Leadership

No-Nonsense Tips for Effectively Managing Generation Z

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As a speaker and trainer on generations in the workplace, I often witness older employees assuming that Gen Z and Millennials (also known as Gen Y) are identical and interchangeable.  This couldn’t be further from the reality of things!  Just on the basis of who raised each generation—Baby Boomers raising Millennials, Gen X raising Gen Z—differences will make themselves apparent.  Drawing generational lines can be tricky, but most sources agree that Gen Z consists of adults born between 1996 and 2010.  The older section of this demographic is almost 22, and more than ready to make a real jump into the business world.

So how can we prepare ourselves to successfully manage the next wave hitting our companies?

Feedback

Millennials typically received a good amount of feedback from their parents, most of it positive reinforcement.  We all know the old stereotype of a Millennial continuously knocking on their boss’s door just to “check in” and see how they were doing. It spread across workplaces like a wildfire!

There are some similarities between Gen Z and Millennials in this regard.  However, when it comes to Gen Z, the feedback loop becomes even tighter.  This is a generation that has grown up constantly monitored and observed.  They’ve spent their childhoods on the internet and using smartphones. Everything they’ve done—from grades posted to online portals to iTunes and Amazon purchases—has been tracked and documented.  And Gen Z is fully aware of this tracking and have opted into it.  They are used to frequent recommendations and suggestions. It’s no surprise that they want their workplace to reflect the rest of their lives!

But there’s good news—where Millennials typically want things sugarcoated, Gen Z prefers their feedback straight and to the point. Their parents never gave a rose-tinted version of things, so why should their leaders?

Focus

Like we said above, Gen Z lives in a world of continuous updates. What counts as “relevant” is constantly being reworked and redefined.  Their lives are in a state of constant flux, moving from one social media platform to the next, jumping from app to app, staying on and ahead of the trends This can lead to a shorter attention span, as they’re used to jumping immediately into what’s next.

While this might seem like bad news, it’s also very, very good news. Gen Z, as a direct result of that shortened attention span, are better multi-taskers than their Millennial counterparts.  They’re used to typing up a document on a laptop while doing research on their phone and streaming a movie on the television and—well, you get the picture! They can shift gears quickly, code-jumping between work and play, and keep an eye on multiple projects at once.

Great Expectations

Did you know that 72% of teens say they want to start a business of their own one day?  This Entrepreneurial spirit is really what defines this up and coming generation. And now more than ever, with the world just a wifi connection away, it’s not as far-fetched a goal as you might think. Gen Z appreciates feedback, but they’re ready to work independently and hit the ground running.

That’s because Gen Z has great expectations.  Millennials remember coming home, logging into AOL, and waiting for the dial-up connection to rev up.  Gen Z was born into a fast-paced world that never stops moving.  This does lead to some pitfalls, like the tendency to panic when something doesn’t work right away.  But it also leads to quick and quality turn arounds on assignments.

The Takeaway

Like with every generation—the Greatest Gen to Gen Z—there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer to managing a specific generation.  It’s easy to say that Millennials can’t take bad feedback or that Gen Z is flighty and easily distracted, but they’re really no different than the generations that came before.  We all want work that matters, and w all want to know that we’re performing above the expected caliber in our positions.  It’s common sense that is unfortunately not so common any more.

Don’t fear Gen Z coming into your workplace.  With a little time and a little feedback, you’ll have a strong team that will help support your business for generations to come.

Good to Great: Communicating with your Employees

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Time and again, experience and surveys show that one of the main factors feeding into employees deciding to seek out new employment rests in those employees feeling seen, validated, and valued. Those feelings come directly from communication with you, their boss! In fact, the main difference between great bosses, good bosses, and subpar bosses rests entirely in how those leaders communicate with their team. We all want our employees to feel valuable and never disposable. So how can we communicate fully and effectively with our employees? 

Glass Half-Full 

It’s easy to lose sight of the positives in order to focus on areas with room for improvement. But if employees are never recognized for their successes, they may begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated. Take the time to verbally tell employees, “Good job!” or “You’ve really improved!” When it comes to praise, a little (or a lot!) can go a long way. 

I also like to take the time to appreciate when an employee has gone above and beyond. We all like to think of our teams as places where collaboration is the default, which means showing your gratitude when an employee helps another, helps you, or takes initiative and goes a few steps further than required. A simple “Thank you” shows your employee that you’ve taken note of their hard work. 

