Tag Archives: leadership

“Disciplining” Adults is Just Wrong

By Sue Bingham

Sue BinghamIt’s a great irony that the discipline policy preferred by most companies is called “progressive”. Since the word progressive means “making favorable progress or change” nothing could be further from the truth.

The progressive discipline policy is about punishment not improvement.Punishment expects employee performance to improve by treating the employee progressively worse. Click To Tweet

This senseless and de-humanizing process was created to protect companies from adverse legal rulings, and mostly at the advice of legal counsel. The irony is that a claim or charge can be adjudicated in favor of the employee—not because of what the terminated employee has or hasn’t done— but because the company failed to follow the myriad details outlined in its own policies.

Most managers denounce their company’s progressive discipline policy as lengthy, over-engineered and ineffective. For the bad apple who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, this process takes far too long. And the small minority of abusers use the policy like a playbook, and keep ahead of the game by changing the performance issue that is violated. They also know the time required for the last warning to be removed— so they can do it again. Here’s how it works…

Progressive Discipline Policies

Typically, progressive discipline policies are comprised of steps, with each step involving an employee and his/her manager and eventually witnesses. In each step, the communication is routinely one-way and parent-child, ending with the threat: “Failure to improve will result in further disciplinary action up to and including termination”.

  • Step One is a verbal warning. That’s an interesting term—verbal warning—because it’s often documented. And the word “warning” is correct because the discussion ends with a threat. The angry employee then leaves (often after being asked to sign the written verbal warning).
  • Step Two is just like step one but is now called a written warning. Again it ends with a threat (in a more serious tone) and the angry, dispirited or apathetic employee again leaves after being asked to sign the warning.
  • Step Three varies among companies. It may be a second written warning or an unpaid suspension from work. The employee is sent home (which seems much like sending a child to his room), and the employee and his family are being punished because the company is withholding pay.
  • Some companies even have a Step Four—a third and FINAL written warning. This is usually a tense and negative interaction between the manager and employee. It exists to create a paper trail that will hold up in an unemployment claim or court of law once the employee is terminated (at this stage the decision has already been made to fire the employee).

Punishment is not instructive. It cannot teach a new behavior or solve a problem. The improvement or desired behavior will never be permanently learned unless an employee and his supervisor work together to solve the problem.

In most traditional companies, equipment is treated better than employees. Using a progressive disciplinary approach is like banging on a machine to make it run better.

A Better Way

Assume that the vast majority of employees are good people who want the company to succeed. They are adults who own homes, raise children and serve in their communities. If a problem develops and is brought to their attention, their desire is to solve it.

A performance coaching approach is based on this assumption. If a problem arises, those involved will want to solve it. This coaching meeting has an agenda the manager partially prepares in advance to be clear and concise about the problem. When prepared, the manager can state the issue, usually in under fifteen seconds, and then ask, “What’s going on?” This turns the problem-solving conversation immediately over to the employee to discover the cause of the performance issue.

This is not a “step” process. This is an adult conversation that ends depending on how the employee responds.

  • Cooperative: If the employee is cooperative (most are), he accepts responsibility and offers an action or commitment to address the cause—problem solved! The action or solution is not provided by the manager. The manager facilitates the employee’s plan.
  • Uncooperative: The employee may be uncooperative, meaning he isn’t forthcoming regarding the cause, blames others or simply avoids responding as an adult to the manager’s questions. When this happens, the manager reflects what she’s seeing and hearing. Most people become cooperative at this point. If not, the manager will ask the employee to go home for the rest of the day. Unlike a suspension, this time off is paid because the employee’s job that day is to decide about his employment. Is this a job he wants? Can he meet expectations? If so, he is expected to return with a sincere commitment statement or plan of action. If the employee determines the job is not for him, the company processes his resignation. (A surprising number of people make the decision to change).
  • Disrespectful: Occasionally an employee can go beyond uncooperative and become downright disrespectful. There is no room for disrespectful behavior in this process. The manager reflects what she’s seeing or hearing, and if the employee continues to be disrespectful, the manager ends the meeting. The employee is sent home and informed that the manager will call him in the morning to let him know if he still has a job.

