4 Tips for Leading While Absent

4 Tips for Leading While Absent

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker


/
It hasn’t been the best of times around the Barker household this week:

/

Number 1
/
On Sunday, my 11-year old son came down with a fever, a fairly severe headache and a stiff neck./
/
I’ve been home with him, as he’s been off school all week, and Advil and Tylenol have had a tough time keeping his symptoms fully at bay./
/
Our doctor’s advised us to keep an eye out for any additional symptoms that are related to meningitis (as a stiff neck is) and, if his fever and headache aren’t gone by this afternoon, we’re to take him to the ER for further assessment.

/

Number 2
/
On Tuesday, my 81 year-old father had a seizure and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital./
/
Thankfully, a battery of tests revealed nothing of further concern./
/
He was drained by the time I got him home that night but by Thursday he was back to his normal self.
/
Needless to say, we remain pretty concerned, not knowing why it happened and hoping it won’t happen again.

/

Number 3
/
Then, since yesterday, perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t been feeling all that great.
/
I’ve got an intermittent sore throat, low energy and I’m feeling overtired.

//

“So what does all this have to do with leadership, Brie?”

/

Well, I don’t have a staff to lead and manage … but I’m going to assume that you do.

/

Now, imagine that you’ve had a week like I’ve had.
/
Actually, you probably don’t have to imagine all that much; I’m sure you’ve had similar weeks in your life.

/

Here are some thoughts on how you can demonstrate good leadership when circumstances call for you be away from work in order to care for your family — and for yourself.

/


/

1.  Actually STAY away from work and attend to your family.

/

If you try to do both, you’ll have a split focus and probably won’t do a very good job of either one.

/

Staying away sends important messages to your staff, that you:

/

  • trust them as a team and as individuals to step-up and look after things while you’re away, and
  • believe attending to urgent and exceptional family and personal matters is at least equally, if not more important, than work.
/
This is a chance to model the behaviour that you’d want your staff to demonstrate in similar circumstances.

/


/

2.  Be candid with your staff.

/

Let your staff know what’s calling you to be away.  Again, this is modelling the behaviour you’d want from your staff.

/

Now, we all have different comfort levels in sharing this type of information.
/
If sharing this kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, all the more reason to be open.
/
This is a place where you can stretch and grow as a leader, to put what’s best for your team and organization above your own personal discomfort.
/
If you share these things, it will help staff members who share your preference for privacy feel more comfortable opening up to you.
/
You can also expect to receive some empathy from your staff.  The situation provides a conduit for strengthening the human connection.  All you need to do is receive and acknowledge it with gratitude.
/

/

3.  Provide direction where necessary.

/
Give specific direction to staff on what to do in your absence — but only what’s necessary, i.e. don’t micromanage.
/
For example, you may want to have certain people look after specific things, whether it be a task or just keeping an eye on something.
/
Unless there’s a compelling reason to communicate these things in a private email, lay it out for the whole group.
/
This way everyone’s aware of who’s doing what — efforts will not be duplicated and people will know who to go to for what while you’re away.
/

/

4.  Set communication protocols.

/
Set things up so your don’t even see emails or receive phone calls that don’t TRULY require your immediate attention.
/
Have one of your staff members monitor and filter these things.
/
Give them a list of people and/or subject matters that you know will require an immediate response from only you — these are the only items that should be forwarded to you while you’re away.
/
Entrust this person to forward additional items outside of this list that they deem urgent.
/
This, too, reinforces your trust in your staff and will help you keep your focus on what you’re attending to at home.
/

/

I hope this reinforces the notion that you have the opportunity to demonstrate good leadership even when you’re away from the office and attending to the well-being of you and your family.

/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie

/

/

Blog Post


/
It hasn’t been the best of times around the Barker household this week:

/

Number 1
/
On Sunday, my 11-year old son came down with a fever, a fairly severe headache and a stiff neck./
/
I’ve been home with him, as he’s been off school all week, and Advil and Tylenol have had a tough time keeping his symptoms fully at bay./
/
Our doctor’s advised us to keep an eye out for any additional symptoms that are related to meningitis (as a stiff neck is) and, if his fever and headache aren’t gone by this afternoon, we’re to take him to the ER for further assessment.

