Archive for the 'Leadership' Category


How To Keep Long-Term Staff Engaged

motivationEmployee turnover is the age-old nemesis for all business owners. Recruiting, the hiring process, training and skill development are time consuming and costly. The real wildcard in the recruitment process is hoping that the new hires will adapt and fit into the company’s unique culture. At the other end of the spectrum are your long-term staff members. These employees have been with you through the good times and the not so good times. They’ve seen you at your best and, most certainly, they have seen you at your worst. They know the game, get their work done and represent the heart and soul of your company.

Like any long-term relationship, long-term staff members can present a unique set of potential challenges for leaders. At the top of the list is resistance to change. Because senior staff members typically require less oversight, they tend to settle into their routines and their own modified methods of getting their work done … better known as settling into their comfort zones. Once their comfort zones are furnished and landscaped to their liking, very often, even minor changes to workflow, work schedules or the introduction of new systems, is met with resistance.

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies to keep your long-term staff members engaged, adaptable and in the game of growing the company:

  • The “Drift Factor”: Long-term staff know every nuance, nook and cranny of the business they work in. They know your leadership patterns and what they can and can’t get away with. Their performance and behavior can easily and gradually drift outside of acceptable norms therefore establishing a double standard when it comes to adhering to systems, company procedures and rules that other staff are held accountable to. When drift occurs with long-term staff, the company culture is compromised. GOTTA DO: Because long-term staff are natural mentors, leaders must monitor and address drift quickly. In most cases, the drift is not intentional. The longer a leader waits to address performance and behavioral drift issues, the more embedded the drift becomes.
  • Long-term employees are not “maintenance free”: Long-term staff are not like “Old Faithful” that always spouts right on cue. The predictability of long-term staff makes it so easy for leaders to focus attention on developing new staff and other projects while unintentionally ignoring their most productive team members. It is not uncommon for long-term staff to feel under appreciated and their contribution taken for granted. GOTTA DO: Long-term employees require some time and attention to stay engaged and on their game. Like all employees, they need periodic performance reviews. They thrive on receiving kudos for jobs well done. Some like being included in the planning of change initiatives. Most of all, they need to feel respected and appreciated. A little TLC maintenance will go a long way.
  • Adhering to a higher standard: Long-term staff are a natural quality control system that keeps the bar set high for younger staff. They have the experience and knowledge to mentor and inspire. When long-term staff evolve into change resistors, pot-stirrers or simply become indifferent to the company and its vision, they can do serious damage to moral and the company culture. GOTTA DO: Long-term employees must be held to the highest standards of performance and behavior. They are your company’s elite … your best. They are also your highest paid employees. GOTTA DO: Relentlessly communicate, reinforce and hold long-term staff to the highest standard of performance and behavior to the point where they honor and respect their role in the company hierarchy.
  • Expectations and absolute clarity: Because they are long-term employees, the expectations for all aspects of their work and position in the company should be communicated with absolute clarity. Absolute clarity eliminates the wiggle room and “but I thought” stuff that gets in the way of progress. GOTTA DO: Clarified expectations and absolute clarity keeps the long-term staff focused, results-driven, committed and disciplined. Disciplined is not a dirty word or something overly restrictive. It is simply a commitment to doing it to the best of one’s ability.
  • Mentors must change first: Just as leaders must be the change they want to see in their companies, long-term employees must be the first to embrace change. Again, when the drift factor sets in, long-term staff become the change resistors and roadblocks to growth. And when they drift too far, pulling them back in can be a drama-filled and ugly process. GOTTA DO: It is the leader’s responsibility to keep long-term staff engaged and committed to the goals and vision of the company. Have them participate in planning new initiatives, hiring new staff and creating new systems. The more you keep them at the forefront of change, the faster they adapt and lead others.
  • Reality of life and work: Just as youth, drive and determination is the essence of career growth and climbing the success ladder … years of great service, time and age are part of the lifecycle for all of us. There comes a time when slowing down and cutting back is unavoidable. There are no easy answers when today’s productivity is no comparison to one’s best years. GOTTA DO: No one wants to be told, or admit, that their best years are behind them. It’s even harder when a long-term employee’s current rate of pay, isn’t buying the company the level of performance it once did. In business as in sports, great players hang on as long as they can. For leaders, honor the contribution and years of service for long-term employees as long as you can, but sooner or later, all employees and all leaders need to step aside to make room for the next generation.

