Trust Me, I’m your Manager

We recently spoke to a supervisor who complained that her team had no respect for the job or her authority. What made matters worse was the fact that she felt management neither cared or supported her in her duties. Generating trust and respect of management by employees in the workplace is essential for productivity, team morale, employee retention and development of a positive corporate culture. But it takes time and planning to achieve. In short – you can’t just ask for respect; trust and respect needs to be earned.

There are five never changing guides to follow by supervisors and managers in their quest to build respect and a positive corporate environment are simple. We won’t try to fool you, the hard part is commitment and follow through.

Manager’s Roadmap to Respect:

First, if you want to be respected, you need to respect others. Take time to listen with understanding. Don’t abuse your employees’ time and effort. Don’t ask an employee to perform duties that you would not do.

Second, managers truly do need to lead by example. It’s an old tried and true statement but essential for development of trust. Don’t belittle, gossip, or lie. Be completely upfront and let your team know that what you say, you believe. How you conduct yourself should never be at the expense of another. And the manner you treat others is how you, yourself would want to be treated.

Third, be open about business issues. If restructuring is on the horizon, help prepare your team. If important to the team, news, both good and bad needs to be shared truthfully with the team. You want your team to believe you when you speak.

Fourth, if you’re wrong admit it and if you don’t know, say you’ll find out. Too many times we see managers that feel they need to be right all the time. It just doesn’t happen. We’re human and make mistakes. One of the most respected traits of a good manager is the ability to correct a wrong.

Finally, if you want your team to be loyal show your loyalty to them. Don’t gossip and do not tolerate gossip. Stand up for your team members and team. Make them know their contribution is a priority in the business structure.

Set the tone for your small business or department by demonstrating good character. Avoid lying and spinning company news when under pressure. Admit when you don’t know the answer, and promise to find answers if possible.

Non-Profits and Turf Battles – How can such good people be so devious?

We’ve all seen it. Two very successful and well-meaning non-profits joined in the goal of making their community a better place to live, develop a schism, competing for precious charitable dollars. Perhaps even more detrimental is their development of similar if not identical programs that have no respect for economies of scale. Duplicate summer camps, duplicate fund raisers duplicate personnel resources.

Taken a step further, conflict arises between organizations and individuals over goals and objectives, who is more beneficial, whose donors are whose, and fund-raiser competition for precious time and dollars?

Fast Company had a great article by Robert Herbold on his book outlining the phenomenon called the Fiefdom Syndrome: The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies — and How to Overcome Them.*

The problem begins when individuals, groups, or divisions–out of fear–seek to make themselves vital to their organizations and unconsciously or sometimes deliberately try to protect their turf or reshape their environment to gain as much control as possible over what goes on.

Herbold give the example in his experience with Proctor and Gamble when the heads of the sales organizations in the various countries eventually positioned themselves as president of the company in their respective countries. And clearly a president needs his own finance, HR, and IT personnel. Before long, they were developing their own marketing efforts, often out of sync with the overall strategic and marketing direction of Procter & Gamble’s products and services…

Subsidiaries came up with their own ways to analyze their business, methods that tended to emphasize how well they were doing. They institutionalized those new measures and used them to report on their business.

Let’s apply this to the non-profit world. We’ve mediated two cases (successfully) centered on “fiefdom” issues with non-profit agencies. Quite frankly, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more. Why do intelligent agencies build competing fiefdoms? As Herbold’s read pointed out: competition fueled by the need for survival and breakdown in communication lays fertile ground for turf wars.

Non-profits do so very much good in our communities for so many citizens. The price tag to replace these organizations by government services would be absolutely staggering. We need service organizations to keep our community safe, and functioning on an optimum level. Our message is one of hope. The CEOs of two of the organizations we worked with now have coffee every Friday morning. They readily admit that some Fridays they don’t even mention their organizations. But when they do, it tends to be problem sharing usually followed by some brainstorming. Our thought is that even those weeks without business talk, the friendship that has evolved is a more powerful business tool.

If your non-profit is fighting a critical turf battle, it may be productive to build some bridges. Coffee every Friday is a good start!

Robert Herbold. The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies — and How to Overcome Them.   (2005)

http://www.fastcompany.com/bookclub/excerpts/0385510675.html

Non-Profits and Turf Battles – How can such good people be so devious?

Happy Presidents Day – Remembering John F Kennedy

In observance of Presidents’ Day – Remembering a perceived irreconcilable conflict.

Jeff Sachs – “Lessons in Peace Making” seems an appropriate tribute to this Presidents Day.

