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Leaders Getting It Right

team manager talking to team

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a manager guide his team through a very successful series of events and opportunities. The way he has mastered the leadership of his interesting group has just been amazing to me. I’ve watched them overcome great obstacles, some uncertainty, and definite challenges to create what you might call an undefeated season.

There were times when the outcome was very much in doubt but through some very obvious and intentional moves that this manager made, the team was able to rally and achieve great success.

I started looking back on the things that made this particular manager’s effort different. And it occurred to me that he has been a very effective model of some fundamental principles that leaders at all levels, in all kinds of organizations should be following.

Knowing the Fundamentals

It will be helpful to list some of these fundamentals. You can use them as your own gauge or checklist to see if you are also using these things to steer your team toward greater success and higher performance.

The first thing I observed in this manager’s skill set was a distinct ability to carefully evaluate each member of his team. He watched for key talents. He identified gaps. You might call them the weaknesses that each person demonstrated. From this careful analysis, he crafted the structure of his team. He carefully deployed each individual into a key role that set the individual up for success while establishing a firm foundation from which the whole team would operate.

He performed a good effective analysis of situations that were occurring around them. As circumstances changed, he would adjust the assignments that were given to each team member. He was leveraging the best skill at the best time. Sometimes there were team members that really didn’t have a task. They were sitting out so to speak.

Yet the circumstances were ever-changing therefore every teammate got the opportunity to perform. As situations changed, this manager had the foresight to allow team members who needed to develop new skills to get into a situation that would give them the opportunity to experience actual effort and impact while they were working on developing their skills.

The manager seemed willing to freely delegate authority and responsibility. Team members were allowed to make real-time decisions about responses they felt were appropriate in the moment. If that transaction turned out to be wrong, the manager did not get upset about it.

Rather he talked to the individual about what they did, how they did it, and what another choice could have been. If circumstances got too severe, this manager was quick to adjust the deployment so that the lesser performing personnel were not left dangling and exposed to possible failure.

He did create a system of accountability. Team members were held accountable for the actions coming their way and their response at the moment.

When each big moment came and went this manager would have a huddle with the whole team. He would talk through the elements of what had just happened. He would reinforce his vision of what they needed to be doing. Plus he would answer questions about the work effort.

He achieved great success without ever spending one moment of overtime. He never asked the team to commit unreasonable time to the effort. Instead, he saw to it that every moment they were together was spent with valuable instruction, positive reinforcement, and solid coaching.

One additional aspect of this manager’s great success was his seeming ability to stay several steps ahead of the game. He never seemed surprised by the circumstances that unfolded. He was calm in the face of tension. He was positive when disagreements happened. And he himself demonstrated high professionalism, great integrity, and solid vision.

Lastly, and by no means the least, he built an atmosphere of fun not work. He saw to it that every member of the team was having fun doing what they were there to do. He played music when there was a break. He told good, clean stories that people could laugh at.

So What?

All of the elements listed above make up attributes that leaders need to be pursuing for the benefit of growing a high-performing team. If you have not thought about some of these aspects you should be looking at your own view of your responsibility as a leader and determine whether or not you can make these kinds of changes with your team.

By the way, I watched leaders in other organizations go through this same period of time with far less success. As I observed those managers what I saw was a lack of understanding of the talent they had in their team. There was no apparent effort to create a roster of talent that could be used in applicable moments to maximize the outcome of every opportunity. Rather they seem to be simply passing the time trying to get through each challenge the best way they knew how. Some days they won some days they lost.

However, the manager I’m speaking about at this point in time is what you could call undefeated. He has a perfect win-loss record. His team enjoys the work they do. They seem to enjoy working with each other. And they are always ready to take on a new challenge.

If this is something you are interested in learning more about I would be happy to schedule a call with you to explore what is going on with your team in ways that you can be this kind of leader.

Oh by the way I failed to mention something. The manager I’m talking about is the coach of my 9-year-old grandson’s Little League team. Yes, they are undefeated going into the playoffs as the top seed in the tournament.

Author’s Note – Several days after this article first ran, the Rockies swept the league playoffs and won the tournament championship, making them a perfect 17-0 for the season.

