January 28, 2009

“Don’t Tell Tales” especially at work

When I was about eight years old the girl that sat next to me at school was a cheat. When working I’d look over to see her writing out the questions, then flicking to a page at the back of the book (it was bookmarked with a pencil) and copying out the answer! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was a bit of a goody good and would never have done that – mainly because I’d be so scared of being told off, but also because I knew the difference between right and wrong. Not one to miss a beat, I immediately stood up, grabbed the book and went to line up at the teacher’s desk to tell her this girl was cheating. Upon telling the teacher she shouted “ALLISON DON’T YOU TELL TALES”. Her reaction pretty much said she’d prefer people to cheat than to ‘tell tales’ – never mind the fact that what I was saying was 100% true. I still think cheating is much worse than ‘telling tales’! I embarrassedly walked back to my desk and wondered what the hell I’d done wrong! Anyway, this girl carried on her ‘work’ and that was that.

Telling tales happens in the workplace too. I recall one case where Katrina* wanted Rebecca’s* hours. Katrina had only worked there a few weeks and Rebecca had worked there for three years. Katrina decided to tell the boss that Rebecca was slacking off, breaking rules and stealing. The boss responded by making sure he was there to oversee Rebecca’s entire shifts to make sure she was actually working. Rebecca scratched her head thinking “hmmm he hasn’t had a problem with me until now” and she quit. She was mighty peeved that the boss took some newbies word over hers after all she’d done for the place. The boss wasn’t insightful enough to see the situation for what it was – deceitful and fabricated; Katrina was trying to get what she wanted with dirty tactics.

Before supervising a previously wonderful staff member get your facts straight. Katrina had no proof anyway! What telling tales situations have you experienced in your time as the boss? How did you deal with them and how would you deal differently with them in the future? Ponder a way to make telling tales obsolete – either don’t hire liars or ensure the culture is open enough to withstand intense team discussions when issues arise.

*not their real names.

January 20, 2009

More reasons to not avoid the yuck…

Number 33 in The Boss Benchmark is ‘Never Avoid The Yuck’ which means don’t ignore issues because you’d rather pretend they don’t exist. Brutal honesty makes room for improvement and big transformation. Focusing only on the positive means you’ll never become exceptional. I read somewhere recently that Wal-Mart does a ‘stupidest thing we do around here’ competition. Staff get to ponder and point out things that are ridiculous and hindering them in their work. By digging up these ‘stupid things’ and putting new systems in place, the workplace can become more efficient and less annoying and frustrating to the people that have to do these stupid things! It is said that ‘geniuses subtract, fools use addition’ which means that any fool can make something more complex but it takes a genius to simplify something. Remember that in your business systems. If you are silly enough to believe that your staff don’t know enough/aren’t involved enough in some systems to be able to critique them remember that….

A sculptor invented the ballpoint pen
A musician invented kodachrome films
An undertaker invented the automatic telephone
A journalist came up with the idea for parking metres
A vet invented the pneumatic tyre
A TV engineer invented the long playing record

Little knowledge about something is a positive when it comes to change –not a negative. If you get some crazy ideas from staff…just remember that the postage stamp got laughed at! It was described as “a piece of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, with a glutinous wash on the back with a little moisture it will attach to a letter” (from the original proposal from Rowland Hill inventor of the postage stamp) apparently his boss wasn’t impressed at all. We could all actually learn something else from the postage stamp: “Consider the postage stamp … it secures success through its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there” said Josh Billings 19th century American humourist.

Do you fancy doing a ‘stupidest thing we do around here’ competition at your work?

January 15, 2009

When your staff become best mates

A lot of workmates get along nicely, but what about when they become really great mates? Does it impact your work environment for better or worse? Is it all secrets and insider gossip or is it support and deeper teamwork? An impact on the workplace that I’ve seen is when two people become close mates, it can sometimes leave other workers feeling left out. They don’t want to interrupt their ‘best friend convos’ and fear being rejected if they do. Or worse they think they are whispering about them! I’ve also seen that when great mates, they share everything – meaning they have a lot of talking to do and not just at lunch time. Do mates in the workplace mean they get less work done because they spend more time yakking? Or perhaps the yak breaks motivate them to work harder when they do have their head down?

In jobs that students and teenagers fill as a ‘for now’ job it is often the atmosphere that makes them keep coming back. They may despise the work, but the fun they have with the people while doing it makes it worthwhile. It is that friendship and fun that will keep turnover low (hence saving you money). In a more serious job friendship can raise different issues. If you moan excessively about the boss to your friend your words may come back to bite you if your friend isn’t committed to the friendship or you fall out further down the track.

The Gallup Workplace Survey asks “Do you have a best friend at work?” and they found friendship could rate higher than other motivators like pay and benefits could. Lots of evidence online points to friendship being positive for the workplace. It seems only bad managers have something to worry about. If workers find the boss inadequate they may spend time discussing this, in time this can lower morale and their performance by making the ‘us vs. them’ atmosphere stronger. There may be insider gossip involved in friendship, but the team work and support will be deeper. If you want gossip to stop – then sort out the culture, not the friends!

I would suggest that bosses carefully think about how to deal with work friendship problems BEFORE they arise. Because if someone gets in a grumble with someone, then the ‘best mates’ may start a ‘taking sides’ situation which could form borderline bullying and ganging up as the friends look out for each other. When conflicts arise, more care does need to be taken when those with ‘best mates’ are concerned. If the atmosphere remains tense while the conflict is sorted the ‘complainer’ will have not one but two people giving them the evils – that can be scary.

January 6, 2009

Will you be a fab boss in 2009?

If you can agree with the statements below you are set to be a fab boss this year. If you can't honestly agree with the below statements, get working on yourself!

I actively seek things to congratulate my workers on
I am nothing without my great team
I constantly bend over backwards to ensure my staff are happy
I am here to serve my workers (it is not the other way around!)
We have fun, fresh workplace policies that reward and inspire workers
I would rather unblock a toilet myself than get a staff member to do it
I embrace the changes and modernization of the workplace – it doesn’t scare me
There are no unnecessary strict policies here - I am open to flexibility
I keep no secrets from my team
I am very aware of the personal sacrifices my team make for work
I constantly ponder my leadership skills and learnings
I am always growing my self awareness – I am my harshest critic
I am not scared of ‘the yuck’ in our workplace - I address it
I sweat even ‘the small stuff’ to ensure our workplace is bliss for workers
Our values are modern, human and fun (i.e. “don’t be a jerk”)
I insist on a ‘no bitching’ policy – everything should be in the open
I insist staff tell me if they ever think I’m being an arsehole
I am kind and courteous even while under huge stress
I have a no bullshit policy – truth and delivery on everything