Clear Expectations 

Think about when you were a kid, sitting in the passenger seat of your parent’s car. Your parent tells you to go ahead, take the wheel and steer for a while. That’s the only direction you’re given: steer. You’re left to figure out what that means, and the car meanders first towards the middle dividing line, then towards the shoulder. 

Sometimes, your employees may feel like that kid steering the car for the very first time. Check in from time to time. When you first delegate a task, after explaining make sure to ask, “What’s our goal?” This gives a big-picture image for your employee, as well as requiring them to repeat back what you’ve just instructed, giving both of you the chance to make sure everything is clear. Before leaving, say, “Let me know if you have any questions.” This shows your team that you’re approachable and open to assisting should road bumps occur along the way. 

Room for Improvement 

Of course, there will always be times when some corrective communication must occur. This isn’t a bad thing, however, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Think about being the kid in the car again. When you drift towards the center, your parent shows tells you to go back to the left. When you get too close to the shoulder, they send you back to the right. They correct in the moment, and not after the fact. 

To jump to another metaphor, think about someone who has spinach stuck in their teeth. If that green leaf was in your teeth, you’d want to be told immediately, right? It’s the same for your employees. Very few people intentionally perform a task incorrectly. So if you notice something not going to plan, take a moment and check in. Phrases like “How can we improve?” or, if you expect an outside factor is impacting performance, even checking in with the person themselves. “How are you?” 

And sometimes, it may even be you, the boss, who has made the misstep. Address it immediately and own up to it. “That was my fault. I’m sorry.” Employees learn from watching us. We lead by example. Make sure you’re setting a good one from take responsibility, noticing work well done, and communicating clearly.

Stay Interviews and You

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It’s safe to say that we’re all familiar with Exit Interviews—when an employee makes the decision to leave their current position and company, they are interviewed about their reasons for doing so, ways the company can improve, what the company has done well, and so on. But this does little to actually help the company in question. After all, that employee has already left. There isn’t any way to try and rectify the situations that led to their decision to seek new employment. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of conducting a Stay Interview. 

So. What is a Stay Interview? And why are they so important? 

Like an Exit Interview, Stay Interviews are conversations between management and current employees. However, unlike the Exit Interview, Stay Interviews give you the chance to retain an employee instead of having to go through the process of losing a valued team member, interviewing and finding a new person, and training them. The results from these interviews will give you knowledge about what your business is doing well, what can be tweaked and adjusted, and, most importantly, keep valued employees from leaving for different opportunities. 

Now more than ever, employees want to know that they’re being heard, acknowledged, and appreciated. People respond to collaboration more than heavy-handed—or, conversely, extremely hands-off—direction. Gone are the days where the boss simply says, “If you don’t hear from me, assume things are going well.” Stay Interviews go a long, long way to showing your employees that you don’t only care how their business is going, but that you are invested in their development within your corporation. 

Stay Interviews are also a fantastic way to pinpoint members of your team who are looking to move up in the ranks but aren’t sure how, or what it is precisely that you are looking for in regard to promotion. For instance, I can recall many years ago when I was a naïve teenager in one of my first jobs. I asked my boss what I needed to do to get promoted. His response? “You don’t get promoted for turning the lights on around here.” That was it! After, I felt like he didn’t care at all about my growth and development. Whenever I have a Stay Interview, I keep that feeling in mind. Employee feedback is crucial to your growing business, now more than ever. It can help you find talent that you might have otherwise overlooked or brushed past in favor of more pressing issues. 

It's a new year, and there’s no better time to try out some new approaches in your business. If you’ve been looking to shake things up and reduce turnover in your business, I can’t recommend Stay Interviews enough. The questions you ask, of course, will depend on your business and leadership communication style. The questions I ask might not be useful to you or your situation, and yours might not be relevant to mine! A quick google search will land you an abundance of options. Here are a few to get you started: 

  • What kind of feedback or recognition would you like about your performance that you aren’t currently receiving?

  • What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role? 

  • What talents, interests, or skills do you have that we haven’t made the most of? 

  • What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here? 