The principles I described above work as well in any business as they do at the ballpark with young men and women (they had a girl on the team too! – just sayin…).

For more insights and routine tips on leadership, listen to the podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.”

You’re On Mute

It’s a familiar phrase that has rapidly risen to the top of our vocabulary while we attempt to engage and conduct business remotely. Zoom, Teams, Google Spaces, and Slack have risen to the top of the heap for connecting these days.

Yet often as the session opens up, someone has that little red “X” showing the mic off. They start talking. All others see are lips moving but no sound. People start yelling “You’re on mute” like the volume of their message can get thru the silence. It’s comical but ever-present.

I was thinking about this idea and landed on a few deeper thoughts we should consider.

“You’re on mute” can mean several other things in our fast-paced, all too busy world of commerce.

Cancel Culture

The emergence of cancel culture has placed many on mute. Not by their own action but by the action of others declaring a person should no longer be listened to. I don’t know how that happened, what with the freedom of speech and all, but it has.

I agree there has been a shift in the freedom people feel entitled to use to say just about anything., Perhaps it is true that the rise of social media is not really all that social. Users blast opinions and beliefs without regard to who might be listening.

Call me old school, but just because you have the freedom to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. With freedom comes responsibility, or at least that’s what I was taught many years ago.

The Boss’s Role

Anyone in management should take a serious look at their mindset about who, when, and how team members should be heard. Placing a “you’re on mute” button on every worker’s desk implies “I don’t trust you” or worse yet, “you’re not valued here.”

The Great Resignation is teaching us that the cultures we thought we had in our companies are not that great. Workers are voting with their feet to walk away from toxic environments. If you are scratching your head wondering why so many people have resigned from your company, you should take a hard look in the mirror first.

Have you either intentionally or accidentally put people on mute? The modern, post-pandemic worker is not going to suffer that any longer. There has to be a change.

Think about the Story

If you feel like others have put you on mute, think about the stories you are telling. Is your story old and tired, down and out, or upbeat and energizing?

On my podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense”, I interviewed Kurian M. Tharakan, the author of “The 7 Essential Stories Charismatic Leaders Tell.” He defines seven basic stories that help build a message. These stories apply to companies and brands in general, but they also apply to leaders who are set on motivating and inspiring those who follow them.

Without the right story, your message may just be noise in the minds of others. Stop the noise, offer clarity and purpose, then you’ll get taken off mute real fast.

Check out my Podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense” available on all major outlets.

Happy Easter 2022

Happy Easter

There was this man who claimed to be the Son of God. He taught a TOTALLY new way to live and introduced us to a concept called Heaven, a different afterlife than Judaism taught.

He taught us that God is our Father and resides in Heaven, preparing it for us. He said that God wants a relationship with us and wants us to join him in Heaven. He said that the only way for us to get there is to believe in him. He did lots of good works and performed miracles, proving his claims of divinity.

Per his predictions, he was tortured and killed by the religious leaders of the day for upsetting their value system and calling them out. He used words like hypocrite, blind guides, fools, and brood of vipers in describing their teachings and categorically discounted just about every piece of former doctrine including diet, the synagogue, cleanliness, the Sabbath, and so on.

He also mocked their claims to Abraham, THE central figure and cornerstone of their belief system. Probably fearing a rebellion against their beliefs or righteous indignation of being offended by his heretical teachings, they killed him.

Also as predicted, he came back to life three days after his death and spent the next 40 days showing himself to the general public, before departing for heaven himself.

Our choice today is simple. Believe that Jesus was who he said he was and follow his commands, teachings, and examples….

OR believe that Jesus was the greatest religious fraud of all time.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Christianity in less than 200 words. Love you guys.

Happy Easter

SFT: A Simple Reminder for Leadership Performance

Dr. David L. Cook is a sports performance coach and business consultant who has made the phrase “SFT” famous. Leadership performance can be reduced to these three little ideas.

You might know Dr. Cook’s name from a little book titled “Seven Days in Utopia”. The book was made into a movie starring Robert Duvall and Lucas Black. The story is a fictional journey of a young aspiring golf superstar (Black) who has a colossal meltdown on the world stage of golf, suffering a series of bad choices and shots that take him to a score of 15 on the final hole of a big tournament.

