How To Handle A Bad Boss: 7 Strategies For ‘Managing Up’

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If you’ve got a lousy boss right now you have my sympathy. Truly. It can really siphon the enjoyment from what might otherwise be a rewarding role, leave you feeling undervalued, and wondering whether you should begin searching for something new. But before you start planning an exit strategy, it would be wise to rethink how you can better manage the boss you already have –for all their flaws and shortcomings.

Having worked with numerous not-so-inspiring bosses in my corporate career, I’ve learned they provide invaluable opportunities for developing  executive leadership skills and learning ‘what not to do’ when managing people who work for you. You just have to be proactive in looking for them and ready to practice some real self-leadership.

New research has found that being overworked is not the reason people leave their jobs. A Danish study of 4,500 public service workers has provided credence to the adage that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”  According to psychologist Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, one of the researchers behind the study, “We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression.”

However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her.  The secret is to “manage up” without them ever realizing you are doing it. So rather than think of your boss as your boss,  think of them as a difficult client – one you have to figure out how to work with if you want to get ahead, even if you’d rather not.

Hopefully the strategies below will help you on your way. Underpinning each of them is a commitment to take responsibility for your own success, regardless of the different (and difficult) personalities you will inevitably have to encounter throughout your working life.

1.  Know their why: what motivates them

The better you understand what your boss does, and more importantly, why, the better positioned you are to deliver results, manage expectations, and avoid lose:lose situations.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world, and your workplace, as they might.

  • What does he care about?
  • What keeps him up at night?
  • What would he love more of and what would he love less of on a daily basis?  
  • What frightens him?
  • How much importance does he place on impressing others? 
  • How does he measure success and what does he think about failure?

When you know what drives your boss (even if your boss may not be fully conscious of it), you can speak to “his listening,” frame your opinions and use language in ways that line up with his core values, concerns and priorities.

2.  Support their success:  Work around their weaknesses

While it may sound counter intuitive to support a bad boss in becoming more successful, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by making him look bad, going to war or helping him to fail. If he is as bad as you think, he will likely do a pretty good job of that all by himself. Exposing his incompetence will only compound your own misery and may even damage your reputation.

One way is to help your boss focus on his natural strengths. Another is to proactively work around his weaknesses. If you know you have a boss who’s disorganized, then help him to be on top of things rather than whining about his lack of organizational skills. If you know your boss is often late to meetings, offer to kick off the next meeting for him. If he tends to change his mind frequently, or is outright forgetful, be sure to document interactions so you can refer back to them if he ever contradicts himself. If you know your boss is slow to respond, continue to work on a project while you wait to hear back from him.  Making yourself  indispensable and someone your boss can rely on to help him do his job is a valuable asset when you start to look to ‘what’s next?’

By doing what you can to help your boss succeed, you lay a solid foundation for greater success yourself. It may not be an immediate reward, but in the long run, you can never lose by helping others do better than they otherwise would.

3.  Take the high road: Your “Personal Brand” is riding on it

Never let your boss’s bad behavior be an excuse for your own. All too often, people start feeling entitled to slack off, take longer and longer lunches, lose interest or stop performing well because of their bad boss. Don’t do it. Keep your mind focused on top performance. Complain to your spouse or your friends all you want, but when in the office or workplace, stay upbeat and engaged. Actually handling a difficult boss well can really set you apart. You never know who is watching or listening but be assured, people who can open or close future opportunities for you are doing just that!

Evening the score by working slower, taking excessive “mental health” days or longer lunches doesn’t do you any favors and can hurt your own self more in the long run than any irritation or trouble you cause for your boss. On top of that, it may only put you behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go. So if your boss is a shouter, don’t react by shouting back. If they are petty or small minded, don’t descend to smallness yourself.  Rather maintain a calm and professional demeanor in dealing with your difficult boss or let your emotions get the better of you. Literally. As Gandhi wrote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In this case, act like the leader you wish your boss was.

