2018 – Is it really here in just the blink of an eye? We have updated our calendar with additional events that you should be addressing in 2018 regarding Human Resources related activities. Please take the time to at least scan the list and pencil in on your appointment book or mark on your outlook calendar or for you techies with the smart phones or tablets, maybe there’s an app for that – so that you are proactively prepared to administer or address each event in a timely manner. Our list is based on a calendar year and your Practice’s fiscal year running concurrently. But any listed activity below, can be scheduled in the month that you need to begin the activity, so that you have enough planned lead time to get the event executed successfully according to your own schedule. Not all activities may pertain to your Practice (some depend on the number of employees working for you) and the list is comprehensive but not all inclusive – it is meant to get you thinking about Human Resources related activities and functions for the upcoming year. And as a reminder, some of the new HR related activities that are listed due to their prescribed implementation dates may change as we get closer to the deadline dates because sometimes legislative acts may get challenged, postponed or shelved. As we hear of updates, we will post them in our newsletter.
||HUMAN RESOURCES ACTIVITIES
- Prepare OSHA form 300A from OSHA 300 log
- Finalize Performance Management Review discussions and inform employees of annual increases/bonuses and effective dates
- The NLRB requires employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act with a posted notice by January 31, 2018 (to order the posting notice for free, use the following link http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/EmployeeRightsPoster11x17_Final.pdf )
- Remind employees – IRS changes for 2018 to pension plans or 401(k) plans
- Remind employees to submit a new W-4 form if withholding changes are to be made for 2018
- Reset dates and accumulators associated with HRIS/Payroll systems for the new processing year
- Request Vacation Schedules from the staff for the year – not set in stone but helps you plan, especially on the dates that everyone wants off.
- Post a Holiday calendar of when the Practice will observe the holidays
- Commence Performance Management – setting mutually agreed upon goals for the year/creating career development plans and distributing a Performance Management Review calendar for 2018 with ‘Pay for Performance’ guidelines communicated
- Review Federal & State Law posters – ensure compliance and updated postings
- Issue 2017 W2’s and 1099’s for current and former employees
- If you travel for Hospital business, the IRS 2017 mileage rate is 57.5 cents. Check for new rate for 2018.
- Post complete OSHA form 300A for 3 months
- Implement Employee Engagement Survey – get feedback on your organizational culture
- Review current and create new job descriptions in anticipation of Talent Acquisition Process
- Employees must change the withholding exemption to “single, with zero allowances” for employees who claimed total exemption from withholding for last year, unless the individuals have completed a new Form W-4
- Structure a Training Schedule – to determine which classes (technical/developmental skills) should be conducted internally vs. externally
- Facilitate a quarterly HR meeting – review policies, procedures and ‘celebrate success’
- Conduct a market survey on Compensation pay ranges
- Review and communicate feedback from Employee Engagement Survey – determine what ‘hot issues’ will be addressed and implemented by when
- Recruit and Pipeline network of potential new hires aligned to Practice’s workforce planning model/budget
- All plan sponsors and health insurance issuers must provide Standardized Health Plan Summaries of Benefits and Coverage along with glossary of terms to enrollees/potential enrollees
- Review SDS’s to determine if any hazardous chemical inventory needs attention or submission to appropriate agencies.
