Vol. 12 No. 3 – February 13, 2012

February 12, 2012



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Seven WaysTo Frustrate Your Employees

You can learn from a bad boss. And Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has therefore been blessed since he has had more bad bosses than good bosses in his career. On his blog, he has some fun by offering ways to frustrate your employees, including these seven habits that you may want to avoid:

  • Don’t be responsive: Let their emails languish in your inbox and don’t return voice mails in a timely fashion. Maybe they’ll solve the problem on their own or give up.
  • Cancel meetings at the last minute: This works best if they have had to travel to the meeting, of course.
  • Reprimand them in front of their peers: Public ridicule shows you have no confidence in them.
  • Change your mind frequently: Get them excited about going in a new direction and then reverse course. Keep them guessing at all times.
  • Don’t bother stating your expectations: Instead be vague, or silent, letting them wonder. “But then when it comes time for their annual review, hold them accountable to specific goals. This way, no matter what they have accomplished, you can make them feel like a failure,” he writes.
  • Focus on superficial things rather than substance: Focus on how they dress or how much time they spend at their desk rather than what they accomplish.
  • Assign them work, then micromanage the process: Second guess them, liberally. 

2. The Genius Of The Lone Genius

If an organization has a choice between having one genius innovator or a team of good innovators, most organizations would choose the team. But Alva Taylor, an associate professor of business administration, says on Tuck.Dartmouth.edu it’s better to go with the lone genius: Research has shown such a person can have 10 times the creative output of a team.

He warns that too often companies luck into finding a great innovator but then foolishly “force them to act like everyone else — to sit on teams or committees and have them work under the routines of the rest of the people in the organization. What they should be doing is giving this person all the resources they need and then getting out of his or her way.” 

3. Establish Ground Rules For Your Team

Before Alan Mulally took the helm at Ford, members of senior management often fought with one another and group dynamics were dysfunctional. In his book Once Upon A Car, journalist Bill Vlasic says Mulally established ground rules for the central Thursday morning meeting that included no encyclopaedic briefing books, no aides, no jokes about colleagues, and no side conversations — and he emphasized that facts, not opinions, would rule. 

If someone couldn’t comply with the new norms, Mulally told them bluntly, “You’ll just have to work somewhere else.”  He explained: “The important thing is that we are all accountable to each other. You are accountable to the team, and the rest of the team is here to help you.” 

Bryant Professor Michael Roberto, on his blog, says too many teams suffer because leaders don’t outline the ground rules and expectations explicitly: “Leaders need to be clear about the shared norms and ground rules which will govern behaviour.” 

4. Five Steps For Retention

Too often organizations lose focus after hiring an employee and then fail to bring the individual on board effectively. In Leadership Excellence, HR consultant Kathy Albarado suggests:

  • Develop onboarding checklists: You should have checklists that the new hire and the manager complete together before the starting date at work. This indicates exactly where and when the employee should report to work, and what they will be doing the first few weeks. A buddy or mentor should be assigned.
  • Identify management’s first-day responsibilities: The employee’s manager and your HR lead may share responsibilities for onboarding, and should know clearly their roles on the first day and how orientation will proceed. “Consider taking the entire team out to lunch on the new hire’s first day. It’s amazing how this one simple action can unite a team,” she writes.
  • Identify first-week responsibilities: During the first week HR officials need to ensure all forms are completed and benefits registered. Managers should clarify concerns and address questions about job and performance expectations, and training opportunities.
  • Seek integration during the first 30 to 90 days: The hiring manager needs to ensure that the orientation phase moves effectively into long-term assimilation. “Neglecting to monitor assimilation greatly increases the odds of losing the new employee,” she advises.
  • Continue development beyond 90 days: After initial goals and expectations are met, managers must adjust with the employee to the longer-term needs of the organization. 

