Early in my career working in the medical device space, I was promoted to a regional management position and transferred from Charleston, SC to Boston. I was responsible for all service operations in 15 offices throughout New England, Upstate New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to have 6 managers divided among the offices providing support to over 50 employees. Soon after moving to a suburb of Boston I set out to visit each office, get to know each employee, and assess the management style and ability of my direct reports. Regardless of information I had received from others, I evaluated each of the managers from a blank sheet of paper. I wanted to hear directly from them about their struggles, successes, and perspectives on how to best deliver world class service while developing high performing teams.
It became evident that the former management support was lacking. Each manager was doing what they thought were best practices while operating in silos from other locations. Most of the employees in the service locations just came to work each day without thinking about the purpose of the job and how they made a difference within the organization. It broke my heart that so many hard and caring workers were just going through the motions to get the job done. Within 3 months of my assuming my new position, I had replaced 5 of the 6 managers. On the surface it may seem harsh, but herein lies the lesson and purpose of this post.
I strongly believe that a manager’s primary responsibility is to provide all the tools, resources, support, and encouragement to help each employee under his or her span of control to be successful and happy. No employee should be surprised when their employment is terminated. None of the managers whose careers I freed were surprised. Here is why.
The expectations were clearly communicated. I spent a great deal of time with each manager discussing what each location needed to accomplish to meet the objectives of the corporation. We reviewed in detail the plan of action they felt was best to meet the goals, what I would do to support their efforts, and how we would measure success. I made sure the what, why, how, and when questions were answered. Everyone agreed to the plan.
Positive and frequent communication was provided. I made a point to visit each location often to review performance, redirect when necessary, and provide continued encouragement and motivation. I asked “what can I do to help” with every face to face and phone conversation. There was no doubt that I wanted to be each manager’s advocate for success.
Each manager was held accountable for their performance. I encouraged each manager to treat each location as if it were their own business. I wanted them to feel personally responsible for each employee under their supervision. I would always listen to the reason why things did not get done or why something happened, but each manager was still held accountable for performance or behavior issues for which they had total control.
The consequences for behavior or performance issues were enforced consistently. As difficult as it may be, I followed through with what I said would happen. I was consistent. If I said “if this occurs, then this will happen”, it happened. Of course, I always allowed for extenuating circumstances and I always tried to be fair. But, I always did what I said I would do.
Over the years, I have implemented and coached others to follow this formula for effective talent management. I have always cared deeply about those who fell under my area of responsibility and I want everyone to be successful and happy at work. For me, this formula has always worked. Is it easy? No. But, in the end, the goal is to create high performing teams with highly engaged and inspired employees. That makes it fun for everyone….and it is well worth the effort.
To Your Success,
The Princess Bride is an entertaining fairy tale for young and old that was directed by Rob Reiner and released in 1987 by Twentieth Century Fox. If you have not seen it, you are missing a very fun and funny movie. The production featured a giant, a fire swamp, lightning sand, rodents of unusual size (R.O.U.S.’s), and The Cliffs of Insanity. Throw in a six finger man and a priest with a lisp and you have the makings of a classic.
In the movie, Princess Buttercup is amazed that her sweet Westley is still alive after being captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts on the open seas; “And the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners”. Westley later explains that he is now the Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) and that the previous DPR was not the original one either. As a way of keeping the name DPR alive, each DPR would choose an understudy, replace the entire crew, and begin a new voyage as the first mate of the new DPR. If that is not clear, watch the movie.
Since I am a talent management consultant, I guess I need to tie The Princess Bride into some kind of management lesson. Well, in working with many business owners, leaders, and managers, I have heard the expression often “Gosh, it would be so much easier if I could just replace everyone and start all over”. It might work for the DPR, but it certainly would not work for most business operations.
Recently, I was at a swim meet for my youngest son and had the opportunity to speak with a couple of fathers who happen to be business owners. We were taking a break from the action in the pool and catching each other up on what was happening in our individual business worlds. One of the dads was expressing gratitude for being busy, but began talking about some employee issues. Specifically, he mentioned a former business owner who was on his team. He talked about how this individual was alienating other employees and was a negative element in the business environment. After detailing some of the employee’s performance and behavior issues, he said “I just don’t think he is going to make it”. I could not let it go and asked “have you sat down with the gentleman, reviewed the specific performance and behavior issues, and developed a plan to help him improve?” The response was what I hear often. “No, I have not”. I then asked if he was aware of any personal issues in this gentleman’s life that could be impacting his performance or behavior. The response was “No, I do not”.