/

Number 2
/
On Tuesday, my 81 year-old father had a seizure and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital./
/
Thankfully, a battery of tests revealed nothing of further concern./
/
He was drained by the time I got him home that night but by Thursday he was back to his normal self.
/
Needless to say, we remain pretty concerned, not knowing why it happened and hoping it won’t happen again.

/

Number 3
/
Then, since yesterday, perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t been feeling all that great.
/
I’ve got an intermittent sore throat, low energy and I’m feeling overtired.

//

“So what does all this have to do with leadership, Brie?”

/

Well, I don’t have a staff to lead and manage … but I’m going to assume that you do.

/

Now, imagine that you’ve had a week like I’ve had.
/
Actually, you probably don’t have to imagine all that much; I’m sure you’ve had similar weeks in your life.

/

Here are some thoughts on how you can demonstrate good leadership when circumstances call for you be away from work in order to care for your family — and for yourself.

/


/

1.  Actually STAY away from work and attend to your family.

/

If you try to do both, you’ll have a split focus and probably won’t do a very good job of either one.

/

Staying away sends important messages to your staff, that you:

/

  • trust them as a team and as individuals to step-up and look after things while you’re away, and
  • believe attending to urgent and exceptional family and personal matters is at least equally, if not more important, than work.
/
This is a chance to model the behaviour that you’d want your staff to demonstrate in similar circumstances.

/


/

2.  Be candid with your staff.

/

Let your staff know what’s calling you to be away.  Again, this is modelling the behaviour you’d want from your staff.

/

Now, we all have different comfort levels in sharing this type of information.
/
If sharing this kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, all the more reason to be open.
/
This is a place where you can stretch and grow as a leader, to put what’s best for your team and organization above your own personal discomfort.
/
If you share these things, it will help staff members who share your preference for privacy feel more comfortable opening up to you.
/
You can also expect to receive some empathy from your staff.  The situation provides a conduit for strengthening the human connection.  All you need to do is receive and acknowledge it with gratitude.
/

/

3.  Provide direction where necessary.

/
Give specific direction to staff on what to do in your absence — but only what’s necessary, i.e. don’t micromanage.
/
For example, you may want to have certain people look after specific things, whether it be a task or just keeping an eye on something.
/
Unless there’s a compelling reason to communicate these things in a private email, lay it out for the whole group.
/
This way everyone’s aware of who’s doing what — efforts will not be duplicated and people will know who to go to for what while you’re away.
/

/

4.  Set communication protocols.

/
Set things up so your don’t even see emails or receive phone calls that don’t TRULY require your immediate attention.
/
Have one of your staff members monitor and filter these things.
/
Give them a list of people and/or subject matters that you know will require an immediate response from only you — these are the only items that should be forwarded to you while you’re away.
/
Entrust this person to forward additional items outside of this list that they deem urgent.
/
This, too, reinforces your trust in your staff and will help you keep your focus on what you’re attending to at home.
/

/

I hope this reinforces the notion that you have the opportunity to demonstrate good leadership even when you’re away from the office and attending to the well-being of you and your family.

/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie

/

/
© 2018 Connected Conversations™

Quick Decision-Making for Introverts

Quick Decision-Making for Introverts

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker


/
If you’re more introverted than extroverted, making decisions with speed is something you’re not likely known for around the office.

/

It doesn’t come naturally to you and if you’re pressed to make a quick decision, you probably find it quite stressful.

/

Well, if you’re a current or emerging leader who falls on the introvert side of the spectrum, I’ve got some good news and some bad news …

/

The Bad News

/

HBR - What Great CEOs Do Differently

Click image for full article.