It was the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962. For any of you Boomers out there, you’ll remember you and your family sitting in front of the black and white Motorola for the 6:00 news, listening to Chet Huntley and David Brinkley painting a picture of mounting doom between two superpowers:  the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Escalation of threats and missile escalation seem inevitable when air photography proved soviet arms were strategically placed in Cuba.

The key take away from this great read is that when the majority of decision makers felt that proliferation had reached a point of no return and that peace could not be achieved, President John F Kennedy’s vision was different. According to Sachs, Kennedy understood that tension came from hard liners on each side and that each action of aggression produced an immediate and more severe reaction. Just as interpersonal conflict may easily blossom into an upward spiral. Is there a point where peace becomes impossible?

Not according to Kennedy. Of conflict, Kennedy noted in his famous peace speech that “too many of us think (peace) impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view”. (Our emphasis).

Kennedy’s claim that both the Soviet Union and the U.S. had a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. This very precious and powerful revelation earned quite an outstanding response from Nikita Khrushchev when he reported to the US envoy that the speech was the finest by any American president since FDR.

Negotiations followed and the result was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which was followed five years later by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We like to use this illustration when conflicts escalate and agreements seem impossible. And on this Presidents Day celebration, we give thanks to the leadership and vision of John F Kennedy.

http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#page/news/636

Give Peace a Chance

In July 2013, Rotary International, the century old service organization added their peace initiative to the 4 Avenues of Service. What a profound statement. The presiding RI President, Sakuji Tanaka proclaimed “our business is peace”. An extremely powerful objective.

In his statement, Tanaka noted that peace is more than the absence of conflict – it brings freedom, security, and happiness. Going further, he noted that peace is the enemy of persecution and instability. We’ve made a study of Rotary’s efforts and it’s remarkable. Keep in mind there are 1.2 million Rotarians around the world representing 34,000 clubs. Peace efforts are as small and contained as a sponsored elementary peace day and as large as an international sponsor of Peace Fellows (600 to date who are world leaders).

One of the leading questions worldwide is what is the greatest impediment to peace? Is it generational misunderstandings, global politics, wars? According to Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, bad governance tops the list. As noted by Mathews, a government that does not care about its own people feeds anger. Coupled this issue with hunger, disease, and fear fueled by lack of safety and the multi-dimensional components of hatred unfold.

Bravo, Rotary International for adopting this important avenue of service. All Rotarians are encouraged to:

  1. Educate their clubs about Peace Centers and member fellows.
  2. Enlist community partners involved in peace efforts such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Boarders
  3. And finally – use their social media to share information on peace initiatives. Rotary International’s website is a rich resource for projects around the world.

About Rotary Peace Centers:

Each year, up to 100 Rotary Peace Fellows are chosen to participate in a master’s degree or certificate program at one of our partner universities. Fellows study subjects related to the root causes of conflict and explore innovative solutions that address real-world needs. We have peace centers around the globe at:

  • Chulalongkorn University, Thailand (certificate program)
  • Duke University at Chapel Hill USA
  • ,International Christian University, Japan
  • University of Bedford, England
  • University of Queensland, Australia
  • Uppsala University, Sweden

Attention all Organizations – Train your Managers to be Mediators!

We were recently directed to an article by Lisa Dunbar by New Directions Consulting (Vermont and New York) entitled “Conflict Management – the Manager as Mediator”.  It holds an important message for any organization that emphasizes the benefit of team building.  What we like, is the discussion on the need for our managers to recognize their potential role in conflict resolution.  We’ve dealt with several organization that have experienced inter-departmental conflict that was allow to grow simply because the manager sent all complaints to HR.

How does a department get to this point – where managers know when to step into their role as mediator?  The article points out three areas of potential:

  1. First and probably most typical, is any informal problem solving or group/team discussion where conflict surfaces
  2. Customer interaction where the customer is upset (internal or external)
  3. Staff member to staff member conflict where they are unable to reach resolution themselves

We would like to add one more area:  conflicts involving employee and manager.  At first it would seem counterintuitive.   Mediators, the role held by managers,  by definition must be unbiased.  It seems a stretch to expect this from a manager who has been drawn in to a conflict situation.  However, we see the manager’s role easily moving to one as mediator/facilitator in these types of situations.

Allow us a brief example.  Manager A is dealing with a belligerent employee that has taken the opportunity at reviews to complain about how he/she is being treated in respect to other employees (requested time off, work load, advancement opportunities).  Does the manager have the skills to remain neutral in this situation?  Probably not, but the manager certainly would have the ability to facilitate communication that is open and on track.

