Ensure Healthy Teamwork Between Departments

Seamless customer service will never be achieved until departments fully communicate and cooperate with each other. Teambuilding between interdependent work units is indicated when:

People from one work unit regularly talk about another unit in a snide, cynical and sarcastic manner.

Leaders use their employees as a sounding board to bad mouth members of the other work unit.

The work units bicker and quarrel over trivial issues.

Issues that require addressing are swept under the rug because people are unwilling or unable to talk about them.

People are keeping score (collecting misdeeds) on the number of mistakes that are made by the other work unit.

Pertinent information is withheld from one another.

There is a duplication of effort because people don’t fully understand the nature, function and scope of each other’s responsibilities

There exists a sick environment of distrust and suspicion.

If you observe any of the above indicators of dysfunction, you may want to consider bringing both groups together to engage in direct, honest and respectful dialogue. Have members of each group make commitments for positive change that will make each other’s jobs easier, more satisfying and effective.

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Addressing Employees with Behavior Problems

It’s relatively easy to address an employee attendance issue or deal with an employee who exhibits technical/clinical deficiencies (assuming the person has the motivation and capacity to improve). But your management skills are really put to the test when you have an employee who:

(1) constantly complains

(2) resists beyond reason any changes you make

(3) uses co-workers as a sounding board to impugn your character

(4) discloses and distorts what you say during private conversations

(5) challenges your authority and tests the boundaries of noncompliance

(6) displays non-verbal behavior that communicates disdain for you

(7)  goes directly to your boss to complain before discussing an issue with you

(8) does not listen/gets defensive when given performance feedback

(9) bullies or manipulates others with aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior

(10) Can’t accept and adjust to job frustrations that are outside your control to overcome

Much of my career has been devoted to helping managers address these behavior issues. If you are dealing with this particular challenge, please don’t hesitate to contact me about my books, workshops and individual coaching formats that will facilitate your success.

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Creating a Learning Culture

One of your most important leadership responsibilities is to create a learning culture where employees are at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines. Nobody should be permitted to rest on their laurels regardless of their  age or length of employment. Nobody should be allowed to practice OJR (on-the-job retirement). Because the technology is constantly evolving, employees must  continuously improve or they will be left behind.

You provide employees a great service when you expect state-of-the-art skill sets. Once acquired, skills can never be stripped from someone. Skills are portable. They can be taken from one job to another. A person is simply more employable with up to date knowledge or skills.

At the conclusion of every annual performance appraisal, you should negotiate with employees a stretch learning objective that gets them out of their comfort zone:

“This time next year, what skill or knowledge will you acquire and how will you apply it to the benefit of the customers you serve? How will I know you have achieved this goal? What resources do you need from me to facilitate your success?”

In addition, many continuing education programs are evaluated in the most superficial manner by only asking participants whether they enjoyed the speaker and program content. The Buddha said,”To know and not to do is not to know.” Therefore, once you place a resource in employees’ hands, you should ask:

“What specifically did you learn and how/when will you demonstrate this newly acquired knowledge or skill?”

If the program is mandatory, there should be consequences for failure to attend or learn the lesson by other means. Otherwise, you are sending mixed messages as to the importance of the program.

In a learning culture, you play the role of teacher, coach and mentor. You set up new employees for success by creating a comprehensive departmental new employee orientation process. You don’t allow anybody to eat their young.

Finally, hold yourself accountable for your own professional development. Serve as a role model for continuous quality improvement.

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How Effective Performance Management Facilitates Employee Engagement

Performance management is the process of identifying employee (organizational or work unit) strengths/opportunities for improvement, establishing objectives, agreeing on the means by which results will be achieved, determining evaluation criteria, and assessing available resources that can help or hinder success.

Effectively executed, the performance management process can enhance the level of employee engagement by providing the leader an opportunity to reinforce the work unit’s mission and values, actively listen to employees’ ideas on how to improve performance quality , clarify individual roles and levels of authority, identify impediments to employee  job success, differentiating “problems” (within the leader’s control to solve) from “realities”(outside the leader’s sphere of influence to overcome).

In short, the performance management process can reshape the leader-employee relationship from:

Command decisions to consensus building

Task orientation to a focus on verifiable results

Motivation through fear to positive reinforcement and individual responsibility

The leader having all the answers to utilizing employees as internal consultants

Record keeping and documenting mistakes to coaching for success

Unstated vision and assumed values to the open sharing of purpose

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Break Down The Silos

You will never achieve seamless customer service if there exists a breakdown of cooperation between interdependent work units. Symptoms of polarization and distrust include:

   One group feels it gets little respect from the other

   Individuals from one group regularly bad mouth the other 

   The groups routinely quarrel over trivial issues

   There is an abundance of finger-pointing and scapegoating 

   One group feels the other gets preferential treatment

To remedy the situation, ask each group to answer the following questions:

   What are the other group’s expectations of us?

   Which expectations would the other group say we are meeting?

   Which expectations would the other group say we are not meeting?

   What can we do better to facilitate the other group’s success?

   What do we want the other group to do better to meet our needs?

Bring the two groups together to share their responses to these questions. Have each group advance up to three solid commitments for positive change that will make the other’s job more satisfying and effective.

By utilizing this team building exercise, you can breakdown the silos that exist between job classifications, shifts, and work units and replace them with bridges of effective communication.

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Ensure Productive Meetings

Time is one of our most precious commodities, and too much of it is wasted on unnecessary or unproductive meetings.  You may want to consider conducting an audit of current practices that includes some of the following issues:

(At the beginning of each discussion):”Let’s agree on what we want to accomplish during this meeting.”

(At the end of each discussion): “Did we accomplish our objectives? Let’s evaluate the quality of the meeting. What did you like about it? What could we have done better?”

(As part of any decision-making process): Let’s summarize what we just agreed to and how it is to be implemented. Who is responsible for what and when?”

Broader questions include:

“Are we focusing on what’s most important during our meetings?”

“What have we accomplished thus far? Is there a more efficient way to achieve our objectives? Is this the best format?”:

“Are we goal focused and results driven, or are we getting bogged down in process?”

“Are we benefitting from full participation, or do a few people regularly dominate the discussion?”

“Would anyone notice or care if we were to cut the number of meetings in half or were to disband the meetings all together?”

Some of you spend your entire day at back-to back meetings. There is no time left to engage customers and employees and complete administrative tasks. Therefore, you come to work early, leave late and take work home with you. If you can’t get out of these meetings, do whatever you can to make them worth you time.

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Why Engage Employees in Decision-Making

When you include employees in your decision-making on issues that directly impact their work, there is a greater chance that they will embrace the decision as their own and effectively  implement it. You are also more likely to make a practical decision informed by the collective wisdom and experience of the work unit. Through the free marketplace of competing ideas, the truth marches forward.

There are times when it is necessary to abandon employee participation in decision-making. For example:

>Time is limited

>You are in a crises mode

>The decision is mandated from above

>There is only one viable course of action. Any other decision will lead to a compromised result.

> The group lacks the cohesiveness, mutual acceptance or commonality of purpose to   decide. They also lack the knowledge and competence with respect to the problem.

But in general, when you don’t listen to employees, it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and commit to actions that are ill-advised. When you don’t listen, employees believe that you don’t care about them as thinking and feeling individuals–that their role is to simply follow directions and not ask questions. This perception ultimately leads to  employee complacency, resentment and feeling of victimization.

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