In 2017, Harvard Business Review published their findings from the CEO Genome Project:
This 10-year study showed there are four specific behaviours that are critical to high-performing CEOs and C-suite executives.
One of the behaviours is Deciding with Speed and Conviction.

/

The Good News

/
Today, I’m going to offer some thoughts and tips to help introverts get better at and more comfortable with the first element of this behaviour:
 

/


/

What the Study Found

/
I imagine this tells you why quick decision-making is an important skill to develop:

/

“High-performing CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive.
They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction.
They do so consistently—even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains.
In our data, people who were described as “decisive” were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs.”

/


/

The Introvert’s Struggle

/
There are some common traits of introverts that speak to why many have difficulty making decisions with speed .
/
Introverts:

/

  • are comprehensive thinkers,
  • like to know and understand all of the details of something,
  • like to have alone-time to process things, and
  • believe that making sound decisions comes from assessing all relevant data.
/
All of this takes time!
/
Something a colleague/friend of mine firmly believed was this: perfection is the enemy of good enough.
/
The natural response to this statement from extroverts and introverts would be different:

/

Extroverts:
“Yes!  Make a decision so we can start moving on this.”

/

Introverts:
“Good enough isn’t good enough.  What if it’s the wrong decision?”
/
Which brings us to …

/


/

Tips for Introverts:

/
Guess what?
/
There’s a lot of information out there to support the notion that you don’t always need to know and understand all of the data that relates to a decision you need to make in order to make the right decision.

/


/

Tip #1

Honour your need for data by examining the data that will lead you to being more comfortable in making quicker decisions.

/
Here are two books on this to get you started:

/

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell - Chapters.ca

Think Fast - Guy A. Hale - Chapters.ca

/


/

Tip #2

Follow a set process to help you make decisions more quickly.

/
Here’s one you can use:
/
1.  “I need to decide __________.
2.  “I need to make this decision by [DATE] because [REASON].”
3.  “Here’s what I absolutely need to know/understand before I make this decision and why: [LIST].”
4.  “If there is time, here are the additional things I’d like to know/understand before I make this decision: [LIST].
/

/

Tip #3

Share and be open with your staff and colleagues about:

/

  • Your natural inclination and rationale for a time-consuming, comprehensive decision-making process
  • How this natural inclination can sometimes run counter to the best timeframe to make a particular decision
  • The new decision-making process you’ll be using and asking their support for in order to continue to make sound decisions but to make them quicker.

/


/
If this doesn’t convince you of the merits of improving your ability to make quick, quality decisions, then go get more data.  Or don’t.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie

/

/

Blog Post


/
If you’re more introverted than extroverted, making decisions with speed is something you’re not likely known for around the office.

/

It doesn’t come naturally to you and if you’re pressed to make a quick decision, you probably find it quite stressful.

/

Well, if you’re a current or emerging leader who falls on the introvert side of the spectrum, I’ve got some good news and some bad news …

/

The Bad News

/

In 2017, Harvard Business Review published their findings from the CEO Genome Project:
This 10-year study showed there are four specific behaviours that are critical to high-performing CEOs and C-suite executives.
One of the behaviours is Deciding with Speed and Conviction.

/

HBR - What Great CEOs Do Differently

Click image for full article.

/

The Good News

/
Today, I’m going to offer some thoughts and tips to help introverts get better at and more comfortable with the first element of this behaviour:
 

/


/

What the Study Found

/
I imagine this tells you why quick decision-making is an important skill to develop:

/

“High-performing CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive.
They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction.
They do so consistently—even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains.
In our data, people who were described as “decisive” were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs.”

/


/

The Introvert’s Struggle

/
There are some common traits of introverts that speak to why many have difficulty making decisions with speed .
/
Introverts:

/

  • are comprehensive thinkers,
  • like to know and understand all of the details of something,
  • like to have alone-time to process things, and
  • believe that making sound decisions comes from assessing all relevant data.
/
All of this takes time!
/
Something a colleague/friend of mine firmly believed was this: perfection is the enemy of good enough.
/
The natural response to this statement from extroverts and introverts would be different:

/

Extroverts:
“Yes!  Make a decision so we can start moving on this.”

