A failure of leadership

I’m not even sure where to begin.  Maybe, like my friend did with the story below, I will start at the end, with the lesson.

Good employees don’t just leave bad managers. Good employees leave when ineffective managers can’t handle or resolve conflict, nor stop an employee when their destructive behavior impacts the team.

Here we go…

A good friend recently took a new job.  I knew he wasn’t entirely happy at his old job, but I had no idea how miserable the work environment had become until tonight.  After a 2-1/2 hour Skype call, I had a better idea.

As my friend (we’ll call him Peter) started relaying the story, he said, “I’m going to give you the last page of the book first.  My boss failed me.  I actually think she failed the company as well.  There were things going on that she had the authority and responsibility to fix, but she didn’t.”

So I asked, “what was going on?”

Peter had hired a new person (we’ll call him Daniel) for his team who was highly intelligent and articulate, but came with some “communication issues” according to his old boss.  Peter was impressed by Daniel’s desire and drive, so he hired him.

Not too long after, Daniel’s communication issues came to light.  What Daniel’s old boss really meant to say was that Daniel was a manipulator and tended to pit people against each other for his own gain.  Not good.

About a year after Daniel was hired, a position opened up that would be a promotion for Daniel and would make him a peer with Peter.  Daniel and Peter talked about it, and Peter didn’t feel Daniel was ready and told him so. Peter explained that to be ready for the promotion, Daniel would need more experience in certain areas of the job, but Peter was committed to putting Daniel on a path to get there. Daniel was okay with that.  Or so it seemed.

Then, Daniel gets the promotion anyway without Peter’s knowledge. Peter later learned that Daniel had an offer letter for a job from another company, and while he can’t prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, he believed Daniel used that letter as leverage with Alicia (Peter’s boss) to force the issue. No other explanation was given, so that’s where it sat.

And this was just the beginning.

Daniel then started complaining to Peter (and everyone else) about the way Peter’s staff was treating him. His accusations were just believable enough at first that Peter took action and addressed his employees.  After a few (too many) times of this, Peter saw the pattern and stopped believing Daniel.  Daniel would also talk poorly about Peter to Peter’s staff and others, while continuing to play on people’s perception of what he said.  He would slightly alter his delivery or the emphasis of a message so that it left a lot open to interpretation.  When confronted about causing tension due to mixed messages he would skirt responsibility by saying, “that’s their perception, but it’s not what I intended.”

Then he would shrug his shoulders as if to say, “sorry, not sorry.”

And so it went on.  The trouble, Peter said, was that neither he nor Alicia saw Daniel for what he was right away.  It wasn’t until they started connecting the dots of various conversations and accounts that they realized just how much trouble and drama Daniel was causing.

Peter and Alicia both agreed something had to be done.  Peter didn’t shy away from the fact that he likely contributed to the situation by not recognizing what Daniel was doing and also by playing into it to some extent.  But the fix had to come from Alicia.  She oversaw both of them and it was time for her to make things right.

But she didn’t.  She allowed Daniel to continue with his antics to the point that Peter just couldn’t take it anymore, so he found another job.  Daniel still works there.

And this is what we mean when we say that good employees leave because of the inability of leaders to manage conflict, or to stop destructive behavior.  Alicia chose to look the other way and NOT address Daniel’s manipulation.

If we dig a little deeper, we might not be too surprised by Alicia’s actions.  According to Peter, she consistently avoided conflict and even reacted with nervous laughter anytime situations got remotely tense.  She also seemed to lack the confidence to stand her ground which led to waffling of opinions.  She would also then get defensive when questioned or challenged.

And by Alicia’s own admission, she rarely saw her boss.  Their biweekly one-on-one meeting was often cancelled and when it wasn’t, her boss was “on his phone” during a majority of the meeting.  To me, this is another failure of leadership, as he wasn’t engaged enough in Alicia’s performance to address her weaknesses and help her develop.

And because of that, Peter left.  But Peter wasn’t the only one.  Out of a 7 person team, 6 people have left or are leaving. Daniel is still there.

Should we be worried when good people leave?  Of course.  What this also shows us is that this can be a double whammy.  Ignore the bad behavior, and that’s all you’ll be left with.

