Employees First

Dave Berkus is an accomplished speaker, author and angel investor.  He provides common sense advice to all businesses through his blog, Berkonomics.

His recent post deals with the frustrations of business owners who perceive that government regulations always favor employees.  His advice?  Recognize the realities of the times.

He’s right!

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Ten Truths for the Boss

Anyone who’s read this blog over the years, or who knows me personally, is aware that one of my heroes is Michael Josephson.  Mr. Josephson has commented for years on the relationships between ethics and successful, sustainable business models.  One of his greatest radio commentaries discusses “10 Truths for the Boss”, which I’ve put here:

Why is it that most employees think their bosses are at least a little out of touch? Probably because they are. Even those who worked their way to the top lose some credibility and effectiveness because they don’t recognize what I call Ten Truths for the Boss:

  1. The more certain you are that “it can’t happen here,” the more likely it is that it will. Be careful about overconfidence and complacency.
  2. There are lots of things you don’t know, and lots of people who hope you don’t find out. Hardly anybody tells you the whole truth anymore. Information is filtered through the fears and career aspirations of subordinates, and many employees believe you will “kill the messenger” if they deliver bad news so they tell you what they think you want to hear.
  3. To those who want to please you, your whisper is a yell and your comments are commands. Be careful, people may do foolish things to please you.
  4. What you allow, you encourage.
  5. There’s never just one bad employee; there’s the employee and the manager who keeps him.
  6. At least someone who works for you is “gaming” the system so they appear to reach their business objectives with smoke and mirrors rather than real achievement.
  7. According to the law of big numbers, if you have lots of employees, you probably have a few crooks and psychopaths working for you.
  8. Few people think as highly of your ethics as you do.
  9. No matter how many good things you do, you will be judged by your last worst act.
  10. No matter what your job description says, what matters most is how you manage relationships and people.

The Josephson Institute of Ethics website is here.

To follow Mr. Josephson on Facebook, click here.

To follow Mr. Josephson on Twitter, click here.

Firing an "At-Will" Employee

Gina Madsen is one of the really bright small business attorneys in Nevada.  She recently asked me to write an article on a ‘real-life’ situation – and I chose the concept of firing an at-will employee.

Even though most states abide by at-will concepts (you can fire an employee at any time for any reason – other than a few exceptions), there are many compliance and management principles that should be followed.

Here’s the blog on her great website – http://www.madsenlawoffice.com/

The Art of Persuasion

It’s always a little strange to see your thoughts in writing – especially if they’re being written by someone else.

I was recently interviewed by students at the USC Marshall School of Business – they are candidates for Master’s degrees in Leadership and Management.  The focus of the interview was how to persuade employees to see your point of view.

Here’s the paper (and I didn’t edit at all!)

Background:  Eric Swenson has over 20 years of experience in management, sales, training and marketing. He has managed hundreds of employees and interviewed over 2,000 people in his career. RSJ/Swenson LLC is a management and human resources consulting firm with offices in California and Nevada.

Interview Summary: Eric shared his insightful thoughts about the leadership and persuasion. For Eric, persuasion is a natural process and he prefers soft tactics. He is always honest to his superiors and subordinates. Eric believes that effective leaders are very expressive when they come to everybody. They are very candid and direct and these personal traits play a key role for persuasion process. According to Eric, the three most important aspects for managing up and down are communication, openness, and setting a positive tone that focuses on the end result.

Persuasion Strategies:

  • Self Persuasion: “If you were in my position, how would you handle my problem?”
    • You should let team members identify the solutions on their own. You also remind them why they live in the same organization. This especially helps you deal with some conflicts with your members.
  • Logical reasoning: 
    • You use facts, figures, and belief that your idea is correct. You also consider the goals, needs, and interests of your subordinates/superiors you’re trying to persuade. The more they see an idea can help them, the more likely they are to help you.
  • Persuasion Tactics: 
    • Collaboration: You need to work with your subordinates, not at them, in order to get them to enthusiastically support your requests. You collaborate with team members, rather than using authority. You don’t need to overuse that power. The relationship based on the trust is a key for the collaboration.
    • Communication/Honesty: You should facilitate communication and be very honest to your people.
    • Improving Persuasive Skills: Appeal to the subject’s self-interest: You make it sure that what you need align with their best interests.
    • Present strong evidence to support your views/positions: You do intensive research and show the team members an idea that will likely work.
    • Establish credibility: You’re more likely to persuade your subordinates when trust and respect you. You promise to take the blame if it does not go well. This leads you to build up the trust and respect you’re your subordinates.
    • Make your objectives clear: You should get your team understand what you are doing and why are why you are doing that.

Other key factors:
Decision making is a collective effort: As a leader, you have to be honest to your team members. If you found you made a wrong decision, you would change the decision. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

Employee Communication is a 2-Way Street

The most frequent criticism of management, in every 360 survey we’ve done (and seen on a national basis) is
“I don’t get enough feedback from my boss.”
– or –
“My boss(es) is/are not good at communicating.”