- Conduct HR related seminars such as ‘How to Prevent Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace’ (some states such as CT require this training if you have ≥ 50 employees)
- Investigate with your health insurance broker, carrier and attorney how the Health Care Reform Act affects the Practice for 2018 especially if the health care plan designs are changing or laws that affect FT/PT eligibility need to be declared
- Community Living Assistance and Services Support (CLASS) Act, (basic lifetime long term care benefit in the event of illness or disability) has been suspended from implementation
- Review if any new federal/state labor laws that go into effect in the upcoming months and how the laws will affect the Practice
- Review and update Employee Manual to ensure up-to-date and compliant
- Commence Half Year Performance Management Reviews – according to calendar distributed in January
- Facilitate a quarterly HR meeting – review policies, procedures, distribute updated Employee Manual and obtain annual acknowledgment receipt of Employee Manual including Confidentiality Agreement and ‘celebrate success’
- Finalize all Half Year Performance Management Review discussions
- Conduct a component of an HR audit (e.g. employee files or payroll or records retention, etc)
- Complete and submit 5500 forms for employee benefit plans
- Complete an HR budget aligned to the Practice’s 2019 strategic/financial business objectives
- Receive carrier bids on 2019 plans from health insurance broker to determine plan designs and costs
- Facilitate a quarterly HR meeting – review policies, procedures and ‘celebrate success’
- File EEO-1 form for employers with ≥100 employees
- Communicate Open Enrollment Benefits calendar for October
- Conduct Open Enrollment for Health Care and other insurance plans to include processing information to the respective carriers
- Finalize HR budget with Practice owner
- Discuss with Practice owner percentage of salary adjustments and bonus opportunities to set aside
- Commence Annual Performance Management Reviews – according to calendar distributed in January
- Facilitate a quarterly HR meeting – review policies, procedures and ‘celebrate success’
- Discuss and agree upon HR goals for the Practice in 2019
- Prepare OSHA form 300A from OSHA 300 log
- Finalize Performance Management Review discussions and inform employees of annual increases/bonuses and effective dates
- Remind employees – IRS changes for 2019 to pension plans or 401(k) plans
- Remind employees to submit a new W-4 form if withholding changes are to be made for 2019
- Remind employees about Flexible Spending Accounts’ limits ($2,500)
With the past year being so divisive in the world of politics, tensions are running high throughout the country – so it isn’t surprising that political beliefs are a hot subject in and around the workplace. You may therefore have found yourself thrown into conversations or debates that got just a little too heated or left you feeling uncomfortable or even disrespected. On the other side of the spectrum, you may have been overly zealous when discussing such topics with co-workers because of your own passion. It isn’t easy to navigate these types of situations, but here are a few practical tips to help make it easier.
In general, politics don’t make for good workplace conversations. So, don’t start them and, whenever possible, don’t engage in them. Having said that, you spend a significant amount of time with your colleagues each week, so it’s only natural to want to discuss something you feel very strongly about with the people you spend the most time with. If that resonates, then move on to the next tip.
Always weigh the potential consequences of inserting yourself into political conversation. If the subject at hand is highly divisive, you may risk damaging work relationships, and the chances of changing a colleague’s mind about political points of view are slim. So, if you decide to enter a political conversation, don’t do it with the idea that you’ll change someone else’s opinion. Instead, consider the discussion as an opportunity to learn about other points of view, as a way to gain more insight and improve your own diplomacy skills.
Handling conversations with tact means that you remain open-minded and you listen carefully to answers given. Ask questions and, when you don’t agree, don’t immediately pull away from the conversation. Don’t be disrespectful in your verbal responses or, as best you can, in your body language. When you try to understand differing opinions, your world view expands, even if just by a little bit. If you feel as though a conversation is going poorly, you can say, “This isn’t heading in a good direction. I respect your opinion, so let’s just agree to disagree” and then get back to work.
Recognize that learning how to talk about politics in a productive manner may help you to handle other work-related conversations requiring finesse, such as disagreements about policy or peer performance reviews. Conversations that are difficult – such as those centered on controversial political topics – can ultimately benefit your ability to handle challenging interpersonal situations as long as you handle them with tact and learn from them.
If you’ve owned, managed or worked at a particular veterinary practice for any length of time, you may be so used to the workplace culture of the practice that you can’t effectively define it, much less analyze its strengths and weaknesses. If that’s the case, that’s perfectly normal. Having said that, it makes good sense for your practice to conduct a culture audit where you examine the assumptions, values and beliefs shared by people in the practice. This allows you to develop the healthiest culture possible for your practice, where the veterinary practice and individual members of the team can thrive and grow, and where the best service possible is offered to clients and their companion animals.
Organizational culture is comprised of all the elements of the environment of your veterinary practice. This includes the life experiences of each of the employees, along with how these experiences blend together – as well as how they clash. Add to this mix the influence of the veterinarians’ belief systems and life experiences, and the result is the practice’s culture.
People sometimes believe that culture is created through the spoken messages provided, including the policies stated by the veterinarians and the conversations occurring among employees. This is partly true, but culture is largely formed by unspoken messages received about what is valued by the practice. So, to improve the workplace culture, you need to appropriately change messages received by your veterinary team via spoken word but also by observing the behavior of employees at the practice, and determining what is considered acceptable. To change the culture, you’ll need to change the behaviors that are determined to not be acceptable.
