Seven Steps to Ending Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace

27 09 2011

Can a productive employee actually cost you business?  I am reminded of words that were shared with me some time ago; “People are hired for their technical expertise and fired for their behavior.”  That is just as true today.  I have noticed a trend on this subject recently.

After a morning meeting with a client, we discovered that a productive employee has cost her business around $370,000 dollars in lost revenue.  Yes, that is correct.  This lost revenue is because the employee in question has driven away even higher producing members of her sales team.  These people have gone to work for the competitor and have taken business with them.  The difference in the disruptive employee’s production vs. the people who have left works out to be $370,000 in gross dollars.  That is pretty significant.  And often these costs are hidden because we often don’t measure the impact of one person’s productivity against a group.

Business leaders need to protect themselves against what I call disruptive behavior which is when an individual, or group, negatively impact the productivity of the rest of the workforce.  Steps to correct behavior may be taken too late or dealt with incorrectly.  In a few cases, the negative behavior is ignored which creates critical problems that are difficult to correct.

If you are experiencing disruptive behavior, you should take the following actions:

  1. Address the problem immediately – Take action now instead of waiting to see if the problem will correct itself.  When issues aren’t dealt with right away, they send messages to your good employees that you don’t care.  This can lead to frustration, anger, lost productivity, poor service, and poor quality.
  2. Keep emotion out of the discussion – Taking corrective action when you are angry or upset will only lead to an argument.  Handle the situation rationally and stay focused on the facts.  Address examples of the behaviors observed  and focus on the desired behaviors.
  3. Act as a coach, not a disciplinarian – Sometimes we may come across like the scolding parent.  If you know how well your kids listen when you act like that, imagine how an adult will be.  Open a dialog, ask questions, enroll the individual in how they can be part of the solution.
  4. Get both sides – Find out what is going on with the employee that might be leading to their disruptive behavior.  Are their actions caused by their own frustrations?  Is there something personal going on that is reflecting in their work habits?  Understand their side of the problem and help them come up with their solution.
  5. Keep it positive and keep it real – Maintain your focus on desired outcomes.  Keep the conversation as positive as possible yet don’t let people off the hook or make excuses for bad behavior.  The moment you make the poor performance acceptable, you can expect to see more of it.
  6. Establish follow up and accountability – Often bad behavior continues because no action is taken past the discussion.  When dealing with behavioral issues, it is not possible to make immediate corrections to someone’s attitude.  Continued follow up is needed.  Check in with the person.  Make sure they are continually working towards change and they know you are there to support them.  Reinforce desired behaviors over only recognizing poor ones.  Catch them doing good things because most people only hear when they screw up.  Whatever you place your focus on will grow.
  7. Encourage open dialog between staff members – Though this takes time, building trust and open communication between team members is an effective way to prevent performance issues.  Consistent leadership and positive behavior on your part will reinforce the culture and the group will start self-policing their own actions.  Trust people will do the right things and in most cases they will.  Just don’t forget to follow up and verify the right actions are happening.

Taking these steps can increase the performance of your workforce and reduce the time you spend dealing with disruptive issues.  Make sure you do your part as a leader to not only make this the best customer environment, but also the best work environment.

What Businesses Could Learn From The Best Places To Live

24 08 2011

Recently Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” article was published.  Coming in at number eight was Middleton, WI which is very close to where I live.  Middleton, and Madison for that matter, are no strangers to being on the list of top places to live.  Both cities have continually received high marks for their quality of life.  But why here?  In case you haven’t noticed, we spend the better part of the year in cold and snow followed by a few months that are comfortable.  In the summer, it’s not the heat, but the humidity that gets you.  At least that is what I am told.  Regardless of the weather, we are still a top pick and I think there are a few things about great places to live that relate to business as well.

  • Great experiences – We are all about seeking pleasure and comfort.  Great communities find ways to provide that.  Each community on the list has plenty of events and attractions that provide these experiences.  Like in business, communities have the responsibility of keeping a wide variety of people happy.  How are the experiences you create keeping your employees and customers happy?
  • Security – Safety is important to many.  Great communities are safe communities.  People want to know they can do things without feeling threatened.  Can your people perform their job functions without feeling this way?  If you said yes, do the behaviors of your people exhibit that?
  • Education – Communities thrive on the availability of offering a great education.  Parents actively seek good schools that will provide their children with a future.  Is your company a great source of education?  Does your staff feel like they have a future with you?  Can they grow and develop to reach the desired level of success?
  • Opportunity – In difficult economic times, people will search out areas that provide opportunities.  Communities with a foundation of strong companies with secure jobs are a huge bonus.  Those jobs also have to provide opportunities for advancement and personal growth.  What steps are you taking to stimulate opportunities for your people?
  • Energy – By energy, I mean an engaging environment that stimulates the body and mind.  Both Middleton and Madison have plenty to do here.  There are a number of institutions for higher learning as well as access to bike trails, parks, music and live entertainment.  How is your business building the energy of its people?