My friend’s responses are the equivalent of just replacing the whole crew. I am confident that this business owner wants to help this individual, but the business is booming and he is busy taking care of the tactical steps to success. It is not that he does not care. He has other employees that also need his time and attention. Taking the time to develop a performance management plan for someone who seems not to care does not seem like the top priority in the midst of just getting the job done and satisfying clients. But shouldn’t it be THE top priority?
Imagine for a moment a work force comprised of employees who come to work every day fully engaged, enthusiastic, excited, and motivated to do the best job they can and to reach their full potential….their full PIPability-Peak Individual Performance™. I am passionate about helping companies bring out the best in their employees and I do not think it is a Utopia that is out of reach. I mean, if the employees in an organization are the most important asset, then why is this asset not treated with the care and attention to maximize the potential?
It takes a willingness to discover the root cause of a specific behavior or performance issue and then develop a plan to help the employee improve. It requires us to show patience, have compassion, display empathy, and gain understanding. It requires a human approach to managing others, not a tactical approach.
Does it always work? No, we have all experienced employees who just don’t want to meet expectations. But if you have ever experienced working with an employee who is not meeting expectations and then helped them transform in to a top performer, the incredible feeling will never leave you. Human potential is amazing and it is just waiting to be unleashed. Once you tap the potential, great things happen and a business can soar. Wouldn’t that be fun….and you don’t have to worry about pirates!
To your success,
The first job I had out of college was in the transportation industry. I went to work for a regional trucking company and the plan was for me to experience all the departments to better prepare me for management, and in the words of the owner, to maybe take the company over from him one day. I was excited about the opportunity and created this expectation in my head of a structured, well developed process to round my experience in logistics, safety, personnel, dispatch, and maintenance. I went to work each day with the mindset that I would learn something new and exciting.
It did not take long to realize that I was on a trip that was not well planned.
I took it upon myself to seek additional learning opportunities and didn’t say no to any task that was given to me. Even the 3 days straight of loading used and dirty truck tires filled with mosquito laden water into a trailer did not discourage me. It did motivate me to ask the “what’s next” question and I was moved to another department. After 10 months of more questions than answers, I finally went to the owner to ask about his long term plan.
His response still resonates in my head, even though it has been over 32 years ago. He said, “I don’t have anything planned right now, but I am sure something will come up”. Needless to say that one statement sapped any remaining motivation I might have had to stick it out and make a career at that company.
The biggest surprise of all was when I went to him to submit my resignation. He was shocked and very angry. He went on to rant that he had invested a great deal of time to train me and I just used it to get a better job. He accused me of taking advantage of this great opportunity to gain experience for my new employer. That meeting provided me the greatest learning experience than the previous 10 months and formed the basis for my management style.
The reaction of the owner is similar to the reaction of many managers and business leaders when employees leave. They are surprised and shocked and have no idea why the employee is moving on. So, why do employees leave?
• They don’t know what is expected of them. This may seem like a no brainer, but I have seen it, heard it, and lived it. I have worked with clients on projects where the leaders were totally convinced that everyone was on the same page only to find out that basic expectations were never communicated and understood. Totally out of touch leaders will comment that “they should know what to do”.
• They don’t have the tools, space, authority, or resources. It always amazes me how companies will hire a new employee and then leave them to fend for themselves. It is rarely intentional, but in the end, the result is the same. Confusion, frustration, marginal performance, low engagement, and finally departure.
• They don’t get feedback on performance. Baby boomers, of which I am one, heard often that you know you are doing a good job if you keep getting a paycheck. Besides the fact that not paying someone for work performed is illegal, this type of behavior does not fly in today’s employment world. As millennials continue to make up a larger and larger portion of the workforce, it is crucial that employees receive continual, objective, and constructive feedback. A company without a well-designed and implemented performance review process/system fails to maximize the performance potential of their employees.
• They don’t know how to do it. Yep, there are managers that just assume that since an employee was hired to do a job, they know how to do it. That may be the case in many instances, but it should never be assumed. The Boy Scouts make it simple. We use the EDGE method. We Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and then Enable. There is no moving on until competency and comprehension is shown at each step. Take the time necessary to make sure each employee actually knows how to do the job.