For example, your policy handbook may say that gossip about clients is not permitted. But if, in reality, employees roll their eyes about clients and then laugh – and if that is allowed to continue to happen – then your culture is pro-gossip, not anti-gossip, even if no words are spoken.
This example also highlights the importance of performing a culture audit. At its core, a culture audit identifies messages conveyed, and then assesses whether they are the ones you want to be imparting and how consistent/inconsistent they are. This information will help to provide you with the insight you need to develop a healthier workplace culture.
Before You Begin an Audit: Authenticity Matters
As you begin to read more about workplace cultures, you will find ones that you admire – and ones that you don’t. It’s good to be able to identify what you want as part of your own culture (and what you don’t!). But, as the CEO and co-founder of UrbanBound, Michael Krasman, points out in a 2015 article titled Successful Entrepreneurs Understand the Importance of Company Culture, “Be true to who you are. Don’t define your company’s culture by the catchphrase of the day.” He also warns against creating a “grandiose vision and mission” that isn’t true to what you’re actually doing.
Performing a Culture Audit
You can gather information for your culture audit in multiple ways, and it’s more effective if you use more than one information-gathering method. To begin, it makes sense to simply observe your practice. Now that you’ve got a watchful eye, what are you noticing about the messages that are shared among team members and between them and your clients? Are they ones you want to impart?
You can also interview employees of the practice, both individually and as part of small focus groups. You can provide employees with surveys where they can choose to stay anonymous; if someone wants to share information with you but isn’t sure how you’d respond, he or she will most likely feel more comfortable with an anonymous survey.
It often makes sense to hire a consultant to get an impartial observer’s impressions. You are so close to what’s happening in your practice that it may be hard to be objective. This is especially true if your culture needs improved upon, but it can also be true with a practice where the workplace culture is largely positive and effective.
Throughout this process, notice how people are behaving. Note what they do and try to determine why they are doing what they do. What belief systems are driving their behaviors? As just one example, are they not trying to improve processes in the practice because they’re convinced that others won’t change what they’re currently doing? If so, how objectively true is that?
Assess the current procedures. How well do they dovetail with the verbal messages you are giving relevant team members? Perhaps, for example, you are telling your receptionist staff that nothing is more important than the client who is in front of them at the moment. That’s a great message – but if, in reality, you expect the same person to answer the phones while checking in the new clients, how realistic is it for him or her to provide a client with his or her undivided attention?
Take a good hard look at how you are using your finite resources, including time and money, and compare that against your ideal scenario. How close are you to the ideal? Where do disparities exist? Look at how you reward employees, how you develop them as leaders and how you promote them. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it should get you started.
Additional Questions to Ask Yourself
Consider what your communication style is, and whether you’re happy with it. Do you simply make announcements and expect your employees to run with it? Or do you solicit feedback and empower employees? What is your risk tolerance? Does your customer service style match your practice’s stated vision and values? How do your customers talk about your practice? Are you happy with what you hear? What is your competition doing well? Not so well?
Where to Go from Here
Once the audit is complete, you can then compare your ideal culture to today’s actual culture, and identify where gaps exist. Once those gaps are identified, then you can begin to create a plan to improve your practice’s culture so that it’s a healthy one, and one that serves the practice itself, the members of the team, and the clients and their companion animals well.
If you’re looking for an experienced professional consultant to help you with your practice’s culture audit, contact us online, email email@example.com or call 908-823-4607.
Finding the right resident for your practice is a lot of time and work. Protect your investment and keep your resident from straying to other practices by including proper retention provisions in your residency agreements.
The basic bargain you make with your resident is simple: you agree to pay all or part of your resident’s training and residency living expenses; and your resident agrees to work at your practice for a minimum period—the “retention period”– after she is board certified.
To implement this bargain, residency provisions typically use a stick and/or carrot approach. The stick requires your resident to pay back the residency expenses you fronted if she fails to timely pass her residency or if she leaves your practice before the agreed upon retention period expires. The carrot, which is optional, pays your resident a bonus at the end of the retention period.
Here’s a list of the principal issues your residency provisions should address, bearing in mind that the main variable affecting their structure and content is whether or not the residency will be in-house.
