I was with some friends the other day and one of them asked, “what was the toughest situation you faced as a manager in your 20+ years of leading your work teams?” Talk about putting you on the spot, without any notice to prepare for answering that question. After taking a few moments to think back, the toughest moment came to me quickly and really clear. There are situations that you remember both quickly and clearly because they left an impression, either good or bad.
I need to set the stage a bit. In any work environment, you have cycles of good, great and bad times. This particular situation happened during the companies down cycles. Basically, the company was redeploying employees. Redeployment means that one group is having to downsize the total number of employees and hopefully another group can use that skill set and employee for their needs. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. There have been some employees that have done well in redeployment. Most of the time, the employees just don’t find another group that can use their skill set. Having to leave the company! With the statistics the way they are most employees would rather chose to separate from the company, rather than try their luck at redeployment. In my career, as a manager, I have administered (and have happened to me) three cycles of identification of employees for redeployment. Three times having to downsize (or eliminate) my team.
I will be honest with you, every one of these situations had tough moments in them. You are dealing with people! I have always tried my best to be an outstanding manager and leader for my teams. Relationships were built with each employee. I felt that my teams have always performed well in their given area. Those teams have stepped up and delivered some amazing results. Getting back to the question… The toughest situation was the second time that I went through the redeployment process.
Why the second time was tougher than the first (or third)?
- In most organizations, there is always a level of “fat” built-in after the company has been in a growth (and great financial results). Downsizing was required and we all knew that it was best for the organization. Standing up and presenting to the team, was tough because we were going to lose some team member(s). The who was the white elephant in the room. Processes were followed to identify those that did not have the skill sets that were necessary to move forward. When the redeployment hit the second time, well, now we knew we were going to have to make big changes, both in workload and what we had to do to accomplish our work.
- The first time, was all new to everyone. When I presented out the process of redeployment, many folks thought this was a good thing, as it would give potential opportunity to folks that wanted to do something different. In theory, the process look and sounded good. When the second time (one year later) hit, we all witnessed the actually reality of the redeployment process. Less than 50% of the folks that attempted to find work in a different group were successful. The theory was replaced with real data…
- The third time through the process and I hate to even say it, I had become numb to the complete process. Numb! While I was going through the process with my teams, I was having it happen to me as well. I got to “feel” and experience it 2x.
- The second time was the toughest!
- I was actually having to tell some pretty awesome employees that they were being selected for redeployment. I lost sleep the nights before each discussion. I was being asked to make a radical change to the team and how we were going to accomplish our work moving forward. I had to put on a positive exterior when inside I was hurting.
- I had built a very strong team. They all stepped up after the first redeployment and made the team even better. We were actually doing more with less. We were an example to all of the teams. We were going to stop doing some work, shift our focus and basically going to tell our internal customers that we will not be doing much of what they needed. Customer service was not a focus. It was all about cost and nothing else. If the company wanted to downsize, then everyone needed to feel the pain. You can not expect customer service focused individuals to not care about customer service. My job was going to get really tough. I was going to be put in the middle and the challenges were going to be huge.
What do you do? As their leader, you have to make sure that you are being providing your team with the right level of balance. Make sure to communicate everything. Make sure that when you are speaking you are being yourself. Tell them everything! For me, I was always upfront with what is happening. I made sure to tell them that the only thing they can control now, is the work on their desk. I know times are scary, but we still have our jobs to do. I put on the company hat as needed. We all will take time to react to what is being communicated to us, just make that time moments and keep the focus on what we control. It was the toughest situation I faced in all of my 20+ years. As a leader, it is about your people and having them do some amazing results… We all knew that people and the work at this particular point in time, was not the focus. So, I tried to make sure that my focus was with the people and their amazing results. It was the only thing, that we could feel good about!
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
With experience or being around a long time, you get to see lots of programs come and go. One of those programs that seem to change frequently are incentive programs. Wikipedia puts, “an incentive program as a formal scheme used to promote or encourage specific actions or behavior by a specific group of people during a defined period of time. Incentive programs are particularly used in business management to motivate employees, and in sales to attract and retain customers.” Can you think of some? I know quite a few (well, lots). It is one of those tools to help the organization to instill a continuous improvement in performance. Think back on those programs, did they work? How did they make you feel?
When I look over the many incentive programs that I have experience with there are some common themes of those that have been successful.
- The incentive program was well thought out. Answering the questions of what behavior are we going to reward. That behavior has to be above the expectation of all employees. Going after the top of the class. Hopefully inspiring others to what to reach the top.
- The program awarded past performance. The program has a timeframe that is long enough to help develop a better picture of a sustained performance.
- The reward is timely, specific and impactful. What is the award that is given? Debate around money, plaques, pat on the back and public recognition need to be considered before implementation. Setting the award will be critical in how well the program is received by the employees.
Let’s face it, this is a touchy area that managers have to navigate carefully. I have seen many a program start off with the best intentions, but fail shortly after implementation. Why? The list is long. The critical ones that pop up quickly are the incentive program is not focused on top performance. Many programs are focused on getting “all” to do what their expectations are normally (attendance). Some programs are set up that the employees can work the system to be eligible for. This has a huge effect on the employee base, as they will “see” the gaming going on and the program could demotivate many folks. Lastly, the award has to be meaningful. Some expects say that money should not be a motivator, that just the recognition should be enough.
Over the last couple of years, I am seeing some new incentive programs that will be interesting to see how well they will work. Those are the incentive programs for lowering health insurance costs. Those particular incentives to be healthy. Helping add money to the flex spending accounts for employees that are not overweight. For employees that attend health seminars or complete a company sponsored information session. There are many examples. With the raising cost of health care, these incentive programs are popping up everywhere. Is it too early to tell if they are working? Are they fair? Time will tell.. I know for me, I got healthier by increasing my exercise and diet, so that I could get some additional funds to help offset my health care costs.
