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Friday, October 23, 2009

Sometimes it takes a 2x4

I'm sure you've experienced it. Maybe you're a straight-forward person -- not too hard, not too easy. You let your team know of an update in procedures for your office. This change is critical and must be implemented every time without fail. You give them plenty of warning, walked through the procedures step-by-step, and ensured they all know what to do. They agree.

Then, because you're such a competent boss, you check back in a few days to make sure the new procedures are being followed. Pretty much, all your staff are towing the line. There's one person who is not following the guidance, though.

You let the errant team member know that this procedure is critical and he'd better get on board with everyone else. There is agreement and you go off to work on something else. Then it happens again, maybe a couple more times.

You don't get it. Everyone else is following the rules. You've been very clear. What's it going to take to get your "rebel" on board?

In a group, there are some people who only need to see a look of displeasure on your face and they self-correct. I love people like that. Then there's the rest of the group who pretty much do as their instructed and allow themselves to be corrected, as necessary. Sometimes you just have one or two people who just won't follow the rules for whatever reason. They need different oversight.

Sometimes you just need to smack them in the forehead with a 2x4 (not literally, of course). As much as you hate to do it, it's time to get serious. Maybe you raise your voice; perhaps you warn of ramifications; you follow up the conversation with documentation. For whatever reason, some people just don't respond unless they get a smack between the eyes.

The thing is that, in order to be fair to those who doing their jobs, you have to ensure all your team are held to the same standard. That means that you sometimes have to interact with people differently, even when it comes to discipline. What you can't afford to do is ignore the won't go away on it's own and might even get worse. Plus, the rest of your team will know the other person isn't pulling his own weight.

Do you know any people like I'm referring to? Do you have people on your team who only respond to the 2x4? What do you do to help realign them?

Guidance without Substance

I heard a story once that a junior manager came to his boss and said, "Business is bad, as you know. Morale is suffering and I've tried everything to motivate my team, but nothing seems to help."

The boss came back with, "the measure of a leader is not being able to motivate their employees when things are going well, but to motivate their people when times are tough." The junior manager, considering himself a strong leader and wanting to impress the boss, said "you're right. I'll work on that." The conversation ended and the junior manager went on his way.

As I think back on this story, it seems like the guidance provided was accurate, but there was no substance. It sounds like the boss really didn't have a good response for the manager so just came up with a "surface" answer. How about providing some pointers on how to motivate folks during tough times? How about training the junior manager (and perhaps other managers in the same boat) on what to do and say as well as how to say it?

Bottom line: Bosses need to provide guidance that is not only sound, but is applicable. If training is needed to go with it, then the training should be provided. That's what bosses are for.