/

Introverts:
“Good enough isn’t good enough.  What if it’s the wrong decision?”
/
Which brings us to …

/


/

Tips for Introverts:

/
Guess what?
/
There’s a lot of information out there to support the notion that you don’t always need to know and understand all of the data that relates to a decision you need to make in order to make the right decision.

/


/

Tip #1

Honour your need for data by examining the data that will lead you to being more comfortable in making quicker decisions.

/
Here are two books on this to get you started:

/

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell - Chapters.ca

Think Fast - Guy A. Hale - Chapters.ca

/


/

Tip #2

Follow a set process to help you make decisions more quickly.

/
Here’s one you can use:
/
1.  “I need to decide __________.
2.  “I need to make this decision by [DATE] because [REASON].”
3.  “Here’s what I absolutely need to know/understand before I make this decision and why: [LIST].”
4.  “If there is time, here are the additional things I’d like to know/understand before I make this decision: [LIST].
/

/

Tip #3

Share and be open with your staff and colleagues about:

/

  • Your natural inclination and rationale for a time-consuming, comprehensive decision-making process
  • How this natural inclination can sometimes run counter to the best timeframe to make a particular decision
  • The new decision-making process you’ll be using and asking their support for in order to continue to make sound decisions but to make them quicker.

/


/
If this doesn’t convince you of the merits of improving your ability to make quick, quality decisions, then go get more data.  Or don’t.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie

/

/
© 2018 Connected Conversations™

Risk Management:  Can You Save Your Organization?

Risk Management: Can You Save Your Organization?

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker


/
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I had a truly life-changing experience this past weekend.

/

And it was only when I was thinking about what to write about in this week’s blog post that I came to see how it relates to leadership.
/
And what was this profound experience about?

/

Plastic.

/
Not what you were expecting?  Well, me neither.
/
So I’m going to lay this out under three headings:

/

The Backstory

What I Experienced

How it Relates to Leadership

/


/

The Backstory

/
Our household participates in our city’s recycling program.  By North American standards, it’s pretty typical:
/
Recycling Bins
Green Bin  ==> organics (mostly food scraps)
Black Bin  ==>  paper (newspapers, cereal boxes, etc.)
Blue Bin  ==>  glass, metal and plastic (jars, cans, containers, etc.)
/
We’ve always been fairly diligent about it and our actions left us feeling like we were doing our small part in being environmentally responsible.

/


/

What I Experienced

/
Then, last Friday night, Jen and I watched a documentary on Netflix:

/

A Plastic Ocean

/
I found the film to be highly sobering and disturbing.
/
I’m not going to get into all the details of the film here, but what I will share with you is what you need to know in order to see how this relates to leadership.
/
The Plastic Pollution Coalition provides a summary and links to the scientific research regarding all the reasons why plastic is harmful.
/
For my purposes, here’s what I want to highlight:

/

Plastic is poisoning our food chain to an extent that is rapidly increasing — we are all ingesting more and more plastic through our everyday diets.

====

We got to this point due to our unchecked, habitual use of plastic.

====

Ultimately, if this continues, this could be the thing that wipes out the human race.

/

Whoa!

“Did you just say that, Brie?”

/
Well, I imagine your reaction to my bold statement is somewhere between two extremes:
/
“Brie, this is 100% idiotic.”
—————————————–  
“Brie, this is 100% true.”
/
And all this might prompt you to investigate this issue for yourself —
or it might not.
/
That’s not the point of this blog post.

/


/

How This Relates to Leadership:  Risk Management

/
As a leader, here’s what you need to ask yourself and the people you work with:

/

“Are there any habitual practices within our organization that are causing a slow accumulation of overlooked consequences that:

/

a)  are eating away at the health of our organization, and/or

/

b)  upon reaching a critical mass, could cause a tipping point that spells the death of our organization?”

