Friday, August 21, 2015

Blind Spots -- We all Got them

I had the opportunity today to talk to a manager about blind spots in one of his direct reports. What is a blind spot? A blind spot is an employee who you think is great, but the rest of the organization is trying to warn you that they are a force for evil not good. A person with a blind spot will go to the point of career suicide to defend a person's outrageous/ineffective/incompetent behavior often in front of caring coworkers who have given up trying to convince them.

It is ugly to watch. Makes everyone REAL uncomfortable.

A person with a blind spot is not a bad employee, often they seem perfectly normal and even show outstanding type performance in other avenues of their professional life.

Some people have a lot of blindspots and those people tend to flame out pretty quick in management positions. They are locked in a perpetual denial about the true performance of the people around them. Often they are only successful through massive amounts of individual effort. They tend to look tired and blame that on the company not their team.

More insidious is the Senior Level Manager with only one blindspot. In all other avenues of life they seem perfectly sane and reasonable, but, once you get them on the subject of, let's say, Bob, you hear anything from raging at the machine to outright whining. Common statements/questions are:

"I don't understand why everyone else doesn't appreciate Bob, he is better than [Insert insanely ridiculous comparison with no grounding in reality]."
"You just don't see all the things Bob does, this operation couldn't function without him"

Worse, sometimes people get so baffled by their blind spot they start believing in some sort of institutional discrimination that they would not otherwise buy into.

In the end, blind spots are a failure of your performance management system. The manager who has the blindspot is not using facts to determine how they assess people. Or maybe just using the wrong facts. Coaching people through a blind spot can often be a frustrating exercise, but forcing the manager to walk through performance expectations and show how that relates to the employee at hand can really help to shed light on reality.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What do your Contractors have on your Organization?

If the NSA can give a high school drop-out Top Secret clearance and acccess to the largest information gathering program in history only to escape to China with it, don't you need to look at the confidential information that your contractors have access to?

It made me a little nervous. Double checking our systems as we speak.

Execution Problems?

One of the most amazing things I learned in the Army is how to execute. Most of the leadership training in the Army focuses on "decisions on the fly". Sure we do planning involving lengthy operations orders, but while not planning correctly will get you productive feedback sessions, not making decisions to correct things when the plan starts going sideways...

That is push-ups and screaming.

Translating this into a business environment is difficult, because making decisions without fear is truly a learned behavior and many people just don't trust themselves or their organization enough to do it. Oftentimes when employees come to me and complain about planning it tends to be a lack of decision making and execution on the part of a leader somewhere in the process.

In order to really overcome the fear of making a decision you really have to have an overwhelming desire to WIN. I have found that successful executives in organizations have to really control themselves from making decisions that belong at a lower level. They watch lower levels agonize over decisions that would take them seconds and they can't control themselves. I think if I could identify one key trait of successful executives making quick decisions on the fly without fear would be one. How do you fit?

Monday, May 6, 2013

New Policy: Enforce our Old Policies

I don't know how much time is wasted in corporate America solving problems that have already been solved, but my guess would be alot. While a blog post about policy probably doesn't seem exciting I think a policy review of your new organization is one of the best ways get a feel for what exactly you have gotten yourself into. I see managers struggle every day to recreate rules and policies when, if you ask the hourly employees who have been around for a while, they will all tell you that there already is a rule/standard but people stopped enforcing it long ago.

Honestly, while there is a sick part of me that loves creating and revising policy, I never start creating until I do some research into what has existed in the past. In most cases, I find some sort of document or manual that lists everything I would have written anyway. Then I ask the question "Why did we stop using this?"

The unfortunate honest answer is that it was too inconvenient to revise and became so outdated people just stopped. A clear lack of discipline and effort. Because enforcing a dress code that requires women to wear a skirt or refers to an attendence system that no longer exists is ill advised and confusing. They don't change the policy, they just stop having rules altogether.