• They don’t feel part of the mission of the company. Want to keep employees? Make them feel like they are making a difference to the company’s success and what they are doing is important. Employees need and want to feel like they are truly appreciated.
Nothing I have presented is rocket science. It is just common sense. Even better is that it really is easy and very inexpensive. Small, medium, or large organizations can benefit by focusing on the “why” to change the outcome. What a difference that could make.
Several years ago I was on a Boy Scout camp out with one of my sons. It was a base camp located on a large plantation and there was plenty of time to explore the property. I was walking with a couple of other parents enjoying great conversation when I came across a rock about the size and shape of a potato. I stopped, picked it up, and carried it back to the camp. I can’t explain why, but something told me to keep the rock and I put it in my car to take home. When my son and I returned home after the weekend my wife asked about the rock and why I brought it home. I told her that I really did not know, but for some reason felt led to do so. I brought the rock to my office the next Monday and put it on my credenza.
A couple of days later I received an email from my mom with a story attached. Now I have to be honest, that most of the emails of this kind I used to get from mom were quickly deleted. For some reason, I read the email and it hit me like a ton of bricks…or a rock…why I had brought the rock back from the camping trip. The story in the email is as follows:
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared to him. God told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, others, you can call them a naysayers or that negative person in your life, decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” This gave the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half an inch. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
That story spoke to me and reminded me that no one goes through life without struggles of some sort. Very few people live their life without obstacles or barriers that get in the way of accomplishing something or keeping us from being the best we can be. And, as hard as we try to protect and prepare, our kids won’t go through life without struggles either. It is easy to have a pity party and exclaim “why is this happening to me”? or “it isn’t fair?” Yes, we can view adversity this way and become a perpetual victim, or we can recognize these bumps (sometimes mountains) in the road as opportunities to grow and become much stronger and resilient.
As parents, it is tempting to try and remove all the rocks from the paths our children will take. We justify it by saying that we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did or that maybe it will be too much for them. As hard as it is, we have to let nature take its course and understand that the struggles, difficulties, mistakes, heart aches, etc. are all part of the process that makes us stronger. The same thing applies to those who manage other people in the workforce. Our role, as parents, teachers, leaders, managers, and mentors, is to always be there with support, understanding, and a strong shoulder. Even in difficult times, those around us should know without a doubt that they are not alone.
It is not easy. We see others who seem to have success handed to them. We see others who always seem happy as if they don’t have a trouble in the world. It could be that they have pushed their share of rocks and have become much stronger to more easily overcome those events and situations that make others cave.
That rock still sits on my desk. Although I may forget about it from time to time, it only takes a glance to remember why it is there. I need the reminder often that moving forward involves three different terrains….level, downhill, and uphill.
When you get that feeling that you can’t take any more or that everything is stacked against you, try and remember that you are in no place that others have not held before. When you face your rock, you have a choice. You can take a “woe is me” attitude or you can keep pushing knowing that with every physical exertion, you get stronger. The choice is yours.
To your success,
In President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2014, he talked about four years of positive economic growth, increased corporate profits, and higher stock prices. He then went on to say that even with the increased prosperity, average wages had barely budged.
Later in the month, President Obama began discussing the overtime regulations and how “managers” are being taken advantage of by employers and work many hours for which they do not get paid. He used the example of a clothing store manager who works 55-60 hours per week and does not get paid for those extra hours (hours over 40). That was the beginning of the public review by the Department of Labor (DOL) of the minimum threshold and non-exempt versus exempt job classification. To clarify, non-exempt means the employee is NOT exempt from overtime laws and must be paid for all hours worked, including time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week (some States have more stringent overtime regulations). Exempt means the employee “qualifies” to be exempted from overtime laws and is paid a set wage, or salary, regardless of the number of hours worked in a week. The pay is the same whether they work 30 or 60 hours.
Currently, the minimum salary threshold to qualify for exemption from overtime is $455 per week, which is $23,660 per year. The proposed rule from the DOL is $970 per week, which is $50,440 per year. If the rule goes into effect in 2016, it means that any employee under that minimum threshold, regardless of job duties, would have to be classified as non-exempt and be eligible for overtime pay. These salary requirements do not apply to outside sales employees, teachers, and employees practicing law or medicine.
