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Category Archives: Tough Situation Tools

A problem employee must be dealt with promptly

problem employeeIf you don’t deal with a problem employee swiftly and firmly, you run the risk that a few rotting leaves will ruin the whole salad.  Let me explain.

Bagged salad from the grocery store is simple and convenient, so I often purchase it as an easy way to add more greens to our meals.  But every so often, despite the “Best before” date, I see a few leaves beginning to brown through the cellophane wrap.  When I notice some of the edges browning, I have learned that it is wise to open the bag, remove the offending pieces, and store the remaining greens in an airtight container for the next couple of days.  Experience has taught me that if I leave the bag unopened, the few darkening bits turn the entire contents into one big slimy mess, and then nothing is salvageable.

If you don’t deal with your problem employee …

This everyday situation offers a lesson in how important it is for leaders to manage, without delay, the problem employee on their team.  If you observe any of your employees exhibiting poor performance or inappropriate workplace behaviour, it’s essential that you deal with them promptly and firmly.  Because if you leave these individuals unchecked, they will most certainly spread discord and negativity throughout your team simply by being present.  Even worse, your lack of decisive action with a problem employee will actually be demoralizing for the rest of your team.  The few rotting leaves will quickly turn the entire bag into a horrid place to work. Continue reading

Employee performance = ability X motivation

employee performanceI often address the issue of problem employees on the blog.  In the past, I’ve talked about the difference between performance, behaviour and attitude issues, the importance of articulating the problem, and the single most important question to ask yourself before you ever raise the issue with your employee. It’s always worth stepping back and taking a big picture perspective.   Let’s focus on what makes up employee performance, both good and bad.

Employee performance consists of two components

Employee performance is a function of two things – ability and motivation.

Performance = ability X motivation

Ability is the physical, intellectual or emotional capability of your employee to get the job done. Is your employee even able to do what is required in the job?

Motivation however has to do with desire and commitment. Does the employee WANT to do the job at the level and competence that is required?

Why should you care?

Why does this matter? Because you need to assess both factors when trying to get at the root cause of a performance problem. Someone who is highly motivated but at a reduced level of ability can often achieve above-average performance. Unfortunately the opposite is not always true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that motivation can overcome ANY lack of ability – the two are still necessary requirements for exceptional (or even adequate) employee performance. In my experience, you can operate tolerably at 50% ability, but anything less than 75% motivation will get you nowhere.

So what do you think? What are the minimum required levels of ability and motivation to have an adequately performing employee?

How to work with someone you don’t respect

When you have little professional respect for a client, a co-worker, an employee, or even your boss, it can be difficult to stay motivated and get things done.  But the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later, you will have to work with or for someone you don’t respect — people whom you may find difficult, distasteful or downright unbearable.  While it’s certainly easier to work alongside those you like, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can only do a good job if you respect your workmates. In fact, you can function effectively with (almost) anyone if you keep just a few things in mind.

It is possible!

How to work with someone you don’t respect is exactly the subject I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning.

How to work with almost everyone — even those you don’t respect

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B9.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2B9JDKz

The reality is that sometimes you’re just going to have to work with people you don’t like and respect – it’s all part of being an adult in the world of work.  You’ve read my suggestions.  What is your advice to handle these kinds of situations with poise and equanimity?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please share by adding your Comments below.

Separating true leaders from narcissists

NarcissistLast year, I was a featured expert in a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how one can function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  And certainly, if you follow American politics, there is a lot of conversation about whether a certain head of state is a prime example of a narcissist.  So it isn’t surprising that this topic continues to be front and centre in the news.  One question that often comes up in my leadership development practice is about how to separate leaders from narcissists, particularly during hiring, as the outcome of hiring one over the other can be enormous.  Ironically of course, on the surface, narcissists look suspiciously like leaders; it isn’t until later that the truth comes out.

Last week, CNN Business News put out an article titled How narcissistic CEOs put companies at risk, explaining how narcissist leaders create long-lasting negative consequences for their companies.  From a leadership perspective, a couple of points in particular caught my attention.   Continue reading

When facing difficult situations as a leader, think about the physics of flying a kite

difficult situationsI’ve previously blogged about how airplanes take off against the wind.  It seems counterintuitive … you would expect that it would be easier if the wind were coming from behind the aircraft, giving it a push. Yet in reality, it is easier for a pilot to take off when flying towards a full-force gale, rather than with it.  Well, turns out that the physics of flying a kite is actually similar to that of flying an airplane.

The science behind the flight of kites is not only interesting, but also offers a powerful lesson in leadership and an alternate perspective on dealing with the numerous difficult situations in which you face resistance, opposition, setbacks and delays in the things you are trying to accomplish.  There are four forces that counteract each other in order for flight to occur.  Lift and weight act vertically, and drag and thrust act horizontally.

As wind moves over the body of the kite, speed differences means that the air pressure above the kite is less than the pressure below, and as a result an upward force is created called lift.  At the same time, the downward gravitational force of weight pulls the kite towards the earth.  Thrust is the forward force that propels the kite in the direction of motion.  While an airplane generates thrust with its engines, a kite must rely on wind or failing that, running by the kite flyer.  Drag is the backward force that occurs due to the friction of the air movement.

What does it take to stay in the air?