If you feel you’ve run out of options for dealing with him reasonably, then don’t go rumor-mongering or bad-mouthing him to everyone within earshot. That will ultimately say more about you than it does about your boss (and not things you’d want said!)  Rather, follow proper procedures for registering complaints with Human Resources or with higher-level superiors, documenting each step of the way.

4.  Know their preferences: Adapt to them

Observe your boss’s behavioral style, preferences and pet peeves.  Is he fast-paced and quick to make decisions? Is he slow to think about things, needing time to process information?  How does he like to communicate – via e-mail, in person drop-ins, or lengthy memos? The more you can match your style to your boss’s style when communicating, the more he will really hear what you’re saying.

If you’ve ever done any personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs or DISC, then see if your boss has as well and find out what they are.  It can help you adapt your style and spare a lot of strain.  Working with his preferences is an obvious way of managing your boss without his ever knowing it, and it’s a key leadership skill to develop regardless of the kind of boss you are working for.

5.  Don’t be intimidated by a bully: Stand tall, never cower

People who bully get their power from those who respond by cowering and showing fear. If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge – stand firm. If you’re doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don’t give him the satisfaction of pushing you about.  Rather ask questions, seek to understand, and work to defuse a difficult situation instead of cowering or responding in anger. It takes practice, but over time you will get better at it and he will look elsewhere for his power kick.

If you feel compelled to call your boss on his behavior, go ahead but do so with a cool head and prepare in advance for the ensuing fallout. It could get ugly so think things through beforehand. What are your options?  Who are your allies? Have you documented his behavior? Can you deal with the possibility of the worst outcome?  Sure, it’s important to stand strong, but be smart about it. As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and do something where the risks are high. But before you climb out, be sure you’ve managed the risks as best you can and set up a safety net should you fall.”

6.  Speak up: Give your boss a chance to respond 

Early into my career,  I left a good job with a global consulting firm because I had a lousy boss and a toxic work environment.  Upon leaving, the HR lead – a senior partner at this organization – asked to meet with me to find out why I was leaving.  I shared how undervalued I had felt, how the promises made to me upon employment had not been met and how little accountability there was for my colleagues. He was surprised and disturbed and asked if there was anything he could do to make me change my mind. Apparently I’d been ear-marked a hi-po (which would have been nice to have known before then!), but by this point it was too late. I’d already made other plans, hoping for a better work environment, and a better boss.

The lesson for me was this: have the courage to speak up rather than cower in silence for fear of an awkward conversation. The truth is that I’d  been too cowardly to address my concerns with my boss or to go around her.  Admittedly I was young (mid-twenties) and inexperienced, but if I knew then what I do now, it would have been that I owed it to myself, and to my boss at the time, to have at least voiced my concerns, offered up some possible solutions and engaged in a conversation about how we could have improved the situation.  It may not have changed a thing, but at least I could have known that I at least gave her a chance.

So just because it may be easier to say nothing, to just ‘suffer quietly’ or complain loudly to colleagues or to head for the exit as I ultimately did, you at least owe your boss the opportunity to respond. Don’t prejudge and assume they aren’t able to take feedback, or don’t care how miserable you are. When you approach them with respect and with a genuine desire to make things work better, you can open the door to whole new levels of trust, collaboration and outcomes. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.

7.  Be Proactive:  Do your research before  jumping ship 

Of course the best way to manage a bad boss is not to have one in the first place. So whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization  all together, invest some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices that are tolerated and supported. If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving to, and those  who are creating it. Are they leaders who create an environment where people are inspired and supported to work hard, or do they incite fear about what will happen if people don’t?