Employers don’t have to sit around and wait until the DOL’s proposed overtime rule is finalized. While the DOL reviews the 290,000+ comments on the proposed rule, employers can get ready for whatever happens.
There are a few simple steps employers can take to help with compliance efforts even before the final rule is released.
Employers should identify all exempt jobs within the company with salaries that fall below the proposed new salary threshold for exempt employees, using $970 per week, or $50,440 per year. Once that list is compiled employers have to determine whether to have a range to determine which employees close to the new threshold will get wage increases to maintain exempt status, or whether the best course of action will be to reclassify as non-exempt all employees whose current salary is below the new minimum.
If employees will be reclassified, employers then need to understand how many hours this group of employees is currently working per week. With this information it will be easier to forecast potential wage expense going forward. Employers should also take the opportunity to determine what approach to take in setting non-exempt pay rates for those former classified exempt employees. For instance, will it be best to determine the hourly rate by simply taking the current weekly salary and divide by 40 hours, or will it best to try and replicate current pay and hours by lowering the hourly rate to account for the possibility of overtime compensation.
Consider whether to reclassify other positions at this time to manage risk and enhance compliance. The questions employers should ask is “What operational changes must be made as a result of any reclassification of positions?” “What changes need to be made to job duties?” “What changes need to be made to schedules or staffing levels?”
Employers should evaluate those positions that often result in overtime and determine if hiring more full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees is best. Should the entire workforce be restructured to offset the possibility of more overtime?
Another important activity to prepare for the possible changes is to review all job descriptions. Are there activities currently being performed by exempt, soon to be non-exempt employees that can be reassigned to other exempt employees? Of course, in light of greater scrutiny that is sure to come from the DOL, employers should also review job descriptions of those who will meet the minimum threshold to ensure the job duties support exempt classification.
Employers should also evaluate the current record keeping process to ensure it will support a greater number of non-exempt employees in the workforce.
Another important action employers should take is to become familiar with the duties test for exempt versus non-exempt and ensure job descriptions reflect accurately the position requirements. Although the duties tests can be complicated, there are 3 basic job duties that generally qualify as exempt status:
- Does the employee regularly supervise two or more employees?
- Does the employee manage others as the primary job responsibility? A rule of thumb to keep in mind is these employees should not spend more than 40% of their work engaging in non-exempt job duties.
- Does the employee have genuine input into the job status of other employees? Merely supervising the work is not enough. The employee must have the responsibility for scheduling and controlling the work; and have hire, fire, and employee discipline authority.
Some articles I have read speculate whether the DOL will move forward to implement the new standards. Personally, I would rather expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Especially since others in the DOL and Obama administration supported increasing the minimum salary threshold anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 per year. With that said, there still exists the possibility the DOL will back down some from its doubling of the salary threshold for exempt employees. Some experts feel the DOL may eventually settle on a threshold of between $773 per week or $40,196 per year and $852 per week or $44,304 per year. Employers should analyze which employees fall below these thresholds as well, to better prepare themselves for the possibility of a different salary threshold.
Lastly, employers should develop a communications strategy for whatever changes become final. Communication should include information on the changes in overtime exemptions and how it impacts the scheduling and managing of job duties. Will changes be communicated in writing? Should an employer have group or individual meetings?
It is almost guaranteed that employees already have an idea some change may be coming and could start developing anxiety about losing exempt status, benefits and pay, which to them means a demotion. It would be wise to be proactive and develop a FAQ for employees.
The bottom line is employers should not wait to see what happens. They should be preparing now, regardless of what the final minimum threshold salary level may be. Personally, I do not think it is a matter of if, but when. This is not the time to be frugal and put one’s head in the sand. Get the help you need and get done what needs to be done. Planning for this future is too important. Good luck!
To your success,
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
From 2010 to 2014 I had the joy and pleasure of spending a great deal of time in Annapolis, MD visiting my son while he was a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. As a graduate of The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC, I enjoyed the aura of “The Yard” at the Academy and all it represents toward protecting our freedoms. I also heard many speakers at different events and always gained a little nugget that has helped me in my own personal development as a husband, father, friend, and business owner. In preparing to write this missive, I decided to reflect on the goals, visions, and missions of those institutions that prepare our brave men and women to lead others in the military and in the business world.