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Ten Must-Do’s To Eliminate Owner Stress

stress_chainThere are many reasons we entrepreneurs decide to set out on our own and start our own companies. We are driven by a vision to build something special and create our own destinies. We do it to create growth opportunities for ourselves and for those that choose to follow us and believe in our vision. Of course we do it for a financial reward and return on investment. We are willing to assume financial risks in the form of debt and obligations that require our signature to personally guaranty that, no matter what, all will be paid in full. We are the visionaries, the dreamers … the relentlessly passionate ones crazy enough to try and beat the odds of building a successful company.

Of all the reasons we start our own companies, one that is not on the list is to be stressed out. As we all know, there are times when the stress of ownership can be overwhelming and debilitating. There is the stress of making both big and tough decisions. There is the financial stress of paying bills, meeting payroll, making loan payments and being current on taxes. There is that crushing stress of debt that gets out of control. And then there’s the stress of leading and managing people. Heck … you’re probably getting stressed just reading about the things that get you stressed out.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize ownership stress – if you’re willing to practice very specific No-Compromise Leadership disciplines.

Here are my ten life-tested must-do’s to avoid and eliminate stress:

  1. Never use square pegs for round holes: Of course you’re going to be stressed if trying to use square pegs that don’t have a chance of fitting your company’s round holes. Square pegs come in the form of potential new hires that don’t fit your company’s culture. This also includes senior staff members whose performance, attitude and resistance to change have fallen out of alignment with your company’s culture, values, teamwork and standards. If you’re getting some “red flags” during the interview process, it’s mostly likely from the square edges on the prospective hire’s peg. Avoid the potential stress and don’t hire. If senior staff members are not performing and behaving in ways that support and mentor younger team players, thoroughly address it early to avoid the stress later.
  2. If it’s broken now… fix it now: If a system or approach to doing business isn’t giving you the results you need and want, then it’s broken and needs fixing now. No-Compromise Leaders know that nothing in business ever fixes itself. It just gets progressively worse … and progressively more stressful. This means that the stress of something not working will only become more stressful if you don’t address and fix it now. Fear of change and what may happen feeds stress. Procrastination feeds stress. Fix it now, is about accomplishment … and when you accomplish things, you are less stressed.
  3. There are 100 pennies in a dollar: If you keep spending more pennies than there are in a dollar, you’re going to bring on your own financial crisis. Borrowing more money to offset a pattern of losing money is like bringing in heavy equipment to dig a deeper financial hole. Using credit cards to finance operations, or getting behind in taxes, is what I call digging your own grand canyon of debt. Cash-flow plans and budgets are non-negotiable financial disciplines in business. If you don’t like this level of discipline, then enjoy the financial stress of mounting losses and debt. So much of the financial stress we see in business coaching is the result of avoiding financial disciplines.
  4. Cash reserves keep you calm and patient: Part of the cash-flow planning and financial discipline process is building your company’s cash reserve. Like all forms of saving money, it takes time and commitment to put cash aside in a separate bank account. Cash that accumulates in your operating checking account is going to get spent. Stash cash away in a company savings or money market account so it’s not easy to get to. I always refer to cash reserves as stress-relieving “sleep good at night money.” I’d rather have the stress of hitting our revenue goals to create profit and cash reserves than the stress of making money to cover this week’s payroll.
  5. Your company will change with or without you: Leaders are all about leading change … except when it comes to the leader’s ability to anticipate and respond to change. Leaders can be stubborn and inflexible, even when their companies are screaming for change. The sobering reality is that change will occur with or without the leader’s involvement. Staff discontent intensifies when leaders avoid, procrastinate or outright refuse to change. Sometimes leaders “check out” and stop paying attention to what’s really happening. Leaders always want their companies to change … but that change process cannot begin if the leader does not change first. Look in the mirror and have a fierce conversation with yourself about what you need to own in what’s not working in your company. A lot of stress can be eliminated if you work on changing yourself first.