Utopia

Angry and frustrated at the game that seems to have betrayed him, he wrecks his car while driving thru the scrub brush of the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. Destiny introduces him to an old cowboy (Duvall) who himself was once an aspiring golfer with a lot of growing up to do. For the next seven days, Duvall takes Black under his wing to teach him a few things about golf and, more importantly, life.

Read more

Who Lights Your Fire?

This quote from W.B. Yeats is a great reminder for those of us in leadership roles. Let me repeat it :

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~W.B. Yeats

When we try to train our team or build a new product or service, education surrounding the details is not the ultimate “win.” No, our focus as leaders should be inspiring those we lead to take a personal vested interest in the success of what we set out to do.

You can teach, preach and educate all day long, but until you impress someone to buy in to the project, it really doesn’t matter how much they know about the subject.

There’s another saying “Harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection.” That sums it up.

When was the last time that you, as a leader, were properly focused on this kind of impact? Do you light people’s fire in their hearts and minds or do you simply teach them something new?

There is a big difference. In today’s high-tech world, information flows in an instant. Instead of competing with information at the fingertips, why not think about ways to inspire your team?

Here are a few powerful ideas you might try.

Show Them Why the Outcome Matters.

I once took responsibility for a new team. I decided to visit each person’s area, asking them a bit about what they did. At one desk, a lady who had been with the company for years sat quietly pushing paper from one stack to the next.

I watched this a few moments then asked, “Where does it go when you’re done?” She said “I’m not sure. So and so picks it up then I never see it again.”

I asked, “Where did the first pile come from?” She again said I don’t know.

So I made some notes then started doing my own research.

Know Your People

When you spend time with your employees, make it matter. Don’t just expect your time and title to inspire them. Employees want a leader that pays attention and genuinely cares about them.

Great leaders take the time to know the ingredients before they can create the best recipe for success. Employees are most inspired when a leader takes the time to know them and show that they have their best interests at heart.

Learning is Still Important

Employees do appreciate the opportunity to learn. Teaching new skills or sharing new information helps them feel appreciated and valued. However, the delivery of that information is important.

Don’t just lecture, but share. Create a space for open dialogue about new material you want to spread. Adults learn best when they have a chance to engage in a feedback cycle where they state in their own words what they just heard. This is your opportunity to fine-tune and/or affirm the message has been received.

There’s a Fine Line Between Success and Significance

We all want to feel significant about what we do and who we are. Jobs can actually provide that IF the boss allows it to happen. If the boss is too concerned about his own reputation and doesn’t care about the people on the team, no one gets any significance from the job. Heck, they even get very little sense of success.

However, if you as the enabled leader decide to share the significance with each team member, you can win much greater employee trust.

Ownership, Not Just Accountability

Enforcing accountability is a key component to sustaining performance momentum. However, when you can give your employees “ownership” in the process of defining how accountability is enforced – you inspire trust and a desire to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Giving your employees ownership means that you have shared and entrusted them with your authority. You are now allowing your employees to “call the shots” based on what they believe is in the best interest of the team and the organization.

For example, create a special project and allow an employee to take ownership of it. Outline your expectations for the end result, but allow him or her to take charge of the project. Agree to meet once a week and observe the change in attitude and desire to perform.

Respect, Not Just Recognition

Beyond appreciation and praise, show your respect and admiration for the work of your employees. While people want to know they are respected, you must establish the ground rules for how respect is earned.

There are too many recognition addicts in the workplace. In a world of fierce competition, we have come to believe we are our own best allies. We believe we must rely only on ourselves. We believe we can sell ourselves better than anyone else. But this attitude puts our long-term careers in danger.

Unfortunately, too many people want recognition because they forgot the significantly greater value of earning respect. Re-train your employees about the importance of respect and lead them in how to earn it. When they see the greater impact respect delivers, they will be inspired by your example.

Employers – Have You Been Ghosted?

The job market keeps getting weirder. Employers and hiring managers are now, more than ever, reporting ‘ghosting’ as the new normal.