/
If you discover such a threat, you can then work to eliminate the habitual practices at the root of it.
/
Changing habits, be they personal or organizational, is hard.
/
Even when you make a firm commitment, devise a plan and put it into action, expect to have setbacks.
/
Just keep your eye on the end goal and keep at it.
/
This is what Jen, our two kids and I are keeping in mind as we work towards our family’s new goal — to eliminate plastics from our lives.
/
We know this won’t be easy.  We know we will have setbacks.  But we’re going to keep at it.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
/

Blog Post


/
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I had a truly life-changing experience this past weekend.

/

And it was only when I was thinking about what to write about in this week’s blog post that I came to see how it relates to leadership.
/
And what was this profound experience about?

/

Plastic.

/
Not what you were expecting?  Well, me neither.
/
So I’m going to lay this out under three headings:

/

The Backstory

What I Experienced

How it Relates to Leadership

/


/

The Backstory

/
Our household participates in our city’s recycling program.  By North American standards, it’s pretty typical:
/
Recycling Bins
Green Bin  ==> organics (mostly food scraps)
Black Bin  ==>  paper (newspapers, cereal boxes, etc.)
Blue Bin  ==>  glass, metal and plastic (jars, cans, containers, etc.)
/
We’ve always been fairly diligent about it and our actions left us feeling like we were doing our small part in being environmentally responsible.

/


/

What I Experienced

/
Then, last Friday night, Jen and I watched a documentary on Netflix:

/

A Plastic Ocean

/
I found the film to be highly sobering and disturbing.
/
I’m not going to get into all the details of the film here, but what I will share with you is what you need to know in order to see how this relates to leadership.
/
The Plastic Pollution Coalition provides a summary and links to the scientific research regarding all the reasons why plastic is harmful.
/
For my purposes, here’s what I want to highlight:

/

Plastic is poisoning our food chain to an extent that is rapidly increasing — we are all ingesting more and more plastic through our everyday diets.

====

We got to this point due to our unchecked, habitual use of plastic.

====

Ultimately, if this continues, this could be the thing that wipes out the human race.

/

Whoa!

“Did you just say that, Brie?”

/
Well, I imagine your reaction to my bold statement is somewhere between two extremes:
/
“Brie, this is 100% idiotic.”
—————————————–  
“Brie, this is 100% true.”
/
And all this might prompt you to investigate this issue for yourself —
or it might not.
/
That’s not the point of this blog post.

/


/

How This Relates to Leadership:  Risk Management

/
As a leader, here’s what you need to ask yourself and the people you work with:

/

“Are there any habitual practices within our organization that are causing a slow accumulation of overlooked consequences that:

/

a)  are eating away at the health of our organization, and/or

/

b)  upon reaching a critical mass, could cause a tipping point that spells the death of our organization?”

/
If you discover such a threat, you can then work to eliminate the habitual practices at the root of it.
/
Changing habits, be they personal or organizational, is hard.
/
Even when you make a firm commitment, devise a plan and put it into action, expect to have setbacks.
/
Just keep your eye on the end goal and keep at it.
/
This is what Jen, our two kids and I are keeping in mind as we work towards our family’s new goal — to eliminate plastics from our lives.
/
We know this won’t be easy.  We know we will have setbacks.  But we’re going to keep at it.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
/
© 2018 Connected Conversations™

Addressing a Diminishing Job Performance

Addressing a Diminishing Job Performance

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker


/

An employee demonstrating diminishing job performance is both common and important enough that, as a leader/manager, you need to know how to address it effectively.

/
From what I’ve seen in my practice, many leaders/managers consider this a difficult conversation to even initiate, let alone execute effectively.
/
Here’s how you can begin that conversation in a way that will yield a positive and productive outcome.
/
In general terms, the answer to reversing a situation of diminishing job performance is to get your employee to either:
/
»»  Start doing something,
»»  Start doing something BETTER, or
»»  Stop doing something.
/
And sometimes it’s some multiple/combination of those things.
/
Now, just telling your employee to start/improve/stop seldom works and, if it does, the change will almost always be temporary.
/

The first thing you need to do is understand why this change in performance/behaviour is happening — and you’re best to start from a place of non-judgement. 