In all three instances, the problem is solved—usually with less than two conversations.

This process does have documentation. When a manager lacks confidence that the improvement will be made, a letter is sent to the employee that documents both sides of the conversation including the employee’s plan of action . It is kept in a company file. When the employee’s response results in resignation or termination, a report detailing the conversation(s) is submitted.

With this approach, the legal process is now focused on the employee’s response and subsequent actions versus whether the detailed progressive discipline steps were followed by the company.

As competition for good people becomes more intense, companies that treat their employees with respect, and as adults, gain the advantage. Managers are then free to use the leadership, judgment and communication skills for which they’re paid.

Sue Bingham is the founder of the HPWP Group, a master coach, speaker, and author of the book, Creating The High Performance Work Place: It’s Not Complicated to Develop a Culture of Commitment. At the forefront of the positive business movement, Sue supports leaders as they achieve their vision of success, and designs common-sense systems that make people and organizations more effective. For more information about Sue Bingham, please visit: www.HPWPGroup.com.

One-on-One Coaching: The Most Effective Way to Develop Your People

By Jeffrey W. Foley

Jeffrey Foley: one-on-one coachingEffective one-on-one coaching is one of the most important skills a great leader must possess. Effective coaching inspires in others an internal drive to act ethically, without direction, to achieve goals. Effective coaching drives performance, builds competence and confidence, and ultimately enhances relationships. The best coaches help people find ways to make things happen as opposed to creating excuses why they can’t.

Effective coaching also requires you to believe in yourself. You need to believe that you can have an impact in the workplace, and that you can inspire others to achieve their goals they might not otherwise achieve. The real question is not if you will make a difference, but what difference you will make.

Respectful, transparent, and regular face-to-face communication between leaders and their people breaks down barriers and builds trust. What you can see in a person’s eyes or other body language can be revealing. While technology can be effective at times, it will never replace human contact for discovery and inspiration.

The most impactful leaders are adept listeners, and don’t allow their egos to become roadblocks. When egos are alive and well, listening ceases, effective coaching environments disappear, and organizations suffer.

Here are three recommendations that can help you raise the bar on your ability to coach others.Effective one-on-one coaching is one of the most important skills a great leader must possess. Click To Tweet

1. Create a positive and open environment for communication

People listen to and follow leaders they trust. They engage in meaningful dialog with people they trust. They are not afraid to disagree with people they trust. Trust provides the foundation for a positive and open communication environment where connections between people can thrive.

When people connect, they learn about each other. They enable understanding of cultures, individual strengths and challenges. Knowing your people’s unique capabilities and desires helps focus on how to help them be successful.

Knowing your people also reduces the probability of promoting someone into a management position who does not want it or is not otherwise qualified. Not all physicians want to be managers. Not all sales people want to be sales managers. Not all technicians want to be a shop foreman. The costs can be exorbitant to an organization that wrongly promotes someone into a management position.

There are three questions that can help establish this open line of communication: What is on your mind? What can I do for you? What do you think? How am I making your life more difficult? When asked with the genuine interest, people respond with more honesty.

Meet with your people regularly helps break down barriers. Not just in your office, but on the manufacturing floor, outside the operating room, in the cafeteria, or the warehouse. Talk to folks outside the work area like the jogging track, grocery store or the kid’s soccer game. The informal sessions can be wonderful enablers of opening the line of communication.

2. Establish agreed upon goals and strategies to achieve

Most people want to know what success looks like. They want to be clear in their goals as an individual and, if appropriate, the leader of a team. Well-defined, measurable, relevant goals on paper help people gain clarity on success for them. Assigning responsibility with authority helps inspire an individual’s commitment to be successful.

Success also includes how to reach their goals. Strategies are developed and agreed upon by the manager and team member so that both understand each other’s roles. The probability of success increases dramatically when strategies and accountabilities are well defined.

