01 January 2008

What firms want

Companies Want Results from Employees

Jane and Bob have a problem. They want extraordinary results from their employees, but they also want to be seen as kind, caring managers. Sometimes they might actually ignore or water down negatives in performance discussions under the banner of concern and caring.

The problem with this Pollyanna-ish thinking is that it creates the exact situation you are attempting to avoid. When people become more important than results, it opens the door to excuse making. How do Jane and Bob find the right balance between excuses and people, and still get results?

We must be clear about employees' behavior, performance, and what we want changed.

For example, Jane and Bob had one of their team members, Marcus, consistently sending e-mail after e-mail on the same subject. People in the department were confused, frustrated at new e-mail after new e-mail, and overwhelmed with all the information.

It's not enough to say, "Marcus, don't send so many e-mails. It's confusing to others." Jane and Bob need to be much more specific: "Marcus, when you send so many e-mails, one after the other, people are confused and, frankly, don't read them. Instead of sending 20 e-mails a day, I want you to collect your thoughts about the subject and write one e-mail. This e-mail should be succinct with the points clearly stated. In addition, let the recipients know if this is for information or if it needs action, and if so, by when."

Thinking that they would hurt Marcus's feelings or make him think he's doing a poor job only continues to produce the same results. Asking Marcus to simply send fewer e-mails may mean to him to send one less a day. Or he may think the confusion is limited to certain people or the number of e-mails. Be clear, be specific, and be honest.

What could happen?

If Jane and Bob are not clear, specific, and honest, Marcus is likely to not produce the desired results, and this opens him up to excuse-making (with cause – he didn't know what Jane and Bob wanted).

Fast-forward two weeks. Marcus continues to send many e-mails on the same subject. He's also talked to people he thinks might have complained and told them to get over it and not be so dumb. By taking action, he thinks he's doing a great job. If Jane and Bob challenge him on it, he says he was doing what he thought they meant.

Now Jane and Bob have a bigger problem on their hands. Marcus is offended because he believed he was doing what they wanted. The problem has not been solved, and, in fact, it's escalated, and Jane and Bob are personally frustrated. All because they watered down what they wanted in Marcus's performance.

Let's try again...

Another example is of an employee who does a great job technically. However, she is often late for work and her attitude is annoying others. Instead of telling her that she needs to quit being late and put on a happy face, be clear, honest, and specific.

"Jennifer, the quality of your work is first-rate. You deliver what is expected and on time, and it is of the highest quality. However, in the last three months, you have been late for work ten times. This is not acceptable. If you are late once more, I am going to have to write it up, and if you are late three more times, you will be asked to leave. Is there any reason you can't be here on time regularly? Also, folks are complaining about your attitude. You aren't acting as part of the team, but more of a lone ranger. When people ask you questions, you need to be gracious in helping them. If others are behind in their work and you aren't, you need to chip in and help them. Now, Jennifer, tell me what you think I mean by attitude adjustment."

It's honest, clear, and specific. While Jennifer might not enjoy hearing that her tardiness and attitude are unacceptable, she's been given a specific framework in which to act. Now she knows what to expect and can perform accordingly.

Final thoughts from Jane and Bob

Watered-down discussions under the guise of caring only get you more of the same performance. You show caring by being honest, specific, and clear. Then, people have the opportunity to succeed and give you what you want.

Linda Finkle, CEO of INCEDO GROUP, works with innovative leaders around the world who understand that business needs a new organizational growth style. These innovative leaders know that powerful cross-functional communication is the highest priority and the strongest strategy for building organizational effectiveness. To find out more, visit: http://www.IncedoGroup.com



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