Charles Dudley Warner, a co-author with Mark Twain, once wrote “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In my experience working in industry and as a talent management consultant, this phrase accurately applies to employee performance. Many business leaders, managers, and supervisors complain about issues related to performance or behavior, but do little to improve the situation.
During my tenure as Vice President of Human Resources at a regional healthcare provider, we began a process of identifying those employees who were not meeting expectations. We called it our “C” player list. Now before I am accused on being heartless or not being compassionate, please know that my definition of a manager is one who provides all the tools, resources, support, and encouragement for all employees to be successful and reach their full potential. We had an expressed goal to help every identified C player to become an A player. All actions were positive performance improvement measurements where the manager had just as much responsibility in affecting a positive outcome as the employee.
The first big question that surfaced from leadership was how an A or C player is identified. This is very important because many managers will identify the top employee based on the personal relationship he or she has with that person. Who gets along better is sometimes the measurement of our good employees. A more objective way was necessary, so we spent a great deal of time developing those characteristics to identify where certain employees fell in the list. The following are a few characteristics of an A player.
An A player has a very positive outlook on their position, the responsibilities, and the company. Even with obstacles and difficulties, an A player has a “glass is half full” frame of mind.
An A player sees his or her roles and responsibilities as fluid and are very versatile in changes or revisions that may occur to compliment the needs of the business. An A player can easily adapt to changing circumstances and add or revise tasks to overcome obstacles.
An A player is always dependable. No matter what task needs to get done, an A player will be the first to raise their hand. They are unquestionably reliable in accomplishing or at least giving their best shot to any activity, whenever needed.
An A player is selfless and does not think “what is the best thing for me” when doing the job. An A player looks at the whole to evaluate and pursue what is best. In the end, this pursuit creates a win-win situation.
An A player has an inclusive approach that involves the ideas and opinions of others. An A player realizes that everyone is connected and that a collective knowledge, wisdom, and thought will provide better results.
An A player realizes the need for constant learning and takes every opportunity available to increase knowledge and skill. Even if there is not a structured continuing education program, an A player looks for ways to learn new things independently. An A player also looks for ways to make those around better by bringing new found knowledge to others.
As easy as it may seem to recognize an A player, C players can also be easily identified….if you pay attention.
A C player gets defensive very quickly when asked to explain why something was or was not done.
A C player frequently blames other people for any shortcoming in their performance. It is never their fault.
A C player will be very protective of their own turf and will not share crucial information to solidify their perceived importance.
A C player constantly makes excuses for not meeting expectations and generally perform just enough to do what is necessary. A C player will rarely take extra measures with any assignment or task.
A C player is very good at always coming up with reasons why something will not work. In a project setting, a C player will be the constant naysayer.
A C player has little motivation to develop personal or professional skills. A C player will look at learning and growth opportunities as just another burden on top of other responsibilities.
A C player also believes that they know what is best and truly feel they bring value. They have rationalized an unrealistic sense of importance to the organization.
The other groups of employees are those who exhibit the characteristics of an A player, but lack consistency in performance and meeting expectations; and those who exhibit some of the characteristics of a C player, but may seem to try and meet performance standards and expectations.
The primary goal is to develop everyone up. The steps are: Clearly communicating expectations; providing constant feedback on performance; holding all accountable for meeting the expectations; and administering consistent consequences for performance and/or behavior issues that do not meet the expectations.
The success of the process of moving employees up is very much dependent on the attitude of the manager. A good manager recognizes that all employees have the potential to be A players and has a passion to help all succeed. A good manager sees worth and value in everyone and works hard to develop everyone up. A manager who does not look at this way may be, I don’t know, A C player? It is worth the effort to create the A Team.
To your success!
Many of us spend the last few days of a year thinking about or discussing what we will give up or start doing in a new year. Most of the resolutions we make revolve around us losing weight, eating better, exercising, traveling, reading more books, etc. I propose that we look outside of ourselves and LOVE more in 2017. Here is what you can do.
Lead others by setting a positive example. You don’t have to be a supervisor, manager, or executive to lead. People notice how you act and speak during situations at work. Every day you have an opportunity to respond in a way that sends a positive message. Rather than criticize, praise. Rather than complain, solve. Don’t go along just to get along….blaze a path that others want to follow.
Offer assistance to those who need support, guidance, and motivation. It is rather easy to notice when others need help if you just look. You can sometimes see the weight someone is carrying on their shoulders just by the way they walk and talk. Really pay attention to your co-workers. Look in their eyes and take a peek at what they see. The burdens of life are considerable, but every day we can provide a helping hand and lighten their load. By helping others you feel better about yourself and lighten your own load.
Value the opportunities to help other people every day. Don’t look at others needs as a burden, but a chance to be that kind word, that helping hand, that bright smile, that lift they may need. You can try and avoid these opportunities, but you will be far less enriched.
Encourage as many people as you can within your sphere of influence. If you stop and think about it, the number of people with whom you associate every day is incredible. The cashier at the convenience store. The server in the restaurant. The person pumping gas right beside you. The people you stand with on elevator rides. Not to mention the many people with whom we work, play, and live. Think about what would encourage you and throw it back out. It will make an incredible difference.
It has been said that love is hard. I believe it is supposed to be because it requires us to give a little of ourselves. The kind of LOVE described above does require us to be selfless and that is not always easy. But is it worth it? You bet it is. So, go out there and LOVE someone.
To your success,
Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
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.
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!