By having a structured process in place, managers do have the tools to identify and deal with conflict before they reach the critical stage.  Dunbar’s article identifies the need for a clear process to guide managers.  Elements include:  preparation, examine all points of view, uncover what is really important to employee as well as manager, brainstorm / search for options and finally commitment by both manager and employee to a plan that includes follow-up.

Not all managers have the talents necessary to objectively look at both sides and treat the complaining partner with respect. But, our suggestion is that all managers, regardless of personality or attitude would benefit by structural training.

The important message is that managers need to be given tools through training and staff development to function in a mediator role.  Have a structure in place that includes training and reinforcement.  The stakes for business efficiency are too high to be held ransom to conflict gone unchecked.

Good quick read:  http://www.newdirectionsconsulting.com/leadership-engagement/conflict-management-the-manager-as-conflict-mediator/#comment-633345

What to do when an employee sees red –

Dealing with anger in the workplace is one of the most difficult and awkward processes a supervisor/manager/director must face. Depending upon frequency, subject of anger and team dynamics, reactions may range from ignoring the problem to full scale outside intervention. Managers we speak to often lament the trend to give legitimacy to trivial complaints. Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, is seldom – if ever a valid approach. Herein lies the problem.

We suggest 5 steps to deal with anger in the workplace. Once again, much depends upon the issue, the participants and the history. Using the following 5 steps will go a long way to helping the office work through anger issues.

Acknowledge the Anger. It can be as subtle as asking “what’s going on?” Be sure to frame questions as open ended that will open the way for conversations. Asking “are you going to be okay?” will give you a yes or no answer and discussion will probably end there.

Find the Source of Anger. When anger has been allowed to continue and build. Anger outbreaks may not necessarily represent the real issue. Spending time sleuthing the underlying issues will provide a good starting point for discussion.

Make Communication a Priority. Not everyone finds conversation about anger comfortable. Letting participants vent, not placing blame and simply listening is powerful. Foster communication.

Problem Solving. Get input from all participants. Sometimes you will be amazed that answers may be more similar than not. Treat the interaction as a problem solving venture. Once again – don’t let blame be a component of the process.

Clarify Expectations. Staff needs to know your objectives for office behavior. Identify your expectations and let them be known – and reminded.

We won’t kid you – there will be times that issues will be best served by outside help. Always keep in touch with your HR department. Never let anger run your office.

Team Building? Not so Fast!

Team Building?   Not So Fast –

We were recently involved in a project stemming from long standing disagreement(s) between two managers. Over time criticisms that enlisted the support of departments and businesses outside the organization had escalated. Within the past 12 months, issues that began as small, bloomed into direct conflict. The conflict that had become a fact of workplace culture had now divided departments, threatened production and fostered a toxic work environment.

How did we get involved? We were first contacted to provide team building exercises for the two departments. This always has the potential for being a significant red flag. Sure enough, after several conversations with HR and the CEO, it was apparent that some serious groundwork had to be completed – starting with determining the initial misunderstanding(s).

Our first task was to meet with all internal personnel involved in the dispute to sort out the details tracing back to the original problems. This effort is particularly onerous when time, culture, and power play out to draw up sides. Any appearance of inequities of interviews or recording of findings could quite possibly torpedo the process. Sorting through the “he said – she said” conversations is tedious – but extremely important from a fairness standpoint. Mediation is built on the assumption that each party will get equal treatment. It’s the main component in establishing and proving trustworthy behavior.

So how did the process go? Actually quite successfully. The initial fact finding meetings with persons directly related to the conflict yielded two opposing individuals. It soon became apparent that an incident in 2009 (real estate market meltdown) involving staff cuts reduced the staff of A in relation to the staff of B by a 1:50 margin. Pretty significant until contract obligations were reviewed. Keep in mind this was a time of great uncertainty where emotions ran high and fears about keeping one’s job was on everyone’s mind – from CEO to drivers.

After a historical review of staffing ratios with both A and B, light was shed on causes for staff reductions in both departments. This is where our time meeting with all related persons paid off. By giving everyone time to present their story – and to listen to others – understanding began to build. We suspect that sometime soon after the initial layoffs, communication began to falter. With broken communication, philosophical walls were built between the two departments and ill will prevailed.

Basic conversations were then ready to be cultivated between the two managers starting with general open ended questions regarding the company in general, moving towards department-specific topics. We used the department specific topics to move into a type of brainstorming exercise. The beauty of this transition was to begin collaborative discussion. It was a rocky few weeks of discussion – but mended feelings and a united cause is a good space.