If you are moving to a new organization, do your research to make sure you’re not jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Sometimes in our desperation to escape a toxic work environment we fail to take notice of the warning signs that the new job we’re taking will only be worse.  Have a coffee with whoever you know at the new company to get a sense of the culture, employee engagement, moral, and management style. Investing a few hours up front could spare you a few years of frustration. -Margie Warrell

Being a Good Manager: Overcoming 5 Common Myths

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Building healthy culture, promoting innovation and bringing people together are key indicators of a successful manager. While working as an organizational consultant with startups who aim to scale their business, I’ve noticed five recurring misconceptions related to managing people that produce opposite results: unhealthy workplaces, unmotivated employees and frustrated managers. Especially for individuals who have started a business and end up hiring employees and becoming managers, here are five simple myths of managing that will help you turn around the way that you supervise your employees.

Myth #1: “The paycheck is the reward. That should be enough.”
Try this instead: A paycheck will not motivate employees to move mountains. Their paycheck is expected when people show up for work. Most employees aren’t concerned with your business bottom line. They do however concern themselves with the people they work with. The relationship they have with their co-workers and management. Daniel, the CEO of a startup in Santa Monica I work with, often sends a delivery order of chicken soup to his sick employees. I’ve told him that this is the type of gesture that expresses louder than words that his care extends past the quality and/or quantity of their work. An employee vested in the relationship will be happier and as a result more productive, more innovative and stay loyal as the company grows and changes. Yes, people need pay check to eat, but an “A” performance generally requires more than just a paycheck.

Myth #2: “They work for me.” 
Try this instead: It is your job to make your employees successful. A good manager strives to eliminate obstacles that impede their employees from reaching their goals. Try spending a day figuring out what you can do to make your employee’s life easier. When consulting with a local software company, their programmers mentioned that they would be happier if they could have one “flexible work day” where they could choose to work from home. The manager decided to implement this and soon found that his employees would only take advantage of the day when they truly needed it, and were happier and less concerned with balancing their work and life commitments. What obstacles can you remove to help your team meet their goals and achieve their deliverables? Yes, they may contractually work for you, but a good manager is also a servant of his people.

Myth #3: “I’ve told them this multiple times, they should be doing it already.”
Try this instead: Many employees have a difficult time keeping track of verbal suggestions. Verbal feedback is much more effective if paired with written feedback. The research suggests that therapists were more likely to provide higher quality services to their patients when their supervisor gave feedback orally, then followed up with written confirmation of the feedback. Are you frustrated that your employee isn’t responding to in-person feedback? The key word is accountability — and people feel much more accountable when documentation exists to make them easily accountable.

2013-12-02-WrittenFeedback.pngTry adding a followup email to your verbal suggestions. A quick email can serve as a good reference point if the problem persists, can create a paper trail of known issues to use for more formal feedback, and also allows the employee to go back and see a history of their progress. If the instruction already exists in an employee handbook, job description or email and you still notice compliance issues, feel free to cite the document and date to jog their memory and increase their accountability. Yes, your employees may forget your suggestions, but accountability is essential to good management and it is your job to hold yourself and them accountable.

Myth #4: “My employee’s mistakes cost me money.”
Try this instead: Mistakes employees make are typically unintentional and are an opportunity to improve existing systems. While some large mistakes can be very costly. The small day-to-day mistakes you deal with as a manager are perfect opportunities to understand flaws in your system. This upfront cost of identifying a hole in your system will save you money long-term if instead of blaming your employee, you use it as a way to give them feedback and improve your systems.

While working in a small health care company, we worked on a project to transition the responsibility of scheduling patients from the clinician to an in-house scheduling department. Although there were some instances where short-term utilization of billable hours wasn’t optimal, instead of blaming the scheduler, clinician or unreliable patient, we used these instances as a golden opportunity to revisit the scheduling protocols and identify gaps in the system. Yes, there is an instant cost of an error, but there are also hidden savings if you take the time to learn from this expensive lesson by providing feedback about the error and improving your systems.