  6. You can’t make everyone happy: Every business needs structure, systems, accountability and the ability to change and adapt to the needs within it as well as the world around it. As much as leaders and employees recognize the importance of “embracing change” … change can trigger resistance and push back. Change happens because the company needs to adjust, fix a problem or get better. As the leader, you cannot avoid or delay implementing change because the change is going to confront resistance and rock the boat. That’s stressful. It is your responsibility to communicate the why, what and how of change to help others understand. Most will. Some will not. You can’t stress over those that prefer yesterday over a better tomorrow.
  7. Share the load: One of my favorite Neilism’s is, “If I can’t sleep at night – no one sleeps at night.” Yes, the ultimate responsibility of the company rests on your shoulders … but that doesn’t mean you have to carry the entire workload of getting work done. The more responsibilities you share with those around you, the more capable and empowered they become … leaving you to focus on the more important leadership priorities and tasks. Let go of some of the control and you’ll help those around you grow. Being the orchestra leader is a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to play all the instruments at the same time. Share control. Be less stressed.
  8. Decide rather than obsess: Yes, there will always be those tough decisions to make where the choices are complex and the results unknown. The longer you obsess over making a decision, the more stressed you become. Weigh your options and probable outcomes. One of those funky choices will always have a slightly better chance of succeeding than the others. That’s the one you pick. Don’t pick the easier choice over the better, yet more difficult, choice. More often than not, the easier choice lacks the horsepower to accomplish the task. Pick, and run with, the best choice. Put everything you have into making it succeed. Obsessing feeds stress. Getting the work done eliminates stress.
  9. See something … say something: This isn’t just a saying for Homeland Security; it’s what leaders that pay attention do. Every leader sees stuff in their company that drives them crazy. The more stuff you see … the more stressed you get until you blurt out something like, “Why can’t they just do their jobs.” If you see something in your company that’s not right … address it respectfully and thoroughly. I’m not suggesting that you pounce on everything, I’m suggesting that you be both aware and present enough to engage in the perpetual process of inspect and correct. Even more powerful is to instill the “see something … say something” behavior into your company culture. The more eyes that identify issues and potential problems, the better the execution of work. I’d rather be stressed over the process of improvement than being stressed watching the same problems occur over and over again.
  10. Knives need to be sharpened … so do leaders: Leadership and clarity are inseparable. However, the deeper leaders get into their work, the more they lose that higher level of clarity on how all the moving parts interact to move the company forward. A business coach keeps you focused. A business coach helps you see what your eyes can’t. A business coach helps you understand your options so you can make the best decisions. A business coach holds you accountable. I hope you consider using a Strategies Coach to keep you and your leadership skills sharp. Here’s a link to learn more:

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How to “Dial-In” Your Business Performance

airplane_cabin2You have expectations for how your business performs. You want to maintain an optimal productivity rate while delivering extraordinary customer service. You want a great culture that inspires your team to go above and beyond. You want predictable revenue growth, a manageable payroll, controlled expenses, a cash reserve … and a respectable net profit. Most of all, you want to enjoy being the leader of your own company and not be stressed out putting out fires, dealing with problem employees and struggling to pay bills.

The difference between achieving your performance expectations and being stressed out and struggling is the attention you give to “dialing in” the operational functions of your business. “Dialing in” means finding that optimal setting that achieves the desired performance. Think of leading your business like being at the control panel of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There are multiple data screens, throttles, flight controls, dials, switches, levers and gauges. Each one needs to be set just right for takeoff, cruising altitude and landing. However, like in business, there are variables like wind speed, wind direction, temperature, the weight of the plane with passengers, baggage, cargo, fuel and more … that require a host of settings to be dialed in for current and future conditions.

