“ . . . 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.
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” (Hesoid, 700 BC)
Everyone knows how lazy the Millennial generation is, right? And how disrespectful? They bounce from job to job, expecting money to simply be handed to them. What a sense of entitlement! They hover around their phones, texting instead of interacting with others around them – and don’t even get us started on the selfie craze.
When we say “everyone” knows this, by the way, we aren’t just talking about people in the United States. Oh, no! In Japan, this generation is known as nagara-zoku, defined as “the people who are always doing two things at once.” In China? They are known as ken lao zu for – ready for this – “the generation that eats the old.”[i]
Pretty clear cut, right? Well, not so fast.
Changing Economical Factors
This generation (people born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) have challenges not faced by previous generations. More than 40 million of them have student loan debt that collectively totals more than one trillion dollars. Costs of a college education in the United States have skyrocketed by 1,120 percent from 1978 to 2010 – and, when good-paying jobs are scarce, it is extremely challenging to pay off education debts. One Ohio State University professor compares this significant student loan debt to youth graduating college burdened with the equivalent of a mortgage.
Millennial Generation Perspective
There are approximately 85 to 90 million Millennials in the United States alone, and they are more educated than any previous generation. While that is encouraging, it also means that supply is greater than demand for people with many types of education, thereby creating a “perfect storm for unemployment, underemployment, and a flat-out frustrating beginning to our career . . . The college diploma feels worth as much as your high school degree now, with the new tension of feeling like you have to now get a master’s or Phd to even be allowed into the game.”
Forty percent of the unemployed are Millennials – the most educated generation ever, remember. So, here they are, investing significantly in their education, garnering higher levels of student loan debt than ever before, while having “lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of life.”[ii]
The Survey Says . . .
So, how do we tease the truth from what “everyone knows” about Millennials? The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 is an excellent source of information, containing survey data from almost 7,700 Millennials from 29 countries in September and October 2015. You can download the entire report[iii] but here are highlights. First, yes, it’s true that Millennials are feeling less loyalty to their workplaces, overall, with two thirds of them wanting to leave their current workplace by 2020; 44 percent would like to switch places of employment within two years. This is a significant challenge to businesses that employ this generation – and, since they represent the largest workplace segment (they will make up half the workforce by 2050)[iv], the challenge is widespread.
Millennials often plan to exit a workplace, the survey shows, because their values don’t match that of their workplaces. Other reasons include:
- Perceived lack of development of their leadership skills
- Perceived feelings of being overlooked
- Work/balance issues
- Desire for flexibility
Interestingly enough, Millennials appear to be guided by values throughout their careers, not just early on. This appears in:
- Jobs they accept
- Assignments they take
- Decisions they make as managers
They want businesses to focus less on profit and more on the people involved, from employees to customers to society at large. They also want more of a focus on products and on business purpose, and they want to feel in control of their own careers.
What about that Sense of Entitlement?
What older generations may see as a sense of entitlement is typically perceived by Millennials as an unwillingness to settle. They want work that stirs their passions – and, when you factor in economic challenges, the attitude of many Millennials is that, if they aren’t going to be able to have financial security, they might as well at least do work they enjoy. The following paradox applies to a good percentage of this generation: “they do not want to settle for an unsatisfying job that will barely allow them to get by but, at the same time, they have no choice but to take an unsatisfying job so they can afford to pursue their passion.” (Guardian, March 2016).
Millennials have lived their entire lives in a time of rapidly advancing technology, so it’s no surprise that it makes little sense to them to be attached to a desk when they could work remotely. They don’t perceive that as laziness or that they’re entitled to not come into the workplace. Instead, they see it as being efficient and working smarter.
And, because many Millennials attended college in the era of a financial crisis, they may not feel as secure in a particular job. Rather than rely upon a workplace, they may create self-employment opportunities.
Work to Live, Not Live to Work
Many from this generation focus on work/life integration, where “work life, creative ambitions, and social life are intertwined.” (Guardian, March 2016). For those who work remotely or in other less traditional ways, it may make perfect sense to start work later in the day and work until midnight – or to work different hours on different days. If this fits their lifestyle and the work they’re doing, they figure, why not?