3. Enforce accountability by assessing performance

There are many and significant consequences when people are not held accountable for achieving goals or otherwise performing to standard. Integrity disappears. Discipline erodes. Morale evaporates. Leaders are not taken seriously. Problem employees become a cancer in the organization. The best people leave. Results are not achieved.

Effective coaching demands assessment of performance. Without this assessment, no system of accountability will be achieved. If the senior leader does not hold his or her executive team accountable, subordinate leaders are likely to think “Why should I?”

Consistent, regularly scheduled coaching sessions with your people are the key to ensuring effective follow-up assessments to celebrate successes and identify areas to improve.

Summary

Coaching session agendas will vary based on a variety of conditions. A good place to start is outlined below.

First, review the individual goals and those of the organization. Ensure alignment of both to clarify where the individual is contributing to the mission of the organization.

Second, discuss what is going well. Where do both the coach and the individual agree on successes? Provide positive recognition for achievements where important.

Third, discuss the challenges or areas for improvement. Underwrite honest mistakes in the pursuit of excellence so people can learn. Determine how you as the manager can help. Gain a clear understanding of the shortfall in the individual’s ability and desire to achieve the goal and what resources or assistance the individual needs to be successful. When unsatisfactory performance occurs, managers must address it. Leaders who never take action to remove an underperformer are doing a great disservice to their institution. All too often, good people serving in leadership positions fear the task of confrontation. They hope, magically, that something will happen which will turn the underperformer around and all will be well in the end. Hope is not a strategy; the magic seldom happens. Your goal as a leader and coach is to inspire a willingness to succeed. When coaching, it is often easier to criticize and find fault. Think before you speak—find ways to praise.

Fourth, as the manager, seek suggestions for how you can be a more effective leader for them. This question can change the dynamic of the coaching session and can provide powerful feedback for the manager in his or her quest to be the best they can be. Doing so will enhance their trust in you and help build confidence in their own capabilities.

Remember, effective one-on-one coaching can be the catalyst for attracting and retaining the best people, and that will ultimately help your organization to unprecedented results.

 Jeff Foley is a recognized speaker, executive leadership coach, and author of Rules and Tools for Leaders. He is a West Point graduate and retired as a Brigadier General having served thirty-two years in the Army. Drawing on his unique military experience, Jeff uses his singular insight to build better leaders. For more information on Jeff Foley, visit www.loralmountain.com.

Stop Falling Behind Your Competitors

Seven Steps to Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Brad Wolff

Brad WolffDoesn’t it seem that business is more competitive and difficult than it used to be? ABC, Inc. experienced this challenging business atmosphere firsthand. A building materials manufacturer that previously dominated their marketplace, ABC suffered staggering losses in the previous fiscal year. It became blindingly apparent that what had worked in the past was no longer effective, and the company president had no idea how to fix things. It was time to use proven techniques for achieving a competitive advantage.

ABC engaged a firm that identified the root causes of their problems. After two years, sales and profits dramatically increased—even with the same leaders. The results came from a seven-step process based on sound principles that put a focus on leveraging their internal talent. If you find your business falling behind, you can follow ABC, Inc.’s lead by putting these seven steps into practice.

1. Employee alignment

When a significant percentage of duties performed by employees don’t fit their innate characteristics or core nature, they won’t perform well. For example, people low in detail orientation doing work that requires high detail. Training and development, management encouragement and other well-intended efforts will not fix alignment issues. As Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”Personal growth results in professional growth. Click To Tweet

2. Creating a competitive advantage through a culture of personal growth and development

In truth, personal growth results in professional growth. It results in a greater capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals and work well with others. Personal growth and development includes an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego, ability to manage emotions and development of innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness. Most performance issues that managers complain about relate to one or more of the above. These are fundamental character traits of success.