- Residency Rules. If you are sponsoring the residency, both you and the resident should agree to respectively follow the residency rules and guidelines set by the applicable veterinary college (“Residency Rules”). Accordingly, you would be prudent to ensure that compliance with Residency Rules will not unduly burden your practice before you commit to sponsoring the residency. The residency provisions should also: (a) require the resident to keep track and inform you of any rule changes; and (b) allow you to terminate the residency without penalty in the unlikely event a rule change makes compliance too burdensome for your practice.
- In-House Residencies. With in-house residencies, your resident will invariably be your employee during the residency period, so all the usual employee issues relating to compensation and benefits apply. However, you will need to adjust your standard employment agreement to give your resident time to: (a) complete whatever externships are required by the Residency Rules; and (b) study for her boards. (In this regard, you may consider reducing her compensation accordingly.) Do not forget to check that your insurance and benefit plans will cover your resident during this period.
- Off-Site Residencies. If a veterinary school or other hospital is going to sponsor the residency, you need to consider whether you want your resident to be your employee during this time. If the resident will be attending a veterinary school or other hospital far from your practice, you may not want her to be your employee, since an employer is generally liable for their employees while they are acting within the scope of their employment. Since you have deeper pockets than your (normally) impecunious resident, plaintiffs will be motivated to sue you if your resident gets into trouble.
If this liability worries you, then you will need to loan your resident the amounts she needs, with the understanding that you will employ her as soon as she is permitted to take the boards (and then forgive the loan at the end of the retention period).
Loaning residency expenses to your resident with an employment agreement to follow will be more complicated to structure, negotiate and document, than simply employing your resident from the outset. This will take more time and cost more in legal fees. You will need to balance this increased cost against the risk of incurring liability for your employee’s acts and omissions while a resident. Such balancing will require weighing various factors, including the extent to which the veterinary school or other institution is liable for their residents and to which your resident employee will be deemed to be acting within the scope of her employment. Common sense would indicate that the school or institution should be primarily liable for all resident activities and that the risk of your incurring such liability is remote. But all bets are off in our sue-happy society. It may also be possible to cost-effectively insure against any residual liability. As a precaution, your resident should agree to seek your permission before engaging in any remunerative activity while a resident, (e.g., working at a shelter or temping at an emergency clinic), so that you can evaluate the risk thereof.
Finally, depending upon the residency program’s schedule and how far away it is from your practice, consider whether you want your resident to work for you during week-ends, holidays and/or residency program breaks.
- Ensuring Diligence. Whether or not your resident will be completing her residency at your practice, she should agree to diligently pursue her residency to completion, which will include studying and sitting for the boards as soon as she is permitted to do so. Your resident should commit to become board-certified by a certain deadline (which can be extended for a limited time if your resident becomes disabled). If the residency program is held off-site, your resident should agree to provide you with adequate documentation to monitor her progress.
- Residency Expense Tracking. Your residency provisions will also need to specify the residency expenses for which you will be responsible and how they will be documented and paid. Consult with your tax advisor to ensure that this is done in a tax efficient manner.
- Residency Expense Repayment. Now for the stick. The residency provisions typically will provide that the resident will repay the residency expenses you have advanced, unless she works at the practice through the end of the agreed upon retention period. In essence, your resident is “working off” her “debt” to you. (The “debt” being your advance of residency expenses to her.) Thus, during the retention period, your former resident’s compensation should be less than market to reflect this “repayment.”
This loan analogy cuts both ways however, because a savvy resident will demand that the repayment obligation be suitably pro-rated, so that if she leaves, say, in the middle of the retention period, she need reimburse only half of the residency expenses.
The provisions should provide for a repayment schedule and an interest rate (or specify that the resident will owe no interest). In attempting to reduce interest as much as possible or eliminate it all together, a savvy resident will argue that the practice is benefiting from the services of a “captive” specialist, who cannot leave without incurring a substantial reimbursement obligation. This benefit is above and beyond what an un-affiliated lender would receive, and in consideration for this benefit your practice should not charge interest. (Be advised, however, that charging below market interest or no interest may subject you to tax liability.)
- Disability and Early Termination. Proper residency provisions must also cover life’s more foreseeable contingencies. The two principal intervening events that should be addressed are disability, and employee termination before the expiration of the retention period.
7.1. Resident disability generally will extend the deadline for obtaining board certification and also length of the retention period. If your resident’s disability lasts longer than this extension, she normally would be terminated, just like any other employee subject to long-term disability. But what about her repayment obligation? Should she still owe you for the residency expenses you advanced? If you’re tough you might say yes. If you’re nicer you might want to forgive your disabled resident’s repayment obligation in whole or in part. (Note that you might be able to insure against this risk.)