/

S E E K   F I R S T   T O   U N D E R S T A N D

Seek first to understand.

/
Arrange to have a conversation in a private setting.  A neutral place such as a meeting room helps to suspend an unhelpful power dynamic that could be present in your personal office space.  The initial tone and feeling of the conversation should be more human-to-human and less boss-to-employee.
/

//

Opening the Conversation:

/
Open your conversation with something like this …
/
“I’ve noticed that your job performance has dropped lately, Chris.
I’m used to you operating on a higher level and I just want to check in with you on that.
Can you shed some light for me on what’s happening?”
/
Let’s unpack this wording a bit …
/

Sentence #1:

  • You are getting right to the point of the conversation.  This helps you stay focused and Chris isn’t left feeling anxious in wondering  what the conversation’s going to be about.
  • You are making an observation about Chris’ performance, not casting blame/shame by saying something like, “You’ve been doing a lousy job lately.”

Sentence #2:

  • It’s clear to Chris that you acknowledge this is a change from a higher performance level, which will reduce any defensiveness.
  • Your intention is clear — you have general concern for Chris; you want Chris’ perspective and are not making any assumptions.

Sentence #3:

  • This is an open invitation for Chris to share, not a demand for accountability.
  • You may think you know the reasons for the diminishing performance but people feel more empowered and respected when they’re giving the opportunity to self-assess … plus, you might be wrong.
  • At the end of this sentence, remain silent until Chris has had time to process and respond.

/


/

Employee’s Possible Responses:

/
Chris’ response will likely come in one of three flavours.  Here’s what they are and how you can respond, in turn:
/

Response A:

Chris responds openly with thoughts of what the root cause(s) of the diminishing performance are.

 

If this happens, it’s a sure sign that Chris trusts you.  Give yourself an Awesome Leader checkmark!
/

Response B:

Chris will refute your claim.
/
There are two reasons why Chris might do this:
/
»»  Chris agrees but is too egotistical or embarrassed to say so
»»  Chris doesn’t agree
/
Either way, you need to respond with specifics that support your claim, e.g.:
/
“You haven’t met your quota for the past two months.”
“You were two weeks late in finishing your part of the System-X project, which pushed our go-live date back another month.”
“Accounting had to send your monthly budget status report back to you three times for you to correct significant errors.”
/
Again, it’s important to cite such things as observations, without hostility.
/
After you lay out the specifics, it will help reduce any defensiveness that might have creeped up by saying something like, “And this just isn’t the solid level of job performance that you’ve always delivered.”
/

Response C:

Chris will acknowledge his poor performance but will say something like, “I’m not really sure why things aren’t going well lately.”
/
A response like this can mean either:
/
»»  Chris does know what’s going on but isn’t feeling comfortable enough to talk about it yet (it comes down to trust) or, less likely,
»»  Chris really doesn’t know why this is happening.
/
If it means the former you need to re-extend the invitation to share; if it means the latter then you need to try and help Chris figure it out.
/
Either way, there are two specific further lines of enquiry for you to move to now, in order:  (Note that both of them still invite Chris to self-assess.)
/
1.  Work Environment:
“Can you think of any systemic or procedural issues, or interpersonal problems that could be affecting your performance?”
/
If that yields fruit, continue the conversation.  If it doesn’t yield fruit, go to the next line of enquiry,
/
2.  Personal Life:
“Can you tell me about anything that’s going on in your personal life that could be affecting your performance at work?  We’re all human and sometimes life’s circumstances are really hard to manage.”
/
The second sentence helps normalize the situation in Chris’ mind and continue to make Chris feel less vulnerable.
/
If this line of enquiry yields fruit, continue the exploration.
/
If this doesn’t yield fruit either, then one of two things is likely going on:

 

»»  Chris is feeling too vulnerable to share these things with you — you need to build up more trust.
»»  Chris isn’t emotionally ready to recognize the source of problems and may need time and/or professional help to figure this out.