The Statement of Vision at The Citadel is “Achieving excellence in the education and development of principled leaders.” The mission is to build on the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect. The mission of the Naval Academy is “To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.” The mission of West Point is “To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and to be prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” The mission of the Air Force Academy “is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” At the Virginia Military Institute, the mission is “to produce educated, honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.” The examples above are just a few and I don’t want to discount other excellent institutions that espouse similar missions and goals.
During one of my trips to the Naval Academy, I heard a speaker discuss the five ideals that are fundamental for success. The presentation was geared toward the development of successful military leaders in the Navy, but I took these ideals and “civilianized” them for a management training session I conducted a few years ago for a client. As with most things in the military, it is an acronym and represents a larger message. It was entitled “Be FIRST”.
We should approach each day with a burning desire to improve and strive to reach our full potential for excellence. I have trademarked the term PIPability. The PIP is Peak Individual Performance. That should be our daily goal. We should always try to be proactive in all our endeavors, not reactive. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Look at the goal and then take action within your area of control and expertise and move forward with excitement.
We should always demand honesty and forthrightness from ourselves and other people. This also includes never being afraid to admit when we make a mistake or when we don’t know how to do something. Don’t let pride get in the way. President Reagan once said “Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem… You know, by the time you reach my age, you’ve made plenty of mistakes. And if you’ve lived your life properly — so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.” The hardest thing sometimes is doing what is right rather than what is easy.
Developing a strong sense of self-respect can help us fulfill our potential and become the person we want and need to be. Respecting other people helps develop healthy relationships. How we respect ourselves is demonstrated in our appearance, our demeanor, and the environment we create. How we respect others is demonstrated in how we treat other people what we do and how we act. A true leader never has to ask for respect, it is given.
It may seem common sense, but as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining a safe environment and creating a culture where it becomes second nature. Training is a crucial part of this ideal and it is a leader’s responsibility to ensure all are trained and procedural compliance is maintained. A leader never passes up an opportunity to mentor or teach.
No one person has all the answers and no one person can solve all the problems in a company or within any kind of organization. This is the time to be humble and encourage ideas from others. A true leader maintains a “questioning” attitude within their area of influence. We must have the courage to point out shortfalls in performance, behavior, and actions to ensure excellence is being pursued. Failing to hold others accountable can destroy the morale, engagement, and motivation of a team. In all we do, we have to preach the mantra of teamwork. Basically, we have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Throughout the years I have heard comments made in jest that you should never volunteer for anything. The sad thing is too many people wait around their whole life for things to happen. That may be okay for them, but I would rather be FIRST!
To Your Success!
Over the past 23 years since starting McClain Group, I have been fortunate to work with dozens of companies assisting with human resource support, training, strategic planning, and recruiting. More recently, I have been busy working with companies in the area of human resource compliance. The issues range from I9 compliance to correct job classifications for all positions. With proposed changes to wage and hour regulations to take effect in 2016, many companies will be caught by surprise.
My goal with every client is to put them in a position to reduce their potential exposure. In a recent conversation with my wife about these issues, she commented “but it only really matters if you get caught, right?” Her question was not posed because she thinks that way. She is the most ethical, honest, morale, and kindest person I know. Her point was that just because companies are not following state legislative guidelines (E-Verify for all new hires) or classifying employees as exempt when they should be following overtime guidelines, it will only cost a company if the practices are uncovered by an auditor or investigator from a government agency.
Her question made me think about other instances where “it only matters if you get caught”. Let me say up front that most of the instances where my clients are non-compliant are totally unintentional. They are working hard just to take care of their customers and employees. They are focused on what they know and do best….the core of their business. Many of the issues I uncover are not always just common sense. One has to KNOW what is correct.
What about those times we know what we are doing it incorrect or just plain wrong, but we do it anyway. Now, I am not talking about going 74 on the interstate when the speed limit is 65. Most of us do that. I am referring to those larger morale and ethical issues where a decision has to be made to do it right or just take the chance you won’t get caught.
In an earlier article, I wrote about lessons I learned from my dad. There is another story I did not tell that taught me a valuable lesson on this topic. As a reminder, I grew up in the shoes business and my dad had a shoe repair shop. A customer had brought in a very expensive pair of leather shoes that required new soles and heels. During the course of sewing the sole on one of the shoes, my dad accidently got a piece of the leather caught in the machine and sewed the top of the shoe to the sole. He repaired his mistake and when completed, there was no evidence of the accident. I was standing at the counter when the customer came in and my dad handed him the shoes and said “that will be no charge”. The customer was confused and asked why. My dad explained what he had done, but the customer commented “but I can’t tell where you messed up!” My dad’s response: “But I know.” That spoke volumes to me as a kid about integrity, honesty, and character.