Here are six strategies to help you keep your business dialed in for optimal performance:

  1. No autopilot in business: The one function that a 787 Dreamliner has that your business never will is an autopilot. There never will be a “set it and forget it” switch in business. Yet, more businesses get into trouble because their leaders weren’t paying attention to the readouts on their control panels. A business on autopilot is the equivalent of putting out the welcome mat for a cash crisis, quality issues, low productivity, waste and staff turnover. It sounds like, “How was this happening and I didn’t see it coming?” Well, it happened because you, the leader, weren’t paying attention to, and dialing in, your company’s control panel. In business, it doesn’t take long to go from flying high to crisis. So … stop pretending that your business has an autopilot. It doesn’t.
  2. No pilot license if you don’t know how to fly: Anyone can start a business. Not everyone can lead and grow a business. As a passenger on a commercial aircraft, my expectation is that the pilot and co-pilot are fully qualified to fly. In contrast, too many business owners lack the financial and leadership skills to run a company. That’s why eight of ten business startups fail. No one would fly if eight out ten flights crashed. Leaders MUST know the functionality of each and every gauge, switch, dial and lever on their company’s control panel. The less you know about how to dial-in your control panel … the more exposed and vulnerable you are to experiencing the ugly side of business.
  3. No pick and choose: Remember, as leader, your primary responsibility is to keep your company’s control panel dialed in. In my many years of coaching leaders, the most common problem I see is how leaders get comfortable working only a few settings on their control panel and avoid the settings they don’t understand or fear. It sounds like, “Hey, I played with that setting once and almost had a walk-out.” There are certain settings on your control panel that represent those “tough decisions” that every business must make when situations dictate. Procrastinating out of fear and uncertainty usually translates into having to make bigger and more drastic setting adjustments later. In almost every case, had incremental adjustments been made to keep the control panel dialed in to current reality, there would be less of a need to make drastic adjustments … and therefore less stress to adjust those settings you’re not overly fond of.
  4. Gotta have a flight plan: Growing a business is all about planning and goal setting. Every aspect of your plan and every goal requires different settings on your control panel to keep it dialed in. Is your control panel dialed in to address the hiring, training and development of new staff? Is it dialed in to meet the demands of the new service or product launch? Is it dialed in to achieve today’s goals in order to hit your monthly goals? Is it dialed in to meet your pre-book, productivity and client retention goals? Is it dialed in to manage expenses and create profit? Every aspect of achieving your company’s performance, operational growth and goal plan not only dictates the recommended settings on your control panel … it is a constant reminder that those recommended settings must be relentlessly tweaked and fine-tuned to keep it dialed in.
  5. The daily dial-in: So, you begin your day at your control panel. Is it dialed in to address current reality? If someone calls in sick, you need to dial-in different settings to compensate. If an employee quits, you need to reset and dial-in to compensate. If your team lost focus and fell off your game, you need to tweak the settings to get dialed in again. A major storm, broken water pipe, broken equipment, power outage and a host of other unforeseen disruptions all require you to adjust and dial in your control panel. There are forces constantly at work that interfere with your plans and goals. The daily dial-in is a non-negotiable business practice. Not doing the daily dial-in is like switching on your imaginary autopilot.
  6. Never a leaderless control panel: The intent of this control panel analogy is to establish the correlation between your role as a leader and the perpetual daily need to adjust your company’s systems, strategies, finances, information flow, resources and a host of other leadership disciplines to dial-in your best chances of achieving your performance expectations. Therefore, every second that your company’s control panel goes unattended … the dial-in process ceases … and outcomes are left to chance. It’s the exact same reason the use of handheld mobile phones while driving is prohibited. That split second your attention shifts away from the road to your phone can be deadly. Pay attention to your company’s control panel. Never allow it to go unattended for a second. No compromise!

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Deeper Perspectives on Being a Leader

deeper-perspectiveYou cannot be the leader you are capable of without overcoming your own insecurities, fears and blockages. Every leader has stuff behind the curtain that gets in the way and holds you back … stuff you’d prefer to leave behind the curtain. Some leaders have issues with confrontational situations. Some leaders absolutely hate the disciplines of budgeting and cash-flow management. Some leaders obsess over big decisions and make them too late, or never make them at all. Some leaders want people to “just do their jobs” without having to lead, manage, coach or evaluate them. Some leaders know that their company is stuck, but fear what can happen if they rock the boat. Some leaders are great at the visionary stuff and pretty much suck when it comes to execution. Chances are, you are one or more of the “some leaders” I just described.