Stay Interviews are proactive and will help you reduce costs related to rehiring employees. Even better, they will help you keep the team that you already have, as happy employees are less likely to go looking for new opportunities. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

Hit and Run: Avoiding Drive-By Assignments

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It goes by many names: drive-by assignments, the dump and run.  We may call it something different, but we know it when we see it.  Maybe we’ve had it happen to us, or we (though we may not want to admit to it!) have done it to our employees.  A leader leaves an assignment with one of their team members and tells this employee to figure it out, then disappears as suddenly as they appeared.  The chances of this task being done correctly or promptly have just slimmed down to the faintest glimmer of a chance. 

Sometimes things even as miniscule as different acronyms might throw a wrench in the works.  For instance, I see ASAP and think it’s a top priority—but for some of my employees, BEE (Before Everything Else) is given top attention.  So how to cut through the miscommunications and streamline delegating in your workplace?  The good news is that it’s fairly straightforward to avoid.  We as leaders need to slow down and make sure to answer a few questions before moving along:

·      Who Will Do It?  Who is the person responsible for completing this task?  Make sure that your employee is clear on the fact that this is an assignment and not simply an afterthought.  Give your task the weight it merits.

·      What Has to Be Done?  Are expectations clear?  If you don’t have a clear picture of what this completed task should look like, why do you expect your employee to have one?  Define clear parameters for your employee to follow.

·      How Should it Be Done?  You’ve established the what, now make sure your employee has a handle on the how.  Different tasks demand different approaches.  Share your ideas on these approaches and see if your employee has any thoughts to contribute.  Make sure everyone is on the same page.

·      Why is it Done in This Way?  You’ve gone through the what and the how, now make sure your team member understands your thought process.  Sometimes it’s hard for us to connect with a task that is purely theoretical.  Again, clear communication goes a long way in assigning tasks.

·      When Should it Be Completed?  Nothing motivates workers like a good, old fashioned deadline.  If you don’t have a firm deadline in mind, make sure to at least give them a ballpark.  Otherwise, it’s easy to put off completing a task in favor of other assignments which may feel more pressing.

·      Where Will You Be?   Make sure that you’ve made yourself available and accessible should your employee run into any questions, road blocks, or problems along the way.

By making sure you’ve addressed these questions when assigning a task to one of your employees, you can ensure that things are being completed in a timely, competent matter.  No matter how much we wish it was different, our employees aren’t mindreaders!  We can’t expect them to give us what we’re looking for unless we’re able to communicate exactly and precisely what we want.  But with a little intention and a lot of clarity, we can become better leaders of more efficient teams.

Into the Unknown: Preparing Employees to Handle Change

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People fear the unknown—your employees are no exception. We like to know where we stand. It’s why people develop habits and routines. However, contrary to what we might otherwise like, the only real constant in the world is change. And when change occurs in our workplace, whether through a broad overhaul or a small change in personnel, it can cause fear and unrest in a team. Change can make employees question their standing in your business: What happens if they can’t meet new expectations? What if they push back too hard and end up either losing respect or losing their job? If they accept change too quickly, will they be seen as a goody-goody by their co-workers? These are all questions your team will ask themselves. However, you can help employees manage their fear of change by setting a strong example. 

Set Expectations Early 

In moments of change, employees will often feel that they’re unable to keep up with the new landscape and their new expectations. Make sure that you have established a support system for them during these transitional periods, and, additionally, make sure that your team knows that system is available to them. This can be accomplished through creating an honest and accessible vision of the intended outcome. I don’t like changes made only for changes sake, and neither does my team! So I make sure that they understand why the change is happening, and ensure we’re all on the same page regarding my expectations both of them and my new system. 

Be Specific 

Whatever you know about your planned changes to your business, be prepared to share them with your team! Studies have shown that employees respond positively when included and feel that they have a say in the running of a company. Besides, by sharing everything from nitty-gritty details to big picture ideas, you not only bring your team into things with you, but you also establish yourself as well-informed, prepared, and ready to tackle any obstacles. By seeing you take responsibility and act with confidence, your team will follow your example. 

Transparency 

Along with setting clear expectations and explaining specific points of upcoming changes, keep things transparent. Openly discuss potential pros and cons of your proposed plan, and invite your team to come to you with any pros or cons in the planned changes that you may have missed. Make sure to highlight the pros of how this change will effect the employees positively. Humans are naturally inclined to align themselves with things that will directly benefit them. Make this a priority, and your employees will be more likely to follow your lead. 