John Wooden, the famed basketball coach from UCLA who won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Every day we are faced with decisions, some small and others that have a greater impact. We have choices to do the right thing or not. We have moments where that little voice says, “but if I don’t get caught…….” How will you respond?
John Wooden had another quote that is not as well known. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Now that is something really important to think about.
To Your Success!
A house across the street from where we live was selected by a production company to be the home of a major character in an HBO series being filmed in Charleston, SC. Aside from the inconveniences of large trucks lined up on the street, dozens of crew members blocking any access to our driveway, and the huge crane parked in front of our house, we have had the opportunity to watch several outside scenes being filmed. We were able to stand right behind the director and watch the scene unfold and view the numerous screens showing what was being recorded from several angles. What amazed me is how many takes are required to get one little aspect of a scene completed to satisfy the director. For example, one scene required someone to punch the major actor in an altercation between neighbors. One little punch! We watched while it took at least 2 dozen takes to get it right. We watched lines being flubbed and retake after retake to get it right. We watched a scene where one actor stretches his foot across an invisible “line in the sand” that caused the altercation. That scene was filmed at least 20 times from different angles.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not taking anything away from talented actors we watch on the big screen or television. My main point is how wonderful it would be if I was able to have a retake in different areas of my life. I can think of numerous times during the 30+ years I have been married to my wonderful wife where a retake would have been very welcome. Or that moment when I did not say exactly what I wanted to one of my children in the heat of the moment. Or that missed layup at the buzzer in high school when we lost by 1 point. Fortunately I do not require a retake for that inappropriate joke to the TSA agent while going through security.
If I could market retakes to the business world, I would not be able to find a bank large enough to handle the deposits. Just in my little world of working with companies in talent management, I could fill chapters of a book on examples where a retake would have lessened or eliminated the pain.
Since a retake in most situations is not possible, it is even more imperative to do it right the first time. It is especially important to foster an environment within any business where a retake is not necessary. Increased and improved employee engagement hangs on those first chance opportunities and moments. How many great employees have left a company because of something that was said by a manager or a business decision that was made too quickly in response to something else? How many problems have we caused because we did not think before we spoke?
I would like to propose a simple list of actions that can be taken on a daily basis that will enhance the employee experience without the need for a retake.
Be Credible-Always do what you say you will do. If you do not, try and explain why.
Be Trustworthy-This is a hard one (it should not be), but tell the truth, even if it is painful to you.
Be Respectful-Always treat others the way you would want to be treated. Or, to really challenge yourself, always treat others the way you treat your mother and grandmother.
Be Consistent-Handle each situation in a similar fashion and do not play favorites.
Be Considerate-It does not take a lot of effort to put oneself in another’s shoes and show a little empathy.
Be Positive-Be that person who sees the good first in all situations.
Be Supportive-Provide the resources necessary for all to succeed and remove the obstacles that prevent expected performance.
Be Appreciative-It does not take a whole lot of effort to say “thank you” or to provide feedback on someone’s work in a constructive way.
Be Humble-Let employees know that you can identify with them. Have you made the same mistake before? Have you been in a similar situation? Being vulnerable is difficult, but extremely powerful.
The list could be a lot longer, but the actions listed, if done sincerely, will have a positive impact on morale, engagement, retention, and employee happiness in the workplace and with the company. And, as Abraham Lincoln said in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; “Be excellent to each other.” I wonder how many takes that took?
To Your Success,
It has been said that behind every good man there is a great woman. In my life I have been blessed to have a couple of great women who have helped guide and support me in all my endeavors. First is my wife who has never been behind me, but has been beside me for over 30 years. Second is my mom who has always been there for me and is responsible for the kind of person I am today……well, at least the good parts. The bad parts I have been able to develop all on my own.
