A message to employees

frustratedemployeeAfter I sent out a message to managers you employees didn’t think I forgot about you, did you? I certainly did not I have just been out kicking some employees’s asses and getting some inspiration for this post.

Here is where it begins. The workplace can be a shitty place no doubt about it but it doesn’t all land on the shoulders of the managers. Some of the blame can certainly lie on you employees. So what is my advice to folks for making a better work environment?

It is as follows:

1. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, do your own damn job. I know it is always tempting to look over your shoulder and wonder what everyone else is doing but just don’t. “But Shawn….sometimes those other people effect the work I’m doing.” Ok fair enough I can understand that. You need your team members to complete a job. What I don’t accept though is how you might handle that.

2. Stop being so damn passive aggressive. If you are having trouble with someone at work then I suggest you actually have a conversation with that person. You heard that right, a conversation. I didn’t say scowl at them like their head should explode and raise your voice. What I said was ask them to have a quick conversation, ask them what they thought or saw. Oh yes imagine that THEIR opinion first. Let the person you see at fault have a chance to say why or how they saw the situation and then maybe you might understand. Remember a conversation goes both ways and definitely includes LISTENING, a skill I have seen disappear in the workplace far too often.

3. Just because you don’t like confrontation doesn’t mean you should hide behind it. Something someone else said, maybe even your boss, really didn’t sit right with you. Speak up! If you choose (it is always a choice…”oh but Shawn I might lose my job. Well you’re not happy anyway so get over it) to not say anything and to deal with the confrontation that may occur (probably because people aren’t used to openly talking about things in your office/place of work) it will only get worse. Trust me when I say this as I speak from years of listening and working in team development IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. So speak up.

4. Your managers are stressed out to the max. Now stop laughing and pick yourself up off the floor. I know you all think your managers don’t do nearly the work that you do. Well you are dead wrong. They are doing one of the toughest jobs on the planet. They are dealing with bosses above their head, they are dealing with all kinds of different employee personalities, then they have to think about the future of their business, and goodness only knows what else is on their plate. Your bosses get tired, your bosses have bad days, your bosses can be jerks but in the end they are all human beings. It has even been my experience that most managers find themselves in those roles because of seniority and NOT because they have any formal training in that area. So ask yourself this, if you had to all of a sudden be in charge of 5, 10, 20, or even 50 employees as well as manage all your other tasks AND answer to a higher power than yourself (be it another boss or a stakeholder) how do you think you would handle it? Along these lines I always find myself working with employees and hearing that they want more positive feedback so to them and now by proxy I ask you, how many times have you ever given positive feedback to a manage that has helped you out? You know if you do it enough they might just pick up on what you are doing and reciprocate. Show them you care and they might just show you the same. (Bah but sometimes it is just the chicken and the egg game, eh? well stop it! Be the first, give them a compliment.)

5. Remember the best times. I try to encourage workplaces all the time to chat about the best moments on or around the job. For instance I worked with a veterinarian clinic and everyday those people saved an animals life. I reminded them that collectively they are all doing amazing things. We began talking in specifics. How did you Jennifer help Kevin when there was a major complication with the Golden Lab last week? The reply was so interesting because what happened in the room was first I got a look for saying the breed and not the dogs name-which is a HUGE no no in their clinic. Every dog is a patient. That was a huge sign to me that even in this slightly dysfunctional family/workplace that they had some things they were willing to agree on and bond around. Then it was not only Jennifer that answered my question but so many other people pitched in and pretty soon people were just laughing and crying and remembering their purpose. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone shouldn’t have a good memory and that there shouldn’t be time to chat/read about it somewhere prevalent.

6. Remember your purpose. Why are you there? What got you there? If you don’t have an answer anymore I don’t give one care in the world what the reason is you need to probably be looking at an exit strategy. On the other hand if you can remember why you are there and find that spark again then that will for sure help you get through many days. Have those reminders posted all around you. Talk about your passions with your colleagues.

7. Everyone is a human being. At the core of all of this is the notion that sometimes we forget that our co-workers and bosses are human beings. Take yourself out of the situation and think about the other persons life for just 2 seconds before you react. Take  the time to find out who you are working with. Do you need to LOVE them? No. Do you need to know that they are human and that things in their life can change and that sometimes they might need support? Yes.

Ok 7, that is a good number. There are a whole lot of other tips to share but for now I feel like that is probably all your asses can take. Thanks for following along my friends. I hope some of those kicks in the ass found themselves well placed.

Working can be such a struggle but you always have to remember you play a part in that role as well, so ask yourself what are you doing to contribute?

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A message to managers: Engage your employees!

asleep-on-the-jobLast night I had the chance to sit down with a few really upset employees who wanted to blurt out all of the biggest troubles, worries, and stresses they had to me. It is always an intriguing situation when employees come my way. Most of the time all they are looking for is a simple head nod, an open set of ears, and for the most part a closed mouth.

This particular case involved a few employees who had each been in the industry for well over a decade. They were frustrated because for years and years they had been getting along just fine and working hard to produce great results. Now all of a sudden a shift in both middle and upper management has brought about great frustrations amongst all the staff. I can understand that a shift and a bit of change can be a great thing but learning how to do it in the right way is paramount for most managers.