/

So those are a few paths that lead to the first thing you need to accomplish when addressing an employee’s diminishing job performance — understand the root cause(s) — why it’s happening.

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Of course, there’s quite a way to go before this conversation plays out, but that’s where I’m going to leave things today.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
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Blog Post


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An employee demonstrating diminishing job performance is both common and important enough that, as a leader/manager, you need to know how to address it effectively.

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From what I’ve seen in my practice, many leaders/managers consider this a difficult conversation to even initiate, let alone execute effectively.
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Here’s how you can begin that conversation in a way that will yield a positive and productive outcome.
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In general terms, the answer to reversing a situation of diminishing job performance is to get your employee to either:
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»»  Start doing something,
»»  Start doing something BETTER, or
»»  Stop doing something.
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And sometimes it’s some multiple/combination of those things.
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Now, just telling your employee to start/improve/stop seldom works and, if it does, the change will almost always be temporary.
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The first thing you need to do is understand why this change in performance/behaviour is happening — and you’re best to start from a place of non-judgement. 

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S E E K   F I R S T   T O   U N D E R S T A N D

Seek first to understand.

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Arrange to have a conversation in a private setting.  A neutral place such as a meeting room helps to suspend an unhelpful power dynamic that could be present in your personal office space.  The initial tone and feeling of the conversation should be more human-to-human and less boss-to-employee.
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//

Opening the Conversation:

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Open your conversation with something like this …
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“I’ve noticed that your job performance has dropped lately, Chris.
I’m used to you operating on a higher level and I just want to check in with you on that.
Can you shed some light for me on what’s happening?”
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Let’s unpack this wording a bit …
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Sentence #1:

  • You are getting right to the point of the conversation.  This helps you stay focused and Chris isn’t left feeling anxious in wondering  what the conversation’s going to be about.
  • You are making an observation about Chris’ performance, not casting blame/shame by saying something like, “You’ve been doing a lousy job lately.”

Sentence #2:

  • It’s clear to Chris that you acknowledge this is a change from a higher performance level, which will reduce any defensiveness.
  • Your intention is clear — you have general concern for Chris; you want Chris’ perspective and are not making any assumptions.

Sentence #3:

  • This is an open invitation for Chris to share, not a demand for accountability.
  • You may think you know the reasons for the diminishing performance but people feel more empowered and respected when they’re giving the opportunity to self-assess … plus, you might be wrong.
  • At the end of this sentence, remain silent until Chris has had time to process and respond.

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Employee’s Possible Responses:

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Chris’ response will likely come in one of three flavours.  Here’s what they are and how you can respond, in turn:
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Response A:

Chris responds openly with thoughts of what the root cause(s) of the diminishing performance are.

 

If this happens, it’s a sure sign that Chris trusts you.  Give yourself an Awesome Leader checkmark!
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Response B:

Chris will refute your claim.
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There are two reasons why Chris might do this:
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»»  Chris agrees but is too egotistical or embarrassed to say so
»»  Chris doesn’t agree
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Either way, you need to respond with specifics that support your claim, e.g.:
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“You haven’t met your quota for the past two months.”
“You were two weeks late in finishing your part of the System-X project, which pushed our go-live date back another month.”
“Accounting had to send your monthly budget status report back to you three times for you to correct significant errors.”
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Again, it’s important to cite such things as observations, without hostility.
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After you lay out the specifics, it will help reduce any defensiveness that might have creeped up by saying something like, “And this just isn’t the solid level of job performance that you’ve always delivered.”
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Response C:

Chris will acknowledge his poor performance but will say something like, “I’m not really sure why things aren’t going well lately.”
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A response like this can mean either:
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»»  Chris does know what’s going on but isn’t feeling comfortable enough to talk about it yet (it comes down to trust) or, less likely,
»»  Chris really doesn’t know why this is happening.
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If it means the former you need to re-extend the invitation to share; if it means the latter then you need to try and help Chris figure it out.
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Either way, there are two specific further lines of enquiry for you to move to now, in order:  (Note that both of them still invite Chris to self-assess.)
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1.  Work Environment:
“Can you think of any systemic or procedural issues, or interpersonal problems that could be affecting your performance?”
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If that yields fruit, continue the conversation.  If it doesn’t yield fruit, go to the next line of enquiry,
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2.  Personal Life:
“Can you tell me about anything that’s going on in your personal life that could be affecting your performance at work?  We’re all human and sometimes life’s circumstances are really hard to manage.”
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The second sentence helps normalize the situation in Chris’ mind and continue to make Chris feel less vulnerable.
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If this line of enquiry yields fruit, continue the exploration.
/
If this doesn’t yield fruit either, then one of two things is likely going on:

 

»»  Chris is feeling too vulnerable to share these things with you — you need to build up more trust.
»»  Chris isn’t emotionally ready to recognize the source of problems and may need time and/or professional help to figure this out.

/

So those are a few paths that lead to the first thing you need to accomplish when addressing an employee’s diminishing job performance — understand the root cause(s) — why it’s happening.

/
Of course, there’s quite a way to go before this conversation plays out, but that’s where I’m going to leave things today.
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
/
© 2018 Connected Conversations™

Effectively Managing an Intimidating Employee

Effectively Managing an Intimidating Employee

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker

I once helped a manager (we’ll call her Amy) who was having difficulty dealing with a rather intimidating employee (we’ll call him Mark).
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It wasn’t just Amy who felt Mark was intimidating — everyone else on her team felt the same way.  They would often complain about Mark to her and Amy was aware that the side conversations people were having about him were having a negative effect on morale and productivity.
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They all worked together in a typical office environment in a large organization; everyone’s work was administrative in nature.  It was clear to Amy, however, that Mark would rather be doing something else entirely.
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Mark was a dedicated reservist in the armed forces.
He spent many nights each week and almost every weekend at gatherings or training exercises with other people who shared his passion.
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It was obvious to Amy that Mark certainly didn’t have any passion for his job though — it seemed like he was just doing the minimum amount of work required and was only there to collect a paycheque.
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Back in the office, the pictures that Mark had up in his cubicle reflected his passion: images of fellow reservists in uniform, training exercises, guns, etc.
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When he was agitated, which was often, Mark would speak with a stern, raised voice, while taking a firm grip on whatever table he was at … and Mark was a pretty big guy.
/

The end result was a very tense work environment that was not as productive as Amy needed it to be.

/

What approach could Amy take that you think would be a win for everyone concerned?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Blog Post

I once helped a manager (we’ll call her Amy) who was having difficulty dealing with a rather intimidating employee (we’ll call him Mark).
/
It wasn’t just Amy who felt Mark was intimidating — everyone else on her team felt the same way.  They would often complain about Mark to her and Amy was aware that the side conversations people were having about him were having a negative effect on morale and productivity.
/
They all worked together in a typical office environment in a large organization; everyone’s work was administrative in nature.  It was clear to Amy, however, that Mark would rather be doing something else entirely.
/
Mark was a dedicated reservist in the armed forces.

/

He spent many nights each week and almost every weekend at gatherings or training exercises with other people who shared his passion.
/
It was obvious to Amy that Mark certainly didn’t have any passion for his job though — it seemed like he was just doing the minimum amount of work required and was only there to collect a paycheque.
/
Back in the office, the pictures that Mark had up in his cubicle reflected his passion: images of fellow reservists in uniform, training exercises, guns, etc.
/
When he was agitated, which was often, Mark would speak with a stern, raised voice, while taking a firm grip on whatever table he was at … and Mark was a pretty big guy.
/

The end result was a very tense work environment that was not as productive as Amy needed it to be.

/

What approach could Amy take that you think would be a win for everyone concerned?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

© 2018 Connected Conversations™