Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Should Each And Every Effort Raise The Bar?

Do You Permanently Raise The Bar When Someone Puts In Extra Effort?

“Sad but true. When you over deliver, that raises the bar. That's your new standard and you are constantly measured against that. Even dropping to, say, a high-average level means your performance has deteriorated and you're possible termination material while anyone else who rises to that same level is considered hot property”.

I read this in a comment to another post not to long ago (unfortunately I can’t find it now to give credit), and I understood it immediately because I’ve been on both sides of it.

Should each and every effort raise the bar?

No of course not… what are you thinking?

I can see it from the side of the person who put in extra hours (perhaps even hours off the clock) and pulled resources and team members from other projects to make my boss look good when the president of the company came for a visit.  It was a lot of juggling, showing up early and working late, as well as asking a lot from each and every one of my team members.  We pushed pretty much everything to the limit, losing sleep and time with our families to make this go off without a hitch.

We didn’t do it expecting a bonus or a parade.  We did it because we are part of a team, and we wanted to have our department and store look as well as it could, and support our boss by making him look good.

The next day I’m asked why we can’t do that all of the time…  thank you… and why can’t do you that every day?

Did my boss simply not care about how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss simply not understand how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss not care how stressful the whole process was, and how we were all at our limits?

How do you think I felt when I got a perfunctory ‘thank you’ and then was asked why I couldn’t do that every day?

Do you think I felt appreciated?  Valued? 

Did I feel like something… something that should be used up and tossed aside when it can no longer function as needed?  A consumable…

Was my boss under so much pressure that he felt his job was constantly on the line?

Did he fully understand what it took, and still felt the need to ask us to make that the new normal because he was afraid that one of these days he might have to have to go home and tell his wife that he got fired?

Did he simply not know any better… was he promoted past his level of competence, and he is struggling to keep his head above water?

What should we assume?

Of course you should raise the bar. 

In this economy, this is the new normal.  If we are not able to do more with less; keep improving each and every day, we might not have jobs to complain about tomorrow.

Good enough isn’t good enough, and with the competition we have, we must constantly struggle to improve our quality/service/products/bottom line every day.

My bonus is based mostly on ‘improvement’, and if we don’t continue to find ways to achieve more while using less, I lose money.  So…

Where do you stand?

I can’t state what is right or wrong here, and what I can do is tell you what would have made a difference for me.

Build relationships:
If you are a team Leader, show that you are interested in creating a strong, trusting relationship with those who work for you.  People will work tirelessly for us when we first develop relationships with them.  They need to know that we care about them and their goals; that we value and appreciate them and their hard work; and that we have their best interest at heart.

Show your team that you appreciate the effort they put in.  Make sure you are giving more positives than you thought possible… between 5 and 9 positives for every negative or constructive piece of feedback.

Communicate openly:
Speak honestly about what is needed, and how the team can help achieve it.  Make sure that each and every team member knows that they are an important part of the team, and integral to the success of the team.

Support Constant improvement:
We can all get behind constant improvement.  I’ve found that everyone who feels like an important part of the team will have ideas on how to improve things.  Supporting constant improvement means listening to everyone… showing humility and knowing that you don’t have all of the answers.  Make sure your people have everything they need to do their best work.

Redefine job descriptions:
Talk to every team member about redefining their jobs.  By helping each team member see the overarching reason for their work we allow them to find new ways to do great things.  Defining roles by their job description puts limits on what people can do and what they see as possible.

Help your team members achieve their goals:
Whether it means teaching people skills, helping them develop Leadership qualities, or doing their best work for you while trying to get their own business off the ground… helping other’s achieve their goals builds trust and loyalty.

Help everyone get an A:
Read Helping People Win At Work by Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge.  It’s our responsibility as Leaders to help every one of our team members find success at work.  If our team members fail, we should first look to ourselves for the fault.

People who fee that they are a valued part of the team will work very, very hard for us.  However we have to understand that we can only push them so hard before they feel abused… Once this happens it’s very difficult to reverse.  When people no longer feel valued, and feel more like pawns that can be sacrificed, the quality of their work will drop, turnover will increase, and it will become more and more difficult to maintain that level of productivity.  Do not fall into this trap, as it’s a tough one to get out of.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Leadership And Surrendering Control

Leadership… Control?  Coercion?  Or Influence?