And, that job hopping thing? Statistics for Americans show that job tenure for those in their twenties is almost exactly the same for Millennials as it was in the 1980s. Plus, as the founder of the Graduate Fog career site notes that, when a Millennial finds a job after graduation where he or she feels appreciated, that person tends to stay at that job. It’s when a career gets off to a rockier start that the young adult tends to switch jobs more frequently.
Blending Perspectives in the Workplace
The reality is that, if you’re from an older generation than the Millennials, you are most likely working with the younger generation – or will be in the near future. So, the goal is to find common ground and to find ways to work well together. Here are three ways to help make that happen:
- Offer flexibility
- Focus on outcomes
- Encourage collaboration
And, in closing, here is a good perspective to consider: “In my opinion, millennials work just as hard as any previous generation in the workplace. They have a different perspective on how work gets done, and it’s counterproductive to expect them to acquiesce to outdated policies and practices. Give them opportunities to blend their work and life more easily, and you will find that you are well-positioned to achieve even greater success in the future.”[v]
[ii] 5 Shocking Statistics About the Challenges Facing the Millennial Generation
[v] Millennials Don’t Want Work Life Balance
If you’re a veterinarian or office manager, does this scenario sound familiar?
Sure, your veterinary office staff is getting their work done. They let you know when customers arrive and they check them in and out efficiently. They’re never rude and you can’t pinpoint anything that is blatantly wrong, and yet . . . something is wrong.
If you believe that your office staff is emotionally disengaged from work, your observation is likely to be accurate. A Gallup study of more than 1.5 million employees shows that:
- 28 percent of employees are engaged in their work
- 55 percent are disengaged
- 17 percent are actively disengaged
This means that 72 percent of employees are not genuinely connected to the work they do! And, take an honest look in the mirror. Does this next description sound like you?
You arrive to work each day, needing to paste on a smile before you greet your veterinary office team and, although you do your best with each client, it’s feeling like – well, like a job, when it used to feel much more joyful.
Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. If you’re part of a veterinary office staff, have you experienced either (or both!) of these?
Scenario 1: You love animals and began working in a veterinary office for just that reason. But, the paperwork is grinding you down and the enthusiasm that you once had for your job just isn’t there anymore.
Scenario 2: When you got a job at the Main Street Veterinary practice, you were thrilled! Working with Dr. Joanne was a real privilege and more than one person in her office went to veterinary school themselves because of her encouragement and leadership. And, it used to be so enjoyable to work there . . .
Whether you need to motivate or be motivated, and whether you’re part of practice management or part of the practice office staff, the question remains: how? How can you motivate yourself or others to transform a practice?
Motivation as a Partnership
According to Bernard L. Erven, a professor in the department of agricultural, environmental and developmental economics at the Ohio State University, and Robert A. Milligan, professor in the department of applied economics and management at Cornell University, motivation works best when both employer and employee are vested in the process.
Employees’ most crucial contribution is self-motivation (more about that later) and commitment to making the partnership work. It is their role to seek out a job and work environment that “fits their knowledge, skills, abilities, needs and interests” (Erven and Milligan, 2001) with miscast employees seldom able to maintain motivation. The employee must be open to learning and willing to admit whenever he or she doesn’t know something. There must be a commitment to the vision, mission, core values and goals of the workplace and the willingness to communicate needs, concerns and ideas – then listening to the employer response.
Employers must address two factors: dissatisfiers and motivators. Dissatisfiers include “poor working conditions, unsafe equipment, exhausting physical work combined with excessively long work days and weeks, unfair pay, disagreeable supervisors, unreasonable rules and policies, unchallenging work and conflict with co-workers” (Erven and Milligan, 2001). Employers must proactively participate in resolving these issues, while recognizing that this will most likely increase employee satisfaction, but will not serve as motivators. To turn an employee from a merely satisfied one to a motivated one, employers must provide training and create experiences that will foster “achievement, recognition, satisfying work, responsibility and personal growth” (Erven and Milligan, 2001).
Motivation versus Inspiration
Lance Secretan, PhD, the author of Motivation and the former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, suggests that motivation isn’t the real answer. According to Secretan, motivation is based on fear, a carrot-and-stick approach. It is externally based, wherein an outside source must create the momentum. Inspiration, on the other hand, is internally based and has love as its foundation. More specifically, “Inspiration is a way of being that can be encouraged by another person who is also inspired” (Swift, 2013). Inspiration can be contagious!
