Be A Better Boss

Be A Better Boss

Achievement Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that the world is full of two types of people: those who get things done early and those who put things off until the last minute. Those who get things done early prefer structure, deadlines and plenty of breathing room to finish assignments. Their mantra is, “Once it’s off my plate, I can relax.”

Those who procrastinate prefer freedom in how and when they approach tasks, time to passively noodle the assignment and gather as much information as possible, and the adrenaline that accompanies an approaching deadline. Their manta is, “Relax, the deadline isn’t here yet.”

Managing those who get things done early is a dream. You give them a job and it gets completed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the strain is transferred to employees who can’t bear to have unfinished projects, and who run themselves ragged to finish jobs only to be assigned additional tasks.

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” is the adage of most business owners and managers. Wonderful for the business and the manager, but not so great for the dependable employee burdened with one more task. In addition to not being fun or fair, it’s demotivating to be repeatedly asked to pick up other people’s slack.

What your persistent, getter-done-or-die-trying employees desperately need is protection from you, other employees and even themselves. As a wise leader, knowing they will sacrifice and suffer rather than be late or fail to follow through, you’ll want to keep tabs on their workload and how they are holding up.

High performers who keep getting additional jobs are at huge risk for burnout. Once that happens, they either quit, find a different job, or take their heart out of the workplace. At a bare minimum they’ll start doing “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” nothing more.

All it takes for your Rock Stars and Steady Eddies to soar under your leadership is for you to protect them. Do this by monitoring their workload, dividing up assignments so everyone is sharing the load, and giving them a bit of breathing space before dumping another task on them.

I can almost hear you panic at the thought of spreading out the workload, particularly to employees who procrastinate, turn things in late and always have a good excuse. While panic isn’t necessary, you will need to manage and train your Last Minute Lucys and Larrys to meet deadlines.

While they might not like it, procrastinators need you to set and hold appropriate deadlines and work boundaries. Without them, they will drop the ball and needlessly cause extreme frustration and stress.

It’s helpful to understand that procrastinators actually need the adrenaline that accompanies a deadline. Deadlines propel them to work smarter, faster and more effectively. Deadlines kick in their creative juices. Working on deadline is their preferred and most effective work mode.

Here are seven tips for bringing out the best in your procrastination-prone employees:

1. Set clear deadlines.

2. Ask for their commitment to meet the deadline.

3. Ask when they would like for you to check their progress.

4. With clearly outlined expectations, allow great freedom to determine how and when they approach the task.

5. Refrain from doing it yourself or reassigning a task before the deadline.

6. Hold them accountable for missing deadlines by letting them know the physical, financial and emotional cost of their actions. If this doesn’t bring about desired results, set consequences. No matter how brilliant or charming, if they can’t meet deadlines, they aren’t a good fit for your company.

7. Lastly, recognize the immeasurable gift they bring your company by being able to nimbly respond to anything that gets thrown at them. You need and want them on your team.

While boundaries and deadlines are your best friends as a manager, remember to refrain from rewarding your persistent rock stars with yet another job. Effectively manage both types of employees and you’ll set yourself and everyone else up for long-term success.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, February 2015, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0215-managing-procrastination-prone-employees/

Resolve or Revolve Conflict: The Choice Is Yours

Resolve or Revolve Conflict: The Choice Is Yours

Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

As a leader, you and the individuals you serve are either going to resolve or revolve conflict. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, far too many leaders to engage in the same disagreements over and over again. Week after week, month after month, year after year. Equally bad are the leaders who bury their head in the sand, hoping disagreements and problems are going to disappear on their own.

Leaders with respectful and well-developed conflict resolution skills maximize employee engagement and performance by refusing to ride the Ferris Wheel. Leaders lacking these skills have unhappy and underperforming employees and continue to stay stuck on the ride. The good news is if you’ve tended to bury your head in the sand or keep reengaging in the same argument, it’s never too late to do things differently.

Dr. Arnold Lazarus in his Rules for Fighting Fairly offers the following tips to help you successfully address problems and resolve conflicts:

Use “I” instead of “You” messages. “You are lazy and incompetent. You never get your reports in on time,” is going to be received differently from, “It frustrates and concerns me that your report is late. I need for you to complete your work on time. Can I count on you?”

Formula for Sending “I” Messages:

It frustrates, concerns, scares, angers… me, (insert impact)

When you fail to follow safety standards(insert problematic behavior)

I need you to follow procedures. (insert desired behavior)

Can I count on you? (ask for their commitment to the requested behavior)

An opening sentence you will use over and over as a leader is, “It concerns me.” Other common impact words include frustrates, frightens, angers and disappoints. As a leader, you are responsible for what happens on your watch. If someone isn’t pulling his or her weight, is treating others poorly or is actively causing problems, concern, frustration, disappointment and anger are appropriate responses.