Myth #5: “It’s faster for me to do it myself, than to train someone else to do it.”
Try this instead: Training takes time, but the time saved after your employee knows the ropes can give you more time to focus on more complicated tasks. Joe, a physician who decided to open a wellness center quickly found that running a boutique clinic was even more complicated than treating medical conditions. He often found himself filing patient charts, scheduling appointments, booking guest lecturers and creating daily activity schedules. When scaling his business, he resisted spending time training his employees on more important or complicated tasks, fearing that it wouldn’t be done correctly. In Joe’s case, by holding onto more complicated tasks, like finding his ideal guest lecturers to come visit his clinic, instead of integrating those into an employee’s workflow began causing later roadblocks when he was faced with more complicated medical-related demands. Once he realized that training his administrative assistant to research leads and give him options allowed him to focus on improving his clinic’s patient experience and he was able to make sure he was always operating at maximum capacity.

When faced with challenges, a manager should identify how these challenges fit within the context of growing their business and creating a stronger organizational structure. By trying these strategies, each obstacle sheds light on a learning opportunity to hone your managing skills, tighten your company protocols and learn about yourself and your team. Adopting these alternative views of the five common myths of management is a great place to start your journey to becoming a great manager. – Sara Gershfeld

6 Secrets to Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

1 GiraffesDrupal Connect’s founder John Florez drives the fast growth of his company by stacking his team with top tier talent. Here’s what he looks for when hiring for his Drupal development company and how he keeps them excited about coming in each day.

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Hire Awesome Personalities

Hire people who are not only awesome talents, but awesome to be around as well! You’re building a team; each member has to be able to work well within a collaborative environment. Hiring someone who is talented but a “lone wolf” is a risky and potentially costly endeavor.

2 Monkey
Positive People Are Contagious

Hire cool people who have a positive outlook on life. The employee you want to take on is someone you can share a beer with at the end of the day. Positive attitudes spread, and ultimately come to define your company as a whole.

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Keep People Excited About Work

Be a leader who is welcoming and positive, and sees the best in each of their employees. This attitude will trickle down and make for a more positive work experience overall. People want to wake up each morning excited about coming to work. It’s important for a leader to create an environment and culture that people are proud and excited about.

4 Chipmunk
Don’t Nickel-and-Dime Your Employees

Be mindful of the bottom line – but not at the expense of nickel-and-diming! These are tough times for a lot of people out there. But let’s face it: no one wants to work for a cheap boss.

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Coach Your Leaders

Coach your leaders, but don’t manage them. If you find yourself managing your top people, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not inspiring, and you’re therefore not bringing out the best in your lead employees. If you properly coach your leaders by bringing out their best qualities, they will in turn coach those reporting to them.

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Avoid Stagnation

Make constant growth a priority, and encourage your team to contribute to this evolution. Your company is a living, breathing organism that needs to be fed and nurtured, and employees need to be able to contribute to this growth process. For example, six months ago, a team member suggested we create a support and maintenance program to offer to our clients. Today, this program is a thriving and growing part of our company, accounting for 20% of our overall business!

Which of These 4 Types of Managers Are You?

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When it comes to management style, many think they can spot an introverted or extroverted manager a mile away. However, within those broad categories are more nuanced interaction styles that can have a direct impact on how an individual manages employees, says Kimberly Gerber, founder of Irvine, Calif. leadership coaching and communication firm Excelerate. Four common types include:

In Charge: This typically extroverted manager has a direct language preference. He or she is comfortable telling people what to do. Those around this manager tend to be responsive to that take-charge style. This person naturally gravitates toward the head of the table and is a little more formal in his or her relationships. Heavily focused on numbers and processes, these managers tend to want to set achievable goals — those that can clearly be accomplished.

Chart the Course: More likely to be introverted and less comfortable being put on the spot, this leader doesn’t like surprises, says Gerber. Unlike the In Charge type who is concerned with the big-picture of “where we’re going” vision, this type of manager is more concerned with how to get there. Chart the Course managers are planners and want to make sure that everyone is on-board and moving in the same direction.