Here’s another crucial point. It is “difficult, perhaps even impossible, to inspire others when operating from a place of fear, worry, or concern” (Swift, 2013). So, before you can inspire others, you must first work on your own self, whether you’re on the management side of the practice or are part of the office team.
Re-remember yourself and your purpose! At one time, you most likely had tremendous enthusiasm for what you were doing. Perhaps you are the only practice in the area for large animals or maybe you have state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment that has saved lives. No matter what the specifics, you are caring and advocating for animals, which is a blessing to both the animals and the people who bring them to you. What is your mission and vision, both personally and as a practice? When you tap into that purpose, mission and vision, inspiration naturally refuels your enthusiasm.
How Will You Measure Your Life?
Author Clayton Christenson published a book titled How Will You Measure Your Life? In it, he doesn’t differentiate between the concepts of motivation and inspiration, like Secretan does, but he does reaffirm the concept of returning to why you were inspired to enter your profession in the first place to regain enthusiasm. Co-authors Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners (Don’t Retire, Rewire!) refer to motivational factors as “drivers,” and it can be very helpful to mindfully think about your personal and practice-wide drivers. What makes your job truly meaningful?
When veterinary professionals focus on their drivers, they are often the following: “loving animals, solving problems, dealing with science, helping people and making a difference in the community” (Paul, 2013). And, when you lose sight of your main drivers, dissatisfaction often sets in. Christenson says that these are the important questions to ask yourself (and then remind yourself of your answers):
- Is this work meaningful?
- Will I be able to grow from it?
- Am I going to learn?
- Is there recognition?
- Do I make a real difference in my community? (Paul, 2013)
Let the “yes” answers reinvigorate you!
Self Care and Observation
If you feel yourself dragging and your motivation/inspiration is lacking, the problem could be exhaustion or other physical causes. How often do you feel tired? How much sleep do you get? How often do you feel sick, in pain or lethargic? See your doctor regularly, get enough rest and “Listen to your body when it’s telling you things, seek out the causes of your discomfort, and deal with them as best you can” (Stillman, 2014).
Here’s another thought. If you’re feeling frustration, are you in fact in a state of growth? The cliché of “no pain, no gain” contains truth – and, when you’re adding to your abilities and achievements, it’s common to feel uncomfortable and this can drain your energy. But, the feeling of discomfort can actually be one of stretching and expanding your horizons.
Erven, B.L. and R.A. Milligan. (2001, July). Making Employee Motivation a Partnership, Ohio State University and Cornell University. Retrieved from http://aede.osu.edu/
Paul, M. (2013, April 1). Check Your Balance: Discovering What Motivates You as a Veterinarian, Veterinary Business DVM 360. Retrieved from http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com
Stillman, J. (2014, October 8). 5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Harder, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com
Swift, W.B. (2013, January 1). Stop Motivating and Start Inspiring Your Veterinary Staff, Veterinary Business DVM 360. Retrieved from http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com
The article “How to Recover after a Communication Breakdown,” by Charlie Powell talks about how the importance the anatomy of communication is not only in determining what went wrong but in looking for a solution to make things right or to prevent such a breakdown in the future. He discussed 5 major aspects of communication as well as the questions to ask when something goes wrong.
- Sender – this is the person trying to deliver the message. When something goes wrong some questions to ask about the sender are: Did they deliver the message to everyone? Did they rely on a note to convey the information? Did employees that saw the note tell others?
- Coding – this is the language of the communication. Questions to ask when there is a communication breakdown include: Was the message clear? Were the details of the message correct?
- Channel – the medium by which the message was sent. When there is a problem, one should ask the following questions about the channel: How many mediums were used? Were there reminders? Or were there too many reminders?
- Decoding – the translation of the message. When determining if the decoding is the problem in a communication breakdown, ask the following questions: Did the employees understand what I was trying to convey? If not, why not? How could they decode it to mean something different?
- Feedback – this is how the receiver responds. If there is no response, then you know there was a breakdown at some point and this is where you ask each person who was intended to get the message what you could have done differently.