In a recent post I reflected on the principles my dad taught me that I have implemented in many areas of my business life. My mom was an incredible model for the emotional side of my character development. To set up the lessons let me briefly introduce my mom. She was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland by a single parent (her dad died when she was a baby) and married my dad when he was stationed there in the US Air Force. She knew no one other than my dad when she moved to the US and then had four children in 5 years. Whew! At times, and by some, she was seen as a foreigner who married my dad just to move to the US. Almost 57 years of marriage later I think she has proven these negative people wrong. She also came into a completely different culture. As I mentioned, she grew up as an only child in a single parent home with very few relatives and married into a very large southern family. My grandfather was 1 of 13 and my dad was the oldest of 8. Needless to say, family reunions were pretty large and mom was the only one with an “accent”. But, none of these conditions changed her character and it was from this core where her lessons were taught.
She may not think it, but my mom is one of the nicest people you will meet. (I say “one of” because she would have to compete with my wife) I rarely heard her say anything negative about anyone. She would often instruct us by saying “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”. Although I am not even close to her level in kindness, I do try to be nice in my words and my actions, whether dealing with people in business or during my everyday walk. She is the inspiration for my daily attempts at kindness. Even today in the midst of a heightened sense of disagreement in our world, she still maintains the ability to be kind and resist the temptation to say anything negative about another person. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to interject a challenging comment when a discussion within her earshot turns negative toward another person. She truly looks for the good in everybody. Sadly, there are too many companies where the kindness trait is missing. What is even more disappointing with many companies is that the leadership is modeling the behaviors that generate negative emotions.
My mom certainly taught me the value of developing deep and devoted friendships. Even as a young kid I noticed the incredible friendships she developed with others. Whether it was a group playing cards or getting together for dinner, I heard loud laughter and fun. I guess that is why I firmly believe that we SHOULD have friends at work and have fun. In the book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, a survey was conducted and identified 12 dimensions that describe a great workgroup. One is “I have a best friend at work”. Too many believe that personal relationships should be kept out of the workplace, but by watching my mom all these years I will have to respectively disagree with that sentiment.
Coming from Scotland, mom had no clue about the rules of American sports. She did not know the difference between a home run and a touchdown. But, that did not stop her from enthusiastically cheering for each of her kids who were very active in sports. She did not worry about anyone making fun of her lack of knowledge and yelling “hit a home run” when I was playing football. I never doubted that I had a fan in the seats who cheered whether I played great or not so well. In today’s culture where we have reality shows showing parents acting crazy while their kids compete, my mom drilled in us the incredible opportunity we had to be competing in the first place. I have attempted to be that enthusiastic encourager I saw in the stands when I played. In today’s workplaces we could use more enthusiastic encouragers who motivate us to try, get knocked down and try again without fear of retribution.
“I had the blues because I had no shoes, until I met on the street a man who had no feet.” I remember my mom saying that when I was tempted to have a pity party about something that was not going right in my life. She continually reminded us that we should be grateful for what we had because there are many others who have much less. We never had the nicest clothes and didn’t drive the most expensive car, but I never felt inadequate. I still hear those words today and it helps keep me centered. She also was very big on using our God given talents. I was blessed with a singing voice and have been involved with choirs and other groups since I was young. She challenged me to always use the talents I was given because they were given for a reason. She stressed that it was an honor to have been entrusted with the gift, so use it. Imagine what could happen it the workplace if we looked at our talents as gifts instead of tools to get ahead. Removing the ego from those things we do well would have an incredibly positive impact on our circle of influence.
A word that has always come to mind to describe my mom is selfless. She is the kind of person others want to be around. She welcomes everyone. During college, if I brought friends home from school unannounced, she would sneak out the back door and go to the grocery store to make sure we had enough food for all our guests. It was and is her pleasure to serve. I have read numerous books on servant leadership and am confident that my mom would have been that kind of business leader if that had been her career choice. The truth is it is much easier to be selfless rather than selfish. The kind of workplace that can be created by leaders who are kind, friendly, enthusiastic encouragers and appreciative can be amazing. I know some companies have mastered these tools and it shows in higher employee engagement, higher employee productivity, lower turnover and increased business opportunities. We need to all practice the mom theory of management. Wouldn’t that be great!
To Your Success,
Some of the best lessons learned are those we didn’t know we were teaching. I am unsure where I first heard that, but I know I did not make it up….I am not that insightful. A few years ago I mentioned to my dad that many of the best practices I have developed while working for others and in my own business originated from lessons he taught me as a kid. He was very surprised because he was totally unaware that what I observed and heard from him was of value. Before I go into more detail, some back story is necessary. My dad owned and operated a retail shoe store and a shoe repair shop. He was a high school dropout due to difficult family situations and joined the Air Force. Soon after returning from Scotland and leaving the military, he started working in the small family business and soon thereafter bought out my grandfather and became the sole proprietor of Davis Shoe Shop.