They tend to be very friendly with a direct style and inclusive in gathering input and feedback. However, don’t mistake the Chart the Course manager as soft — he or she has little tolerance for those who are off-plan or not up to snuff performance-wise. Chart the Course managers set an achievable result with careful planning and anything less is failure.

Behind the Scenes: Another typically introverted type, the Behind the Scenes manager shuns the spotlight in favor of data. This type of manager makes consultative decisions and needs a great deal of input from different sources to be comfortable with those choices. Interaction is often small-scale and this manager motivates more individually than his or her more outspoken counterparts, eschewing confrontation. The downside of this collaborative approach is that it takes longer to make decisions and get things done. This manager wants the best possible result based on all of the information available.

Get Things Going: Another extrovert, this manager is the life of the party, Gerber says. Gregarious and well-liked, the Get Things Going manager wants everyone to be as enthusiastic about the plan and outcome as he or she is. This manager intuitively understands that work gets done through people and that harmony facilitates productivity. But don’t mistake them for emotion-ruled — they understand what needs to be done, even if they’re not the most goal-oriented managers. They look for a result that is embraced by the team.

Understanding these types can help you both recognize these qualities in yourself and better understand the managers you have working for you, Gerber says.

What It Takes to Be a Boss Every Employee Loves

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Being a successful leader means being good at what you do and possessing integrity. But more than anything, it’s about your ability to build healthy relationships with others — particularly those who work for you.

As an entrepreneur, you’re viewed differently than you were when you were a manager or colleague in a traditional job. You stand to gain the most from the company’s success, and it is easier for your employees to think you’re more interested in the business than them and their lives. Your success is paramount, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of healthy relationships with those you depend on.

1. Don’t treat people as transactions.
Years ago in my first real job out of college, I was delighted to have my very own assistant. She was a very capable and competent woman who I really liked. One day while a client was visiting the office, I made the naïve mistake of introducing my assistant by saying, “This is Teri. She works for me.” Teri’s response would have served me better in private, but her point was valid none-the-less: “I work with you, Mark, not for you.”

I meant no ill respect with my choice of words, but it suggested to Teri that she was a means to an end, that I was “above” her. And while technically she did report to me, the difference between working for and with someone is critical. The former can make a person feel conquered, while the latter signals collaboration.

Think through how you title and refer to your employees. Focus on reciprocity: look for ways you can help them achieve their work-life goals while they help you achieve yours. And guard against letting tasks trump a true regard and appreciation for the relationship you have with those who have voluntarily chosen to work with you.

2. Invest in those you value.
The ultimate test of value in a relationship is how much time, interest and support you are willing to invest. Rather than ask, “What have you done for me lately?” turn the tables and ask yourself what you’ve done lately for those you truly value.

Here’s one way to invest for great dividends: identify the potential in an employee that he or she doesn’t recognize in him- or herself. Often people are blind to their own abilities or potential, and good leaders not only recognize these latent strengths, they help develop them.

Several years ago, my office manager was spending more time on our website and technology platforms. A colleague was presenting a multi-day event in Las Vegas that I knew would give my team member information and skills to help her in these areas. Going to Las Vegas for the event was an added perk, so I gladly paid for the seminar and trip. She came back better equipped for her work, knowing I was willing to invest in her success.

3. Be involved, but know your limits.

You can work in the same office space with people every day and still be absent because you are preoccupied with your own worries. An open door policy means nothing if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to give your attention to those who walk through it.

How can you do this? Make it a point to “check in” with every employee each day. That means a simple but sincere question: “How are things going?” Listen and if necessary, probe for information you can use to support your employees. Identify frustrations they are facing, opportunities they’ve recognized and gauge their emotional energy and commitment to their work.

You’ll know you’re micromanaging when you’re spending more time telling someone how to do something than you are in clarifying what needs to be done. A thorough explanation with a chance to ask questions is vastly different than a droning presentation about how you’d do it. Give people the freedom to achieve the best results in their own way.