In one sentence, state the problematic behavior (i.e. tardiness, incomplete/subpar work, raising their voice in anger, etc.)

Again, in one sentence let them know the desired behavior. Just as knowing where the dartboard is greatly improves accuracy, you set yourself and others up for success when you let them know exactly where to aim their efforts.

Lastly, ask them to commit to the desired behavior. Then stay silent. It’s their turn to talk. If they say yes, great. If they say no, there is still a problem that needs your attention. Bottom line, a personal commitment significantly increases the likelihood the desired behavior will actually happen.

Be direct and honest. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Sending clear messages increases trust, cuts confusion and frees others from wasting time trying to figure out what you mean and want. Mixed messages confuse, frustrate and decrease productivity. Clear messages promote desired results. As productivity goes up, so does profitability.

Additionally, while it isn’t always possible or advisable to tell employees everything, if you want peak performance, everything you tell them needs to be honest and accurate. While your employees might not like what they hear, trust enables them to more easily roll with the punches.

All parties count. It’s not okay to win at another’s expense. Take the time and creativity needed to negotiate win-win solutions between individuals and departments. Can you always create win-wins? Of course not. There will be times you’ll need to draw the line. Your employees will respect and follow you even when they disagree if you regularly create win-win solutions.

While you can’t control how someone else responds, you significantly increase the likelihood of getting desired results when you handle conflict directly and respectfully. The next time conflict rears its head, what are you going to do differently?

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, October 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden1014-positive-workplace-tips/

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

Bad Boss Burnout Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

A recent Gallup Poll of more than 1 million U.S. workers indicates the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or supervisor. Wondering if you or one of your managers is struggling as a boss? Look at your turnover rates. If they are low, you’re doing well. If they are in the middle, it’s time to start paying attention. If your turnover rates are high, you’ve got a problem. Unfortunately, turnover rates are often overlooked or explained away with a, “They’re leaving for more money.” Research indicates otherwise.

Your ability to communicate and resolve differences is key to your leadership success and employee satisfaction. For almost a quarter of a century Dr. Arnold Lazarus’s “Rules for Fighting Fairly” has been my go-to guide for teaching people to respectfully resolve conflicts.

If you want to maximize your effectiveness as a leader and strengthen relationships:

Rather than criticizing the person, address specific behaviors. While it may be accurate, telling someone, “You’re inconsiderate, lazy, or rude” only escalates problems. Instead of attacking their character and forcing them to either shut down or become defensive, state the problematic behavior. “When you are late,” “When you interrupt,” “When you leave customers waiting,” all clearly identify a problematic behavior without attacking someone’s personhood.

Addressing problematic behavior allows you to get to the heart of the matter quickly, decreases defensiveness and significantly increases your likelihood of being heard, which is critical to resolving conflict.

Refrain from telling employees what they are thinking/feeling, how they’re going to react or what they do/don’t know. Sentences that start with, “Now don’t get mad, but…” or “I know you think you know best, but…” are pretty much guaranteed to escalate into arguments. While you might be spot on, it’s not helpful or productive to micromanage another person’s emotions or thoughts. Instead of throwing gasoline on the fire, say what you need to say, then allow the person to respond.

Avoid saying, “You always” and “You never.” Unless you’re complimenting someone, “You always/never” is guaranteed to escalate emotions and derail disagreements. Instead of coming to a resolution, you’ll be hearing about the time(s) they did or didn’t do “xyz.” Drop these two phrases from your vocab and you’re well on your way to a productive disagreement.

Avoid right/wrong, good/bad categories. Most of how you desire things to be done as a business owner or boss are a preference rather than a rule that exists proclaiming there is only one way to do things. While cheating, stealing and lying are non-negotiables for most, how and when something gets done is generally a preference.

Determine your non-negotiables, values that are unshakable if someone wants to work for you and things that must be done in a precise way. Then, with clearly established goals and expectations, give your employees the freedom to determine how to best accomplish their tasks. They’ll be less argumentative, feel respected and be far more productive.

You’ll want to be prepared with appropriate consequences for employees who are chronically late, treat others poorly or do subpar work. As painful as it is, good leadership entails holding people responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Other employees take their cues about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from you.

While conflict may not be pleasant, it doesn’t have to be destructive. These four guidelines are a great starting point for productive disagreements. If you’re thinking, “Wait, Sherene, there’s got to be more,” you’re right. Stay tuned. I can hardly wait for the next blog.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, August 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0814-leader-employees-relationships/