7.2. What happens if you terminate your resident before the end of the retention period? If you terminate for the usual “for good cause” reasons, then the resident should still repay you for the residency expenses you advanced. In this regard, the residency provisions should allow you to terminate your resident “for good cause” if she fails to become board-certified by a specified date.
But if you terminate your resident at your discretion, i.e., for any reason other than “for good cause”, then the provisions should extinguish your resident’s obligation to repay you for the residency expenses.
If your resident leaves before the end of the retention period she will owe you the residency expenses you advanced. That is after all the whole point of having retention provisions in the first place. But heads up: a savvy resident will require the provisions to address what happens if she terminates her residency agreement because of your breach of that agreement.
- Retention Bonus. If you wish to motivate your resident with a carrot in addition to the stick, the residency provisions can provide that you will pay your resident a specified bonus if she stays through a specified date (which need not coincide with the end of the retention period, and could even be paid periodically in installments). As with your resident’s obligation to repay residency expenses, the bonus provisions will need to deal with disability and early termination (either implicitly or explicitly).
- Residencies as CLE. Residency programs at veterinary schools or other institutions can constitute a valuable educational resource for your practice. Accordingly, do not forget to require your resident to provide copies of all interesting residency documents and give your practice periodic presentations of residency activities.
Like many things in life, residency provisions are simple in concept but complex in implementation. You will need to invest some time and effort, and incur some expense in preparing a proper residency agreement. Accordingly, it makes sense to temporarily employ your future resident at your practice before committing to any residency obligation—just to make sure that she is worth the investment.
When you see the term “problem employee,” what comes to mind? Perhaps someone in your practice makes negative comments about virtually every situation, whereas someone else may disappear whenever an unpleasant task needs to be done. Or, maybe someone believes he or she has the correct answer for every situation, and doesn’t follow procedure when it conflicts with what he or she thinks is appropriate. While every practice will have a different version of a problem employee, nearly every practice has at least one such person to deal with.
When an employee acts in an inappropriate way, how should it be handled? When is disciplinary action warranted? Here is a six-step process.
Step 1: Enter the situation, as a manager, with the appropriate attitude. Make sure you are not making a decision based on angry feelings and don’t rush to judgment. The decision as to whether to discipline an employee must be made carefully.
Step 2: Identify the cause of the problem. In general, there are two types: performance problems and behavioral problems; it’s important to determine which type you are dealing with before proceeding.
Performance problems occur when an employee is not meeting the minimum expectations for his or her job duties. If you establish metrics and measure them, then it can be fairly easy to determine whether an employee is meeting standards. If the answer is “no,” try to figure out why. Does the employee need more training? Is he or she lacking in a certain skill? If so, then the issue can potentially be addressed by providing additional help to increase the employee’s productivity.
Behavioral issues, though, typically occur when an employee deliberately decides to not comply with established rules, procedures and/or policies. This can encompass negligence, insubordination and other misconduct. Actions taken are typically within the employee’s control and are the type often culminating in disciplinary actions.
Step 3: Gather information. For a performance-based issue, statistical information is often helpful. If, for example, an employee is tasked with sending out ten postcards weekly to clients, but he or she only is sending out an average of eight, that hard data is important to share with the employee. Remember to look deeper at the situation, though. If Employee A is not meeting postcard requirements, the fact that Employee B has been away from work for the past six weeks for medical reasons may be highly relevant. How did Employee A perform before that timeframe?
If a problem is behavioral – perhaps an employee doing a substandard job of cleaning cages – gather together examples of behaviors you consider unacceptable and how often they are occurring.
Step 4: Next, it’s time to determine what disciplinary actions would be appropriate to take. Generally accepted disciplinary actions include:
- informal discussion
- verbal warning
- written warning
- final written warning
- suspension without pay
- decrease in pay or hours
- “last chance” warning
Before you move forward, it’s important to ensure that disciplinary actions you are about to take are consistent with:
- procedures listed in your employee handbook
- how you have handled similar situations in the past
If you list specific disciplinary steps in your handbook, it’s crucial that you follow them. Does, for example, your handbook state that specific steps will be taken in order or does it give you flexibility to tailor disciplinary measures to the situation? If your handbook does not appropriately address the situation you’re in, consider revising your handbook for future incidents.