4. Show your gratitude.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from employees who feel underappreciated by their manager, but I’ve never heard anyone complain they were recognized, rewarded or appreciated too much. I’m puzzled at why so many entrepreneurs and leaders are reticent to voice appreciation. Don’t be afraid of over-doing it. You connect with people more deeply when you recognize the best in them and let them know.

Here’s a powerful way to show appreciation: When you get feedback from a customer about someone on your team who has done a great job, get their permission to record it. Then play the recording at the next team meeting. There is even more power in a customer’s expression of a job well done than simply acknowledging it yourself.

Growing your business successfully means doing all that you can to make your team want to work their hardest for your cause. That means connecting with employees in a meaningful way.

By Mark Sanborn  an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo.

What do you do to deepen your connections with employees?

6 signs your co-workers are out to get you

Knowing what to look for if you think someone might be sabotaging you at work requires going back to grade school in your mind. Essentially, our co-workers are the same people we went to school with and the same individuals that taunted their fellow campers at camp. I hate to say it, but each of us brings both good and bad behavior to work. Many experts will say that it’s the bullies who are insecure, and therefore, in order for them to feel better about themselves, they have to push around the people who are perceived as weaker. More often than not, a bully in grade school is the same bully at work.

It’s human nature to be competitive, of course. And born out of our drive to win, some of us “play dirty” from time to time. Ever cheated on the golf course? Maybe just improved your lie? Almost all of us do little things to try to get an advantage. When the stakes are high, whether it’s about winning a game or a pay raise, bonus, or promotion, we sometimes take the attitude that we must win at all costs. Here are the signs that maybe you’re not paranoid and your co-workers really are out to get you.

Not getting credit where credit is due

We’ve all been in the meeting where your co-worker, or even your boss, doesn’t acknowledge your contribution to the project. I’ve been in team situations in which the leader has taken the credit for winning an account and never credits the “cold caller” for opening the door or the closer for closing the deal. Truth be told, it was the door-opener, the closer, the creative team, and the leadership.

Avoidance

I have a client I’ll call Allen who was asked by the CEO of his company to welcome and support the new president. It was a difficult request, since it was the ousted president who had brought Allen into the company. But after all, he was still an employee. So, out of a sense of fair play and team loyalty, Allen wholeheartedly welcomed Sheila. After a couple of weeks he realized that his fellow co-workers were avoiding him. They no longer would come to his office for the occasional chat, there was no water cooler conversation, and basically they started treating him as an outsider. What Allen soon realized was that his co-workers were sabotaging the new president and that Allen was going to be collateral damage.

Loss of control

Losing control in the workplace is often a devastating feeling, and it erodes self-confidence. I remember one candidate I’ll call Sandy who was working as the SVP of client services at a major healthcare agency. She hired a smart, strategic thinker to work on a major account. At first, the colleague was in Sandy’s office on a regular basis, soaking up, as Sandy puts it, knowledge about the client, the office politics, etc. After six months, Sandy noticed that her colleague was going directly to Sandy’s boss (with Sandy’s ideas, usually). This person was also trying to undermine Sandy’s authority with other people in the client services department. The good news with this situation was that Sandy had a very long and solid relationship with her boss. They both recognized the struggle for control of the office and approached the newbie to fix it.

Being left out of the loop

Ever walked by a conference room to see your entire team gathered for a meeting you weren’t invited to attend? Sometimes, being excluded means something. It almost always does when nobody in that conference room goes out of their way to assuage your concerns afterward.

The sharp elbow game

As the workplace has become more treacherous, a new expression has emerged: being “thrown under the bus.” Just a few years ago, nobody knew what this saying meant. Now, however, when people start throwing colleagues under the proverbial bus instead of defending them like professionals, le jeux sont fait! (This is a French expression meaning, essentially, “the game is on.”)