The most important thing in managing change in the workplace is you. You’re the boss. Your team looks to you. Take responsibility for their fears and insecurities in the face of change, and find ways to keep everything smooth and on course. This will take a good deal of deliberation and conscious action on your part. After all, despite what Hollywood may have you believe, leaders are not born—they are made. Make yourself into the best leader you can be today.

Faith Over Fear: Empowering Employees to Better Your Business

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Authority.  It is the confidence and power to act and make decisions.  It is, at the basic level, empowerment.  Generally, we think of ‘authority’ as something that belongs to the boss.  However, every time that the boss decides to delegate a task or assignment, they are also delegating the authority to make decisions on that task.  We often think of effective leadership as a hands-on activity.  But if we keep our hands and thoughts spread over too many tasks, we’re not only undervaluing and overworking ourselves—we’re doing the same to our employees.  It can be a daunting task to let go of the wheel and let someone else drive for a while.  So how can we as leaders empower our employees while making sure we stay secure in our role as leaders?

 

Believe in Yourself

A common worry among leaders is that by empowering their employees, those employees will manage to outperform you.  It’s easy to fall into the trap that an employee doing an exemplary job translates into a commentary about the shortcomings of your own ability.  Really, the truth is the exact opposite.  I am always thrilled when my employees operate at a level that sometimes outpaces my own abilities.  It builds me a reputation as a leader who surrounds myself with competent and empowered people.  Before delegating, simply ask yourself: Who gets the most work done in their area?  Who has created a record of hard work and service?  I’ve found that the more I empower my people, the longer that list grows, and the more options I have in delegating tasks throughout my team.

 

The Long Haul

The nature of running a business is to accept that there will be some level of turnover.  However, empowering employees and giving them more responsibilities, both big-picture and day-to-day, can create a sense of ownership in your team’s work.  They are more likely to find a higher rate of satisfaction with their job, and put more effort in.  When team members within your company feel that they have a say and that their voices are heard, they’re more likely to stay working within your company versus going out and seeking a new opportunity.  This will also help to build a reputation for your business, and this reputation can in turn help attract promising new talent to join your corporate team.

 

Taking a Step Back

Still, it can be hard to take your hands off the wheel and take a step back.  Most of us started in positions where our bosses once empowered us—that’s how we ended up in leadership roles.  You had the technical know-how and skills as an employee.  Now, your job performance is judged almost entirely on making decisions and getting work done through others.  There’s more security in doing a task yourself versus passing it along to a member of your team.  When these anxieties happen, remind yourself that it’s good your team is more proficient at a task than you are.  They are the ones doing the job on a regular basis, who are neck deep in the thick of things.  Your job is now the big picture—by empowering your team to take greater responsibility, you are ensuring that they are able to handle the details.

With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that your team may be hesitant to take on more responsibility at first.  For instance, I once had an employee who was reluctant to make definitive decisions.  He was unused to the level of empowerment I was wishing to give him. He asked permission to do something, and I got out of my chair, laid on the floor, folded my arms across my chest, and asked him, “If I were dead, what would you do?”  I told him his answer sounded good, and he went on his way.  This is the real test of leadership—if your employees need you to keep the company running, something has gone wrong.  A better business run like a well-oiled machine, and through empowering your team you can ensure that it will last the test of time, no matter what complications arise along the way.

Cool Hand Leadership: 3 Steps to Avoid Failures to Communicate

One of the sad truths of the business world is that, no matter how open your lines of communication are, sooner or later a miscommunication is bound to occur.  When these mishaps happen, it can be easy to look at your team and toss them under the bus in your place.  However, you’re still the boss, and as the boss it’s your job to make sure that you are getting through to your employees when delegating tasks.  The buck stops with you.  With that in mind, it’s good to shrink the opportunity for miscommunications in your business.  But where to begin?  Luckily, it’s fairly simple and straightforward.  With three easy steps, you can begin to build stronger communications within your company.

1. Be clear, concise, and observant. 

Make sure that you have a clearly defined vision and understanding of what you’re asking your employees to accomplish—after all, if you lack direction, how are they expected to follow you along to a desired outcome?  While delivering your instructions, keep it short and to the point.  If you go off on too many rambling tangents, your team may have trouble picking out what matters in your instructions.  Use simple language and avoid unnecessarily large words.  Finally, and maybe even most importantly, keep an eye on your employees’ body language.  If they seem unsure, pause and check in: they may have a question they are too self-conscious to ask without prompting.