What do we mean? In popular street slang, being ‘ghosted’ in a relationship means never hearing from him/her again. Texts, calls, and emails go unanswered. The other party becomes a ‘ghost.’ Even though you may have had a couple of dates, one person goes radio silent.

It’s now happening in the job market too. Candidates get several steps into the hiring process, then disappear. Never to be heard from again. They ghost you.

The Root Cause

Try as you might to understand the phenomenon, you’ll never get a good answer. Don’t waste sleep over it.

Experienced recruiters and placement executives are telling me “We’ve learned to do what they just did. If I have a candidate ghost me, I do it right back. Their resume goes in the file, never to be viewed again.” That means no follow-up and definitely no chasing.

Just chalk it up to pop culture moving us one step further down the road, away from old customs and norms.

As soon as you start griping, complaining, and losing sleep over it, the ghost has won. So stop that. Move the heck on.

Think About It

If someone ghosts you, why would you want to chase them? They already told you something big. They’re no longer interested in the relationship.

Whether it is about trust, taste, or choice, they’re done. Give it up. You have better use of time to move on.

On the other hand, if your hiring process moves too slow, maybe you got ghosted for good reason. The market is HOT. If you find a good candidate that looks like a good fit, you have to be ready to move quickly. Get your ducks lined up sooner rather than later.

Hiring by committee creates too much delay. Even if you like a panel interview process, make the decision the same day the interview is over. Better still, have a process to accumulate the ‘votes’ during the day while the interviews are wrapping up. Be ready to decide go or no-go right there.

Then let the candidate know right away.

High Demand

The latest reports tell us there are over 550,000 high-tech, high-paying jobs unfilled. Companies are fighting for the scarce candidates out there.

Some recent college grads are winning 6-figure jobs, just to fill the slots. Jobs that formerly started at $45k to $80K are now over the $100K entry point.

I shudder when I think of my first bank job after the Army when they offered me a whopping $17K to start, yes annually. That was 1979, but it was good money then. Plus the company was a rock star so my own rewards started mounting fast, making up any difference there might have been (but it wasn’t a big gap to fill).

Times HAVE changed. Stop thinking in an old mindset. Make your company decisions and be ready to dive in when and if you must hire new talent.

The Tables are Turning

According to Indeed.com, the global online job matchmaker, employers are ghosting too.

Ghosting seems to have grown in popularity amongst job seekers over the past year: 28% have ghosted an employer, up from only 18% in 2019. Meanwhile, 76% of employers have been ghosted in the same time frame, and 57% believe it’s even more common than before.

Some employers say candidates are cutting off communications early in the hiring process — after an initial phone screen or interview, for instance. But others take it further, with one-quarter of employers reporting new hires “no-showing” on their first day of work.

But ghosting isn’t just a job seeker behavior anymore: Nearly half (46%) of employers surveyed believe that employers are now ghosting job seekers more frequently than before.

A whopping 77% of job seekers say they’ve been ghosted by a prospective employer since the U.S. onset of the pandemic last March, with 10% reporting that an employer has ghosted them even after a verbal job offer was made.

Alarmingly, only 27% of employers say they haven’t ghosted a job seeker in the past year. It’s another sign that ghosting has become standard practice in the hiring process — even though it creates a terrible candidate experience and can threaten a company’s employer brand.

Ghosting is here to stay — here’s what you can do about it


The latest data highlights the evolution of ghosting, from its steady growth as a jobseeker practice to its emergence as a trend among employers, too. Reasons job seekers ghost employers still vary, while employer motivation is somewhat speculative given the paucity of last year’s data.

While it’s apparent that ghosting has become deeply rooted in the hiring process, employers can take steps to minimize the impact of ghosting. In addition to keeping more detailed records of candidates who ghost, think about how you can target the source of the behavior to prevent it altogether.

Remember that focusing on attentiveness and improved communications throughout every stage of the process is key to ensuring the candidate feels informed; research has shown that many job seekers ghost when they don’t feel their needs are being met and don’t know what else to do.

Secondarily, simply being transparent, empathetic, and authentic can go a long way in building more comfort and trust in your relationship with the candidate.