I believe that communication is the crucial component in managing people.

And I agree that most managers and leaders don’t do a good job at communication.

One of the best bosses I ever had was the Training Manager at a large company. He trained me when I started years before. I eventually became a trainer. Chris spent time watching me train and really left me alone. But I had no idea what he though of my performance.

I finally asked him what he thought, and he said, “You’re the best trainer I have, and one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

That was flattering, but I asked him for his suggestions for improvement, and he gave me a few which really helped me.

Chris told me his attitude was “If you’re doing well, I don’t need to talk to you.”

His mistake, which he corrected after this conversation, was that I didn’t know what he thought of my performance.

Implicit in the failure of managers to properly communicate is the failure of employees to “manage up”. Managers cannot simply divine, through ESP, what an employee wants and needs; it’s equally incumbent upon employees to ask and tell their manager what they’re looking for as well.

A good manager will always welcome the chance to find out what their employees need.

So – if you’re an employee who’s unhappy with the lack of feedback, or feels that communication is poor – make sure to ask your boss! You’ll be surprised that your boss didn’t know that was an issue, and the best bosses will take your information and be able to transform your employment experience.

Employee Morale: The leading predictor of future growth and profitability

…or so says Roxanne Emmerich, author of “Thank God It’s Monday: How to Create a Workplace You and Your Customers Love.”I have no reason to disagree with her.

In this economy, there are fewer employees doing more work.  And for those employees who are unhappy – and there are legions – there are no other jobs to get.

While the economy begins to recover but job creation a long long way away, it’s time to find out what to do in order to improve morale in your workplace.

Give ’em training, self-improvement courses, or survey your employees to find out what they want.

When this economy recovers, the last thing you’ll need is to have all your employees looking for another job.

Leading People In A Down Economy

Yes, the economy is slow to recover and things are tough all over.

But now the workforce cuts have largely been made and the question for business owners is – how do I do more with less?

The following are two major trends I’ve noted in working with small businesses (generally less than 200 employees) in the western United States:

EMPLOYEES HAVE TRANSFORMED THEIR MENTALITY…
A few years ago, the typical employee had an ‘entitlement’ mentality – they felt their employer was lucky to have him or her. Unhappy employees could (and did) pick up and leave for a better opportunity at the first sign of disappointment. The typical attitude was not that of a team player – but as an individual who is owed a promotion, salary increases and more attention. This was nowhere more apparent than the “Generation Y” workforce.

Now, things have changed completely on its axis. Everyone has worked with people and are friends with people who have lost their jobs with little hope for a similar compensation program in a future job. As a result, employees now feel privileged to have their job. Everyone knows that layoffs have been pervasive, and they could be the next to go. This will result – if managed properly – in employees who will complain less, work harder, and become more appreciative of the job they have.

BUT THEY ARE REALLY, REALLY UNHAPPY…

Employees are simply grateful to have a job right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy in their job. A survey from Adecco North America, released just this week, shows:

  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of American workers are not currently satisfied with their compensation.
  • 76 percent are not satisfied about future career growth opportunities at their company.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of workers are not satisfied with the relationship they have with their boss and 59 percent saying they are not satisfied with the level of support they receive from their colleagues.

Workers are also critical of their organization’s brain trust, with 77 percent saying that they are not satisfied with the strategy and vision of their company and its leadership.

We’ve noticed the number of complaints from workers are way down. People are still being harassed and discriminated against, but they’re afraid to complain because of fear of job loss.

By the way, most large companies have laid off more employees than small companies; that’s because it’s easier to lay off workers at bigger businesses because employees at smaller companies typically perform multiple tasks.

That means when the economy starts kicking into gear, and there are more job opportunities, those employees are going to either leave or file major complaints.

WHAT TO DO?

Lead. The number one thing that business owners and managers can do is actually lead. You’re a leader. You are on stage. You’re not allowed to show frustration or weakness. Leaders lead – they say “here is the way I believe we need to go,” and then go. This is the attitude you must take when managing change. Virtually any change breeds opportunity – the key is finding the opportunity and act on it.

Communicate. It is imperative that frequent and clear communication lead the way to your success. There is fear in the marketplace. Employees are wondering if you’re going to cut staff, perquisites, and their free coffee. Employees are heavily invested in the success of the business, and they have a right to know what you’re doing. Even saying, “I don’t know” is preferable to not communicating. And it’s more than a memo or company-wide e-mail; managers and supervisors must be empowered to candidly talk with their staffs as well.

Performance Management. If you’re maximizing the people you have, you won’t need so many people! You can get more done with fewer people by knowing what your people do best. Evaluate your talent. Carefully consider your need for every one of your employees. Most businesses are not maximizing each and every employee they have. There are techniques available to ensure talent maximization – so find and replicate your best performers.

In 2009, the business owner and leader who has the ability to honestly evaluate talent, performance and make the decisions necessary to sustain the business not just in the short term, but for the long term, is the leader who will be highly successful both this year and beyond.