There is nothing simple about being a leader. You don’t get a crystal ball that allows you to see the future … yet you need to predict the future. You don’t have unlimited cash reserves. You will not hit every goal. People will do dumb things … including you. People will amaze you and people will frustrate and disappoint you. You will earn trust and you will feel the pain when trust is broken. You will hire many of the right people and some of the wrong people. You will fire some people because their work and behavior could no longer be tolerated. Likewise, you will have to fire good people that just couldn’t do the work. You will feel elation in your victories and agony in your defeats. Like I said, there is nothing easy about being a leader.

So why do you want to be a leader? Why subject yourself to the agony and ecstasy of leadership? As an entrepreneur, why risk everything for a vision, an idea, that has more question marks than answers? Why deal with the stress and frustration of leading people to something that many will never want as bad as you?

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership perspectives on why leaders want to be leaders:

  • Self-actualization: I always wanted to be a leader and run my own company. It was something inside me that needed to come out. At age 65, I can say, “I did it.” I found my leadership voice. I figured a lot of the leadership puzzle out because that’s all that leadership is … a puzzle of thinking and behaviors. I love the journey of discovery. I love growing as a leader and businessman. And at 65, I haven’t had my fill yet. I have more to do and much more to give back. Perspective: Leadership self-actualization is the pursuit of discovering who you are and what you are made of. If you hesitate in the least, you didn’t want it bad enough.
  • More than money: For me, money and profit is simply a measurement of how hard I work and how good I am as a leader. Don’t get me wrong, I love what money allows me to do and have, but the money is an outcome that is earned. Perspective: To me, there’s something unsettling about “doing it for the money.” Building something special that others want to be part of is what inspires great leaders. Do that to the best of your ability and the money will come. Just be disciplined with money or you’ll squander it.
  • Camaraderie and team: Even though I could be quite successful on my own just doing seminars, keynotes, coaching and writing, I never really liked working alone. I thrive when immersed in the energy and culture of other like-minded people on the same quest. I like making and creating opportunities for others to test themselves and grow. Perspective: To build something greater than yourself, you need to share your vision with others. You need to be confident enough to allow those you trust to be responsible for elements of your vision. That’s the only way to build it bigger and faster than working alone. Share the successes, victories, defeats and lessons with others because that’s what makes leadership so fulfilling.
  • You never know unless you try: I followed my calling. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I chased, pursued and clawed my way to where I am. I took some big risks. A few of those risks blew up and taught me valuable lessons. But some of those risks gave me the career that I once just imagined. I purposefully put myself into uncomfortable situations that would make me better at my work and a better leader. Perspective: There are no entitlements in leadership. You fight for and earn every win. You get used to keeping yourself uncomfortable, pushing yourself and testing yourself. If you think you’re “entitled” just because you have the title of leader … all you have is a title.
  • Nothing else compares: I wouldn’t trade being a leader and entrepreneur for anything. Nurturing new talent and seeing people learn, develop and grow is the special gift of leadership. Seeing your company grow and prosper and work through its challenges is the special gift of leadership. Seeing yourself mature as a leader is the special gift of leadership. Seeing your team rally behind and embrace your vision to lift it to places you could not have achieved alone … IS the special gift of leadership. Perspective: Give leadership all you’ve got and you’ll never … ever … regret it.
    No Compromise!

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Dynamics of Productivity Rate





When You Want It Bad Enough

Yes_I_canEverything changes when you want it bad enough. It doesn’t matter if it’s advancing in your career, starting and growing your own business, achieving a once unthinkable goal, or mastering new skills and abilities. When you want it bad enough, it exists with absolute clarity in your mind. When you want it bad enough, the path reveals itself. And when the path is uncertain or brutally challenging, you push forward because lowering your expectations … and quitting … is not an option.