Use these insights to foster more successful candidate interactions — because nobody’s giving up the ghost anytime soon.

For further insights, check out this article, also from Indeed.

Also, check out my podcast, Leadership Powered by Common Sense, where we’re breaking down the fast, complex world of business, finding simple, easy-button ideas to make a difference.

Bold Leader Moves in the Current Market

bold leadership

What do you think is a bold move nowadays? How do you look at employee engagement? With the turmoil in the job market, what has your company or organization done to secure the team you have and attract new talent when the need arises?

On occasion, doing something bold is not limited to something NEW. Instead, you just might be surprised about ways to engage with and retain your talent team.

The current job market is simply too frenzied to allow your best people to walk out the door because YOU failed to do something you could have easily done to keep them happy and engaged.

Ezra’s Findings

For the past two years, I’ve had the good fortune to partner with the Ezra Coaching team. Ezra is a coaching platform that is exclusively virtual. Interestingly, it was conceived and under development long before the COVID pandemic hit. Ezra provides coaching on-demand, virtually.

Ezra is a global solution that, since its inception, has coached over 15,000 clients during the past two years. In addition to delivering world-class executive leadership development, Ezra tracks emerging trends in the employment environment.

In a recent survey. Ezra captured these five ideas about keeping top talent. The data was accumulated using a poll of the client companies Ezra supports.

A word in advance. Like I said previously, something bold does not have to be something new.

1. Listen to them

2. Encourage open communication

3. Work in ways that suit THEIR life

4. Invest in L&D (coaching is a great place to start)!

5. Prioritize their wellbeing

Task #1, Listen to Them

This is something leaders and managers have struggled with for decades (so do husbands and wives, but I digress). The art of effectively and engagingly listening is lost on the pace of business these days. I’ve talked to too many managers who say they simply don’t have time.

At the same time, I routinely hear from leaders that they feel frustrated because their bosses are not listening to them.

How do you respond? The popular phrase is “empathetic listening.” It involves truly listening to the employee without formulating your next statement. Give feedback like “So what I am hearing is…” Let the other person either agree or clarify.

Some might argue it’s a common courtesy to properly listen to someone else when spoken to. But again, the pace of business has adversely influenced the way managers and staff connect via listening.

Bold leaders in today’s work world are stepping up and changing the way they listen.

Task #2, Encourage Open Communication

Communication is actually a very complicated exchange requiring much more intentional effort than most organizations provide. For a leader to create truly open communication, there has to be a framework and accountability.

The framework needs to define methods, practices, and formats that contribute to communication. Thinking about this at the team level, Patrick Lencioni in his “Five Habits if Dysfunctional Teams” describes the need to develop a team charter and a team contract.

The charter defines who and why the team exists. It becomes the foundation of thinking and understanding about the team.

The contract applies a bit of structure. I’ve seen powerful team contracts that go so far as to explain how to reel in a team member in an open meeting who has run away with the agenda. I’ve written before about one approach called “ELMO” which is an acronym for ‘enough, let’s move on.’

The accountability part is where the manager or leader takes responsibility for dealing with bullies on the team or personalities who derail the team effort. Team members allowed to get away with belittling others’ opinions do too much damage to good communication.

Task #3, Work in Ways That Suit THEIR Life

This may be the one truly new, bold idea. It applies to finding ways to receive employee input about their lifestyle and expectations for work-life harmony (not balance, but harmony).

The ramifications of the pandemic lockdowns have reshaped everyone’s views of how to work. With only a few exceptions requiring ‘boots on the ground’ work situations (e.g. manufacturing, assembly lines, and heavy construction), many workers have reshaped their ideas about what makes a good job.

The old 9:00 to 5:00 is obsolete. The standard 40 hours in the office will not survive either. Studies tell us workers are asking for a hybrid office at the least or at best, fully remote.

Companies of all sizes are going to need to do some soul searching about the best way to respond to these expectations.

Task #4, Invest in L&D

Learning and development have historically fallen by the wayside when budgets get tightened. It’s often the first HR program to get slashed. Ironically, it’s the exact place companies should be focused.

