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Even Change is Changing

Chg 101Many people will resist change to the nth degree. Others will not only embrace it, but cause it to happen just for the fun of it. Whatever your preference when it comes to change, change itself at least in the corporate world, is itself, changing.

Organizations in general are beginning to understand that change management needs to be a required core competency. Therefore, if you are one of those team members who doesn’t deal well with change, you will need to ramp up your ability to handle and implement change at a higher level of expediency.

The CEO’s Role: CEOs, specifically, are also beginning to recognize the importance of their role in change management. As an example, a recent client wanted to change the bank’s culture to a sales culture. After meeting with a member of the client’s team, and then checking back in a couple of weeks later, I was informed that the bank had decided to roll out this change initiative beginning with the tellers and the CSRs (customer service reps). What I wanted to do would have landed me in prison. Rather, I chose the more professional, but very direct route, of suggesting to the team member that would prove disastrous for the change initiative. You see, while the tellers and CSRs do have a lot of customer contact, they are not the place to initiate a culture change.

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Essential Steps for Handling Difficult Conversations

Diff Conversa 2 WEBAs a “recovering” Human Resources professional, working in hotels no less, I’ve had my share of difficult conversations with both guests and employees. Conversations with employees ranged from body odor, to inappropriate dress, unprofessional behavior, rule infractions, personality conflicts, petty territorial disagreements, and you name it. While some workplace conversations can be difficult, avoiding them is not recommended. First, we’ll look at the consequences avoiding difficult conversations can bring and then look at the essential steps for handling them.

Some people think that because an individual holds a managerial position that he or she automatically understands how to handle difficult conversations. Further, while managers may think they are confident and competent at holding difficult conversations, Human Resources (HR) holds a different opinion as indicated in the graph below.

HR Graph WEB

                                                                                                  Source: Adapted from Handling Difficult Conversations at Work

Well certainly a CEO knows how to chew these conversations up and spit them out. The fact is, that most of us don’t enjoy holding these conversations and many of us are not that skilled at having them. In fact, according to a study appearing in a Sage Publication, these conversations can be unnerving and emotionally draining. So, as human nature dictates, we avoid the unpleasant and the awkward. Failing to hold training sessions for difficult conversations is only asking for trouble.

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Seeing Your Blind Spots

Hd in the Sand WEBBlind spots can be found in every element of business. A quote by Peter Thiel, cofounder and former CEO of PayPal expresses it best: “As CEO, you’re somehow both the total insider and the total outsider at the same time. In some ways you’re at the center of the organization. In other contexts, you’re like the last person to know anything.” Unfortunately, a CEO can create his/her own blind spots through their own behaviors and actions or non-action. Here are some examples and how to overcome creating blind spots.

The Disconnect: CEOs and teams have a disconnect on the team’s priorities. The CEO thinks that everyone on his team is on the same page, unfortunately that is not always the case. This was proven on a project for one of my clients. The Executive Team agreed to grow the organization. However, it came to light that including the Executive Team and going two tiers down, opinions on the growth of the organization ranged from at least one individual who had no idea that the decision was definite all the way to going global and everything in between to accomplish this growth. There were many pages of opinions and no one was on the same page. Clearly the CEO had not communicated his vision clearly enough to his own team or kept in touch with them on thiers. It is almost impossible to overcommunicate when change is on the agenda.

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Managing the Toxic Employee

Toxic Employee WEB

Most managers are unaware that a toxic employee is on their team. Toxic employees can be wily creatures. They are always nice to management and only act out when the boss is not around. They may even be super nice to someone’s face, but the minute their back is turned that person can be subjected to being derided, disrespected and having their character grilled and skewered.

It is even more difficult for a CEO to be aware of these toxic team members as they are so far removed from the front lines. Their blissful ignorance can even extend to their own executive teams.

Who are these misguided moppets? You can recognize them as they engage in the following behaviors: rudeness, bullying, bitterness, anger, being critical, having negative attitudes, and gossiping. We may think that all of us must put on our big boy or girl pants and deal with such issues from time to time. We need to reevaluate that idea.

