Archive for the 'Staff Retention' Category


No-Compromise Leadership Choices Drive Consistency

consistencyNo-compromise leadership = Consistency across all four business outcomes (Productivity, Profitability, Staff Retention and Customer Loyalty). It’s such a simple equation. Yet, within its simplicity is a profound message to all who lead, or seek to lead others. The rich word for me here is consistency. Consistency is perhaps the most challenging aspect of no-compromise leadership to comprehend and live because how one leads is influenced by the leader’s collective abilities, beliefs, behavior styles, perceptions and life experiences.

How long your voyage to no-compromise leadership will take depends on current behavior patterns. Some people are natural achievers while others are procrastinators. There are those who obsess over every minor detail in their quest for perfection. In leadership positions they can bog things down by micro-managing everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those who hate the details and do all they can to avoid them. In leadership positions, they can wreak havoc by communicating in such broad brush stokes that the outcomes they desire are vague and open to broad interpretation … if achieved at all. For a company’s performance and culture to be consistent, its leader must be a model of consistency. This is non-negotiable. It is one’s commitment and ability to be consistent that defines the no-compromise leader.

No-compromise thinking is like an internal compass that guides your leadership behavior in the right direction. No matter which direction you face, it points toward leadership consistency.

By connecting “consistency” to the four business outcomes, it defines a leadership mission of the highest order. Consider the equation as the first line of your job description. Now, take it a step further and consider it the first line of any job description in your company. What would the performance of your company look like if everyone were held accountable for creating and maintaining consistency across the four business outcomes?

So, what does living no-compromise leadership look and feel like? I would have to say it’s the sum of all no-compromise moments, choices, actions, communications and decisions. Given this, how does a leader seeking to practice no-compromise leadership behave? No-compromise leadership is more than just a philosophy or cool business battle cry. It’s stepping outside your comfort zone, looking within for possible motivators and blind spots, and analyzing why a certain decision, course of action, or behavior is chosen. Something as simple as how you conduct your day-to-day time management of what you intend to do, versus what actually gets done, contains a whole host of no-compromise moments and chosen behaviors ranging from high achievement to total procrastination.

Consider the following situations:

  • You’re in your office working on a project with a deadline that impacts the entire company. A team member enters with a pressing issue he wants to discuss. How do you determine the right no-compromise leadership choice in this situation? How do you process the situation to make the best no-compromise decision? Is it a compromise if you stop working on that critical project to address another seemingly pressing issue? Is it a compromise to turn the team member away? The no-compromise leadership way would be to say, “I want to give my undivided attention to your issue. Can we meet at 8:00am tomorrow morning?”
  • You discover that one of your managers has been fudging some reports. It’s the 26th of the month and the team really wants to hit goal. A serious bonus payout is on the line. What would the no-compromise leader do in this situation? A decision to compromise and accept the fudged numbers opens up serious issues of integrity, trust and the consequences that go with that decision. The no-compromise decision to expose the fudged reports is the right decision, even if the consequences are unpleasant.
  • A high school principal witnesses a star football player skipping school the day before the big game. Knowing that any disciplinary action would have tremendous impact on the team, the school and the popularity of this leader – what would the no-compromise leader do? He must do as Coach Carter did at Richmond High School when his basketball players failed to uphold their signed contracts to attend class and maintain grades. Carter banned all basketball activities. The no-compromise principal must take disciplinary action – even if it means losing the big game.
  • A doctor makes a decision to write a prescription for a patient, influenced heavily by the kickback from the drug company and not the needs of the patient. Was the doctor following his internal no-compromise compass? Clearly not. The doctor had the opportunity to make the right choice, but a decision to compromise was made instead. If this doctor is the leader of the medical practice, his decision to compromise for a monetary kickback set a new acceptable behavior pattern for all to follow. He contaminated his company’s culture.
  • A waitress in a restaurant decides to pocket a $10 bill from a customer, in a business that pools tips, because the customer was very demanding and difficult. The waitress felt “entitled” to take the money, but her entitlement thinking guided her into making a decision that compromised one of the core teamwork policies of the restaurant. Her chosen behavior shifted from “we, us, team, the company,” to, “I/me.” The decision took no more than a nano-second to make, but the contamination to the team culture created a breech of trust that will linger for a long time.

The antonym of consistency is inconsistency. From a leadership standpoint, the quest for either begins with a choice. To incorporate No-Compromise Leadership into your daily leadership life, you have to make a choice between no-compromise and compromise – between striving for consistency or allowing and accepting inconsistency.

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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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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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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click below to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They will appreciate it.

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