People talking trash about others

If you hear your colleagues talking trash about others, most likely they are talking behind your back as well. This is the type of behavior that undermines a company’s culture, damages company morale, and ultimately, interferes with the company’s ability to deliver in the marketplace. Do all you can to refrain from talking negatively about colleagues at any time. There’s a reason why the expression “don’t shoot the messenger” is so prevalent. As often as not, the messenger gets shot.

Think about the playground in sixth grade. Remember the bully? The brainy kid? The jock? The popular kid? These and other roles persist in many workplaces. How did you manage when you were a kid? Sometimes practicing the Golden Rule is a great place to start. Stay vigilant though, because in most workplaces, that’s not enough.

By  Erika Weinstein  who is president and founder of eTeam Search.

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

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Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.

The Power Of Thank You

Thank You, Appreciation, Employee Appreciation, Communication. Performance PraiseMost managers and supervisors know that the single greatest disappointment employees suffer in the workplace is the feeling that their hard work and effort goes unnoticed.  What most managers and supervisors don’t know is that the second greatest disappointment employees have is insincere or inappropriately applied recognition!  Does it seem to you that sometimes you can’t win?!  The fact is you can all win, and here is how you do it.

 First, you need to train yourself to constantly be on the look out for someone doing something right.  As managers, we typically spend way too much time dealing with hot spots or trouble issues.  Believe it or not, you have to develop the habit of seeking the good work that’s being done all around you.

 Second, take time to visit with your staff when there is not a crisis or a problem to deal with.  Sometimes a quick five minute meeting just to say Hi and let everyone know that they are OK is worth its weight in gold.  If the only time you get together is when something is wrong, how excited are your people when you call a meeting or when they interact with you?  The development of non-crisis interaction time is critical to team development and positive employee moral.

Third, learn the Power Thank You.  For a simple “thank you” to become a powerful, and motivational tool for managers and supervisor’s, simply apply these four basic rules:

  •  Be timely. After a few weeks the accomplishment is forgotten.
  • Be specific to something the employee accomplished, a task or goal completed.
  • Acknowledge the effort it took to complete the goal.
  • Address personally the benefits you and the company received as a direct result of this effort.

As a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst and Executive Coach, “One of the first things I look for in a President or CEO is how well they know, and then acknowledge, their employees efforts and tasks. A Chief Executive who can not only recognize an employee by name but also by task and accomplishment, well…, that’s a keeper.”

Here is a tip for those of us trying to build this idea into a positive habit … sometimes we’re busy and we forget about what’s really important.  To remind us to do the right thing, I ask my executives to start their day with three pennies in their right pocket. Every time they offer someone a power thank you, they move a penny to their left.  By the end of the day, all three pennies need to be in that left pocket.

 We spend more daylight hours at our workplace than with our families and friends so it is reasonable to assume that we should do all we can to make our work environment as pleasant as possible.  The Power Thank You is one way to support this philosophy.

Sharon Jenks, CPBA, is President of The Jenks Group, Inc. a CA based consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and executive team development.  Sharon can be reached at sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

http://www.thejenksgroup.com

Top 10 Ways to Profoundly Affect Others…you know you want to

top10, Law of Attraction, affecting othersTHE TOP 10 WAYS to PROFOUNDLY AFFECT OTHERS

We all affect others anyway. Why not affect them profoundly? Here are 10 proven ways to do this, all of which will make you a lot more attractive to others and to yourself.

1. Listen for and point out the special gifts, traits or talents of the other person.

Most people are listening for what they need from the other person. When you’re listening for what’s special or unique about a person — and point it out — you’ll very much affect them positively, with very, very little effort on your part. What if you did this during every conversation you had for the rest of your life? Hmm, sounds pretty attractive to me.

2. Listen and respond-in-kind to the underlying emotion of the other person.

Facts and information are valuable, but are rarely profound. What is profound is people, emotions and concepts. Next time you’re listening to your child, client or friend, feel what they are feeling and respond in kind to that, instead of just to what they are saying. Feelings are the fastest way to the person’s heart.