Now, we’re ready for team building…….

Managing Emotions in Hard Decisions

Staffing Pearl of Wisdom: Fire Assholes

Authors Allison Rimm and Celia Brown article: “Knowing When to Fire Someone” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2015/01/knowing-when-to-fire-someone should be mandatory reading for anyone in management. Let’s set the scenario. We suspect that if you entertained a group of 50 managers/directors one evening for light refreshments, 45 of the 50 individuals would have a problem employee story. Rimm and Brown take these conversations past the story stage that usually ends with: “I would fire them if not for __________(fill in the blank).

No one would state that the firing decision is easy. So the question remains, how to get past the suffering and on to the next stage. Enter the “Employee Cost/Benefit Employment Worksheek”. It sets out a process that every manager/supervisor/director should be going through when dealing with an employee that may be competent in skills, but a toxic element in the office. Allison Rimm’s worksheet begs a quality overview of the individual’s strengths and potential for improvement weighed against the liability in the office setting. Hard discussions and decisions made clearer.

Notice we said clearer – not clear. We all know, and Rimm and Brown give great treatment, to the fact that no two situations will be the same. Just as our 50 managers above have 50 stories, every treatment is case by case. This is the beauty of the worksheet (available in the article). One of the bonus features is to prevent something that we have to address in (almost) all conflict situations that may result in termination: working past emotions and getting down to fact. If this individual is demoralizing the work setting and stealing precious time (your most important commodity), decisions need to be made.

The concluding message says it all: “Coming to grips with the need to fire a colleague, particularly when you’ve invested so much of your own effort to remediate his or her weaknesses, is one of the toughest management decisions you’ll ever have to make.“

Bravo to Rimm and Brown.

Best Wishes for 2015. See, Hear, Feel and Smell the Next 12 Months!

In our office we have a large Avery 12 month calendar. Yes, we do use Outlook and a CRM system, – but we also use a big calendar that everyone may pen a message/date/comment. By the end of the year, it’s a great review and a nice reminder of how far we’ve traveled.

This week, trading out 2014 for 2015 calendar, the thought occurred to us – one of our failings is giving history more attention than the future. Don’t misunderstand – our business plan is formalized, reviewed and edited from time to time. However, the “vision” of the business plan tends to be black and white and filled with numbers. We need Technicolor.

Strolling down memory lane with our 12 month Avery is painted with bright colors, conversations and emotions. There are even memories that can be explained by smells (don’t ask). The point we’re trying to make is: wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend a bit more time visualizing our planned 2015. As the saying goes – “it you can see it, you can be it” (thanks Jeff Henderson *)

Happy 2015 to all our friends. We wish you a planning process for your positive office that is filled with sight, feelings, sounds and yes – even smells!

*Jeff Henderson. “If You Can See It, You Can Be It: 12 Street-Smart Recipes for Success”. 2013

What’s the Temperature of Your Office?

The bad news: if your office displays 2 of the following 5 team maladies, you have a sick office culture:

  1. Interoffice sabotage (usually driven by gossip)
  2. Excessive non-medical absenteeism
  3. Limited dialogue, lack of free expression
  4. High turnover – all staff positions
  5. No passion. Lack of direction. It’s for the paycheck, not the team

The good news: changing office culture is top down. Managers / directors / supervisors have the ability to make significant changes that will move an environment of dread to a positive and productive office.

Interoffice sabotage is nefarious. It’s hard to uncover and equally as difficult to combat. In most instances relationship building is a beginning to recovery.   Open and frank communication is the driver. Be warned, you may not like or agree with what you hear – but ignorance, in this case, is certainly not bliss.

When your employees dread coming to work – managers need to find out why. Multiple absenteeism due to “personal” reasons become a key indicator when numbers increase. This takes a little bit of sleuthing and a lot of communication. Team meetings that foster dialogue is one way to start. Always be sensitive to conversation after “meeting adjourn”!

Nothing is more frustrating than to nurture a new employee – only to have him or her jump ship. Employee turnover is expensive, hurts productivity and kills team morale. It’s true, payment incentives may factor in when an employee leaves. But negative environments can be equally – if not more – the reason for leaving. The dream team is comprised of employees that want to be at work.

Team building did not go out of style with 1980s big hair. Determining what you want your company/department/office to be known for and creating the enthusiasm of your team to build the brand is powerful for productivity, quality, and above all positive office dynamics.

Let us know if you’d like more on this topic. As always – we welcome your comments.