2. Assume nothing.

It’s easy to fall back into the safety net of acronyms, idioms, and other lingo in your business.  However, just because certain terms and words are common knowledge to you doesn’t mean that they are to everyone.  The same goes with the perceived difficulty of an assigned task: Michael Jordan can dunk a basketball without blinking, but the same can’t be said for most of us.  Make sure that your employee has a full, well-rounded picture of what you’re asking them to do as well as knowing how to do it before sending them off to complete their task.

3. Ask for a summary.

Before dismissing your employee or continuing your day, ask your employee to give you a summary of what you have just instructed them to do.  This can clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings before anything becomes a problem.  Ask a few questions to make sure that both you and the employee are on the same page.  Remember, you’re not grilling them in an interrogation, but rather working together with your team to keep everyone on track.

Remember—even with these three tips, miscommunications are bound to happen.  We’re only human, after all.  When miscommunications do occur, don’t be so quick to blame your employees.  When your finger is pointing at them, their fingers will all be pointing back at you.  Luckily, with a dose of intention and a whole lot of patience, you can minimize the amount of miscommunications happening within your business and work with your team to build a stronger company.

Delegating the Deckwork: Effective Delegation in Your Workplace

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A few years back, my wife asked me to stain our large, backyard deck.  It’s a large task, needing no less than 8 hours to complete, and definitely not the way I had wanted to spend my Saturday.  But she was right: the work needed to be done.  About two hours into my undertaking, my wife came outside to ask me to run to the grocery store.  I pointed out that I was busy staining the deck and not able to go, to which she replied, “Staining the deck is easy—you can finish once you’re back.”  I realized that, from her point of view, staining the deck looked simple because she did not have to do the work itself.

I often think of this exchange with my wife when training new leaders on the importance of delegation.  Oftentimes we underestimate the amount of effort an employee is putting into a task because we are not the ones doing the labor.  Remember: the only thing separating you from your team is a job title.  But with some attention, intention, and education, you can delegate effectively.

Attention

The first step to effective delegation is to agree on expectations and responsibilities.  We often do this without thinking, but a little more attention to it goes a long way.  Make sure that you and the employee you’re delegating to have the same picture of what success means.  Be clear and concise about roles in completing the task: who is responsible for what?  Build a safety net should your employee find themselves in need of some guidance.  Most importantly, make sure that the deadline is expressed clearly and enforced.

Intention

In order to avoid the dreaded mantle of the micromanager, we often find ourselves inclined to delegate a task and disappear entirely.  Stay involved with your employees throughout their project.  Allow them the room and freedom to complete the work, but stay available to them to help with any concerns or unexpected roadblocks.  By managing with intention, you can help your team succeed without staying immediately involved.

Education

One way you can stay involved in a delegated task is to create and foster learning opportunities.  When the delegated project has been completed, meet with your team and check in: What worked?  What could have functioned more successfully?  Why did these things happen?  Establish that this debriefing will occur from the get-go of the assignment.  It’s important that your team is both celebrated for their successes and held accountable for lackluster performances, and that your expectations are clear from the start.

Not all tasks will be as straightforward as staining a deck.  Still, the basic principles of effectively delegating a task remain the same.  You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding methods, outcomes, and expectations.  Stay involved but allow your employees the freedom to succeed on their own terms.  When the delegated project has finished, call a meeting together to debrief on how things went.  Most importantly, don’t assume that the deck your employees are working on is easy: keep communication open, and your team will soon rise to the occasion.

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event.  Phone: 612-708-1939 Email: info@johngraci.com

Walking the Walk: Leaders as Role Models

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Sometimes, as we find ourselves caught up in the daily grind, we lose track of a simple fact: leaders, you are a role model!  Your employees look to you and judge your actions as a reflection on the entire company.  Your team follows the example that you are setting, which further builds the company’s reputation in a community.  So, today, we take the time to reflect on how leaders can not only talk the talk of being a boss, but walk the walk as an effective role model.

Attitude is Everything

Maybe we don’t talk about it enough, but acting in a leadership role is hard.  You constantly find yourself caught between your employees, co-workers, and upper management.  Keeping everyone content is a constant balancing act, and spending that much time up on the high-wire can be exhausting!  But it’s important to still keep your head up and maintain a positive outlook.  Don’t put down upper management and co-workers in front of your employees.  Remember: you are the boss.  If you spend your days plodding around your business like Eeyore and claiming that the sky is due to fall any day now, your employees will respond in kind.  So if you would like to see a shift towards the positive in your workplace, start by taking a long look at your own attitude.