Powell made clear that sometimes outside forces such as distractions and emotions can be a major hindrance to making sure the communication hits its mark. It is important to mitigate those outside factors as much as possible and have important communications done in a quiet office. Powell remarked that in high risk environments, such as a veterinary clinic where there are always many things happening, communication is most essential and breakdowns are common. By really understanding 5 core aspects of a message and the distractions that happen in your environment, you can learn how to be a better communicator and not only fix the problem when a breakdown happens but also prevent a future breakdown.
When distractions run rampant in your practice, take the time to evaluate ways to communicate better with your employees and decrease those distractions. It can be as simple as asking your employees to arrive 5-10 minutes earlier than their shift so that you can convey important messages before they get distracted with their tasks and the patients coming in.
When someone is upset and comes to you, find a quiet, secluded area where they can compose themselves and then listen to what they have to say before offering suggestions. Sometimes people just need to talk about what is bothering them. This has benefits that are 2-fold: 1. The employee will feel like they can come to you with any problem if you are willing to listen to their problem and 2. You can learn about what the employees are having problems with and can cater your communication with them to focus on those points. By knowing the anatomy of communication and the things that bother or drive your employees can serve you well to being a better communicator as you move forward.
When it comes to discussing art, many people say, “I’m not an expert but I know what I like when I see it.” The same concept is often true when it comes to leadership abilities, as well. We can recognize when a leader is either being especially effective or ineffective, but we can’t always say why. And, without being able to deconstruct the “why,” it can be challenging to develop yourself as a leader.
Effective leaders possess a spectrum of skill sets, and this article reviews five core abilities of quality leaders. This includes the ability to:
- Negotiate fairly and well
- Be assertive
- Be accountable
- Communicate clearly
- Deal with negative attitudes
Here are more specifics about each.
Negotiate Fairly and Well
Negotiations occur when two or more parties attempt to resolve differing needs and interests through a series of communications. They negotiate because they each have something that the other one needs and believe that, through the process of negotiation, they can obtain a better outcome than by simply accepting the initial offer. The process can take finesse, as you attempt to resolve a situation through discussions, rather than by either ending the relationship, allowing one person to dominate the relationship, or turning the dispute over to another party to resolve.
Important negotiation terminology to understand includes:
- Target point: what you’d like the other party to agree to, such as a certain starting wage
- Bargaining range: the difference between the two target points, such as between employer and employee:
- Positive bargaining range: if, for example, the employer’s resistance point is above the employee’s in wage negotiations
- Negative bargaining range: when the employer’s resistance point is below the employee’s in wage negotiations, which means one or both must change resistance points for satisfactory resolution to occur
- Resistance point: the point at which a party to negotiations would walk away, rather than continuing to negotiate
- Opening offer: the first person to state a dollar amount creates the starting point of negotiations
- BATNA (best alternative to negotiation agreements): if a party has the BATNA, then he or she will approach negotiations with more confidence, having an alternate plan in case all is not satisfactorily resolved
Helpful negotiation tips include the following:
- Educate yourself on workplace rights before negotiations occur as well as company policies on important issues, such as if you or your spouse become pregnant.
- Don’t focus solely on salary when negotiating at a workplace. Also discuss benefits, workplace perks and whatever else is important to you; for example, health care coverage, life insurance, retirement programs, vacation time and flextime. What are competitors offering? Where does your offer fall on the spectrum?
- If you really want to work at a specific practice, but the pay rate isn’t what you want, you could accept the job with the contingency that you’ll receive a salary review in six months.
- How can your schedule be made more flexible? Would you, for example, be permitted to come in 30 minutes later each day to take your children to school and then schedule your lunch break when you need to pick them up?
- Who should make the first offer? Although some experts believe that making the opening offer tips your hand, research shows that final figures tend to be closer to the original number than the other party hoped would happen.
- Avoid providing a salary range, because you’re tipping your hand more than what’s necessary. Also avoid saying “I think we’re close” because that indicates to a savvy negotiator that you’re suffering from deal fatigue.
An article published by Forbes and written by a behavioral statistician offers the following statistics:
- Leaders who rank in the 75th percentile in good judgment and lower on assertiveness have a 4.2 percent chance of being highly rated as an effective leader
- If the reverse is true – high on assertiveness and lower on good judgment – then there is a 12.5 percent chance that he or she is perceived as an effective leader
- When someone is ranked highly on both attributes, though, the leader has a 71 percent chance of being considered among the best leaders
So, assertiveness has its place in leadership, but it should be tempered with good judgment. The article lists ways that you can be an assertive leader without crossing over into aggressiveness. They include connecting and communicating with people in all levels of the organization, especially about change, providing honest feedback in a helpful way, modeling the changes you want to see, and collaborating, among others.