Taking people off the street and getting them coached and trained to be ideal employees inside your company is a valuable commodity. You can try as you might to find perfect fits for every job, but usually, a good fit only gets you just so far. You still have to develop your people.

Providing ongoing development opportunities keeps people engaged and inspired. If they can see some kind of opportunity forward, they are more likely to stay with you.

Task #5 Prioritize Their Wellbeing

This is an all-encompassing idea. First, you must decide what ‘wellbeing’ involves. It’s no longer limited to compensation and benefits. Companies are having to do much more to answer questions about things like environmental, social, and governmental stands (ESG) or diversion and inclusion.

Recent news has highlighted cases, where 100-year brands have failed with certain ESG initiatives and the workforce, is not happy about it.

No doubt the new pressures on leadership teams continue to rise. In many cases 30 and 40-year veterans are simply choosing to retire rather than redirect their traditional methods of leadership. New, emerging leaders are making names for themselves by boldly taking on these challenges and guiding companies to new horizons.

The Last Question

The real question is, where do you, as a leader, stand? Are you even aware of what it might take to keep high performers satisfied? Do you care?

The management style of “My way or the highway” may be officially DEAD! I certainly hope so.

Leadership Effectiveness Can Improve Using Simple Triggers

executive leadership coaching

You can improve your leadership effectiveness with some simple triggers.

As much as I love all the science, academia, and psychology of leadership development, and believe me I follow a lot of it, I often find the biggest achievements come from simple steps. I call these triggers.

I had a client recently who was tasked with improving his executive presence. He had developed a reputation as having a somewhat short fuse when it came to interactions in the field.

In his defense, he works in a labor-intensive industry, with much of the workforce being trade skills and blue-collar. Nothing wrong with that picture other than you must understand confrontations can be ‘lively.’

My client had a tendency to meet his folks on their level whenever prompted by conflict.

As we worked through his options for changing his style and approach, we discussed specific instances and role-played the scenarios. After we had explored his options, I asked him “How do you think you will be able to affect this behavior once you’re back in the field?”

He was stumped for a moment. He really couldn’t think of ways to make it work.

The choice was simple. Either react the old way or respond with the new framework and mindset.

The Trigger

I suggested he think of a trigger. It was going to be easy to know when a confrontation was about to begin.

I asked him if he thought he could decide between two simple choices; either “on” or “off”. What I meant was, decide whether the employee reactions were “on”, as in, “I don’t like this instruction, but…. I can see why I need to do that.” That is an “on” position.

If the employee is totally opposed and becoming agitated, then the matter is “off”.

He agreed that would be easy to process.

By knowing whether the moment was on or off, he could choose to use his new methods for dealing with “off” situations.

The central theme we had landed upon was “an executive must act as he should, not as he feels.”

When circumstances were looking like they were in the “off” position, he needed to be extra diligent to be MORE executive about the situation, refrain from responding in kind, and become the peacemaker rather than another combatant.

By not forcing himself to have to think too deeply about the situation, he could rely on simple on/off logic to know which response was appropriate.

It worked very well.

Common Sense

After all my years of business and community leadership, I firmly believe there is a great deal you can accomplish as a leader with good common sense. That’s why I refer to much of my work as “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.”

Again, I love brain science, emotional intelligence, psychology, and all other facets of effective leadership study. Yet when you are in the heat of battle, you need simple, effective triggers to guide your response.

Question: What are some triggers you can use in your leadership to become a more effective leader? Leave a comment.

Also, if you are looking for ways to become a better manager, leader, or boss, check out my Best Boss Ever Challenge. I’ve pledged to connect with 10,000 business owners, managers, and leaders in 2022. Click the button below to learn more.

Rating and Ranking Employees – Yikes!

employee reviews

The month of January not only starts the new year, but it serves to end the old one. For many businesses, January sends HR folks and Managers into a frenzy trying to finalize employee reviews, ratings and rankings for the entire staff.

There are score sheets, narratives, interviews, and ‘coaching sessions’ done to inform employees how they did with the last twelve months of performance. Thousands of hours are dedicated to performing this daunting task. And to what end?