3. Aligning employees with the mission and vision of the organization

Human beings have an innate need for meaning and purpose in what they do. This means that they care about how their efforts affect the world outside themselves—people, the environment, animals, etc. For example, take assembly line workers that produce incubators for premature babies. In one scenario the workers are only told to mechanically perform the prescribed duties. In the other scenario they are crystal clear about the importance the quality of their work has on the survival of infants. Which workers do you think are more motivated? Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.

4. Aligning employees with the culture and values of the organization

People need to feel that they fit in with their social groups. Employees who are significantly out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never make their highest contribution. Having perfect alignment is not the goal, since diversity of thought and behavior allow a culture to adapt and thrive. However, significant misalignments are damaging. It’s also important for leaders to consider whether they should change their culture. Examples of this would include a culture that they know is toxic and when there’s shrinking population of workers who fit the current culture. In both cases, without the ability to attract and retain needed talent, organizations will fail.

5. Aligning roles and responsibilities with organization’s strategies and goals

In today’s environment, organizational goals and strategies must change to adapt. Frequently, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. When this occurs, some or much of employee work efforts are out of alignment and can impair the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. For example, a company changes strategy to shift most customer communications from telephone to online, yet the employees’ duties and training continue to focus on telephone communications.

6. Assessing personal and professional weaknesses, starting from the top

Weaknesses are the negative side of strengths. It’s impossible to have a strength without its vulnerable side. We’ve been taught to hide or deny our weaknesses despite them being obvious to others. Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but counterproductive. It hinders our true potential from being realized—a loss to the organization and ourselves. When leaders openly and honestly acknowledge “challenge areas,” this sets the example for others. The organization opens the door to growth and development.

7. Committing to work on the personal and professional challenges discovered in the assessment process

Studies on human potential and positive change demonstrate that self-awareness is the first step—but it’s not the last. Committing to take steps (starting with baby steps) and taking them allows for the development of positive habits that create lasting positive change. Deliberate change intended to meet the needs of your environment creates a flexible, adaptive organization—one that is poised to thrive despite the torrent of unpredictable/unwanted change that defines your world. Thriving in an unpredictable world is about you. Your willingness to acknowledge change that you don’t like, openly discuss it and consistently take the actions required to adapt and emerge stronger.

At the end of the day, leaders are simply making choices that define the present and future of themselves and their organizations. There’s nothing magical about the most effective leaders. They’re just making more effective choices. These choices encompass how they decide to see the world, their openness to challenge their beliefs and their willingness to experiment with innovative ideas that can capture breakthrough advantages. Equally important choices include their willingness to objectively look at themselves and take actions to grow in areas. They choose to become a greater, more effective version of themselves. They know that what they demonstrate (not what they say) is what has the greatest impact on the entire organization. As a leader, the question is, what choices are you going to make?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

Wield the Five Keys to Leaving a Positive Leadership Legacy in Your Life

By Jeffrey W. Foley

Jeffrey WoleyMany successful business people have pondered their leadership legacy—how do they want to be remembered. And many of them struggle to find the answer.

Your legacy is defined by the impact you have on the lives of others after you are gone. It is how you will be remembered. We are all leaving a legacy, there is no escaping it. If asked, how would you respond to the question of, “What do you want your leadership legacy to be?”

However old or young, you have the opportunity to raise the bar on the legacy you are leaving. Whether you are a senior executive, in a new position in your business, a new parent or grandparent, a student or recent graduate, you can choose your legacy. Or perhaps you have had a setback in your life, it is never too late to refocus on what you can change—your legacy.Being a person of character is at the foundation of building trust with others. Character is who we are and what we stand for. Click To Tweet

The most effective business leaders are people who ultimately pursue five separate but related behaviors. These five can provide the framework for you in your pursuit of creating a positive leadership legacy in life.

Character

Being a person of character is at the foundation of building trust with others. Character is who we are and what we stand for. It is comprised of many things but its foundation is values; those deep beliefs like integrity, loyalty, and respect. Values do not change overnight; rather they are forged in one’s heart and soul over time. They ultimately drive how we behave. When you think of those people who left a wonderful legacy for you, was not character the essence of the memory?

