November 27, 2008

Employees REALLY don't trust senior managers

I came across an article that proves (yet again) it is definitely time for bosses to try something new - their current approach is NOT WORKING. In the article it states that employees don't trust CEO's and senior managers. It's rather blatant statistics say that:

CEOs and senior managers don't care about employees (chosen by almost 50%).
CEOs and senior managers don't mean what they say (chosen by around 40%).
CEOs and senior managers don't value the contribution employees make (chosen by around 40%).

YIKES!! That's a bad report card. It continues...

"More than a quarter don't think their CEO is honest and truthful or that they deliver on promises. But a third of respondents say the above is also true for senior managers – actually placing them below CEOs when it comes to trust from employees." This is not good news (and is probably a bit of a shock) for senior managers! I think some factors to consider when it comes to trust are:

Hierarchy - when the boss still believes he is "a cut above" trust is harder to earn

Being free of BS - total honesty required, if you say you are gonna do something - DO IT

Telling all - total transparency, no secrets or things "staff aren't important enough to know"

Loving the yuck - don't avoid scary problems, staff know you are worth your weight in gold if you aren't afraid to tackle them

Chucking "do your employees trust you" into Google yields some good advice. One article suggests MBWO, translation = Management by Walking Around to build trust. "Not only are people more apt to approach you in "their territory," but you will hear and see things that never make it into the reports that come into your office. Besides, when your employees see you walking around, they begin to see you as a person, not just as "the boss." It's a lot easier to mistrust "the boss" than to mistrust an individual."

How are you going to change as a boss?

November 24, 2008

Is your company a scaredy cat?

How would you feel about letting every single employee have authority to post items on the company intranet? I’m sure there are tonnes of companies that would freak out at such a suggestion. There are others that are doing it though – and very successfully. They see it as two-way communication – instead of management using the intranet to tell employees stuff employees can now do the same to management. The management teams that allow this are sending great messages: we are all equal, your voice is just as important as ours is, we trust you, we care about what you have to say.

Equal rights rule – and it shows through in the workplace culture. Companies that keep ‘secrets’ from their staff are (most unknowingly) seriously shooting themselves in the foot. They are proving employees aren’t ‘important enough’ to be told. Or they feel they are ‘protecting’ them from something when really they are not. Really ‘now’ companies know there is no reason to keep anything from staff. It is these same companies that are not scared to allow staff authority over the intranet.

A great example here is about Coke. Their employee in the example knew the exact profit margins on the product which allowed them to give a great customer experience. The employee wasn’t some clueless dude whose job it was to fill the machine – it was someone fully part of the company who knew its profit margin ‘secrets’. I know there are a lot of businesses that would never consider sharing their financial details with their team, especially small or family owned businesses. If they did though they may find staff are shocked – they thought the boss walked away with X million in their pocket every year which is why they were so peeved when they got only a $40 bonus. Transparency can bring new awareness to the team culture – when they see you don’t make the gazillions they thought you did. Perhaps they’ll be thrilled now with their hourly rate instead of thinking it should be doubled. This Coke story highlights how a bit of profit margin knowledge among staff helps them, you and the customer.

Whether it’s being transparent with numbers or sharing the ‘power’ of the intranet companies that are not scared of anything and are willing to see their employees as equals will always win. Such companies are also more human and more fun to work for and buy from.

November 19, 2008

Is your 'A team' truly the best?

Every year at high school we’d do netball grading. A handful of mothers involved in school netball would watch lots of us play and grade us – choosing the teams A, B and C and mixing the rest up. I found it odd, that every year the children of those women doing the grading made it, without fail into the A team. They filled the rest of the team with ‘popular’ kids and the ‘A team’ was miraculously formed. I’m not sure if the parents had their rose tinted glasses on or if they truly believed their kids were a cut above the rest. To us ‘average’ lot, their netball skills were just as fine as ours. They weren’t special, they didn’t have X factor, they just played the game like the rest of us. It seemed at our corrupt and biased netball trials it was all about ‘who you know’ or how blatantly obvious your mum was prepared to be about favouritism.