Anyone who has ever worked for a company with more than 50 employees has likely been subject to or responsible for the processing of this archaic ritual.

It’s a Littered Road

Let’s look at some history. The idea of doing such a process no doubt started with good intentions. Let’s face it, we all like some appreciation for the work we do. Furthermore, if we’ve been doing the work for a while, we feel the need to get a raise or bonus. It’s a risk/reward mindset. “I took the risk by dedicating my time and effort, so what is my reward.”

From the company’s viewpoint, if we’re going to permit merit raises for good performance, we need to be ‘fair’ in how we do that. If we have a larger population to administer, not all frontline raters will think the same, so we need layers to screen the outcomes. Hopefully (and I stress that word), the layered process can more evenly distribute the budget we allocated to the raises and bonuses.

Having said just this much, the system is already broken, right? I mean what about the individual contribution? Does it get melded and mashed into a corporate box ranked one thru ten? Or worse yet, rated one thru five? What’s the real difference between a seven and an eight, or a four and a five?

Compound this method by declaring the rankings need to be distributed on some bell curve, now you have a real mess that totally unmotivates even the best of performers. I’ve even seen “force-placed” ranking systems using scores one through 100. Managers are told you only get one person at 100 and somebody has to be the one.

From where I sit, with 40+ years of leadership experience, the rigid ranking and rating systems produce no positive outcome. It relegates your best people to ask simply, “What am I going to get paid?” Your lower performers likely already know they are slacking and the process only agitates an already bad attitude.

Throughout the year, bosses who may have thanked an employee for a good project outcome or praised them openly at a team meeting get ambushed at year-end when that employee is rated a three out of five and told “you met my expectations.” The boss rates them that way because, compared to the rest of the group, the middle of the pack is where they stand. Or, still bad news, the boss forgot about the good outcome from May when trying to rank the whole team at year-end. Yes, it happens.

A Story

Remember, I said the HR folks get hammered during these rating cycles? Here’s one for you. I got a call from an HR professional I’ve known for 20+ years. Her company had gone through major layoffs due to the COVID pandemic. The division she supports had suffered what amounted to a 33% cut in the team last year. Everything was wild and wooly for a while but seem to have settled down now.

employee review

They did their year-end performance appraisals and all the surviving people met their goals, according to the commercial software system they use for administering employee performance appraisals. The goals, by the way, were set by corporate, not by the local managers, and are lock-tight tracked and reported by the system. They apparently use a three-point system for assigning an overall score… ‘met goals’, ‘needs improvement’, or ‘move them out’. (How’s that for motivational messaging?)

Corporate called her to say that THE COMPLETED PROCESS was unacceptable. The results should have produced more of a bell curve with 2-3% of the highest-ranking at the top, and equal distributions below. By the way, it’s not clear what happened to the STANDARD bell curve with 20% at the top and bottom, 60% in the middle? She also reported she was totally confused why she wasn’t given these instructions at the beginning of the process.

So they are asking her and her managers to change the ratings after the entire process has been completed! She is about to lose her mind. All of this non-sense from a Fortune 500 that should know better. No wonder people hate HR.

In addition, you must ask yourself, what about the employees who have already been told about their standing?

That ‘Less Than’ Feeling

The whole artificial mess leaves employees with a ‘less-than’ feeling. ‘I am less than what the company wants.’ I feel ‘less than’ excited to work here.

I am convinced it is programs like this that are contributing to the Great Resignation. It’s exactly why good people are leaving what otherwise might be considered good jobs to start their own businesses or search for more employee-friendly environments. People are simply fed up with old systems, narrow mindsets, and poor evaluation systems.

Leaders at all levels must realize the need for better employee communication. Communication of expectations, clear goals, and priorities, plus fair accountability standards. It’s a huge challenge. But it can be done.

Join me in my 2022 Challenge to Be a Better Boss. Visit the challenge here.

As a bonus, here are several other articles I’ve written on this important subject.

The King of Leadership Fails – not recognizing good talent

Kill the Bell Curve – why the normalized bell curve doesn’t work in today’s market

Is Your HR Department Lying to You? – why we need to reform performance reviews

Defining Customer Service in 2022

Starting fresh in the new year might be a good time to rethink your views of customer service. For businesses of all sizes, the first question is simply “Who is my customer?”