I’ve worked at a handful of different companies, and for many different people. Only a few of those people understood that they could not make anyone do anything.

There were plenty who thought that through yelling, berating, threatening, or bullying they could make the people around them do what needed to be done.  And sure, some people will do what you bully them into doing, as long as you are watching over them.  As soon as you leave they will either stop doing, or the quality of their work will be dramatically reduced.

Others will do the absolute minimum version of what they are threatened into doing.  This can work in the short run if the minimum is good enough for you.
And some people cannot be made to do anything… they know that they can simply walk away any time they choose. 

Not one of these methods leads to employees who are engaged in their work. I’ll bet that you’ve worked for a bully at least once in your life.  Did you enjoy it?  Was the atmosphere one that fostered teamwork, high morale, high standards of performance, low turnover, and one that you were sorry to leave?

We only have the power that people give us.

The best people I have worked for and with were the ones who understood that we have no control at all over what other people do, and we cannot make anyone do anything.  Once this is understood, and we still have to get things done through others, we realize that the only way to do that is to influence them… To get them to want to do the things that need to be done.  In other words, we choose to act as Leaders instead of tyrants.

Once we surrender to our lack of control we can start to figure out how to get things done without coercion.

In order to get anything done or changed we first have to admit that we have no real control over what people do.  Be honest… when is the last time you were able to ‘make’ anyone do anything?  You can threaten, and they can agree under that duress, to do what you want them to do.  And that’s still a choice they are making… they decided that keeping the paycheck was worth putting up with you.

If you have children, or have ever dealt with kids for any time, you know that you cannot make them do anything… well… not for very long anyway.  You can pick them up and carry them, you can shove food into their mouths, and you can try to wrestle clothes onto them… and you cannot keep that up forever.

Once they are a certain age, you cannot control them in any way.  You can only hope that you have influenced them in a way that will help them make the right choices for themselves.

What can we control?

  • ·      How often we say ‘thank you!’

  • ·      Our level of honesty.

  • ·      How much time we spend trying to convince people we are right.

  • ·      Whether or not we say that negative or sarcastic thing out loud.

  • ·      How well we listen to others.

  • ·      When to ask for help.

  • ·      How often we use our influence to help others, as opposed to focusing on building influence.

  • ·      How often we admit when we are stressed.

  • ·      How well we take care of ourselves, with exercise, sleep, and eating right.

  • ·      How generally positive or negative we are.

  • ·      Sometimes, and only sometimes… we can control how we react to what happens.  

To get people to do anything, we can only hope to influence them...

In order to get things done through others, and get it done in a fashion that is better than mediocre, we have to:

  • ·      get the people who for us to want to do the work…

  • ·      to care about the quality of their work…

  • ·      to believe that they are an important part of the team…

  • ·      to care about the other members of the team…

  • ·      to care about our common goals…

How do we do that?  Well… there is no shortage of books, blogs, articles, videos, seminars, and trainings with an opinion around that subject.

If I were you I would start by investing my time and energy in self-awareness. 

I believe that without self-awareness the best we can do is can go through the motions of being a Leader, and wonder why we are not achieving the success of some other Leaders.

If we work on ourselves first, we can come to want to take the actions that describe Leadership.  Once we work through our own issues, Leadership will come more naturally for us; we can become authentic Leaders; and build the teams that we had only dreamed about.

Second… I would read every word on
Really… I can’t say enough about it.  Tell all of your friends too!

Friday, May 23, 2014

If You Want To Be Great You Need To Redefine Your Job

What exactly is your job?  No… I don’t mean the tasks you are responsible for.  I mean what is the overarching purpose of your job.

My thought is this…

If you are doing your job based on the tasks you’ve been told you are responsible for, or based on the things you’ve been asked to do, it is impossible for you to be great.  The same goes for everyone who works for you. 

Here’s why I believe that to be true.

Even if you are the very best in the world at doing the tasks of your job, you are still stuck at good.  Because:

Doing a good, or even great job at those tasks is the expectation

Great is only possible when we go beyond the expectations, and take risks.

How’s about an example?  OK, fine...

If the job description for my team Leaders includes merchandising their entire department using the product mix to ensure that they will meet their margin target, I expect them to do just that.  If they do that, they will have met my expectations… Thank you!  That’s it… good job. 

Defining your job by the tasks you are responsible for limits your ability to be great.