The funny thing is, in mature organizations, employees will still refer to those old rules or the old manual as if it was still in effect. Most of the time people never make a big announcement about the fact they don't have the discipline to keep their work rules up to date so the old timers assume it is still in effect (and they feel that all the new employees are getting away with murder). Employees lose respect for management and management loses their credibility to hold people accountable.

Sometimes when you go through the old manual you realize that it is not half bad. By revising and updating, most of your high tenure employees will readily accept the familiar rules and practices. Then you can focus yoru change management efforts on the pieces that need drastic change.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Performance Reviews and Otherwise Getting off of your High Horse and Doing the Work

Every time a major company changes they way they execute their performance management cycle there is the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth from the "thought leaders" out there who see any change of a performance evaluation as an exercise in futility that reinforces a failed system. Kris Dunn points out correctly that these people are high on complaints and low on solutions. It is fine to say that continuous feedback would negate the need for a performance evaluation and that they should not be necessary in a perfect company, however, there is no such thing as a perfect company (Shout out to Jon McAmis my first HR Director for that line). In a world where hourly employees make up the bulk of your workforce and good solid leadership in your industry is at a premium, sometimes you have to create a system to grow your own coaching culture from the ground level.
I hate to break it to many of the experts out there, but in most companies, even some rather successful ones, little to no coaching actually occurs. When you are starting from ground zero it is useful to start a formal process for a supervisor or manager to record coaching and development efforts over the last year. If done correctly and with the right oversight, this process can introduce some basic skill sets that HR people take for granted. Such as:

1. Performance reviews should not be a surprise
2. Discipline matters (If they have formal discipline during the review period they are, by definition, not meeting expectations)
3. Give credit where credit is due (Specific examples of high performing behavior)
4. Don't play favorites (halos and horns)
5. Words and clarity matter (Do not be afraid of the conversation)

The goal is not to create a perfect performance evaluation, but to begin to exorcise all of the demons that a poor coaching environment creates. Let's face it, people are going to be pissed, surprised, and shocked. But you just forced your supervisors to take a stand on his employee's performance that they cannot back away from. They are stuck with it and now they have to deal with it. That, my friends, is where the money is made. Now that they know that they will be forced to confront each employee they have an obligation to that employee to resolve the issue. Hopefully, if you are maintaining a solid relationship with your leaders, you can help them to prepare for this in a healthy way (please god, not the "The HR guy is making me give you a 2")

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Types of Employees

Look, I am all about being honest. This especially comes to my high potentials. I am not going to BS them, and in return I hope that I am the first one they run to when they start getting the eventual offers from the outside. So here is the deal, there are two types of employees:

1. Employees with options
2. Employees with no options

Nuff said, that is all there is to it. I don't care what industry you are in or what your "niche" is. Employees with options reap the rewards of "choosing" to stay with their current company (until they inevitably leave) and employees who have no choice but to stay get nothing (or less) than their counterparts who have options.

Cold you say? I am definitely putting on the Darth Vader Mask here, for sure. But do the mental exercise for me just for fun. Which of your employees have options and which don't? Then adjust your retention efforts accordingly. I was at the BCHRMA conference today and had a speaker say that younger people don't expect to work for a company for 35 years anymore. I found this amusing because I don't expect people to work for me for more than five years (I think I can keep people around for that long) after that I expect them to move on without a promotion or significant change of some sort.

Keep it fluid my brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Letting People Know Etiquette of Applying online

I know that navigating company websites to apply can be a daunting task. I also know that many of my readers (all 10 of you or so) will have no patience with people who do not intuitively know that someone has to navigate through multiple resumes and cover letters to decide on a group that is "best qualified" to be sent up to a interview. Here is the truth of the matter, on the administration side of things cut and pasted resume's and cover letters are extremely hard to read. In fact, while there may very well be a person whose qualifications are so "right" that I can decipher a resume that is cut and pasted into a little box erasing any formatting that helps me to zero in on experiences that could help my organization, I have not found one yet. I have to try very hard to decipher these and reading them is not easy.

Bottom Line: The site gives you the attachment option for a reason, use it.