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

Want employees to tune out? Ignore them

Want employees to tune out? Ignore them

Perhaps you are you frustrated by a poor performer, so you avoid her as much as possible (you don’t want to be mean.)

Or you are getting tired of mentioning the same instructions to the new employee, so you have stopped giving him guidance at all.

Or you are “too busy” putting out fires and responding to urgent requests, so you have little contact with your staff other than the hallway.

After all, your employees should know their jobs and should know the company’s goals, so why do you have to keep reminding them?

 Ignoring your team members is actually 20x worse than being a critical boss!

In fact, a recent study of employees found that of employees who feel ignored by their direct manager only 2% reported being engaged with their job, compared to 45% of employees who report their boss focused on their weaknesses, and 65% of those with a positive focused manager.

Almost half of these “invisible” team members reported to be “actively disengaged” – meaning that they consciously perform lower – versus 1% of those with positive managers.

Seriously, if you are not coaching your team then they are like a boat without a captain—sailing towards the horizon with no particular place to go. (I just watched Pirates of the Caribbean again- what a fun study in leadership!)

To be effective, team members need to be

Still worried about coming off as mean or critical?

The data is pretty clear—even the negative manager has about half his team pulling in the right direction. This is a huge improvement from 45% pulling in the wrong direction when they are ignored!

So definitely work on your own development to be a positive focused manager, but don’t be afraid to start talking to your team. (See our video training for a simple system to do just that.)

{Graph from Zenger Folkman “Extraordinary Leader” webinar series}

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 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

Most Bonus Plans Violate the “4 C’s of Variable Pay Plans”

Most Bonus Plans Violate the “4 C’s of Variable Pay Plans”

Currently I have four projects re-designing “bonus” or profit sharing plans for a wide range of clients (from 30 to 3000 employees, and from a local company to two mid-sized regional to a global one).

They all are faced with the same challenges:

  • Bonus calculations are discretionary (picked by the manager), with limited guidance on how to calculate an amount
  • Employees are likely not incentivized for the work that achieve business goals
  • Managers cannot clearly explain to employees what they need to do to earn the same or more next year
  • Employees don’t like or trust the plans (they do not believe bonuses are internally fair, or that their performance makes a difference in the final amount, or that their bonus is market competitive for their position)

To transition your bonus (profit sharing, incentive) program from a perk for employees to one that motivates and rewards performance and business results, it needs to follow the “4 C’s model.”

4’s Model of Variable Pay Plans

  1. Control- key individual performance measures in the plan align with business results and are under the control of the recipient
  2. Clarity – recipients understand the behaviors, activities and results they need to achieve what reward
  3. (not) Complex— maximum 4 measures (per job role/ level)
  4. Communication- recipients receive regular updates on the key performance measures to monitor if their work is achieving the target (even if payout is annual, monthly updates are ideal)

(4’C is the revised model from Dr. Jerry Newman’s 3’C Model, University at Buffalo)

Design steps to effective variable pay programs with the maximum business ROI

1. Basically, you need to go back to the drawing board to identify what matters most:

  • Outline key business metrics that add the most value to your firm and show achievement toward 5-year goals (strategy)
  • Cascade goals and down to department and job level key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Create a tracking and reporting system to communicate a monthly dashboard of KPI results (individual, department, company)

2. Finish with Incentive Plan Design:

  • When you have completed these first three elements, then link your incentive pool and payout calculation to reward those KPI
  • Keep it simple Sam, and communicate clear results often

The real “bang for your buck” will be that everyone be focusing their work on the most important things and finally understand how they can contribute to achieving organizational goals.

Then the incentive pool will be worth every penny.

(Sounds like a daunting task? With expert guidance to facilitate your management team through the 10 key decision steps, you can design a plan in about 3 months.)

Do you have a Scrooge leading your team?

Do you have a Scrooge leading your team?

Does “Scrooge” the manager still exist?

I love this holiday themed article by research group Zenger & Folkman. They research the key differences between high and low performing managers, and recently searched their database of 45,000 managers to identify the Scrooges.

They defined the Scrooge as a leader who is very task focused (drives for results) but has low consideration, and found that less than 1% of managers fit this profile (good news, unless you work there!). You know the type, like Danny Devito in the movie “Other People’s Money” running around yelling “back to work” to his frantic staff loitering outside their cubicles.

Despite the unpleasantness associated with this management style, is there any impact of driving for results while showing limited concern for employees’ needs and perceptions?

Actually, yes—how about the fact that new Scrooges have one-third fewer engaged employees than high impact managers!

The article published in Forbes doesn’t advocate for the opposite set of leadership behaviors (high consideration but low results orientation), as these managers are likeable but may not have high performing teams due to low accountability. This style often frustrates employees because poor performance is tolerated. In the Zenger research, employees with these types of “good guy” managers were only 3% more engaged than those that worked for the Scrooges (49% vs 46% engaged).

Decades of leadership studies have shown that the optimal leadership style focuses on both the task and the people – this achieves accountability and results through positive coaching. In the Zenger dataset, these manager’s style had a huge impact on increased employee engagement- 76% engaged employees (vs 46% for the low consideration manager who drives for results.)

To learn more about how to achieve this balance in your performance discussions, view our video “performance discussions” in the resource section of our free membership .

Link to the article:


Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net