Are you really blissful being ignorant?

According to George Bernard Shaw, “success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”  To be truly successful in resolving persistent personnel issues within your organization stop repeating the mistakes of the past.

I recently had a conversation with a mentor, Jay Block (best-selling author and motivational career coach) about the clichéd definition of insanity that has been making the rounds for a number of years.  You know the one – I even made reference to it in an earlier blog.  In our conversation Jay pointed out that continuing the same behavior while hoping for a different outcome is probably not insanity for us sane folks.  Rather, it is ignorance.  As we continued the conversation I had my “aha” moment and I agree.  Repeating unsuccessful problem resolution behaviors in the corporate world is ignorance but not in the nasty sense of that word.  Do you lack training or skills?  Are you perhaps being stubborn?   How much is your bottom line improved by continuing to stubbornly use approaches which have failed?   How many in corporate leadership positions have taken the time to obtain extensive training in problem resolution?  Isn’t that what you hire people to do?  In this case, being a leader includes having the grace and courage to admit that your skill set or your mind set may not encompass a wide variety of creative and innovative problem solving skills.  Those within your organization who are supposed to address such key issues may not be comfortable making the necessary decisions because of their commitment to the organization.  Isn’t it worth your time to consult with a professional problem solver?  Are you truly seeking to be successful or are you satisfied with your current blissful state?

Giving up the ostrich response

How was that last conversation with Aunt Nell?   As I suggested earlier you may not appreciate the importance of group dynamics.  Just recently there’s been a real life example in the news and I’d like to share some of my observations with you.

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo!,  recently issued a memo to her entire staff, stating that telecommuting was ending and all staff members are expected to report daily to the office  beginning in June.  I have no inside information but I can hazard a guess that Ms. Mayer may have a legitimate concern that the lack of daily office contact with about 500 staffers had caused that group to be perceived as disconnected and remote from the remaining 12,ooo or so other employees.  There is some legitimacy to that perception if we think about it.  Having a coffee break in the employee break room provides a valuable communication channel among the employees.

In my assessment Ms. Mayer may not have fully appreciated the impact of the major paradigm shift she has ordered.  Obviously she appreciates the importance of having the employees interact with one another through means other than impersonal emails and text messages.  Getting all her employees together physically gets everyone on the same page and focused on the same organizational goals.  It improves the quality and frequency of communication and I think it gets employees more personally invested in the success of the organization.   But implementing such a significant change requires, in my view, a stick and carrot approach.  The stick would be having folks  physically in the office.  From the news reports I’ve read the change has been received with the understandable negative response.  However, I think Ms. Mayer can mitigate that negativity by offering a carrot.  It would be a reconsideration at some defined future point of reinstating the work from home option.  What standards she would use would have to be clearly defined and objectively measured.  But it can be done.  In my view, Ms. Mayer has already shown that she’s not afraid to make the hard decisions.  Making an adjustment to her earlier decision would not diminish her in any way but would show how she is willing to listen, evaluate and implement changes as appropriate.  Are you able to say the same thing about your performance?

What do you mean the problem’s not solved?

          You’ve just returned from a lengthy lunch with Aunt Nellie, who just had to tell you that she didn’t like the fact that her dividend check was smaller last month than the month before and why aren’t you promoting her favorite nephew.  After all it’s only a matter of time before he’s ready to take over the company.  Fortunately, you were blessed with that subtle filter which prevented you from telling her to go ahead and let him take over (it’s been a real bad month and the stockholder meeting coming up is not the sunshine moment you’ve been looking forward to.)  Not five minutes after sitting down and swallowing a handful of antacids with an aspirin chaser, your administrative assistant comes in with the news that the personnel issue in the Widget unit has just reared its ugly head  – AGAIN.  Once more the subtle filter kicks in immediately.  You successfully resist the urge to show your assistant just how fluent you are in swear and cuss.  But you can’t help wondering why the problem has returned.

           One thing to understand when trying to resolve problems is that there may be obstacles which prevent you from accurately identifying the root cause of the problem.  Without that vital information, you tend to implement solutions that are only temporary in nature.   If you truly want to resolve a problem permanently, consider utilizing the services and skills of a problem solving consultant.  That consultant can work to find the root causes of the problems you’re experiencing.  Once the real issues have been correctly identified, the consultant will work with you to develop and implement realistic and practical solutions so the problem won’t keep rearing its ugly head.  Using the skills of the problem solving consultant will go a long way to reducing your stress level, as well as the stress within the entire organization.  Think about it.

Why Should I Hire a Problem Solving Consultant?

Have you ever heard the expression, “…can’t see the forest for the trees…?”  When you’re in the middle of a problem, especially as a leader or manager of an organization, it’s hard for you to see all the sides of the issue and approach the possible solutions from an objective viewpoint.  Unfortunately, you have a horse in the race.  A problem solving consultant doesn’t have those restrictions.  The consultant you hire comes in with a fresh perspective and no preconceived notions.  The professional consultant will do the homework to get a sense of what the issues are and will know after talking with you what the effect is on the bottom line of the organization.  After all, that’s really what’s at the heart of solving problems, isn’t it?  When problems arise that affect the profit margin or bottom line they truly become threats to the organization’s future.  As the leader of the small business, are you really prepared to fire Aunt Nellie’s nephew?  But if a professional consultant lays out the facts and shows the impact upon Aunt Nellie’s dividend payment won’t that make it easier for you to implement the solutions?  The same thing holds true for larger businesses and corporations.  Hard decisions may be needed to protect the dividend payments to stockholders and insure the profitability of the corporation.  Are you prepared to face the firing line when asked who’s responsible for the problems and why do they keep happening?  You will be — if you’ve made use of the skills and talents of  a professional problem solving consultant.