The actions of a toxic employee are no small matter. According to an article by Christine Porath, Ph.D. for HBR, the poisonous trail they leave in their wake affects the entire organization and can foster an array of ills. This toxic waste includes:

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Bringing the Curtain Down on Exiting Stage Right and the CEO’s Role Behind the Scenes

Exit Stage RightWEBThe number one concern for organiztions in the past two years has been the exit of employees according to SHRM . Of course, as with any problem, organiztions need to get to the root of the problem. According to several sources, stop me if you’ve heard this, the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of a bad boss. Is it always the manager’s fault or does the CEO also play a role? Or maybe, we’re in a mid-life crisis. In this article, we’ll look at three reasons people leave and ways to open the curtain on prevention.

1. The Manager

  • The Critical Boss: None of us like to be criticized and “constructive feedback” can still be painful. However, to dismiss remarks the boss offers would be a mistake. Rather, your opening act should be introspection. Be objective and look at ways you might improve performance, but also what traits may irk the boss or take stock of your clashing points.
  • Transference: Does your boss remind you of someone from your past who was critical, bullied you, or who used to know how to push your hot buttons? Work on separating these two figures.
  • Communication: There are people who, at least, initially do not communicate well. This is simply a matter of understanding each other’s behavior and communication styles and adapting.
  • Is It Just You? If there are others who do work well with your boss, observe their interactions and there may be things you are or are not doing that need to change.
  • Bosses: If good people are leaving your team, then you too should engage in each of the above steps.                    

    2. The Mid-Life Crisis

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More Shorts in the Communication Circuit

Electric

Just when you thought you had this communication system thing all figured out, along comes more wires of misunderstanding to jumble up your fuse box. We’ve all, no doubt, been plugged into many of the basics of communication such as:

 

 

  • Words, tone, and language
  • The sender sends a message and the receiver must decode and interpret it
  • We lose understanding via mechanical devices
  • Levels of listening
  • Barriers to communication

Just when you thought it was safe to have a conversation, two new studies tell us we still need to bring our communication efforts up a decibel or two. First is a study by Boyle, D.M., Mahoney, D.P., Carpenter, BW., and Grambo, R.J. This study conveys the shocking news that communication is not just for conversation any more. Now, it appears, that communication can aid in your career advancement – or not. The authors posit that communication skills encompass interpersonal skills and that these two skills are “[are] essential to a smooth career progression.” The study goes even further to suggest that both workers and the firm share an obligation to pursue training these areas.

The study gives fair warning to career newbies that texting and e-mail can be viewed as “inappropriate or inadequate” even at the staff level. When you realize that many complex business issues require face-to-face communication, switching from their insulated communication system may be a shock hazard for some young people.

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How to Prevent Head Spinning

Spinning Head WEBAn executive tells me he would be conducting performance reviews this week, including an employee we’ll call Betty. I asked how Betty’s performance affected him. He replies, it doesn’t. I probe further, and as it turns out, Betty is a direct managerial report of his who, in turn, manages about 12 employees including a couple of assistant managers.

He continues this dialogue by stating that if it was up to him, he’d clean house and fire everyone because, Betty had given most of her reports a score of two but that Betty is doing a good job. I expect my head to stop spinning sometime next week. I think it’s safe to assume that this executive has no performance management program (PM) in place. What if he did? What would a PM do for him, his reports, and the organization?

Implementing a PM system can provide many benefits. An article by Aileen MacMillan serves to illustrate ow a PM benefits the organization, managers, and supervisors, and employees. For example, the article suggests such elements as accountability, performance, and productivity enjoy higher levels. Clearly, my executive friend could use these and more. So, what does a good PM system look like?

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Managing Managers Who Can’t Manage

New Manager WEBMaybe a few of you reading this had the goal to one day become a manager. Unfortunately, acquiring the management mantle for most came in the form of a promotion either because of previous good work, or they were next in line, or someone was too lazy to go through the hiring process. None of these are a recipe for management success. So how can organizations improve the odds of success for their management team? Let’s look at two scenarios, 1. before promotion and 2. after the fact

  1. Before Promoting to Management

Does your organization have a good management, leadership training, or mentoring program? No? Get one. If budgeting and staffing are an issue, then you may find one outside the organization that fits your needs. Here are some elements to look for…

  1. Do the topics meet the management level you require? For example, beginner intermediate, or advanced.
  2. Does the curriculum fit your strategic business goals? Do the topics meet the business acumen needed to achieve your future vision?
  3. Does the program provide any follow-up? Does it at least provide a series of courses so that the participants can practice new skills and receive feedback?
  4. Does the program offer an optional six-month to year coaching program? This can take the place of a mentoring program freeing up your current management/leadership team while allowing collaborative and real-time learning with that team during coaching.

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