Effective leaders, according to Are You an Assertive Leader?, coach their teams and are engaged with the process. They inspire those they manage, have and give direction, and are supportive team players. Contrast this type of leader with domineering ones with body language and tone that’s perceived to be angry. These leaders often dictate what needs done and are typically seen as forceful and demanding. Employees may have a hard time getting a word in edgewise with these leaders and they don’t welcome feedback. On the other side of the spectrum are passive leaders, perceived to be quiet, aloof and resentful, as well as disengaged and distant. They focus on avoiding confrontation and will often complete tasks on their own rather than engaging with others. Make it a goal to find that sweet spot in the middle and stay there!
Effective leaders are also coaches – and the letters in the word “coach” can provide guidance on how to act:
- C: clarify goals and communicate to all team members
- O: obtain commitment from your team
- A: analyze and appraise team performance and individual employee performance, as well as progress towards goals
- C: challenge the status quo, creating an environment that is comfortable with change
- H: help your team to succeed
Having a culture of accountability is crucial for a successful practice because members of the team can count on one another, and their sense of ownership in the practice helps it to succeed. To create such a culture, clearly outline responsibilities for each member of the team via a comprehensive job description and then provide appropriate training. Once each person understands his or her jobs, help your employees to create SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Monitor progress with regularly scheduled employee reviews, and provide praise along with feedback on areas where improvement is needed. If a big project is in progress, you could hold weekly team meetings for updates and to celebrate accomplishments. Also, be accountable yourself. You must transparently share your own goals as well as the overall goal for the practice. Help employees to see how their goals fit into the overall practice goal and be willing to share when you’ve fallen short, using that as a learning experience.
Additional tips include:
- After assigning tasks, let employees take on full responsibility. Provide specifics about each person’s role, along with deadlines, then allow your team to complete tasks. This shows your confidence in them.
- Don’t micromanage or insist that a team member accomplish a task exactly how you would. If the task is completed on time and satisfactorily, that’s what matters. Over-scrutinizing details can be counterproductive, leading your team to feel incompetent.
- Don’t check in too frequently. That can waste time and removes the responsibility of being accountable from your team.
So, hire the right staff and train them well. Give them ownership of their tasks and the room to accomplish their goals. Empower them to do well by giving them the opportunities to excel and leave the micromanaging to someone else.
There are five major aspects of communication, according to Charlie Powell in How to Recover after a Communication Breakdown, which means there are five places in which a breakdown can occur. First, there is the sender: the person or organization delivering a message. There, a breakdown can take place if the message is not appropriately shared and/or not sent to relevant parties.
Next, there is coding, which is the language of the communication. Were the right details shared in a clear manner? The third element is the channel. If there is a communication breakdown, review how many mediums were used and whether or not they were the right choices. Email? Fax? Telephone? How many reminders were sent – and was that number too small? Too large?
The next step in the process is decoding, which is how the receivers understood the message provided. If there is a problem here – and you’ve decided that the first three elements were handled correctly – determine what is causing the decoding block. Are the receivers of the message busy and distracted? Disinterested in the message content?
Finally, there is feedback. Did you receive any? If not, what seems to be the problem? Did a critical event occur that disrupted the normal flow of business? Or, again, is disinterest the root of the problem? A lack of trust in the sender?
Throughout this process, how much of a role are outside forces playing?
Deal with Negative Attitudes
In our article, Negative Attitudes: How to Identify and Deal with Negativity in the Practice, we list the following negative attitudes:
- Gossiping that causes conflict and/or ill will among staff
- Complaining, and never being pleased with decisions or comments made
- Criticizing, and exaggerating mistakes made by others
- Disrespectful comments and/or passive aggressive behaviors when given a task
- Arguing rather than compromising or finding ways to settle disagreements
- Goofing off, not helping when coworkers need assistance
- Any other comments or actions that affect the morale of people who works at the practice – and/or that damage client relationships and/or hurt the practice overall
As a leader, if you notice these behaviors in your practice, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the impact of the employee’s behavior?