Then consider what disciplinary incidents have occurred in the past and how you handled them. Which one is closest in nature to what you’re facing now? In that previous situation, did you skip steps? If so, why did you make that decision? Because of the seriousness of the infraction? How does that compare to what you’re dealing with today?
Important caution: As you navigate your current situation, be very careful that you do not take disciplinary actions that could be considered discriminatory. It is extremely important for your practice to be consistent with how you discipline employees; if there is a reason why you will not be able to handle comparable offenses in a consistent way, carefully document your reasons why. Also, be sure the offense and the discipline fit one another. If an employee becomes physically aggressive with someone else, for example, immediate termination may well be warranted. That is not necessarily true if the issue is lateness to work.
Step 5: Meeting with the employee is the next step and it’s important to do your best to have this discussion in a private area where you’re unlikely to be overheard and to keep the meeting between you and the employee. This meeting will likely be tense, no matter how justified you are in your actions. Be sure to remain calm throughout the meeting, sharing your message with your employee in a straightforward, unemotional way.
Key steps include:
- Develop a clear statement describing the behavior or performance deficiency that led to the discipline; include specific examples
- Restate the expectations and requirements about the area of deficiency
- Develop a performance improvement plan that includes a list of tasks, activities, deliverables and outcomes that must occur within a set time
- Schedule a date to follow-up
- Review the consequences of future occurrences with this and/or related deficiencies
- Review the highlights of your discussion
- Document the discussion, have employee sign a form that summarizes the disciplinary action, and place a signed copy employee’s official personnel folder
Be sure to give your employee a chance to share his or her side of the story, as well. Although it is unlikely you will change your mind about actions being taken, you may learn relevant new information; at a minimum, this may reduce the employee’s resistance about the steps you’re taking.
You may be wondering whether it makes sense to impose a timeframe for corrective actions. The answer is that they can backfire. If, for example, you tell the employee you will closely monitor whether he or she leaves work early over the next 60 days, the employee can comply – and then revert to former behaviors, claiming that he or she met the standards set in the warning. Your goal is to have behaviors improve and then have that improvement sustained over the long haul.
With behavioral issues, the onus for improvement is entirely upon the employee. With performance issues, you must play an active role, perhaps by providing ongoing training and more frequent feedback.
Step 6: Document all important interactions with your employee, such as the disciplinary action meeting, and place a copy of your detailed notes in the official personnel file of the employee. Refer to this document when it’s time for any future disciplinary actions, or when it’s time to provide performance reviews, pay raises, promotions and the like. If the employee ever claims you treated him or her unfairly, this documentation will make it easier to defend your actions.
Don’t wait until you need to address disciplinary issues to foolproof relevant procedures. Ensure that you have your processes in place before the next situation arises and you will be much better prepared to handle incidents requiring discipline more effectively.
Originally published for Today’s Veterinary Business
“ . . . leadership ‘remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations around the world,’ with 86% of respondents to the survey rating it ‘urgent’ or ‘important.’ However, the fact that only 13% say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels means that this area has the largest ‘readiness gap.’” (Forbes.com/Deloitte University Press)
It’s hard to dispute that strong leadership is important, so how can this readiness gap be filled in? Here are eight strategies from Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell.
Drivers and Passengers
Are you a driver – or are you a passenger? Drivers must keep their focus on the road, whereas passengers have more freedom to goof off. And, to be a good leader, you must become like the driver with more responsibilities and fewer freedoms. As a manager, for example, you must oversee people, and you should not complain about company management. Plus, as a strong leader, you should never look for someone else to blame. That causes you to focus on the past, whereas fully accepting responsibility permits you to focus on today, on now, to move forward and to plan for positive change in the future.
Here’s the bottom line. You can’t always control a situation, but you can control how you respond. Yes, there are struggles in management, but there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself, because that’s a total waste of time.
Keeping the Main Thing . . . the Main Thing
What’s the most important thing – the MAIN thing – for your department or team? Ask ten different people and you’ll most likely get that many answers. So, as a leader, it’s crucial that you communicate what the main thing is, both to the people you manage as well as to your superiors. When everyone has the same understanding of purpose and goals, it’s much easier to remain focused and productive.
Escape from Management Land
How can you do that? Here are three steps:
- Hire the right people.
