Management Success Tip #56: Trouble Brewing? Investigate First, Take Action Second

There’s trouble brewing among your employees. You can feel it, the very air is crackling with unspoken tension.  Not to mention the mutterings around the water cooler, and the not-so-subtle innuendos that keep cropping up.

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Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most managers don’t want to get involved in employee-to-employee issues. They hope that it will all blow over soon enough, and as long as it doesn’t directly impact the work at hand, whatever the trouble is can be ignored. And certainly, that is sometimes true.

But other times, the mutterings aren’t going away, and you can sense that work, if not already suffering, will very soon.

What to do? Investigate first, take action second.

Before you come to any conclusions about what you think is going on, or  make any decisions as to what you will do about it, sit down one-on-one with whoever’s involved. Get their side of the story – direct from the source. Guarantee the employees you speak with that what they have to say will stay strictly confidential, and honor that confidentiality. Before you decide on a course of action, even one as simple as counseling one or all of the parties involved, make sure you’ve taken into account all aspects of the situation.

Often what you think you know is built on half-truths, partial evidence, and fleeting impressions. You’ll score with your employees when you take the time to get the whole truth of the matter, as complete evidence as possible, and don’t rely on fleeting impressions, but on solid, well-thought out solutions.

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Management Success Tip #55: Ask A Daring Question: “What Do You Think?”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You’re the boss, the department head, the supervisor, the manager. You know exactly what your employee’s problem is and you have the answer to it. The perfect answer. One you could implement in your sleep.

For example, your employee typically mis-files orders and revisions in project sleeves. “Color-code!” you bark. “Color-code orders and revised orders. It takes one second and makes life easier for everyone.” End of problem. Or so you think.

Yet your employee can’t seem to get it right; sometimes orders get color-coded and filed correctly, sometimes they don’t. Since he or she is an otherwise bright motivated employee, you don’t get it. What’s so complicated about doing what you said to do?

Nothing. Except you didn’t bother to take a moment to understand why the mis-filing was occurring nor did you ask your employee for input as to a solution. You just assumed that you knew what the problem was and imposed a solution. Your solution.

People don’t like having decisions that impact their lives imposed on them. People, if they are to cooperate with a decision, need to feel that they’ve had a hand in making that decision.

Next time there’s a problem, describe the problem to your employee: “Orders you write up get mis-filed regularly. This slows down production.” Then ask the daring question: “What do you think’s going on?” And whatever your employee says in response, ask: “I’d like us to figure out how to do this better. What do you think?” or “How do you think we should proceed?”

Now whatever solution is adopted, it will have much better chances of actually being implemented!

Management Success Tip #54: Terminate Employees With Gain, Not Pain!

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Terminating an employee is rarely fun for a manager. You’ve invested time, money and effort into this person, so letting them go comes literally with a price. That’s true even if the employee was a slacker, a troublemaker, or a gossip-monger.

If they were a slacker, troublemaker or gossip-monger, or just plain under or poorly performing, it can be mightily tempting to tell your almost-ex employee so in precise terms. Not necessarily very polite terms, either. Ah, but here’s the rub . . .

In today’s world of connected-everything, your terminated employee is likely to tweet, text, post to his or her Facebook wall, stumble, linked-in, youtube, blog and who knows what else their experience. Their negative, in their minds unwarranted, experience with you becomes shared knowledge among their many friends (real and virtual), only to be re-tweeted, etc., to an ever increasing galaxy of potential employees.

Yes, potential employees. Who might have been a very good fit for your company but who will now shun you for your perceived inability to behave appropriately toward your terminated employee.

You see, it’s not the termination that matters nearly as much as how you conducted yourself during the termination.

A few easy guidelines:

– Treat your outgoing employee with respect. No matter what you thought of their work, they are still a human being, deserving of respect.

– Do your best to answer their questions calmly and fully. If you don’t know the answer to a question (“What about my insurance?”), be sure you can provide a resource to answer the question.

– End on a positive note. Stress your appreciation for whatever positive qualities your employee brought to the job (you did hire them, after all!), and your confidence that they will improve the areas that didn’t make the grade. Wish them well, both in tone and manner as you send them off.

Management Success Tip #53: Wanna Get Ahead? Ask Your Employees in the Trenches for Solutions!

Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tungphoto FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may be the visionary–the head honcho of your business, department or Mom & Pop shop—the one who sets the pace, the goals and strategy for your success, but the people who know the real nitty-gritty of what goes on, are your employees in the trenches. It doesn’t matter if those trenches are the machine shop, the customer service call line, the assembly line, or the individual accounts, the employees who do the hands-on day to day are those who know best what goes wrong.

They are also often the best placed to know how to make it go right. This is a lesson Toyota learned many years ago (the 1950’s) and has continued to use to fashion its success through the many challenges the company has faced. Today, Toyota still uses an average of 9 ideas per employee per year! That’s huge!

When did you last ask a shipping-and-receiving clerk for his or her input? When did you actively go round to your retail sales staff and ask how they thought the customer experience might be improved?

Business owners are quick to ask for customer satisfaction surveys, and indeed, these have their place. But too often, we forget to ask the housekeeping staff, for example, at the hotel you manage, what they notice that would improve guest satisfaction. Yet housekeeping sees what goes on with guests on a daily basis, and when their ideas are respected and implemented, will surprise you with valuable insights. Or how about asking what housekeeping staff can come up with that would make their jobs easier, quicker, more efficient—without going over the hotel housekeeping budget?

The key is implementation and praise. When employee ideas are actively sought out, when employees are praised for their contributions and see their ideas implemented, employees are inspired to genuinely engage in the success of the company.

The result? More success—for you!