A Successful Organization Starts With You
So often we hear from the owner of a business or the manager of an organization lament about the performance of employees or associates. They speak of it as though they were having an out-of- body experience in which they were completely separated from the activities of the group. When I hear these types of comments, I am reminded of an old Greek phase, translated to the fish rots from the head down.
Leaders often feel helpless in changing the performance of a group. There are many practices and personal work habits that they can adapt which will make a difference. Let us look at three areas and look at behaviors and how each affects others in the group. They are personal leadership styles, communication techniques, and the hiring process.
Personal Leadership Styles
The majority of supervisors and managers we have met do not understand the impact of their behavior on the others in any organization. They need to reflect on how they conduct themselves and the effect it has on those under their charge. Let’s consider a few examples.
When “the boss” calls a meeting, participants need to come prepared and ready to report on progress or obstacles in their area of responsibility. Let us not be so naïve as to think that there is not some social aspect involved, but the primary purpose is business. Not long ago, I was visiting a client who was conducting a weekly meeting where activities and schedules for the week were decided. I arrived early and was able to see the participants gathered and some of the conversation. On the table was a wide variety of pastries and coffee. All participants where relaxing in comfortable conference room chairs and much of the conversation centered upon subjects unrelated to the weekly work activity. It should also be noted that “the boss” often complains about the lack of productivity in this same group and the amount of time they spend socializing. How would the environment and the attitudes of the group change if the meeting was held on the shop floor and everyone was standing.
It is also common that the manager or business owner has greater flexibility in their work schedule and has several outside interests that draw them out of the office. But if the manager comes in late, leaves early, or is absent for part of the day, what message does that send to others about the importance of attendance. Now, again I am not naïve enough to suggest that an occasional afternoon off to play golf is inappropriate, but do it knowing the message you send.
Let me share with you a story told to me by the manager of a small plant in Pennsylvania. He made it a daily practice of walking through the plant and saying good morning to each employee. One day, as he arrived at the plant he received a call from the company vice-president and spent a half hour discussing a specific issue. As a result, he forgot to make his customary rounds. Later that day, several employees came to his office with concerned faces and asked if everything was alright. That daily practice or habit sends several hidden message to those employees. First, that their presence was appreciated and second, that everything was going well. The manager was surprises by the hidden benefit of what he considered just a simple courtesy.
How is this for statement of communication style? I’m the boss. I ask the questions and give the orders.
Of course this is an extreme example, but this attitude sometimes has an underling presence in a conversation between a manager and employee. It manifests itself in the impression by the employee that a conversation with them is of lesser importance than other issues. Consider the following examples.
You are sitting in the boss’s office waiting to discuss a particular issue you have in performing or fulfilling your responsibilities or maybe it’s time for the annual performance review. In the middle of the conversation, the phone rings and they answer it. It is obvious that the call was not expected and is of little importance; but you sit their attentively while your supervisor chats on the phone. Or in today’s world it may not be a telephone call. It may be text message or email. How does that make you feel about your importance or the relationship you have with the manager? The manager may say he has an open-door policy, but do they? How motivated will the employee be to have the next meeting?
The excuse that many managers have for this style of communications is they are multitasking. I once attended a staff meeting where the general manager brought in trade magazines to read during the meeting. The entire staff later confessed that they found that behavior very strange and degrading to the others in the room.
Remember that communications is a two way process. The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus one said, We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as speak. Being a good and focused listeners, will not only make you more knowledgeable about activities in your organization, but send a message that you value the continuation of all involved.
The Hiring Process
We have constantly stressed the importance of the hiring process. Author Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great reminds us, “first get the right people on the bus and then get the wrong people off the bus.” Please also consider viewing the video: Hiring the Right People.
Too often we hire people who seem to be qualified and we decide to just give them a try. Two years later, we become afraid to replace them, but they seem to not have the right attitude. Always remember the one bad apple can spoil the whole batch.