Maintain Positive Relationships

Along with keeping a can-do attitude thriving in your workplace, it’s important to deal with any conflicts that arise quickly, calmly, and professionally.  Say, for instance, that you find yourself clashing with another manager.  If you air your grievances publicly, it will only be a matter of time before your employees pick up on the unrest.  Soon, your team and the other manager’s team will find themselves constantly at odds.  While a little good-natured competition can be healthy, the last thing you want to do is accidentally encourage open hostilities within your business.  Take some initiative and try to foster positive workplace relationships.

Building Trust

As a leader, you want your team to trust you, and you want to be able to trust them in turn.  There is no way to build that trust without hard work, accountability, and integrity.  But in order for your employees to display these qualities, you must first model them yourself.  Work hard—pitch in when your team needs a hand and make it clear from the start that there is no assignment beneath you.  Most importantly, make sure that you do a good job at those assignments and hold yourself accountable.  Your employees will measure themselves against your example.  That is why you must conduct yourself with considerable integrity.  If you ask your team to follow a set of rules, you must also be ready to follow those rules yourself.

With a little intention, you can soon become a role model for your team.  By setting yourself up as a quality leader, you can trust your team to go above and beyond.  After all, they’ll be following your example.

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event. Graci Leadership Solutions  Phone: 612-708-1939 Email: info@johngraci.com

 

Is it ever ok to be friends with an employee?

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At some point, all managers will struggle with the issue of becoming friends with an employee. Sometimes, special people come along. It's natural to want to get to know them better, in an extracurricular context. 

But, it's almost never a good idea to become friends with an employee. It's surprising and disheartening how many managers today don't see a problem with becoming friends with an employee.

Which is a huge mistake! Becoming friends with an employee is a severe misstep in leadership. It puts so many things at risk: your team's morale, as well as the reputation of not only your employee but yourself as well.

What’s the harm?

You might be asking yourself, “what’s the big deal?” After all, you’re not a robot – you have feelings and need companionship, right? Well, if you are a leader, you have expectations and responsibilities that transcend friendship.

The most insidious by-product of becoming friends with an employee is the perception of favoritism among the rest of your crew.  

 Why you should avoid favoritism at all costs

Favoritism behaves like a termite, causing damage from the inside out.  There are many good reasons to be wary of showing any bias in your organization. Here are a quick few:

-       Favoritism hurts the feelings of your employees who feel left out. While ideally, feelings would never come into play in the quality of work people do, the truth is that hurt feelings lead to lowered morale. 

-       It could hurt your reputation with your higher-ups. If you have even a single person above you on the food chain, you don't want a reputation-damaging word getting back to them that you're getting chummy with an employee.

-       It hurts the employee who is perceived as being favored. Others will see them as the boss' pet. Co-workers may begin treating him or her with disdain, out of jealousy, or with inauthentic friendliness, in the hopes that by getting on their good side, they are gaining favor with you as well. 

For example, if a leader goes out for a drink with an employee on the team, how do you think other employees will perceive that?

Let's take it a step further. If this leader then delegates a task to the employee she shared a drink with, others will remark,  "It's not what you know, it's who you know", regardless if this person is the most qualified for the job.

Now do you see how becoming friends with an employee can negatively affect the health of your organization?

How to avoid favoritism without hurting feelings

Focus on your own behavior. No one is going to ask you to stop being kind to someone, so ask for feedback from your employees. By supporting a policy of open communication with all your employees, everyone will feel like they have your equal attention. You'll be able to address any issues as soon as they arise, instead of finding out too late that there is a problem.

Keep in mind that none of this means you should be cold, standoffish, or dismissive with your workers. Employees have the right to expect that their leader will be fair and objective. As a leader, it’s difficult to live up to that expectation if you are getting too close to, or spending more time with, one employee over others. Leaders can give speeches all day long that they do not play favorites. However, employees will make their own decision based on the behavior they perceive. Perception is reality! Never forget: leaders are MADE, not born! 

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event. Graci Leadership Solutions  612-708-1939 info@johngraci.com

 

Using Memos To Address Poor Performance Hurts Your Credibility

TO: Bosses

FROM: Your good employees who depend on you!