So when I ask if you know what your job is, I am asking if you know the overall purpose of your being there.  It will be a very broad description of the part you play in achieving the larger goals where you work.

For that team Leader, the day I hired them I would have told them that their job is to run that team as if it were their own business…  As if every dollar of profit went into their pocket, and every dollar returned, every customer complaint, every team member not trained properly, every spoiled product, every dollar in unknown shrink, was a dollar out of their pocket.  That is your job.  Do everything you need to do in order to run that team as if you owned it. 

We would talk about many of the things included in that broad description… KPI expectations, product quality standards, food safety, customer service standards, team member training and expectations, and a whole list of other things.  At the end, I would make it clear that this is just a ‘starter list’.   For someone running the team as if it were their business, there would be many additional ideas and concerns… driving sales, keeping an eye on our competition, developing team members, making mistakes, when to ask for help… And I always end by insisting that when they have a great idea, they ask for forgiveness rather than permission.  If it were your store, what would you do?  Then do it!  Time for me to step aside and let them do their job.

That kind of job description opens up a whole world of possibilities… a whole world of how to be of great.  Now my team Leader can imagine ways of driving sales, building customer loyalty, beating margin and other KPI targets, and inspiring their team members that I would never think to put into a job description.

Within this general job description would of course fall all of the normal tasks associated with the job, and these can always be written out as before if that’s what you are comfortable with.  The point here is to stop limiting yourself and your team members by describing your jobs with such a narrow scope.

So let’s try another… Let’s hire a porter.  Normally a job description might include sweeping floors, clean up spills, checking bathrooms every hour, emptying trash cans, and a host of other tasks that indeed do need to be done, and are important. 

However, we are limiting our new hire’s ability to be great if we tell him or her that this is the job.  How else could we word an overall job description for this person… this person who probably interacts with more customers than you do?  This person who has the opportunity to see and fix customer problems that we are never aware of?  Porters see the parent struggling with the baby in the stroller, and could easily get a balloon, a snack or juice box, or ask what else they could do.  And if their job description isn’t wide enough… if we have limited their vision, they are not likely to take that chance.   So even a great porter is still only good, because a clean bathroom and dry floors are my expectation.  We all see people cleaning up everywhere we go… do they smile and greet you?  Do they offer help?  If they worked for you would you want them to?

If we give that porter a broad overall job description, perhaps as an example, to include ‘keeping our customers and workers safe and happy’, we allow a much larger range of behaviors.  A porter with that job description might offer to keep the break room fridge stocked with condiments; ask for cases of juice boxes or balloons for kids; sweep up the parking lot when it’s a mess, even though the landlord is really responsible for it, knowing that it reflects on our business; or ask for wipes to keep handy for parents who need them.  That’s the porter I want working for me.

Hiring the right person, and then allowing them the freedom to see their job as much more than the usual list of tasks will help you get from good to great.

OK, fine… you believe me.  So what now?  Just what are you supposed to do?

If you are taking the time to read this, I’ll assume that you care about your job, and already do a very good job at the tasks for which you are responsible.  If you are not currently doing a great job at the tasks you do, that is first and foremost.

·         Now, I suggest you think about your job, and what you would do if your job were your business.  What would you do if you owned the place? 

·      How would you reframe your job to allow the person doing to it achieve greatness?

·      What would you stop doing, and what new things would you try? 

·      What new goals can you come up with?

·      Are there things you can delegate to give you more time to spend on your new ideas?

·      Remember, unless you are the only one who can do it, delegate it.

·      Try thinking ‘what would I do if I were brand new in this job’?  Or alternatively, ‘if I left today, what would my replacement do to change and improve things’?

·      The only way to find greatness is to break out of your limiting job description, whether it is your actual written job description, or simply how you currently think about your job.

·      If you have the ability, speak to each member of your team about reframing their role, and together come up with a job description that will allow each of them the freedom to be great. 

·      Perfection isn’t the goal… building relationships and constant improvement is the goal.

·      Remember that great often means asking for forgiveness, rather than permission.  So if you are giving your team members this advice, you must be ready to forgive them!  They are going to be taking the risks needed to be great.

·      If they are not making mistakes they are not trying enough new things!

And if you believe that in your workplace thinking like that will get you fired, maybe talk to your boss about these crazy new ideas of yours before making any huge changes…. Just in case… I’m just sayin’…