These may be difficult questions for you to answer.  Given the economic state some businesses are in, these questions may be difficult to hear.  To some, the answers necessary may seem impossible.  After all, it is hard to invest when there are limited resources to make that investment.  What is important is as a business leader you need to find a way to address each of these challenges.  Failure to stimulate the mind and soul will leave your talent feeling empty and looking elsewhere to be fulfilled.

Seven Tips to Working ON Your Business When You Are Stuck Working IN Your Business

17 08 2011

Doing more with less seems to be the common theme out there today.  Whether it is because business has downsized, or there is a reluctance to hire, leaders are constantly feeling the push to deal with short-term issues that take them away from long-term strategic growth.  In other circumstances, leaders may find that they are continually tasked with problems that should be addressed by other members of their team.  Here are some ways to deal with the piled up paperwork and get things done.

  1. Change your attitude – Productivity and Attitude are closely related.  The worse your attitude is, the less productive you are.  I was working with a client who was complaining about the number of things they had to accomplish in a day.  After reviewing his list of tasks, we discovered that his staff assigned much of the work for him.  As problems came up throughout the day, he would just handle them instead of coaching his team.  Over time, he had assumed the role of the victim and felt everyone was just dumping work on him.  Over the next several weeks we took steps to change his attitude toward tasks and co-workers to help him delegate responsibly and get things done.
  2. Invest in coaching –  Not a shameless plug here.  This is about you coaching your staff.  Doing this involves an investment in time.  In my earlier story, the reason the leader was taking on projects assigned by his staff was because in his mind it was quicker for him to do the work than teach someone else.  People are an investment.  To get the most out of your investment you have to teach them.  Once you take the responsibility to resolve everyone else’s problems, you have conditioned them to come to you for the fix.  Everything looks for the path of least resistance.  If someone else is willing to take on a task that an employee is unfamiliar with, they will come back time and time again.  Break the cycle.  Invest time teaching your people and set expectations that they learn how to solve challenges on their own.
  3. Outsource when possible –  No one to delegate to?  How about outsourcing it?  There is a lot of talent on the open market that can help you to get things done.  While you may be concerned about costs, think about this first: calculate your expected value per hour.  I was working with a business owner who calculated his rate at $1,000 per hour.  Yet he was spending time doing tasks that could be outsourced to someone else for about $20 per hour.  By the time we calculated the opportunity cost and lost revenue it made sense to hire someone to do the work.  In his case that position went from being an outsourced role to a permanent staff position.
  4. Simplify – Yes, you’ve heard it here before.  Find ways to streamline process and remove wasted steps.  You should constantly ask yourself if there is a better way.  A few years ago I was assisting a company with reviewing their bid process.  Once we mapped out the workflow, we were able to see a couple bottlenecks and redundant steps that shaved as much as a day off of completing bids.  Over time, we were able to smooth the process out even more without seeing an increase in errors.
  5. Empower staff – If you have a staff of people working for you, maximize their talent.  Besides coaching them, empower your team to resolve their own issues prior to asking you for help.  The key here is to let the team know what is expected.  Set parameters for what your staff can do without seeking your assistance.  What you may find is they are able to come up with a better solution using their own talents vs. seeking your help.  Make sure your team keeps you in the loop with things they are working on and accept that mistakes are going to happen.  Your people will learn more and your role as a leader will be a little simpler.
  6. Make things manageable – It is easy to create monster task lists of things to do.  For some, those lists are motivation.  For others, the amount of work can seem daunting.  Keep things at a manageable level.  One of the techniques I work with people on is to take a look at their list of tasks and create a shorter list that can be completed in that workday.  It is important that they calculate their work knowing that there will be interruptions and stops.  The goal is to make sure that the work on the short list does not carry over into a new day.  It’s OK if you can only put one thing on the list as long as that item is completed by the end of the workday.  Over time, stretch yourself and add a couple items to the list and make a commitment to complete them.  Still don’t have enough time?  Look to one of the other steps for help.
  7. Make time each day to plan for the future – Sometimes we are so deep into the day-to-day that we can’t even see what an hour from now is going to look like.  Schedule some time to reflect on your current situation and what your future vision is.  I recommend 15 to 30 minutes each day.  For me, I work it in to either lunch or workout time, which helps me be more productive.  This allows me to see if I am still on track and focus on what I need to do to reach my goals.  It also allows me to take a breather from daily tasks to focus energy on big picture thinking which can be far more inspirational and motivating.

Take these steps and give them at try.  By far, the most important is number 1.  If you cannot change your attitude, you will have more than enough reasons why steps 2 through 7 will not work.  In which case you can keep doing what you are doing and you will get what you have always got.

My Magic Wand Is Broken. Can I Borrow Yours?