How many times have you been on the receiving end of a “shotgun memo”? You know, the kind of memo fired off by a leader to the entire team when only one or two team members are not following a procedure, or have done something wrong?

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Memos are powerful communication tools. They are declarations from on high and can potentially change the course of your team’s progress, for better or for worse. When misused, like in the case of shotgun memos, they are de-motivating - your workers who are doing the job as you require feel lumped in with the workers who are in need of correction.  

Shotgun memos can damage team morale, and what’s worse, they are dangerous to a leader’s credibility, because leaders are obligated to directly confront those not doing the job on behalf of the those who are doing the job.

Relying on a memo that goes out to the entire team, instead of confronting the poor performers directly, is a symptom of a leader potentially practicing management without a license.  Managing via memo is not managing at all!

Remember, leaders are MADE, not born! It takes courage to be a leader and to intervene as soon as a situation calls for it. Don't be shy! People depend on you to tell them what they need to do and what they are responsible for!

Below is a short, amusing and practical poem that may provide a glimpse of what drives ineffective leaders to draft up and distribute a shotgun memo, courtesy of Duane Jackson at Kashflow.com:

An internal email was just sent to our tech team about a problem, ending with “Can someone look into this?”
It reminded me of a short story about responsibility:
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

In other words, if you’re delegating a task or asking for something to be done – make sure you delegate to Somebody, otherwise, Nobody will do it.

If you recognize your own behavior in any part of that poem, take steps now to correct it. At the very least, use your memo to follow up with the team members whose erroneous behavior prompted the memo in the first place. Otherwise, you are at serious risk of letting down the people depending on you keep your team running smoothly!

 

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event. Graci Leadership Solutions  612-708-1939 info@johngraci.com

You Pay for Training Whether You Intend to or Not!

by John Graci

During a meeting, how often have you seen managers shorten the length of employee training in order to get the employees back to the floor sooner?

It’s understandable how leaders arrive at that conclusion. The longer employee training takes, the less time employees spend producing. However, by choosing not to invest the time to train employees thoroughly, managers are unwittingly choosing to pay workers to do the job poorly, or to develop bad habits that will hurt productivity and quality for untold lengths of time.

The cost of poorly trained employees can be tallied not only in actual dollars but lost productivity due to the time spent fixing errors and covering overages and shortages, both of which could have been curtailed by adequate training. And this doesn't even mention the deadliest consequence of all: lost customers.

The long and short of it is: You Pay for Training Whether You Intend to or Not!

You’re going to pay your employees either way - it’s up to you to make sure you get exactly the performance you expect. The best way to do this?  Invest in quality training.

However, easier said than done. Quality training doesn’t just happen, and it’s not without its pitfalls.

Many organizations choose a superstar to do the training. Superstars, for all of their talents, typically have a hard time putting into words what makes them so good.  Superstars often leave out the "why" of the job.  Workers need to know the "Why"!  Otherwise, a five-step process will become a three-step process overnight, with sometimes disastrous consequences.

Many leaders make the mistake of believing that telling is the same as training, or assuming that saying it once does the job; many employees will do their best impression of a bobblehead doll and agree with everything you say, just to end the training session or meeting. No matter how thorough your presentation, you must also ask employees to repeat the information back to you, to ensure that they know what they need to do, and why.

Asking an employee, who is likely performing their best impression of a bobblehead doll, "do you have any questions?" isn't going to get you the results you want. Fishing for questions like this is asking people to willingly put themselves on the spot and look like they weren't smart enough to keep up. No one wants that. Instead, ask, "what questions do you have for me?” – this will keep the spotlight on you, and lets people know that they should have questions at this point and that you are eager to answer them.

Ever try to ice skate? You mastered this skill after one lesson, right?  Too often, leaders expect employees to learn new skills instantly. They hit the employee with an avalanche of information, then become stunned or even subconsciously judge the employee for being incompetent when the job is not done correctly right away. Your most effective leaders take the drip, drip, drip approach to employee education, allowing knowledge to sink in a lot deeper. Often, employees need to gain experience with the each of the smaller steps of a process before it takes root.

Time spent training employees is a valuable window to communicate what you expect of your workers and to get on the same page as to what you're looking for, and what they need to do. The stakes and the costs are too high to rush through it! Pay me now or pay me later! 

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event. Graci Leadership Solutions  612-708-1939 info@johngraci.com