- How do the person’s actions differ from the standards set for overall employee behavior?
- What’s the effect of this individual’s behavior on the people who work with him/her?
- If this person acted according to our accepted standards, could it make a difference in morale and productivity?
If the negative action is unusual behavior for a staff member, perhaps he or she is dealing with challenging personal problems and is therefore feeling overwhelmed. In that case, a heartfelt talk and an offer of help can be the answer. But, what if there is an ongoing pattern of negativity?
You can have employees sign a policy document that bans negative behaviors, such as gossiping. Then, if it occurs, you can meet with that person to discuss the policy. Ask the employee for suggestions on resolving the situation, meeting in private to avoid embarrassment. Be straightforward in your approach and, whenever possible, incorporate quality recommendations given. If this doesn’t help, then you may ultimately need to tell the employee that, if he or she isn’t happy at the practice, it makes sense to go elsewhere – for the good of the practice and the employee’s peace of mind.
There are, however, in between steps, including giving a verbal warning to the negative employee, with that warning noted in the employee’s file; a second written warning; and then termination with the third offense.
High Performance Team Culture
Finally, as we’ve noted in High Performance Team Culture Leadership Effectiveness in Engaging your Employees, you should always focus on creating a positive work environment, accomplished by:
- fostering clarity
- earning trust
- sharing information
- practicing stewardship
- energizing and inspiring employees
Let’s say you’ve found the “perfect” candidate for your veterinary tech. She’s skilled, great with animals and compassionate with people. What more could you need, right? But, shortly after you hire her, you notice she regularly uses swear words at work that make others feel uncomfortable and spends too much time sharing her political views with anyone she can corner. There’s no way you could have known that ahead of time, though . . . right? She just knew how to interview well, you tell yourself, and this was an unavoidable problem. Right?
Well, maybe not.
A ten-minute review of her Facebook page (okay, a five-minute review!) told you all of the above, and more. So, does this mean that, going forward, you should check interviewees’ social media pages during the screening process?
If you do, then CareerBuilder.com’s The Hiring Site says you’re not alone. Employers who are reviewing candidates’ social media accounts are steadily increasing:
- 2013: 39% of employers check
- 2014: 43% of employers check
- 2015: 52% of employers check
And, these employers go above and beyond simply reading what can be seen. Many are also sending friend requests to these candidates to obtain full access to a person’s social media profile and postings. In fact, more than one third of employers surveyed do so (35%) – and, interestingly enough, 20% of those requests are turned down by candidates!
Employers say they are looking for positives, not negatives, with 60% wanting information to back up a person’s qualifications, but 21% say, yes, they are checking to see if there are reasons NOT to hire someone.
Is This All Legit?
The short answer is, yes, this is legal when handled appropriately. However, proceed with caution, says hiring site Monster.com. Once you have reviewed a prospective employee’s social media profile, a court will “assume you are aware of that person’s ‘protected characteristics’ that are often part of their online postings.” This includes but is not limited to “religion, age, sexual orientation or disability.” Armed with these insights, you must be especially careful not to ask interview questions that are outside the legal scope, or use this information in your hiring decisions in a way that’s beyond legal limitations.
This article provides insights from David Baffa, a labor and employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP. His advice includes:
- Waiting to review social media postings until after you’ve met face to face. This helps to reduce the likelihood of being accused of making a snap judgment based on social media information or inappropriately using protected characteristics in your interview questions.
- Consistently reviewing social media information for each candidate, including doing so at the same point in the process for each.
- Saving and/or printing screen shots of areas of concern, ones that cause you to “question the candidate’s candor, professionalism or judgment.”
If this all sounds too complicated or fraught with pitfalls, know that this issue isn’t going away. At one time, background checks were considered to be controversial. Phone interviews were thought to be suspect by many employers and telecommuting options seemed impossible.
The reality is that technology, notably the Internet, has radically changed the way the world conducts business, and using social media as a screening tool is likely to only become more common – and, if you resist using it, you may be hurting your chances of getting the candidate that best suits your needs and fits your culture. This isn’t to say that you must use social media as a screening tool, but it does suggest you need to explore options, come up with a well-thought-out policy (even if the policy is to NOT review social media pages of any interviewees) and then strictly follow that policy.