Who killed your summer vacation?

Who killed your summer vacation?

The average manager has 2-3 weeks of paid vacation each year, but most do not use every day off.

Time Magazine cover article for the 6/1/15 edition asked “Who Killed Summer Vacation?”

In fact, this has become so prevalent, there is a commercial featuring kids asking “can we just have one more day?”     Pretty heartbreaking!

Do we love our jobs so much that we can’t possibly get away for 5 days at a time? Or are we creating conditions at the office where our teams and colleagues can’t function without our genius and brilliance?

I have a global client with multiple locations in Europe. Last summer we were working on a high priority sales compensation project. I was struck by the attitude of the sales manager from France and the regional operations Director in the UK. They simply mentioned “I am on holiday those two weeks (or month)”—no apologies, no offer to call into the meeting from the beach. And somehow their divisions seemed to survive the summer, and re-emerge in the fall with plenty accomplished.

If you own the company, you truly have no excuse.

What are you doing that can’t wait 5 days?

Who can you train to make decisions while you are gone?

My mother’s wisdom applies here – she used to say “I became a manager when I opened my second store. I had to put systems and people in place, since I couldn’t be there to handle everything.”

What can you do? I say book a 10 day cruise or vacation without email or phone access, and prepare as best you can. Then leave! You would be surprised by how your team can “hold down the fort” without you.

(In fact, have everyone keep a list of things they normally would have discussed with you, but they somehow figured out … then add these things to your training plan for next quarter).

Need some tips for taking charge of your schedule?:

Read my article about how delegation actually leads to more engagement: Engagement Driver 4- Training and Development

Entrepreneur Magazine article- 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance

4 Things High Performers Want From Managers

4 Things High Performers Want From Managers

Zenger Folkman report that employees who are the most satisfied and committed work for leaders who do 4 crucial “behaviors that focus on achieving challenging goals”

  1. Inspire them to high levels of effort
  2. Energize them to achieve exceptional results
  3. Create an atmosphere of continual improvement
  4. Skillful at getting them to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thoughts was possible

BAM- that sounds like a recipe for some high performing work!

To put it another way:

  • These managers have a People Plan for each person with mutually beneficial projects and work that are designed to be challenging.
  • This “stretch” work naturally develops the team member, and keeps her energized and inspired (and doing her best work).
  • Employees feels that “the company provides excellent learning and growth opportunities for my own development.” (This is the key to keeping employees from looking for another job.)
  • The positive coaching provided by the manager creates a team culture to perform at a high level, and this positive “peer pressure” continually reinforces the positive behaviors and outcomes.

This is the magic atmosphere where employees are engaged… performing with discretionary extra effort.

The most successful employers have 70-80% engaged employees, the worst 10-20%.

What if 7x more employees were terrific at their job- would that make a different to your team atmosphere and achievement?

If you want your department, your location, your organization to succeed- the key is managers who can positive coach and challenge the team to outperform every day.

Always a Crisis -Part 2

Always a Crisis -Part 2

My last article (Always a Crisis- Part 1) gave an example of “Chase” – a newly promoted supervisor who is struggling with his promotion to a new role.

I outlined the three main causes of performance gaps and four action steps to uncover the underlying cause and related solutions.

Once you identify the source and jointly develop a performance action plan, we will need to coach weekly towards improvement.

  • One possible outcome is that the person is making progress, although possibly not as fast as you would like. Be patient and keep working with someone who is trying their best.
  • Another possible outcome is that there is very little noticeable improvement in the first 30 days. Now you have to determine if this is a motivation issue or an ability issue.

Ability scenario – After about 60 days if you continue to witness that the person is “always in crisis,” the solution may be to move back to a role that has a short time span (daily tasks, tasks in natural sequence) rather than important projects.

Sometimes the solution is temporary – scale back the scope of the job with smaller “bites” to allow this person progress in competencies that take time to develop. Sometimes even with a slower development, this person make lack the necessary competencies.

In addition to weekly coaching, a monthly status update (end of month 1, 2, 3) is important to discuss progress and revise your action plan. It is important that you recognize effort and improvement, even if it is not as fast as you desire.

Motivation scenario– Sometimes you find that even with a great training plan, he does not make the expected effort. For example, the person does not complete the training action items or make seem to attempt changes to work habits or other behaviors. This is a symptom of a lack of motivation—it is possible he can do it, but chooses not to. No amount of coaching will improve the athlete if they are not “doing the reps.” Then this is a separate conversation.

If progress is not being made, then a crucial conversation needs to be clear on the potential consequences (change in role, move to another job, loss of job) before it happens.

This is not an easy situation to resolve, and requires a thoughtful and candid approach with a willingness of both parties to work together to identify the source and solutions.

Done well, even with a change back to his old job, you can retain and engage Chase as a valuable team member.

Done poorly, Chase loses engagement and will likely leave in a year or less. Or worse, you ignore the situation and Chase flounders in the job longer, losing his motivation and not providing the performance you need to serve your customers and the rest of the team.


Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Always a Crisis- Part 1

Always a Crisis- Part 1

Chase left our conversation abruptly. Across the plant floor, he had spotted a problem and rushed to make a correction. He was apologetic on his return. “Sorry, but this is why I called you today. I feel like a two armed octopus. There are eight things that need to happen, but I can only work on two problems at a time. Things get out of control about fifteen minutes into the day. And they never stop. At the end of the day, I look at my boss’ list of projects and the important things never seem to get worked on. There is always a crisis.” (Excerpt from Tom Foster management blog, 11/28/14)

Do you have an employee who is struggles with performing in their new role (either a new hire or an existing person who you gave a different responsibilities)?

How do you think “Chase” is feeling? Delighted this new position is overwhelming? Going home feeling a sense of accomplishment? Feeling like a success? Most likely Chase is disappointed and frustrated, as he wants to do a great job and feel competent.

After all, you thought he had what it takes to this this job well. And you hold the keys to finding out if this is a temporary training issue or a mis-match of his attributes to what is required to fill the role.

If you have a Chase on staff, I recommend evaluating for job fit through the following steps, and then jointly outlining a plan to give him the training, tools, and support to potential succeed.

If you both make an effort to develop his knowledge, skills, and competencies, he has a fair chance to do well.
Three main causes of performance gap, based on ability:

  • Person isn’t ready—needs more skill development
  • Person needs systems- may excel if given a structured process to plan and monitor work
  • Person isn’t a fit to job role- lacks key competencies that are difficult to develop in short term

Your Action Steps

  • Evaluate for job fit- identify the cause of gap
  • If coachable gaps, jointly create and implement a training action plan with Chase
  • Develop and coach on process and systems
  • Coach weekly towards improvement. If slow progress be patient and keep going. If there is no noticeable improvement or it is not lasting, more intervention is needed.

See next article for tips on a 90 day coaching plan for performance improvement “Always a Crisis— Part 2


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Employees “get” their purpose with cascading goals

Employees “get” their purpose with cascading goals

The Balanced Scorecard Institute calls it “cascading goals.”

I love this term, because you can visualize how the organization has a strategy and a big goal for the year, and important bits cascade down to departments (sales, customer service, production, even accounting). Then the department manager lets each employee know how they contribute to this department goal.

A great example I heard last year at a seminar was how a chain restaurant made corporate goals tangible and clearly understandable to every employee.

The general manager had a goal of 5% increase in revenue this year (to achieve the corporate goal of 5% increased revenue at same locations.) She then computed what this meant for the hostess, servers, kitchen staff, and even the “busboys.”

The Hostess knew that the team needed to reduce wait time (goal- less than 10 minutes at peak hours) so they did not lose diners due to a long line. She worked with the busboys to clear dishes so that diners left faster after eating (goal- 2 minutes) and clean up tables for a new party (within 2 minutes).

Servers knew that they needed to increase their average sale per diner 5%- which equaled an extra appetizer or dessert for every 3 tables. Servers also concentrated on expediting orders, response to requests (ketchup, please) and rushing food to tables to decrease overall customer time at the table.

I think you get the picture… when employees have simple Key Performance Indicators, they understand their purpose, the results to achieve, and the priority actions that would achieve those results.

Then the restaurant manager would share daily and weekly results (average sale per diner, average time per table, table wait time at peak, etc) so that employees could see if they were on track to meet monthly goals. A simple visual dashboard of these KPI was posted in the employee area, and reviewed with weekly and monthly update and celebration meetings.

Different shifts and days even had a friendly competition going, and servers would stop to ask their KPI results after a shift!

After a few months, revenue increased 10% over the prior year, and better yet, customer satisfaction scores also increased significantly.

After all, those KPI weren’t just good for the restaurant, but also what customers want: no wait for a table, faster and more responsive service, being offered the specials of the day.

Here is a great free guide from Gazelles & Rhythm Systems:
5 Tips All Executive Teams Must Know About KPIs

Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources


Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Half of managers fail at employee goal setting

Half of managers fail at employee goal setting

If your soccer team cannot see the goal post, and players don’t know what steps they need to take to score a point (can I use my hands?), you can’t expect to win many games. You can always hope the other team is more clueless.

Yet most managers (even at large employers) do not let employees know their expectations for performance or what results or goals are required for the individual to contribute to department and organizational success.

In fact, Towers Watson 2014 Talent Management and Rewards Study found that “Only half of the organizations participating in the say managers are effective at working with employees to set appropriate performance goals for individual performance.”

I have read other research that asked managers and employees to name the top 3 priorities in a job, and they agreed on only ONE! So most employees focus on two main results areas that are not the highest priority.

Basically, employees want to know what does a doing “good job” look like and how I will be measured– but they are usually left guessing.

And who is responsible? The manager….

The solution (simple to say, serious effort to do):

  • Get crystal clear on the activities, results and key performance indicators for each job
  • Share with employees and gain their understanding and agreement
  • Track, monitor, share results with employee
  • Coach performance (and process) improvements with each employee weekly, monthly, quarterly

Then you will often hear (to quote our retired Buffalo Sabres hockey commentator Rick Jeanneret), “he shoots – he scores!!!!”

Article- Employees get their purpose with cascading goals /a>

Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources


Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.