Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Make Time for People

When people become new supervisors they usually go through the, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that” phase. This is a great thing to do. Set goals. Plan things out. The bad thing is that many people don’t follow through. They get tied up in operations and forget about all those great plans.

One thing that people normally say is that they’re “going to make time for their staff”. Sound familiar? How quickly we forget.

As a supervisor, you’re a resource for your staff, a mentor, a teacher. To others, you’re a trusted colleague. You’re in a people job now. If that doesn’t fit into your agenda, then you’re in the wrong position. You have to make time for people.

Some of your staff won’t need a lot of supervision, or time for that matter. That’s fine. Let em work. But you still need to be available when they do need you. Others are going to need constant supervision and an open door. When these folks come to see you, ignore the phone, put down the pen and listen. Show them how important they are and how much you care. This is not only courteous and respectful, but also motivating. They’ll believe that you find them important and begin to act like it more. They’ll have more confidence and act more decisively.

If you’re not in the same physical area as your staff you can still be available. Provide a means for them to get in touch with you quickly – phone, e-mail, voicemail, etc. Make sure that you get back in touch with them quickly. No more than 24 hours. Make this a habit and they’ll have greater trust and respect for you.

Need another reason for making time for people? You’ll reduce turnover. As I’ve posted before - most people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It's unfortunate that negativity comes so naturally to people. "No, you can't do that. No, I can't do this." To some, NO is the first thing that comes to mind. It's extremely stressful to be around these people all the time. But hey - what can you do? You can stay positive is what you can do. Realize who's causing the negativity and why and help them out.

A lot of times it just takes someone to point out to the "negaholic" that they have a problem. We've all been there, whether at work or at home. I was there. When my kids were growing up, any time they asked for something, my immediate answer was "NO". Not because the answer was really no, it was because "no" became a habit. Once I realized it, I had to work at losing it.

Negaholism causes many problems in the workplace and just keeps building if nothing is done about it. Some of the biggest problems negaholism causes are:
  • breakdowns in communication,
  • loss of trust,
  • arguing over seemingly childish issues,
  • the blame game (what does that TV commercial call it - "blamestorming"?), and
  • competition where there should be cooperation.
So what can you, as a leader, do to help? Mentor your negaholics. Meet with them, talk with them. Show them how things are and how they should be in order to improve. Point out that their road to advancement depends on their change. You should discuss your (and the organizations) behavioral expectations. And most of all, give good honest - and frequent - feedback. Just showing a negaholic that you care can be enough to turn him/her right around.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Work With Locations

If you work for a large organization with a main headquarters and numerous locations, you’ll relate well to this. There’s always been a disconnection in most organizations with an organizational structure such as this, mostly because the locations are out of sight and out of mind. It's like trying to hold on to a long distance relationship. For some people it works well. For others . . . not so well.

HQ’s commonly develop SOPs and policies and distribute them with no thought on how they’re going to impact locations around the region or country. In organizations set up like this, you don’t have one culture. You may have one “corporate” culture, but there are numerous sub-cultures within it. Just the fact that you have locations around the country in the North, South, East, and West is going to give you four sub-cultures. People are brought up differently and have different work ethics in various geographic areas. Age variations and length of employment also create sub-cultures of their own which often stress different beliefs and actions. The authoritarian, “my way or the highway” thinking of HQ can do more damage to the overall organization than anything else. Internal strife is hard to deal with.

Now if you want to add mergers to the mix, you’ve just doubled the number of your cultures and sub-cultures. This will take extra involvement all the way around. But that's for another blog.

The means to solving these issues takes effort from all locations, but in the end, it’s HQ that has to take the time to truly care and implement solutions for everyone. Someone (management), needs to travel to your various locales and sit down and truly watch and listen so that you can get an accurate picture of what’s going on and what people need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This act alone will build trust just because you made the effort to get involved with those that feel they're not being heard.

If you don’t listen and your locations are continually fighting to be heard, they’ll eventually give up. Then you’re in for lackluster, unproductive work. Their customer service suffers and retention suffers. What’s good for me isn't necessarily what’s good for you. Stop, look, and listen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Keep learning and never look back. Continuous learning, of any kind, will keep the brain fires burning, advancements ongoing, and respect by others increasing.

Many employees, especially those in the lower ranks, think of training as a burden. Something “extra” they have to do. These are the people that aren’t going anywhere in your organization. You can always improve yourself through learning and education no matter who you are or how much you already know (or think you know). Socrates said, “There is only one thing I know, and that is I know nothing”.

Learning doesn’t have to take the form of sitting in a classroom. It can be a class online (free at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/) or just reading books or magazines. Doing this keeps your mind active. I hear all the time from people that they don’t have the time or attention span to sit and read an entire book. That’s fine. Subscribe to a couple of magazines. These days, a lot of magazines are even available as digital editions online for free (http://www.successmtgs.com/mimegasite/index.jsp). You flip through the pages on the computer as if you actually have a copy in your hand.

Organizations want knowledgeable employees and employees that want to improve upon themselves. In the workplace, there’s always more to learn. Use your down time to review SOPs, not sit and chat about what you’re planning to do next weekend. Remember, “It’s called work for a reason” (Larry Winget). Just because you read it during training doesn’t mean that you’ve necessarily retained it all. SOPs/directives/policies, whatever your organization calls them, are living documents. They’re constantly changing.

If you don’t know already, find out what the trade journals are for your occupation and subscribe to one. Or, if you don’t want to put out the money, go to your local library or company library. You’ll be surprised by what’s there that you probably had never heard of before. Seek out your professional associations online. They always have a wealth of information about what's going on and what's coming up. Although you may have to pay to join, it’s a great way to network.

Continuous learning may require some discipline. If you need to, set aside a specific time each day to read. The key sometimes is to just do it. Your future depends on it.