12 08 2011

In the days of “Gotta have it now” we are always looking for the quick fix to our problems. I am constantly bombarded with ads telling me that their product or service is the answer to all my prayers. Continually the words simple, easy, fast, and guaranteed are used to demonstrate that little work on my part is needed other than shelling out my credit card. It must work because there are more and more solicitations each day.

When I speak with companies about the challenges I face, I often speak of the “Simple not easy” approach. In other words, the ideas that need to be implemented are simple, but they aren’t necessarily easy to accomplish. After all, if they were you’d be doing them already, wouldn’t you? To be fair, sometimes there is low hanging fruit that can be dealt with quickly. Many times though, the roots of the problems run much deeper.

Companies that need change to happen fast are often looking for the magic wand as I call it.  They want some miracle to come in and fix all their problems right away so they can get on with business and get back to the good times.  Unfortunately the magic wand does not exist.  It never has no matter what anyone has promised you.  Changing your situation now involves work plain and simple.  Zero effort on your part equals zero output on the other.  Yet many out there prey on the vulnerabilities of people with promises of the good life if you just buy into their system.

In order for anything to work, do your research.  Know what you are getting in to.  Understand that there is no “one way” of doing things.  And above all, be committed to put forth the effort if you truly want to make change happen.  Here’s five steps to do when seeking the help of an expert.

  1. Interview – Get to know the individual and the company that will be doing the work.  Understand their process and how they will work with you.  Know their guarantees, if any.  A good company should guarantee their work.  Just be sure you know what their deliverables are and where it becomes your responsibility.
  2. Research claims – If they promise double digit growth they should have examples to prove it.  Also learn the circumstances with which those results were created.  A reputable company should explain to you clearly the efforts you are going to have to take on in order to get the results you want.  Nobody rides for free.  An expert should be clear about the work you have to do.
  3. Watch for one-size-fits-all approaches – Sure they tell you their approach will be unique to you.  Yet they are inflexible on aligning their system with your business.  Good companies research and understand what their clients need and are flexible to address those needs.
  4. Billing – Have you ever paid for something only to discover you are nickle and dimed for everything after the sale is closed?  Hidden fees and surprise bills are not something you want to see from someone who is supposed to be helping your organization.  Know their pricing structure and where you might incur extra fees.  Do they bill by the hour? The project? Are there extra services that may not be included in the proposal?  Understand these things to avoid surprises and headaches down the road.
  5. If it’s too good to be true it probably is – We have all heard this one before.  Yet I have met some pretty intelligent people who somehow get suckered in on some wild claims.  Buyer beware.  If someone makes outrageous promises they should be willing to back them up.  Just be careful they are not taking you to the cleaners.

There are many great companies out there that are capable of helping you solve virtually any problem or challenge you face.  Your business is your life blood and something you have worked hard to build.  Find reputable service providers that will give you the care you deserve and not look to make a quick buck.  If in doubt, seek a second opinion.  Got questions?  Ask.  If they promise to wave their magic wand and make it all better.. Run!

If you have questions about a company, a process, a system, please feel free to contact us.  We are happy to listen and will help you discover what best suits your needs.

The Importance of Purpose in Leadership

7 04 2011

Throughout my career I had to deal with conflict. Whether you’re a leader or not, conflict is something most of us face almost daily. As leaders, we are constantly in the spotlight when it comes to managing conflict. That spotlight increases exponentially based on your place in the organization and the size of the group you are leading.

As leaders, we often are responsible for creating conflict. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. On the positive side, conflict can be a good thing. When done properly, conflict acts as the catalyst for change. It creates new ideas, causes innovation, and can move people to new levels of thinking. Other times, conflict tears apart everything we are trying to build. It causes chaos and bitter feuds.

As leaders, we are responsible for bringing people together to work through challenges. However ego, insecurity, lack of purpose, poor communication, and lack of Vision can get in the way. When these factors take hold of an organization, it can literally rip the company apart. As leaders we need to recognize when this is happening and address it early on.

Conflict is impacted by change and vise versa. When the change is a negative influencers (i.e. low sales) conflict can increase. So how can we avoid the damaging effects of behavior on a company. One key to this is purpose. Each person needs his/her purpose defined in order to achieve the highest level of success. Leaders need to help create this purpose which is why it is imperative that the leaders themselves have a clearly defined purpose.

Each of us want to bring value to what we do in life. Knowing this value means understanding the strengths each person brings to the table. Those strengths may be observed by others and it is important we understand our own strengths as well. Imagine being placed in a situation where you were required to do something you hadn’t done before. You were left to your own choices with little feedback on expectations from someone else. How would you do? How comfortable would you feel making those decisions? How would you know you did the right thing? This happens more often than some might think.

Whatever role you play in a business, you need to understand that behavior significantly improves when purpose is there. Make it a point to understand your purpose and help others understand theirs.

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