When I was 8 I began working at the store after school and on most Saturdays. Initially I dumped the trash, swept the sidewalk and did basic cleaning. It was not long before I started learning the cobbler trade and getting my feet wet in retail sales. I had watched my dad deal with customers and that is the model I followed. My first affirmation in sales was from a gentleman who was going to work on the Alaska Pipeline and I sold him 2 pair of insulated boots. He told my dad I was the best salesman he had seen. What a lift for an 8 year old. I had no other job until I was 18. Well, I did have some side summer jobs like baling hay, planting pine trees and picking tomatoes. Okay, now for the lessons I learned.
My dad worked a lot of hours. Although our store hours were 8-5 (8-6 on Saturday), if a customer needed something outside of those hours, the door stayed open. You would never see someone standing on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open at 8…..we let them in. You would never see anyone shoved out the door or told we were closing in 10 minutes….we let them stay. In fact, we were not allowed to start cleaning, vacuuming or sweeping in site of the customer. My dad never wanted the customer to get the impression we wanted them to leave.
He had a mantra that was drilled in to me early in my retail career. He would say “When somebody comes through the door you are not doing them a favor by trying to sell them something. They are doing you a favor by doing business with us, so treat them that way”. That philosophy is so engrained that I do not hesitate to pass it along to a frustrated employee in retail where I am shopping. My kids get embarrassed, but I figure it is an incredibly beneficial idea to share.
The system in the shop was pretty simple. When a pair of shoes came in for repair, we would determine a realistic time frame in which the repair could be completed. Dad started practicing the “under promise, over deliver” a long time before I read it in a business book. Since we were open six days a week, we had 6 large cardboard boxes labeled Monday, Tuesday, etc. Naturally, the shoe was placed in the box on the day promised to the customer. The exception, and thus the lesson, was rush jobs. If someone needed it more urgently than our workload allowed, dad would promise it early if they paid in advance. Once that was done and a day was selected for customer pickup, the shoes were placed in the box the day before the promised day. We set ourselves up to be early and not late with the repair.
Paying up front for rush and urgent repairs was a great lesson in financial management. His policy was that for any guaranteed repair, we always collected the charge first. Another important financial lesson was about personal responsibility. I still remember the first time he gave me $5 and told me to go the hardware store and buy a screwdriver. Before I left he told me to make sure to bring back a receipt. When I returned I asked why he wanted a receipt and he told me that he expected 3 things when I returned…the screwdriver, his change and a receipt. He further explained that one day it would not be his money I would be responsible for managing. I needed to be accountable for every cent of someone else’s money. That lesson learned was evident in my first job out of college when I was sent to a weeklong management training program at Purdue University. When I returned I was completing my expense report when one of the company directors passed by and asked me why I was including receipts because no one else did. The question left me with the impression he and others were stealing from the company by submitting bogus expenses. Sadly, I have seen the same scene played out over and over in my years working for and with companies. Thanks dad for the ethical and moral lesson you taught me at an early age.
My dad was always the kind of man who would return something he borrowed in better shape than it was before. For instance, if he had to borrow a truck to haul a large item, the truck was returned washed and with a full tank of gas. If by some error, the borrowed item was broken, he would fix it or replace it. In the shop, he was just as serious. I recall the first time he taught me this lesson. When shoes were repaired, we would put the finished items in a paper bag, attach the ticket and put in a bin that was organized by ticket number. I remember him stopping me as I was putting a pair of shoes in the bag and he encouraged me to take a closer look at my work. He then said that it was crucial that I understand the importance of what I was doing. When a customer came to pick up their repair and take it home, I couldn’t follow them home and then explain in detail what I did to fix their shoes. All I could control was the quality of the work the customer sees when they get home and take the shoes out of the bag. He stated emphatically, “so, always do your best job”.
Each of us has stories of lessons we learned from a relative, a friend or someone in business. The secret is to take that lesson and apply it in a positive way in business and in life. You never know when you will find out that someone learned something from you when you didn’t know you were teaching. I could go on and on about lessons my dad taught me on integrity, dedication, responsibility, empowerment, etc., but I’ll save that for my book…one of these days!
To your success!