3. Deliver nuggets/messages that can be remembered and retransmitted.

There is something called memes, which are basically the idea-equivalent of genes. Read Richard Brodie’s book “Virus of the Mind” for the complete story. But the idea is that when you can package information, concepts or truth into nugget-sized packages, they don’t only land easily on the person you’re talking to, but that person can pass them on to others easily, like a virus. Virus, get it? The biggest thing in life right now is the competition between memes and genes. (By the way, memes will win because they can mutate and retransmit millions of times faster than genes can.) So, become mimetically attractive. In other words, have simple, worthwhile, intriguing things to say. It’s as simple as that.

4. Have you accepted and endorsed your worst weaknesses that others feel safe around you. A lot of attraction works without you having to ‘work it.’ It happens by itself, behind the scenes. And one of the ways to profoundly affect others is to be so ‘over yourself’ that they, too, can get over themselves. We’re all gripped by eye-popping fears and compelling desires, but when you’ve reached that place in life where you aren’t affected by any of this stuff — because you’ve fully accepted your humanness, faults AND talents, then others can have the same experience of themselves. It’s magical. And profoundly attractive.

5. Open up new worlds for people, in their thinking, feeling or priorities.

In other words, pull the rug out from folks whenever you can, but quickly give them a new chair to plop into on their way down. You can draw a missing distinction, question an antiquated assumption, challenge a strongly-held belief, plant a seed of a different crop, ask a strong inquiry-type question or give them words to express what they are barely able to sense. Okay, so that’s a lot to learn if the above communication skills are new to you. But, boy are they fun!

6. Show others how to experience better what they already have.

The point of unhooking yourself from the future and focusing more on today is made elsewhere in one of the Attraction Principles. But that principle is the parent of this one — to show others how to better use and make more of what they already have, whether it be a problem or a gift. Most folks are so future oriented that they miss out on the opportunities staring right at them in the present. Be their eyes and ears for a minute and help them see the value of what’s already all around them.

7. Remind people who they are instead of just complimenting them on what they’ve done.

Praise and acknowledgment is nice, but that’s a bit like telling your dog that his tail wags really well. Huh? The idea here is to focus on the person behind the accomplishment or problem. It’s the fundamental distinction of who vs. what. When you help the person get more in touch with the who (they are), they’ll produce better whats. If you focus primarily on the whats, you’ll soon be expecting the tail to wag the dog.

8. Give people something meaningful to do.

I don’t understand why, but most people are pretty bored. They are waiting for something interesting and meaningful to do. It seems that most people are being drugged by television, thus live in a sort of an excited stupor, if that’s possible. So, if you’re someone who is up to something and are willing to include people in on your game or project, most people will get meaning from that — from being asked to play, but also by the game itself and the people they meet along the way. If you’re working on a project, OPEN IT UP and profoundly affect a lot of other people. It’s a perfect path to attraction.

9. Give people the tools they need to improve and evolve.

The beginning of my evolving to computers happened in 1987 when the MIS director where I worked said he had an extra copy of Lotus 1-2-3 and asked if I wanted it. I barely knew that I should want it, but I faked a resounding ‘Sure!’ That single event changed my life forever and it took him about 10 seconds. He offered me a tool that, for some reason, he felt would help me. And it opened up a new world for me even though I no longer use Lotus 1-2-3, or even a spreadsheet! What tools do you currently have available to you that would profoundly affect others? Share all them.

10. Don’t try to profoundly affect others.

Okay, I had to toss this one in here. The idea is that the objective here is not to profoundly affect others. Because that’ll get you into trouble, especially when they don’t want to be profoundly affected. “Get away from me!” they’ll shriek. You get the picture. However, what you can do is to care for others and share the above stuff with those who want it. That way, ‘profoundly affecting’ others won’t become your cause, banner or reason for living. That would be pretty unattractive.