Two things must happen for a kite to stay aloft.  Continue reading

Pressure can create both diamonds and dust

pressurepressureI’ve previously blogged about how the situations of adversity can lead to opportunities for growth and development – about how pearls begin life as irritants and frustrations, and about how incredibly high heat can turn a simple clay pot into exquisite porcelain.  But as quick as I am to point out the gains that can arise from difficulties, it is also worth noting that there can also be another, not so positive, outcome.  Pressure has the ability to create both diamonds and dust.

Which leader are you?

Which is also a great metaphor for how you can choose to deal with workplace pressure situations.  The reality of today’s workplace is that pressure is a common occurrence.  How you choose to cope with the pressure will determine whether you end up a diamonds or dust.  You can either look at it face on, as a positive, as an opportunity to prove to the world what you are capable of … ergo create diamonds.  Or you can hide and hope the problem will fade away (or someone else will deal with it) and become a victim of the situation … the metaphoric equivalent of dust.

As a leader, you will encounter a vast array of pressure situations.  Continue reading

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from mom!

Dealing with adversity is a subject that I often address in my blog posts.  Two that come to mind right away are A mental approach to coping with irritants and An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity.  Here is yet another thought on this subject.

Face your adversity head-on

personfacingsun

When you turn and face the sun, your shadow will always be behind you …

Said my mom to me on numerous occasions during both my childhood and adulthood.  Her point was that the best way to deal with a problem was to address it directly.  The unfortunate reality is that as long as I tried to keep evading the issue at hand, either by skirting around it or by avoiding it completely, the shadows would also linger, and eventually the outcome would be sub-optimal.  As usual, my mom was right.  And it turns out that my mom’s counsel is not bad advice for leaders either.

The leadership journey is fraught with minefields – unexpected setbacks, difficult clients and co-workers, or just simply situations where the best-laid plans go awry.  When things go wrong, it can be tempting to retreat, to search out cover, and get out of the line of fire.  At first glance, this may not be a bad idea, since withdrawal allows you to re-evaluate and reassess the state of affairs.  But while pausing to reflect may be appropriate for the short-term, it is definitely not a long-term solution.  Continue reading

Radio interview – preventing the boomer brain drain

boomer brain drainBracing for the boomer brain drain was the title of my regular column for The Globe and Mail that published on August 6.  In it, I outlined five strategies to retain crucial institutional knowledge (and prevent corporate amnesia).

It got a fair amount of interest and positive feedback, including a call from the folks at the More than Money radio show on 770 Newstalk CHQR.  Dave Popowich and Faisal Karmali host this weekly radio program that focuses on planning for retirement, lifestyle and everything in between.  They were interested in advice I could offer on how people contemplating retirement could pass on their knowledge before departing their organizations.

Transferring knowledge wealth at retirement

Here is the link to my segment in the podcast of their show on August 18; the entire segment lasts about 10 minutes.

https://omny.fm/shows/more-than-money/mtm-aug-17-seg-4

What advice do you have to offer to add to what I shared on the show?  Are you contemplating retirement and find yourself in a similar situation?  Or have you experienced a situation where this “ boomer brain drain” was not recognized, and key people left the organization with critical information about processes and relationships?  Please share your perspectives by adding a comment below.

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

As the last of the Boomers move through their 50’s and beyond, those who elect to take early retirement often take decades of tacit knowledge with them.  This boomer brain drain – the loss of undocumented, intuitive experiential information about people, business processes and informal procedures can leave huge gaps in an organization’s cumulative intelligence.

The boomer brain drain can cripple your company

This corporate amnesia can cripple a company, so if you’re a leader, it’s up to you to actively identify and work to mitigate this possibility.  And the time to do it is now, well in advance, and not just in the months and weeks before a key employee is due to leave.  In my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I offer five strategies to brace for the boomer brain drain, and retain crucial institutional knowledge.

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

Continue reading

Great service recovery from the Delta Burnaby!

When it comes to keeping your customers and clients happy, things don’t always go according to plan.  Stuff happens … deliveries are delayed, products don’t work exactly as intended, and your service falls short in one or more areas.  So, no matter how hard you try, the unfortunate truth is that things will go wrong!  Which is why I’ve always said that it’s not bad customer service that makes or breaks an organization, it’s the quality (or lack) of thdeltacardeir service recovery that makes the difference.  It’s how your staff react and respond to a customer’s problem or complaint that will decide whether you now have a disgruntled customer (who will likely tell many more via social media) or a raving enthusiastic fan.  I have blogged in the pdeltafruitplateast about how some companies don’t understand this fundamental reality of service recovery, most recently when writing about the Royal Bank.

But in today’s blog post, I want to go in the other direction – I want to tell you about an organization, and more specifically, one of their employees, who gets it!   Samantha Scott is the Guest Services Manager at the Delta Hotel in Burnaby BC, my hotel of choice when I work in the Vancouver area.  And something happened last week that reinforced why I choose to stay at this hotel, again and over again.

Is there a gym above me?

At about 9 PM on Tuesday night, an endless racket began in the room above me.  It sounded like my room was placed directly beneath a gym – I could hear furniture moving, what I thought were weights being dropped, and what seemed like an endless skipping rope, thumping against the floor.  Eventually, shortly after 10 PM, I called the front desk, and Samantha answered the phone. Continue reading