. And so is regular performance feedback.

When an employee does not perform to expected levels, you can succeed in improving the person’s performance if you address the issue as quickly as it is first identified.

Here are some basics on how to do this well.

* accurately identify the problem and the behavior change you desire
* give specific details of the behavior that creates the problem and the impact of the problem on the function or business
* involve the employee and ask for his/her solution

Once the employee has accepted responsibility and you […]