Favouritism took a serious turn in the NZ army. ‘Show ponies’ were sent on important missions only to crumble under pressure. The mission commander learnt a lesson about choosing for the right reasons the hard way. Their silly choices actually put lives in danger.

As a boss you need to get real about choices you make. Even when you believe you have chosen based 100% on skill, you could totally be kidding yourself. Your employees could be reeling about the corruptness and favouritism they are sure they are seeing. If you feel you should choose the ‘better qualified’ person for a task, but you choose the slightly less qualified one instead, you may be wonderfully surprised with the results. If you don’t give a variety of people a go, you’ll never know if they are up to it. Delegate authority but KEEP responsibility – if it all goes wrong YOU wear the blame.

Back to the netball team, I am glad I wasn’t one of the ‘chosen ones’. I wanted to achieve through talent, not through dodgy grading. The kids that made the A team, are still around, many now VERY used to things being delivered on a silver platter. If I ever do netball grading I think I’d be a parent who’d put their kid in the crap team – to teach them about hard work. If they want to make the A team they won’t do so because of me – they’ll have to get themselves there.

November 17, 2008

How to become a great boss by watching TV

Every day my DVD player automatically tapes the best show in the world. It’s a show that if I miss an episode there is a chance I will sink into a deep depression! It is a show that is crazy, silly and totally random. Yep, the Ellen De Generes show is a HUGE lovemark of mine. In NZ it is on TV1 at 3pm weekdays. The first time I watched it though, I thought it was very weird…. I’m sure lots of first time watchers feel that way…. I’d never seen dancing on a talk show before! She comes out, does a short spiel then dances with her audience before taking her seat on the stage! She also interviews awesome celebrities, has hilarious games, finds everyday people doing amazing things to get on the show and does things that I say “would only ever happen on Ellen”. They have a DJ and have awesome music (she had Obama and his wife in a ‘dance off’); they also have lots of live performances – singers, talented kids, magicians etc. She often leaves the studio during live filming to wander over to George Clooney’s office which is next door. She wants him on her show, but is having trouble tracking him down. She set up a cage to try and trap him, sent all the Miss USA contestants over, a troop of sexy dancers and more – hoping to entice him! She also randomly buys her audience lotto tickets and gets the newsagent to deliver them – who is now a bit of a regular on the show.

Bosses that want to be awesome could learn A LOT from the Ellen show:
It is fun and so engaging, viewers aren’t just viewers – you feel 100% part of it
Very fast paced, ready to adapt
Innovative, borderline crazy at times, full of original hilarious ideas – not scared of breaking the mould
Very very LIVE – anything can happen; she just rolls with it and makes fast decisions
Ellen is totally authentic; you know she is always honest – she shares what is happening in her world. One day she started the show in tears as something terrible had happened in her life, and she couldn’t hide her pain so she didn’t.

I think Ellen viewers see life differently. They feel they can take anything on – and with a huge smile. Ellen’s team and show have an AMAZING culture which you feel as you watch and see when she interacts with her camera men and stage manager. Any boss that can create what Ellen has within her team would be a bloody awesome one!

November 12, 2008

How to eliminate mindless complaining

A few glum people can drag a whole workplace down. We’ve all met people that even if they won a tonne of dosh in the lottery would still be sporting their ‘woe is me’ face because they didn’t win first division. Negativity doesn’t have to be huge and loud to deeply impact the workplace culture either. Subtle messages and attitudes can form an atmosphere of glum.

Dwight Cooper, the CEO of PPR, a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society for Human Resource Management, asked himself what he could do about negativity and his answer was a company policy he called “The No Complaining Rule”. Cooper decided to deal with the subtle negativity that acts like a cancer in an organization. The rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.” The intention is to eliminate mindless complaining which leads to a toxic work environment and encourage justified complaints that lead to new ideas, innovation and success.