I started Strategies 22 years ago with nothing but a credit card, a couple of computers, the ability to effectively write and speak about business concepts, and an unrelenting desire to teach others about leadership and what it truly takes to grow a profitable company. For the two years prior to Strategies, I became part owner of a commercial printing company. (Yes, it was an odd path for a former hairdresser and multi-salon owner.) I knew all about graphic design and pre-press, but very little about running the production floor of a printing company. My grand plan was to print Strategies magazine on my own presses. The short story is, that path became brutally challenging. Aging presses, broken machinery, a bad partnership and no cash required tough decisions before I lost everything.

On September 13, 1993, I founded Strategies and stepped up from a crushing two-year experience back onto the path where my passion truly thrives. The two years of stress and sleepless nights taught me many lessons about business and the process, timing and urgency of making tough decisions. Without those lessons, Strategies would never exist or experience its 22 years of successful training and coaching. And I would never have been able to write my No-Compromise Leadership book that was honored with the 2010 IPPY Award for Business and Leadership. It is also the primary reason that cash-flow planning is a non-negotiable part of Strategies coaching training. And for 22 years, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else than the work I do at Strategies.

When you want it bad enough, you do whatever it takes to achieve it. Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights on what happens when you want it bad enough:

  • Purpose driven: Everything you do has a singular purpose to move you closer to what you want. Because you are purpose driven, you filter out what doesn’t belong and focus on the work, tasks and endeavors that make you better. Your selectivity keeps you on a more direct course. You live by the rule that if it doesn’t fit what you want or what you want to become – don’t waste time on it.
  • It’s vividly evident: When you want it bad enough, your determination and commitment to your goal is vividly evident to those around you. It’s clear that you’re not dabbling, just hanging out or satisfied with where you are. Your focus, determination and seriousness is something you wear proudly every day … so much so that it earns the respect of those around you. Simply put, you are a strength to be reckoned with. You get results. You get noticed. You get recognized. You get rewarded. You make progress.
  • The leader inside: No-compromise leaders embody the vision of a company. When you want it bad enough, you are forging new ground. You are taking the lead. You become a natural leader that others what to follow. More importantly, your followers will stand by you when the going gets tough. They believe in you because you believe steadfastly in yourself and what you want.
  • Success is not a solo act: For you, it’s not just about getting what you want. Why? Because rarely, if ever, can you get what you want by doing it yourself. You need mentors. You need a support network. In a company, you need a dedicated leadership team and employees that want to be part of something special. If you win … everyone wins. If you win … you make it their win too.
  • Tough decisions don’t linger: When you want it bad enough and hit a roadblock, you know it’s time to make the tough decisions. Those that don’t want it bad enough keep staring and obsessing over the roadblock – or simply pretend it isn’t there. They remain stuck in indecision until things get really bad and they finally throw in the towel. What they feared most they allowed to happen. When you want it bad enough, you assess the situation, measure your options and make the tough decisions – even if those decisions are unpopular and require sacrifice. When you want it bad enough … you do your job.
  • You are not infallible: No matter how bad you want it, you are fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You will make mistakes, but you will own them and learn from them. You will get too wrapped up in your quest and forget just how much others depend on you for support. You will charge off into the unknown without thinking it through and smack into a wall. You forget to acknowledge and show appreciation for the great work others do. You will hold on to control and stifle team members when letting go of control is the prerequisite to empowering others. When you accept that you are not infallible, you will learn and grow … and achieve what you want.

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Making Peace with Performance Reviews

performance-reviewDo you do quarterly performance reviews at least once a year? That’s a line from my No-Compromise Leadership book that always gets an unsettled chuckle. Why? Because there’s something about conducting performance reviews that causes them to be avoided, conveniently forgotten or dreaded. For many leaders, the thought of scheduling performance reviews is the equivalent of sentencing themselves to hour after hour after hour in purgatory. If you regard once a year as bad enough … quarterly performance reviews are going to be pure torture. But no matter how you view the process, avoiding performance reviews is a massive leadership compromise.