If there is conflict on your team, you have to deal with it.  You might not resolve it 100% the first time you address it, but you have to take the first step.

If you don’t know how to deal with the conflict, the first step is to get help.  I’d be happy to assist, so contact me anytime so we can make sure this blog post doesn’t turn into your biography.

Thanks for reading!

Performance Optimist Consulting

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

I know you REALLY don’t want your employees to burnout this season.  If only there was something that could be done… oh wait…

Time management versus adding staff

I’ve recently started working with a new client, and have been conducting “discovery” calls with some of their management team members to assess their challenges and how I can best help.

Out of the 7 people I spoke to, all but one mentioned the same challenge. Time.

Time in the day to balance all of their tasks.  Somedays it would be great to have another “me”, they said.

I’m sure we’ve all been there, but what struck me was the consistency of this feedback among the people I spoke to.  6 out of 7.  Too much to do and not enough time. And they said that this was one of the things they all complained about when they got together, so it goes deeper than just this 6.  Hmmm…

So as I am hearing this I am noticing a trend.  This isn’t just one person that is feeling overwhelmed, it’s looking like the majority.  So my curiosity is piqued.

Do they need better time or action management skills, or is it time to expand the staff?  How do you know?

No, I’m asking.  How do YOU know?  We’re all trying to do more with less, but when does that reach the point where you are no longer effective because the demands of the job become unreasonable?  What measures do you look at to determine if spending more time or money up front would actually SAVE you money or allow you to MAKE more money as a result?

How many of you have felt this way… you’re just glad you made it through the day and that the facility didn’t burn down?  Many of us consider ourselves firefighters, putting out one fire as you wait for another one to flare up. We tolerate lower guest service levels because we just don’t have the time, staff tor resources to properly train and coach our frontline employees.  Something has to give. Budgets?  Nope.  Ordering supplies? Nope. Dealing with angry guests? No, but…

Couldn’t we reduce the number of angry guests if we had more time to train and coach our frontline employees?  And don’t angry guests impact our reviews which drive repeat and new visitors?

I think this is where we get into a bit of a catch-22. You know, “a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.”

Are we not CAUSING the angry guests (or at least lack-luster service) in some cases because we have cut our staff or training budget?

Speaking of your staff, have you noticed that they need and crave more of our time than ever? This is not a condemnation of the younger generation, it’s a fact across all levels of employees.  Yet, with tighter budgets and fewer resources, many managers find themselves with less and less time to spend with their team, having to dedicate a huge chunk of their day to meetings and admin work.  When I talk to people about coaching their employees, they are all for it, but then ask, “when am I supposed to do that?  I barely have time to walk by and say hi, let alone spend time actually observing their performance.”

I’ve always said that eventually we would hit a tipping point… where the more-with-less mantra would cease to be effective because employee performance would dip to the point of unacceptable.  Funny thing is, in many areas it has (how many times have YOU complained about the state of customer service today?), but no one wants to blame the more-with-less initiatives.  It’s got to be the employees fault, right?

If I had a nickel for every time a manager complained to me about their employees not interacting with guests, I’d need a few semi trailers to hold all those coins.  Here’s the catch-22.  So much of our training has either gone online, on a mobile device, or we’ve cut back the hours because we don’t think our employees have the attention span. So when are we teaching them guest service and interaction skills?  Oh right, their manager is supposed to teach them when they get to their jobs but wait, they’re in a meeting or putting out another fire.

SOAPBOX MOMENT: Regarding shorter training times… if someone is falling asleep in your session or it appears their mind is wandering, it couldn’t be because you’re delivering the material in a lackluster, boring way, could it?  No, it has to be their nano-second attention span.  If they aren’t engaging, change up what you are doing so they WILL engage.  Getting through it faster won’t help.

This is precisely why I made the decision to not make the Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training program available as an app or an online course.  To learn to lead you have to get in there, mix it up, talk to people, make some mistakes, put your ideas out there…. and this takes TIME!  Leadership is a full contact sport… one that you cannot learn by looking at your phone. But I digress…

So I’ll get back to the original question… how do YOU know when it’s appropriate to polish up your time management skills or add more staff or resources?  Would love to hear your comments below!

Thanks for reading!!

www.performanceoptimist.com

No catch-22 here! :o)