The word customer usually applies to the end-user; the person paying for the goods or services. However, in larger corporate settings, your team’s customer may not be external at all. You may be serving an internal ‘customer.’

Either way, the notion that there is someone out there to consume or receive what you do should be important to review on a regular basis.

Small Business Coaching @ DougThorpe.com

The Myths

First, let’s do a little myth-busting about customers. Leading the list is the age-old favorite “The customer is always right.”

This myth was busted for me many years ago by Herb Kelleher, the infamous founding CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb told a story one day.

There was this disgruntled and somewhat drunk customer waiting to board a flight at the Southwest hub in Dallas (their home). The weather had caused delays throughout the system. As one delay after another was announced, this one customer got more and more belligerent. He yelled at and belittled the gate agents. Then he event took to spewing abusive rants at fellow customers.

Finally, the flight was ready to board. He pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be greeted by two Dallas cops. They cuffed him and escorted him behind the line. The crowd in the terminal cheered.

Herb said while they (his crew at Southwest) made one customer really mad, they made 300 others very happy.

This stuck with me.

Myth #2 – ‘So long as customer needs are met, we’ve done our job well’

Supplying the customer with what they asked for is one thing, but in reality, it’s only half of the service. To build a real customer experience, it is all about how you make the customer feel — from the moment they become acquainted with your company, to the last interaction you have with them.

This includes everything from their surroundings and environment, your employees’ tone of voice, extra facilities, availability, the speed of service, and so on. Everything about the customer’s experience must be as close to perfect as possible (and yes, if something goes wrong, you can indeed still achieve this).

It is not enough to simply satisfy a customer’s primary request. The customer experience is made up of tons of micro-interactions that all influence how that person will see your brand. In short … it really is the little things that matter.

Myth #3 – ‘Our customer service should be built and governed by policies and procedures.’

Policies and procedures are indeed necessary for a business to run safely and smoothly, but following them rigidly to the letter can often be the reason a customer leaves dissatisfied. This might involve the hours that you’re open, your policy on returns, or a simple customer mistake based on human oversight. Rather than play rigidly by the rules, your employees should be empowered to make independent, on-the-spot decisions in favor of the customer, without consulting a more authoritative member of staff first.

Employee empowerment is not about breaking or ignoring the rules, but about bending the rules to keep customers happy. If employees are afraid of negative consequences such as losing salary, losing their job or simply being belittled, then your customer service will quickly become stagnant and unresponsive to customer needs. Instead, it must be creative, free-flowing, reactive, and dynamic as new solutions are sought every day.

Going out of the box to make customers happy lets them know you value their custom. It is naive to worry about what side-stepping rules and policies might cost you. These same customers are likely to return more frequently and spread the word of their experience to others, making this practice a worthy investment.

customer service

Myth #4 – ‘Low customer complaint numbers mean we are doing well.’

There are several flaws in this one. First, your complaint count might be low because your customers are too frustrated to care about reporting it.

Or, your customer service process may be so bad that the real complaints are not getting through. Either way, don’t get complacent about low complaint counts. Be sure you’re getting the right picture.

Ask questions. routinely, get in touch with your customers. Ask why they like working with you. Find out what they expect. Be sure you fully understand what they want, why they picked you, and what it will take for them to stay.

Myth #5 – ‘I can’t fire any customers. They’re too hard to find.’

This is a lie straight from Hell. A bad customer should be fired quickly. What is bad? Well, any customer who makes unrealistic demands on your time and the time of your team members. Any customer who expects to be first in line regardless of the other business you have in progress.

If you are delivering on your word and providing good service, a customer who constantly gripes and complains about the service should be fired. Plain and simple.

The time you take trying to coddle these clowns can best be used to land and support good customers.

New Year: Same Results?

Are you expecting better results but planning to do the same things? Now is the time to renew your thinking about your business. Review what worked well and what didn’t work.

Set a fresh course for where you want your business going in 2022. If you’d like to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to learn what business coaching can do for you, then click the button below.