Problem solving and technology

Is there any leader, manager, or supervisor who thinks that it would be lovely to get away from the emails, the computers, the smartphones for just a little while – or have we all become so dependent upon the technology that we can’t think of going even a day without checking the emails, voice messages, computers, etc.?  Can you imagine being the management team of a company or organization that inadvertently let an email out which notified everyone in the organization that they had been fired?  Do you really think another email is going to be the calming oils on troubled waters?

If you’re in a management position and problems develop don’t expect an email to adequately address the problem.  In many cases the problem has its root cause in a communication issue.  A direct, human to human contact will go a long way to keeping the fallout from the problem to a manageable level before resolution can be achieved.  An email might be timely and can provide a great deal of information.  Technology will help provide solutions and perhaps even provide better ways of accomplishing certain tasks.  However good our technology is though, it won’t every replace the importance of letting people know they matter.

How does the impersonal nature of the email convey the importance that people have to your organization?  Taking the time necessary to directly and personally attend to the issue(s) speaks volumes to onlookers as to how valued people are within your company or organization.  Is it always convenient?  Is it always comfortable to go into a meeting where you know people are begging for a confrontation?  No, no, and again no.  But the fact that you think enough of the people to take that time to listen and to try to work together to reach a consensus will be well worth it.  It can build a sense of good will and folks will remember the time and attention you paid to their issues.  When the chips are down and sacrifices in time, money or positions have to be made, folks are going to know that you’ve done everything possible to find a resolution that is to the benefit of all concerned.  When such a resolution isn’t possible, the folks are still going to know that people matter to you.  In the end, that’s really what business is all about – making sure the end consumer and the people providing that service know they have value and worth.

Leadership and Decision Making

Here’s a question for managers and supervisors.

Does your leadership style contribute to or hinder decision making?  Does it contribute to the problem or the solution?

Research has found that the style of leadership used within a group will have a direct impact upon the workings of the members.    It involves the facilitation of the interactions of the individual members, monitoring and encouraging member participation and completing the assigned tasks.  Leadership within a group may either be earned or ascribed.  When a group first forms the leadership issue must be decided.  Until that happens the group cannot focus on the tasks.  The style of leadership may vary along a continuum of authoritarian to non-directive.

An authoritarian leader is in complete control of the group.  The leader will make the decisions and then announce them to the members.  Information may be solicited from the members but may not affect the final decision.  An authoritarian leader is concerned only with getting the job done and not with whether the members approve of the final decision.

An authoritarian-democratic leader will make a decision and then attempt to persuade the group members to support it.  Such a leader needs the cooperation of the group to insure the task is completed.  The leader will attempt to persuade the members to support any decisions which have been made, whether or not the group had any input into that decision.

A democratic leader will present ideas and ask for input.  Additional suggestions may be asked from the members during the course of the meeting.  Decisions from such a leadership style are usually the result of a majority vote.

When compared to one another, authoritarian leaders will produce faster decisions in part because they have encouraged centralized communication structures.  Nondirective leaders encourage the use of decentralized communication structures and while slower, they will produce higher quality decisions.

So which style of leadership do you have and how effective are you in resolving problems?  If problem solving remains an issue, consider looking at your leadership style and making changes in order to bring about the best solutions possible.


Performance Appraisals for Difficult Employees – Part I

There may be nothing more a supervisor dreads that having to do a performance appraisal for a difficult employee. You can’t stick your head in the sand, that’s for sure.  But there are some key actions you may consider taking to prepare for the meeting.

The most important thing to remember in dealing with any employee, difficult or not, is that as the supervisor you must focus on the issue or the behavior. Be sure that you’ve taken notes during the review period to recall good job performances and problem issues. If meetings were held to discuss the issues, use your notes to discuss performance issues. Those notes should include the date and time of the meeting, who was present and what was discussed.  If memos were sent to the employee addressing a specific issue, have a copy of those memos available during the review meeting.

Call the meeting for a time that will allow both you and the employee to engage in conversation without distractions. If you can’t get away from the telephone or interruptions in your office, move the meeting to a neutral location such as a conference room. The key here is to insure that both you and the employee can devote full attention to the performance appraisal without having an audience.

Provide a copy of the written performance appraisal to the employee in time to allow the employee to review it before the meeting. Remember when writing the review that your focus must be on specific issues or behaviors. For example, if the employee’s job requires the production of reports within a specific time period, make sure you’ve checked the disclosure rate to determine whether the employee has met the standard. Check the submission dates and times and note the number which were on time and the number which were late.

Stay tuned for Part II – Holding the actual meeting.