Attitude

Your attitude can change everything you do and everyone you meet. No one enjoys hanging out with chronic complainers or naysayers. A positive attitude can be a force multiplier in daily interactions or long term strategies. A positive attitude creates passion, enthusiasm, and a call to action. It can change outcomes. You have a choice in your attitude. Make it positive!

Vision

We all need a vision, or a plan, for our future. A saying attributed to the great Yogi Berra goes: “If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end up someplace else.” A vision provides clear direction for your future. Create your future by putting a mark on the wall of where you want to be one, two, five years from now. Craft an action plan that identifies your objectives and critical decision points. Establish a set of milestones that will help you achieve your objectives, and then celebrate each of their achievements as you progress along the way!

Excellence

Both championship teams and successful businesses do not drift to greatness; they commit themselves to excellence. Commitment means tireless pursuit of doing your absolute best, every day, all the time. Excellence matters in everything you do. If you don’t commit to excellence yourself and demand it from others you will create a culture of mediocrity. Most people are not interested in mediocrity.

Relationships

Building trusted relationships with others trumps everything else when it comes to leaving a positive leadership legacy in your world. Serving the needs of others builds trust in relationships. You serve by knowing your people, genuinely caring for them, reaching out to those in need, sacrificing and celebrating with them, exercising humility, are all important aspects enabling strong relationships. Nowhere is trust between leaders and followers more profound than in the military. You can learn, just like US Military Academy graduates at West Point are required to learn, that is Schofield’s Definition of Discipline. Major General John Schofield in his address to the Corps of Cadets in 1879: “The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an Army.” You know you will have achieved the goal of building trust when you can feel the spirit of cohesion that permeates the hearts of who serve together.

These five keys will provide a framework for establishing your approach to leaving a positive leadership legacy in your life. On a scale of one to five, with one being not so good, and five being great, how would you assess your behavior in each of the five areas? An action plan should follow your assessment that focuses you enables you to grow your ability where needed.

I wish you the best in your leadership journey.

Jeff Foley is a recognized speaker, executive leadership coach, and author of Rules and Tools for Leaders. He is a West Point graduate and retired as a Brigadier General having served thirty-two years in the Army. Drawing on his unique military experience, Jeff uses his singular insight to build better leaders. For more information on Jeff Foley, visit www.loralmountain.com.

Eight Elements That Comprise a High Performance Enterprise

By Sue Bingham

Wake Up

Sue BinghamIt’s no secret that the workforce and the nature of work itself are rapidly changing. Many organizations, particularly large ones, are like an ocean liner that can’t turn on a dime. If an organization is not actively promoting and integrating the following eight elements, that organization is already behind and will experience negative impacts as the workforce shrinks and traditional management practices continue.

The root cause is that traditional management practices and H.R. policies have been created to catch the “bad apple”.  Let’s start with the premise that the vast majority of employees are good people—we might even say 95% fall in this category.  That leaves the small minority of five-percenters or bad apples.  Often this group occupies a much larger percentage of managements’ time and attention.  To try to rid the organization of these people, penalizing and insulting policies are created that often catch good people in their net. When treated the same as a five-percenter, ninety-five percenters feel embarrassed and de-valued.  What’s worse, they create a bureaucratic system that makes it nearly impossible to get rid of those for whom the policies were created.

The following eight elements are common sense and uncomplicated; and, the absence of them will seriously hurt organizations in the near future.

#1—Positive Assumptions about People

Dealing with the five-percent unconsciously taints your assumptions about people.  If leaders have spent time dealing with someone who lies, lays out, does the minimum required and tries to get away with as much as possible, that experience can create a distrust and desire to micromanage and control everyone.  Evidence of these assumptions is seen when there is restricted access to specific areas for certain groups; doors, cabinets and tool cribs are locked; managers accept performance minimums vs. maximums; information is guarded; and self-management is a distant concept.  It becomes irrational for employees to feel like valued adults and in return, the organization receives compliance, a lack of passion and a check the box performance.

