culture posts

Tackling the Dreaded Conversation

You know the one. It’s the difficult conversation you need to have with an employee who isn’t doing the job, or causing a problem, or doesn’t play well with others. The one that keeps you up at night and causes your stomach to feel like the butterflies inside you are learning the Latin rhumba. The number of excuses you’ve come up with to evade the issue is a testament to your creativity.

That perfect set of circumstances that you’re waiting for is simply not going to happen. And you know that the longer you wait, the worse things get and the more difficult the issue becomes to address. So instead of procrastinating and suffering, have the conversation! The key is to prepare in 3 separate steps.

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Good Job! 8 Essential Ingredients of Positive Reinforcement

Well-motivated employees are typically more creative and productive. As a result, positive reinforcement can be one the most effective tools leaders possess to change behavior. Yet there are two factors working against them. First, most managers have been trained to pay attention to what’s wrong rather than what’s right. It takes conscious effort to see what’s right and then link that positive action to a positive outcome.

Second, communication studies show that employees need to hear four positive comments to counteract a single negative. That’s right, 4 positives = 1 negative! When managers are already prone to focus on wrong versus right, that’s an extremely difficult ratio to achieve.

Given those factors, it’s clear that the tool of positive reinforcement requires thoughtful planning and consistent action. Leaders and managers alike need to understand the power of positive reinforcement, what it means to their organization, and how to apply it in a way that’s consistent and effective.

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The Accountability Conundrum

We hear it all the time … that dreaded phrase … the one that conjures up fear, trepidation, annoyance, irritation …

“We need to hold people accountable!”

It’s a loathsome missive, this “accountability.” It’s so packed with emotional land mines that just talking about it is like skating across spring ice. Being HELD accountable feels like being blamed, and HOLDING SOMEONE ELSE accountable is annoying.

Of course, we can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Instead, let’s improve the concept!

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The Fierce Urgency of Now

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote about fierce urgency and procrastination should resonate when we all realize how quickly January 2011 has flown by. Now there are only 11 months left to reach your 2011 goals. Q2 is around the corner, and if you’re off track in Q1, the rest of the year may be in jeopardy. Don’t allow one more year of missed opportunity. In that short amount of time, your company could easily end up “standing bare, naked, and dejected” when the competition cleanly passes you by.

It’s not as if companies don’t want to meet their goals. They try to meet them. But there’s a hard truth here: if they aren’t meeting goals on a regular basis, something needs to change. Let’s discuss what gets in the way of achieving results: obstacles, aka problems.

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What are your odds?

It’s easy to be confident that you’ll meet your 2011 goals – after all, you have 12 new months ahead of you. But in his book 8th Habit, Stephen Covey provides a sobering analogy: 37% of employees have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why, and only 1 in 5 employees has a clear “line of sight” between individual tasks and the team’s goals.

Now comes the sobering part: what if a soccer team had those stats? Only 4 of 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs, and only 2 of 11 would know what position they play and what they’re supposed to do.

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You know the saying about assumptions. Why are you still making them?

Assumption testing has always been important in organizations. Right now, however, it’s more critical than ever. Markets are evolving so fast that the wrong assumptions can be fatal.

Worse yet, an organization’s inability to routinely identify and test assumptions is a cultural defect that can be very difficult to correct.

Rick and I often see this problem when we participate in leadership meetings held by our clients. During these meetings, we frequently hear executives mistakenly state assumptions as if they were facts.

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The Cost of Chaos

During the first week of the new year, when we tend to gaze optimistically at the road ahead, a headline from the Associated Press announced “Americans’ job satisfaction lowest in 22 years.”

The article then went on to say “That is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in over 22 years of studying the issue. If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity. It also could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers.”

Well, that got my attention! Of course there are many reasons for the decline, including the worst recession since the 1930s and the fact that downsizing has created more work and more demands on the workers who’ve survived the cuts. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that such a decline has somber implications for businesses, and executive teams need to address this issue in their organizations.

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