Have you ever walked through one of those haunted houses where everything is pitch black and you are kind of just feeling your way through? Scary as heck, right? Of course it better be or the haunted house would be a major flop. While intentionally inflicting fear on ourselves at Halloween is fun (at least for some), that horrifying, stumbling-around-in-the-dark feeling has no place in our work lives.
We want and need to know where we are going and how we are getting there. It empowers us to do our very best and makes us feel in control of the situation at hand. Now, I have worked with some really smart people in my career so I am forever baffled when they seem taken aback by the mere suggestion that we share information with the employees of the company.
Now, please don’t misunderstand, I am not suggesting that information that needs to be confidential is shared but more often than not, managers tend to want to withhold information that would help to strengthen the vision of the company or the ability of employee to succeed at their job and is not classified information. For example, a company I worked for was doing some reorganization. There was a position that was going to go through a transformation (not elimination) but the managers did not want the employee to know for fear that he would be unhappy with the change and would leave. The plan was to get everything set-up and when it was time to make the change they would tell the employee.
Well, you can probably guess where I am going with this but because I no longer take things for granted, I will lay it out for you. The day came for the transition to happen and they called the employee into the office to break the news to him. After the shock wore off, a few things were apparent; 1) the employee felt betrayed that people he knew and trusted did not let him in on the plans for his position and 2) the managers, not being as intimate with the position as the employee, made a huge mistake in what was realistically able to be expected from the person and related systems.
So, there they all sat, with egg on their face. The one person that could have and should have been consulted was left out of the planning and now that there was a mess to be cleaned up they did not have the trust of the person that could help them out of the jam they created…hmmmm, you know we have all seen something similar happen. So the question that just begs for an answer is why can’t we trust our employees?
That is what this all comes down to in the end. We don’t trust them to act in the company’s best interest so we keep them in the dark until we think we have backed them in a corner and left them with no option. They have to comply with things as they are presented – as the managers want them to be- or so we think. Silly Rabbit!
The one thing the employees (especially your best employees) have that nothing can change is their ability to choose. They can choose to leave, they can choose to stay, they can choose a good attitude or they can fight the entire time…but no matter what, THEY choose. As managers, the impact we can have is giving the employees the information and support so that the trust and respect is maintained. Turn on the lights and help them choose you and everything else will fall into place.
Walk in my shoes….how often do we wish our boss, our spouse, or children, heck even the cashier at the grocery store would just for a moment really understand where we are coming from. No one truly understands what we go through each and every day just to get our daily tasks accomplished. Wouldn’t it be great if they could, for even a day, be able to take a walk in our shoes? That way, they would truly understand things from our perspective.
Well, guess what, just as we say that about the people in our lives, you better believe that there are people in ours wishing the same thing about us. Guaranteed, our employees do not believe that we know what they go through every day to get their job done. So…the big question is, do we? I am not so sure. Of course, we think we do. And at one time, maybe we actually did their job so we think our insight is plenty but I would like to caution you on this. Why? Because things evolve and change at a constant pace, nothing stays the same. So, what can we do to get a true picture?
I can already hear the moaning and groaning but here it goes. Walk in their shoes! Here is my challenge to you…for at least 4 hours, do someone’s job. Choose a position you are comfortable with and think that you know what that employee actually does on a daily basis (of course, you could really up the ante and select a job about which you know precious little). Let that person know several days in advance that you will be coming to “be them” for a few hours and that you would like them to prepare to show you a typical day. Stress that you want this to be a learning experience and because you value what they do you would like them to be a partner with you on this exciting challenge.
Then get out there and do your best! Enjoy the adventure and keep an open mind. At the very least, you find you were right and you do know what goes on in their world at work. Chances are, however, that you will learn something new. This knowledge is powerful! It will give you a greater appreciation for the work your employees do, will allow you first hand experience upon which to base process improvement initiatives and will allow your employees to see that you are on their side. Louder than any words you speak, this action will instill upon them that you value their time and their efforts and will strengthen the relationship you have with your staff. If you think you don’t have 4 hours to “waste”, reconsider the return on investment that this experience proposes. You stand to gain far more than money can buy. So while it may not show up on any balance sheet, the asset you are protecting is the most valuable one any company has- investment in your people is always, always worth its weight in gold.
Performance Management…even just writing those two words I imagine supervisors everywhere rolling their eyes and sighing loudly. The pencil-whipped annual reviews, the stressful meeting and the disgruntled employee that always result…why do we put ourselves though the torture?
Well, there are two pretty compelling reasons. First, if you actually start to think of performance management as an ongoing process of employee development instead of a time and place to tell your employee everything they have done wrong in the past year (or at least as far back as you can remember anyway), it will prove to be one of the best things you will ever do for your organization. It is a process that will elevate your good employees and weed out those that are not suitable for your company. If that doesn’t make you want to investigate this idea further maybe this will- your A-players not only want it but will leave you and go where they can find it.
Strong statement? Sure, but this is serious stuff and not something that can be broken down in a single blog but consider this; You are the A-Player on the team 1) you want to hear that you are appreciated and that your employer is invested in making you even better and 2) if there is no performance management in place, the B and C-Players are getting away with murder. And who is picking up the slack? That’s right! Your A-Player….and how long do you think it will be before this super star decides to take his talents elsewhere?
Hopefully, long enough for you to grab a good book on the subject or consult a professional and begin to seriously manage your staff so that everyone is on the same page, working from the same playbook and achieving the level of performance that you know they can accomplish.
Enjoying the beautiful spring day (finally), I really noticed how quickly the trees and flowers had changed from the stark, colorless state that they were in just a few short weeks ago to showy wonders of nature. This started thinking about change in general (not just as it applies to HR or business) and I remembered the quote, “The only thing constant is change”. While of course I believe that to be true, I was hoping that I could find even one thing that remained the same; something that I can count on to be steady and stable. I pondered this and ran through all kinds of stuff I thought had the chance of being unchanged. Nothing, and I mean nothing that I could consider, held true. Even a rock changes-albeit usually gradually over time.
So then it comes down to perception. The rock is changed- maybe by elements of nature, maybe by force of humans- but the question becomes, does this change matter to me? A rock that changes ever so subtly by flowing water is nonetheless changing but the change is so small and the effects of the change is so insignificant that no one really even notices- or cares. But what happens when the change does matter?
William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions, (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-Making-Most-Change/dp/0738213802/ref=pd_sim_b_5) really breaks down how we can make the most of change when it hits home. He reminds us that the situational shift is not the most difficult to manage but the psychological components is where the real work lies.
Unfortunately in my experiences, it is the psychological effects that the managers will do anything to avoid. I have seen everything from telling staff that nothing has changed (when in all actuality a significant shift in culture and business operation was taking place), to trying to make it seem like the change is wonderful- which it may be for some people and the company itself- but for others it may be mean job elimination or other consequential variation. Both efforts generally seem to do more harm than good. Managers need to accept that there will be grieving, fear, and other really uncomfortable emotions that must be honored and not simply pushed under the rug if they want to help minimize the distress and disruptions caused by the change.