All leaders want to have a dynamic, efficient and productive business with a culture dedicated to delivering relentless quality. They want engaged employees who believe in the vision and purpose of the business. And more than anything … they just want employees that do their job. But what leaders want, requires that leaders also do the most essential part of their job – to coach and inspire employees. Performance reviews are simply part of the work of leadership to bring out the best in those they lead.

Here are six No-Compromise Leadership strategies to make peace with performance reviews:

  1. It’s not about confrontation: A confrontation is a hostile or argumentative meeting between opposing parties. A confrontation means that both parties are prepared for battle with their shields up. “Shields up” is a defensive stance that makes communication and open dialog damn near impossible. It is the “confrontational” mislabeling of performance reviews that prevents them happening or happening well. Must do: Leaders must lower and put their shields away first. The process of reviewing an employee’s performance is just that … a review. That review will spotlight the good performance as well as performance that needs improvement. Keep your coaching hat on. There is no need for a battle helmet.
  2. It’s about managing expectations: Everything about business is about planning the work, doing the work and reviewing the outcome to do it better. This is done for the business as a whole, by department … and by employee. Must do: For employees, being scheduled for a performance review doesn’t usually mean having some one-on-one fun time with the boss. Managing expectations means giving employees clarity that the intent of the performance review is to have a check-in on what’s going well and what needs improvement … so everyone can get to a better place. Removing the fear and anxiety before the performance review makes the process more constructive, open and enlightening.
  3. It’s about keeping it safe: Because performance reviews can become emotional and stressful, they can turn confrontational when addressing certain performance and behavior issues. And yes, employees can have differing opinions of their work or why their performance was below par. It is the leader’s responsibility to keep the environment safe so both parties can achieve a positive conclusion. Must do: Stay in your coaching mode and remain respectful to avoid escalation. If the conversation becomes heated, cool it down with statements such as, “I know this is tough stuff to discuss. Lets work together to find a solution.” You can also ask the employee if he or she would like to take a five-minute break. Never attack. Never contribute to the escalation of tensions. Allow the employee to speak, and really listen. Ask questions to better understand the employee’s point of view.
  4. It’s about getting it all out: There will always be those performance reviews that need to focus on unacceptable performance and behavior. Depending on the severity of the issues, this is when the probability of confrontation is at its highest for the leader and the employee. To avoid the tough conversation, it’s easy to circle the issue and never address it. Must do: Waiting to address the tough stuff until a performance review is nothing more than avoidance and procrastination. Major performance and behavior issues must be addressed sooner rather then later. The more time that passes simply enables what you don’t like to continue. And the longer it continues, the more difficult it is to address. Performance reviews are more productive if the tough stuff has already been addressed. Don’t save the tough stuff for the next performance review. If there is tough stuff to address during a performance review, do not conclude the review without addressing it.
  5. It’s about solutions and next steps: A performance review that is all about what the employee needs to improve is the equivalent of handing an employee a report card. Every performance review should be solutions based and provide next steps to help the employee achieve his or her full potential. Must do: When an employee enters a performance review knowing that the company is committed to his or her success, performance reviews take on a new meaning and purpose beyond just addressing strengths and weaknesses. Asking a simple question like, “What can we do to help you?” elevates the nature of the performance review. Having prepared support, training and next steps for the employee is the coaching aspect of performance reviews. If you’re not prepared to offer solutions and next steps … you’re not prepared to conduct a performance review.
  6. It’s about performance … not pay: At Strategies, we teach and coach owners to separate the conversations regarding performance and pay. The moment “pay” injects itself into a performance review, it takes over and turns the performance review into a pay review. It adds stress and distraction to the process by having the “So … am I getting a raise?” as the only question that’s begging for an answer. Must do: There are performance reviews and pay reviews. They are never done at the same time in the meeting. A series of good performance reviews is just one indicator that it may be time to schedule a pay review. There are only two reasons to schedule a pay review. The first is to review the employee’s current pay rate and map out the expectations that must be met to earn a pay increase. The second is to give an employee a raise. All raises must be financially justifiable, affordable and entered into the company’s cash-flow plan/budget. The rule is cash flow first … payroll increases second.

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