It can be the small stuff that translates to the big problems and like attracts like – one person moans, another person moans and soon everyone is wandering around feeling blue. A system, a plan or a ‘no complaining rule’ gives everyone a guideline about ‘how we do things around here’. By setting up such a guideline the culture can feel as though it has changed overnight. The team may not have realised how the little negative comments really add up, but they really notice the difference when they are gone. A key feature of the system Dwight Cooper set up was also staff offering one or two possible solutions. This means they must be proactive and take responsibility. They can’t just stomp their feet and yell “FIX THIS”. It becomes a team effort. Try a ‘no complaining rule’ in your workplace – you won’t know how much you need it until you see the huge difference it will make.

November 7, 2008

Seize the moment at work!

When I was a kid I had a friend who lived opposite the beach. On hot days we’d cross the road for a dip. My friend’s parents would come to supervise us as there were no life guards around this area. On this particular day, my friends mum decided it was a gorg day, and she too should take a dip. She hadn’t fore planned it so didn’t have her togs. Rather than nip home for them, she stripped off her clothes and trotted into the surf in her bra and knickers. My friend was absolutely mortified (as you are when you are 11) that her mum was wearing nothing but her ‘intimates’ in front of her friend!

I on the other hand thought it was hilarious and lots of fun (as did her hubby who was keeping a pervey watchful eye on his lovely wife from the shore)! I admired her zest for life, the way she ‘seized the moment’ and just did it. Which is why I remember it to this day many years later. So many people are too conservative, shy and ‘sensible’. They don’t act on impulse EVER, they would never get involved in a water balloon fight (their clothes would get wet), they would never schedule something at the last minute as they weren’t ‘prepared’. More people getting involved makes life more fun! Her running into the sea to have fun with us, made the swim so much better. We were laughing and our energy was sky high.

It is the same at the office. Impulse could be the boss doing a random coffee shout on a Friday morning – watch peoples collective energy and motivation soar then! It could be deciding to close early for drinks because there is something to celebrate, or better – just because. It’s about not being scared to break the mould – doing new and different things.

RE: more people getting involved, it can be demonstrated with the boss pulling up their sleeves and getting into it when staff are under pressure. The boss demonstrates they are REALLY part of the team. It is so motivating for workers to see its ‘all for one and one for all’. They see the boss isn’t ‘a cut above’. At the end of the stressful day, the boss really does understand what life was like for the workers.

Where can you harness the energy of impulse and ‘seizing the moment’ in your workplace? (Just don’t strip down to your undies!) What opportunities to do this have you missed in the past?

November 3, 2008

Do your employees deserve milk?

There are plenty of workers around who think it’s a bit crap that their employers buy the cheapest coffee and tea possible for the staff room. It makes them feel cheap and unimportant. These feelings were even stronger at one workplace where there was special ‘managers coffee’. No I’m not lying, I wish I was! The managers were allowed to use this much nicer coffee while the workers could only gaze at it up on the shelf and dream.

As if this wasn’t enough ill feeling for the staff room of this workplace, then came the ‘milk episode’. In effort to save money, be assholes and show the workers who is really boss a sign was attached to the fridge that said “Milk is for tea and coffee only. Any use on cereals or for general drinking is forbidden”. Oh dear! So the workers who pay a fortune for an overpriced car park, that is still miles away from work, who leave home super early to get to it and then walk the extra 20 minutes to the office are no longer allowed to finally have their cereal for breakfast in the staff room upon arrival.

I love horrifying people with this story, because it demonstrates a workplace attitude that is so common. The words this story brings to my mind about these managers are mean, heartless and thick. That is not a ‘family’ based workplace. Where people are happy, comfortable and treated like humans. It is stern, cold, lonely and sad.

What topped this story off was the fact that this workplace was a newspaper. One of their columnists wrote a fantastic piece highlighting all of the above troubles. I’m thinking the only reason it made it into print was the managers were so busy policing the fridge, they didn’t have time to make sure word didn’t get out about how nasty they are! Something as simple as cheap and nasty coffee does affect morale. It is a message to your staff. Something as rude as ‘manager’s coffee’ is an even louder message to your staff. The bosses here were a cut above, and not part of the real team.What practices are in your workplace that are similar to ‘cheap and nasty’ or ‘manager’s coffee’? See that they don’t survive the week.

If you want to see what notes other workplaces have stuck up on noticeboards see this website