This evening I was told about and shown a few very interesting emails. Most of the emails had no opening line, went directly into mass bullet point list of business “Do Not’s”, ended with a COMPLETELY BOLD AND CAPSLOCKED SENTENCE ALLUDING TO DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF THIS LIST WAS NOT STRICTLY FOLLOWED, and then ironically ended with it will be a pleasure working with you all and I hope you have a great night. I asked some questions about how long these managers had been there and how much truth there was to some of the apparently very pressing points, indicated by all the bold and caps and for a few points even the fervent use of exclamation marks the employees assured me that yes they owned some behaviours that could be changed. However they also noted that many were just outrageous and seemingly (key word here) had no real obvious purpose other than to dominate them (the employees, at least that is how they were feeling).

The key to all of this dissension and bad feelings lay in the last few sentences. Without me being there and being able to observe I have no idea whether or not the policies or procedures make sense but the base of this article is about how those managers implemented these changes. It was done through and very strong email instead of being done in a conversation with the staff. There were no two-way discussions there were no explanations there were just DEMANDS! Do it, because I’m the boss. Now I’m not saying that every boss or manager has to spend their entire day in conversations and hand holding everyone but what I am saying is that before you can get to this stage you have to build up respect and a desire to be loyal and trust you. These employees, like I have said were all decade long employees with opinions and ideas and they just wanted to be treated like human beings instead of robots.

Now do I fully blame the managers, no not at all. For the most part many managers make it to where they are because of how long they have been around with the company, they receive little to no training and are just pushed into a leadership role. Most learn from what they have seen before and since this cycle seems to repeat itself it can be hard to break. Power can also usually be a terrible thing for some managers. You, and you alone, as a manager often do have the power to bend employees to doing it your way, what a feeling. Where else do you get to control an environment quite like that? So at first when it is all new it can be hard to get used to, when to use the power and when to bow down to the power?

So here are a few pieces of advice, especially for those managers that are just stepping into a new role, or maybe you have been a manager for ever but now you are stepping into a new company.

1. Remember: Think about all the bosses you have had, good and bad and try think how each one made you feel.

2. Observe: You will see things differently and you will be looked at differently so take some days to get used to all of that.

3. Ask: Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Employees want to know that you value you them and appreciate what they are doing. So just try to learn a little bit about what makes them who they are and how they view the company.

4. Positivity can go a long way: This is probably one of the hardest things to do since we live in a society that is so driven by failure and pointing out mistakes. On the flip side though if you focus on those employees who are doing an amazing job and hold them in the highest regard you might just inspire someone else to strive for that higher standard.

5. Problem solve with not for: One thing I have learned over so many years is that the best managers/bosses/coaches work with their employees. This is where you get to be a little tough-when employees come to some managers (if they feel comfortable doing that, sometimes rare) they often come bearing problems and many times the manager uses his or her power to SOLVE all those problems. This is a great showing of strength and power but I often encourage managers to have conversations with employees. Don’t let your employee come to you with any problem if they haven’t at least thought about any kind of solution at all. This will make them feel appreciated and will give them a sense of worth that you want to hear what they say and not just dictate.

6. Don’t be afraid of feedback: One company I worked with told me they stopped having meetings because people cried and people’s feelings were being hurt. So instead let’s not talk at all, good idea. Work hard to create an environment where opinions and ideas are valued and encouraged. The people who are working on the front line have a totally different view than yours and although it is hard to learn that is a good thing. You have feedback for them and because they are humans they should have some feedback for you, so allow them to give it openly and honestly. Don’t let things get personal. You are all working at this company to grow and get better. Keep that attitude and your employees and the culture of the company will succeed I can promise you that.

These are just 6 tips to help managers develop a better culture and a better rapport with their staff. I have lots more and love being able to talk about them so drop me a line either on here or in private and I would be happy to chat.

Now enough about managers in a follow up piece I will be doing a “Message to employees”.

Lesson Learned from Undercover Boss: Employees are Good

I usually make time in my week to catch up on Undercover Boss and I have to say for all the shows I have watched I’m always surprised at how sincerely effected and astounded the bosses are at the abilities of their employees. For those that don’t know, Undercover Boss is a show that, just like it’s name suggests, sends Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) of large companies undercover to join the ranks of their front line employees.

For years now I have had the chance to work with all kinds of companies, big and small, diverse and narrow in function and one consistent thing I have always found is that employees, the real front line ones that interact with customers everyday, are generally the ones that know almost everything about the company. I also have found that they are often times, if managed properly and allowed to dream a little bit, the ones who have the best vision for the company and the best suggestions. However, as the show exhibits time and time again for reason the higher-ups in just about every company always seem to look to their immediate peers or usually to small customer groups to define and redefine their companies missions, visions, and processes. More often than not employees are never consulted and are rarely listened to when companies are looking to make a change. But as the end of each show comes together it always seems to smack the boss in the head that ‘WOW our employees know a whole lot about our company and since they are in the front lines they deal with the biggest focus groups a company could ask for.’ Then generally in almost every single show a boss decides to change something about the company or to implement some kind of new program that 1 singular employee has suggested. Continue reading