Leading with positive assumptions about the quality and integrity of the majority of the workforce promotes pride, passion and accountability.It’s valuing employees and doing the right thing that leads to exceptional performance. Click To Tweet

#2—Identification and Elimination of Negatives

A negative is defined as “anything that minimizes vs. maximizes a person’s feeling of VALUE to the organization”.  Many of these are almost invisible to the people who have the power to eliminate them.  Examples include:  free water or coffee in some areas and not in others, reserved parking for executives, punitive policies that apply to one group of employees but not another, differences in holiday and vacation schedules, late performance appraisals and wage increases, etc.

Most of these negatives are easy to eliminate.  Leaders only need to put themselves in the shoes of their hourly-paid employees to see and feel them—and then get rid of them.

#3—Mutual Trust and Respect

Major headway in creating an environment of mutual trust and respect can be achieved by doing the first two elements.  And, if a company wants to be able to unlock supplies and equipment and treat people as responsible adults, there must be recognition that there will probably be some theft and deceit until the five-percenters are gone. However, it will be worth it to have created a high trust environment for the rest of the workforce.  In addition, create the standard that trust is a required attribute in order to receive a job offer.  Clearly communicate trust as a core value and treat any violation of trust as a dischargeable offense.

#4—Open, Two-Way, Adult-to-Adult Communication

In essence, share information, be open, and avoid secrets.  Speak to everyone at every level as you would a neighbor you like.  Remember that people, regardless of the type of work they perform, have the same desire for involvement and respect as managers and senior leaders do.

#5—Employee Engagement

Visionary experts in areas of organizational development predict the end of hierarchies—at least as you know them today. If it can be agreed that the people doing the jobs are the ones who know the jobs the best, why aren’t leaders empowering employees to solve problems and create continuous improvement in every organization?

#6—Training

A company’s investment in training reflects its value for people and a clear belief that good people only get better and produce greater results with an investment in their development.  Manufacturing companies often have a substantial budget for preventative maintenance on equipment, but limit (or even reduce if revenue is low) the necessary dollars for maintaining each person’s potential capacity.

#7—Competitive Wages and Benefits

In a high performance culture, the objective is to make wages and benefits a “non-issue”.  If people are challenged, valued and fairly compensated, they are reluctant to take another job for more money.  Fairness is perceived and achieved by regularly checking the market value for all jobs and paying competitively (meaning around and often somewhat above the market midpoint), sharing the survey data if someone is interested and being transparent about ranges and the compensation structure.  If a company is providing competitive pay and benefits, there shouldn’t be any mystery around this topic.

#8—High Expectations

Many leaders will admit that they have employees who are only doing the “minimum”.  In most traditional companies, job descriptions are specific with regard to the tasks to be performed.  Instead, write job profiles that set high expectations for the results versus the tasks involved.  And replace that common phrase at the bottom of those descriptions that says, “All other duties as assigned” with “Proactively support the team and company in achieving its objectives”.  Now the person who just waits to be told what to do is no longer meeting the minimum.

When leaders don’t set high expectations, they shouldn’t be surprised when average results are achieved.  Further, high expectations give people a purpose for their work along especially when their leaders’ believe they will be successful.

Start Now

There are many applications under each of these elements that convert the words to tangible actions and practices.  If any of these eight elements is missing within an organization, it’s time to take action.

It’s valuing employees and doing the right thing that leads to exceptional performance.  It really isn’t complicated.

Sue Bingham is the founder of the HPWP Group, a master coach, speaker, and author of the book, Creating The High Performance Work Place: It’s Not Complicated to Develop a Culture of Commitment. At the forefront of the positive business movement, Sue supports leaders as they achieve their vision of success, and designs common-sense systems that make people and organizations more effective. For more information about Sue Bingham, please visit: www.HPWPGroup.com.