- Coach all of your people to succeed.
- De-hire the people who don’t pull their share of the load.
And, here’s a common trap to avoid. There are three categories of workers: superstars, middle stars and falling stars. Managers far too often give superstars increasing amounts of work to do while taking away the work from the falling stars. This rewards the falling stars by giving them less work to do for the same pay while your superstars are being overworked. Flip this model upside down! Instead of lowering the bar to accommodate falling stars, raise the bar and reward your superstars.
The Do Right Rule
Do the right thing, even if no one is watching – and even when doing so is hard. It’s your job to establish a code of behavior and to protect your integrity, which will help to build trust between you and your team. Also, do not make decisions when you’re in a crisis. Instead, implement previously-prepared plans as your response. Think of yourself as a pilot who sees a flashing warning light. He or she doesn’t ignore the light in the plane. Instead, the pilot troubleshoots, refers to a manual of potential fixes and then implements the correct one to fix the problem before it becomes an emergency.
When you hire tough, managing becomes easier – a much better scenario than hiring easy and managing tough. The right people can be your greatest asset, while the wrong people are your biggest liability. Here are hiring tips:
- Always plan your interviews ahead of time.
- Develop your questions and then practice the order in which you ask them.
- Hire using the rule of three: interview at least three people for each position, see each person three times, and have three people evaluate them.
- When you interview someone multiple times, schedule them for different times of the day. You will be working with someone all day so seeing them at different times for an interview is useful.
- Never lower your standards to fill a spot. Finding the right person is more important than filling a hole.
- Ultimately, make it an honor to work for your team.
Do Less or Work Faster
You can’t add time to your day so, to be more efficient, you either have to do less or work faster. To accomplish the latter, you’ll need to implement strategies to make better use of your time. Here are examples:
- First, spend uninterrupted planning time every day. This allows you to be organized in how you spend your time.
- Next, clean your desk. A cluttered desk doesn’t make you look busy or important. Instead, it makes you look unorganized and can lead to shuffling and reshuffling files or papers, which wastes time.
- Only check email at scheduled times.
- Organize similar activities into batches to reduce transition times.
- Change your lunch time to 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. to avoid lines.
- Keep meetings short and productive.
Here’s a big one: limit interruptions because time is wasted every time you are interrupted. If you can’t avoid an interruption, limit it. Sound impossible? Here’s one tip: if you stand up when someone comes in your office, that helps to keep the interruption shorter.
Buckets and Dippers
Picture each person as having a bucket of motivation. For some people, the bucket can be overflowing; for others, it is virtually empty and needs refilled. Also imagine each person with a dipper that represents negativity – or anything else that can drain someone else’s motivation.
An outstanding leader keeps everyone’s bucket full. But, how? Here are four ways to fill a bucket:
- Identify what’s important for people in order to do a good job and avoid creating confusion or being inconsistent.
- Provide feedback on how each employee is doing.
- Let employees know you care about them and the job they do.
- Also let them know how well they are doing as a team.
The best news is, the more you as a leader fill other buckets, the more your own bucket will be filled. And, interestingly enough, leaders actually need their employees more than their employees need their leaders. If you remove the leader, employees will typically still get 95% of their work done. If, though, you removed all the employees, the leader would probably only be able to get 10% of the work done. So employers should focus on helping employees be the very best they can be.
Enter the Learning Zone
Leaders need to focus on their own growth; otherwise, they will get stuck in their comfort zones where nothing changes. As a leader, you can picture yourself in the learning zone that has three rooms.
The first room is the reading room. Most leadership problems are not unique and wisdom can be found in leadership books. If leaders spent just ten minutes a day reading, they would have read 12 books over the course of a year, which could significantly increase knowledge on a subject.
The second room is the listening room. The main reasons executives fail are arrogance, ego and insensitivity. When leaders forget to take the time to listen to their teams, they become insensitive to their needs and desires. Also, use your listening time wisely. When you are in the car, for example, you could spend time listening to motivational or inspirational tapes instead of talk radio or music.
The third room is the giving room. Teach others what you have learned. The more leaders teach, the more they become accountable to what they are teaching. Set goals for yourself as a leader because goals are the strongest force for self-motivation – because they push you out of your comfort zone.
Finally, stay positive! Bad things happen to everyone, but the successful don’t get discouraged.