5. Zingers

  • At the beginning of each day, Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., maker of the celebrated Sam Adams brew, asks himself what are the three most important things he needs to get done. The day will be pock-marked with distractions, pressures and opportunities, but he still makes sure he has done those three things before the day is over. (Source: Entrepreneur.com)
  • Bob Herbold, former chief operating officer at Microsoft, says a useful question to ask in a job interview is: When you were young, who was the person who was most influential in teaching you valuable lessons about life? Then probe about what those lessons were and how they guide the individual today. “The lessons you are looking for are basic principles that suggest a high degree of self-confidence, a sense of personal responsibility, a strong drive to achieve, and solid fundamental ethics. No hint of these kinds of traits should be a red flag,” he says. (Source: ThoughtLeadersLLC Blog)
  • Early prototyping is increasingly hailed as a way to check out and build upon an idea, but research in the auto industry by Northwestern University Professor Paul Leonardi found that when people see a detailed prototype they narrowly concentrate on its form and function rather than the broader parameters of the idea, and so brainstorming ends rather than getting provoked.  (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Dan Schneider, founder and CEO of SIB Development and Consulting in South Carolina, is offering a $50,000 bonus to any of his first-time employees who stay with the company for five years, hoping to counter the costs of losing and replacing employees. Stay 25 years, and the person gets $250,000. (Source: Money.cnn.com)
  • Entrepreneur Seth Godin suggests you find a geek who understands basic tools like Outlook and Excel, and sit beside him or her for an hour and watch the individual work. Ask: “Tell me five ways I can save an hour a day.” Whatever you need to pay for this service, it will repay itself quickly. (Source: Seth’s Blog

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Tightening Up On Wait Times

 Question: Can you suggest any tips for tightening up our processes to achieve faster communications/service turnaround and reduced backlogs?

 8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds:

 One approach might be to look at flow and productivity in your system.

  • Capacity: If you have a steadily growing backlog of work, that may point to a capacity issue — you will have to reduce the scope of what you’re trying to do, increase productivity, or expand capacity so you can turn work around in a more timely manner.
  • Backlogs:  Sometimes a backlog from the past is carried forward into the future and all the new work is continually delayed. But if you could keep up once you were caught up, consider a special one-time project to deal with the backlog.
  • Duplication:  Identify areas where delays create duplicate work. An example of wait times in health care may illustrate: suppose your family doctor feels you can’t wait eight months to see a specialist, and therefore refers you to Emergency. There your assessment is repeated with a medical resident, and finally you get a faster-track referral. But the delay has created duplication of effort, wasted your time and delayed someone else waiting for care, and continuity is at risk as you are repeatedly flipped from one provider to another.
  • Productivity Killers: Interruptions and breaks in workflow are known enemies of productivity.  For example, consider what happens when someone testifying in court needs an extra hour to answer all of counsel’s questions. Instead of sitting for an extra hour, the court puts the matter over for a few months. The witness has to make an extra trip, court staff get stuck with an extra round of scheduling duties, everyone involved has to spend more time refreshing on the case, and the continuity of the process is fractured.
  • Bake In Flexibility:  Consider how you might build more flexibility into your system, either routinely scheduling extra time to handle whatever surprises might take longer than expected (like the court example) or perhaps designing a mix in your workload that allows you to put some things off while you keep the workflow moving.
  • Be Disciplined:  No system works if you don’t follow it. This makes procrastination a target in the effort to achieve smooth workflow. It might also help to increase awareness of the downstream consequences of delays. 

We are all susceptible to the types of systemic inefficiencies mentioned in the examples above:  We have a meeting, but then wait a while before following up on the outcomes or action items. We do some research, but don’t write the report for some time – and then have to “get it all back in our heads” again. We may acknowledge an enquiry, but then put aside the issue instead of following up immediately and closing the file. But this six-point checklist may help you tighten up on workflow, productivity and customer service.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Performance with Caring

This week we were chatting about the wisdom in the adage: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

What makes us want to deal with someone time and time again?  What contributes to making a salesperson, fundraiser, employee or service provider stand out from the rest? A critical ingredient in their performance is “caring”. 

This can mean caring about the client and improving something in his or her life, caring about their values or cause, or caring enough as an employee to do a good job, helping the organization to achieve its goals. We all want to deal with someone who cares about what matters to us. And people who care tend to build good relationships that reap rewards.

Some may be reluctant to show they care, feeling it is unprofessional or just time consuming. Caring, though, translates into listening, acting on what we’ve heard to deliver services or products people want in the way they want. It may mean taking the time to ask about someone’s family, digging a little deeper to understand a problem, or (like a good fundraiser we know) taking along some homemade peanut brittle.  As humans, we can tell pretty quickly if someone we are dealing with cares.  It starts to build trust and sets the stage for good service, right off the bat.

Caring has to be authentic, though.  If you don’t – or can’t – care about your customers or what you’re doing, you probably need to reassess your work.  Both you and those around you will be more satisfied.

8. Closing Thought

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
 — Eleanor Roosevelt