Do you think incentive programs work? As a manager, I know I spent more time dealing with the incentive program than maybe the organization planned. Please share the good, bad and ugly…
Image courtesy of: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, performance management
, team dynamics
In a few days, SteveBellNow will have completed its fourth year of being out there. The site has come a long ways from the initial thoughts. I wanted to take my writing of an internal blog, externally. Sharing my experiences! I wanted to share my passions for leading organizations, coaching sports and just my travels to different places. Things change… I don’t coach ice hockey anymore, but I did get an opportunity to coach my grand daughter and he 3/4 year old soccer team! I don’t have my internal company blog anymore, as I have retired. Some things remain the same… I still have a passion for sharing my experiences with leading organizations. I still write about my overall observations, but they sometimes take on a political stand (which I really don’t want to write about). Politics gives me plenty of opportunity to apply my passion for leading organizations. Unfortunately, most of the examples I get to share are more on the what not to do variety.
Some things are new…
- Sharing my new experiences as I now work for myself. I am now using my experiences to help consult with organizations to help them. Starting up a business is definitely new…
- I am doing plenty of volunteer work. I hope to take my experiences with being a volunteer to bigger and better highs, by helping to process engineering the volunteer life cycle and help make the overall experience better for all involved. I bet we can all share some good, bad and ugly stories around the volunteer life cycle.
I want to thank those that regularly stop by SteveBellNow! I am going to keep on writing… In advance, I hope that you will enjoy some of the new items that I will be putting up on my volunteer reprocessing thoughts and my continued efforts of sharing my experiences on leading individuals/organizations.
Thanks again! Steve
There are many things that I have learned over the years that I have shared here and one on one. The one item that everyone always agrees on is if you measure it, it will get attention and get done. I was helping out an organization the other day and we were discussing that fact on some employee feedback that they received. The leadership team was struggling with the all of their measurable matrix were not to goal. Employee feedback were pointing that the goals are unrealistic. For me, the underlying problem that they were trying to address was the employee base felt like their was a disconnect between the workers and management. How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that?
Throughout my career I have encountered that same feeling of disconnect. It was either with me and my upper management. Or the feedback was coming from my team to me. It happens to the best of us. There are times that everyone is too busy to be paying attention to the little things that really matter. Whatever the excuse is. All you need to do is listen and act. When I am faced with connecting (or reconnecting), I remind myself of those little items that matter.
My list of items that matter! My 3 S’s if you will.
- Stand up and own your mistakes. There are times that you will make a mistake. I have yet to meet that perfect person that has not made a mistake. How you react to the mistake will either have you lose credibility with your team or win them over. Yes, it takes a strong person to admit to their mistakes. Being vulnerable will make you strong.
- Share your time. I know we all think that we are busy. Your are their leader, you have to make your team a priority. Give of your time as much as possible. Time is what you make of it. I am not saying that you need to schedule “time” with your team. I am saying that you need to be approachable and available. Another term I liked to use is management by walking around. Get out of the office. Talk to you team (in the hall, their workstation, café, networking events and everywhere they are).
- Share your thoughts. Communication is key and sharing what you know (what you can) will go a long way to connecting to your team. Start a discussion or put out a topic that the team can really relate to. Once people start talking, they start connecting. Watching your team getting together and sharing will have a huge impact on the work.
When I first was leading my team, I was pretty good at getting amazing results. I wasn’t sure why? It took me sometime to understand that I was really connecting to them on a personal and team level. That connecting came easy to me. I wanted to connect, no matter what. It was just part of my DNA, so I just did it naturally. I really started to understand the workings, when I was given the opportunity to do something that I had no knowledge of. I was overwhelmed with learning the job and was a little slow on connecting to the team. I realized quickly, that I was not following my normal operating procedures. Reflecting back, made me hone in those 3 S’s…
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, team dynamics
How many times have you been involved in team building exercises? When someone says we are going to do a team building activity, what are your first thoughts? For the most part, I bet everyone is thinking, here we go again… I have seen data that says about 65% or higher feel they are a waste of time and money. About 25% thought they are effective with the right exercise. For me, I lean towards team building activities can be effective if we put the right exercise with what the teams needs are…
You have to know what you want to accomplish, so that you can insure the right results. There are three major categories – see below.
- Recreational Team Building: Change the way people feel (to entertain, re-energize, socialize, teach and learn new skills)
- Educational Team Building: Change the way people feel and think (to gain awareness of needs, to add knowledge, to understand new ways to look at old or familiar concepts differently)
- Developmental Team Building: Change the way people feel, think, and behave (by increasing positive functional behavior, by improving interpersonal relationships)
We all know that there are struggles with team building. So, why do a lot of team building programs not work?
- Lack of reflection = this defeats awareness. Think back to your last team building exercise, do you all talk about what happened, what could have gone better, what you learned and how it can apply back at the office?
- The presence of resistance = if you go into the exercise with not wanting to do it - you are defeating intent. Going through the motions is not going to help you learn and grow.
- Roadblocks to moving forward = with any team building exercise, it all goes back to how everything applies back at the office. If there are roadblocks that exist to moving forward, you are not going to be successful.
Making team building effective is not easy. How can you make team building work for you.
- Spend time really evaluating your team for its level of teamwork and needs. Doing team building to put a check in your teams objectives is not going to work. If you can’t self assess your team, ask the team or ask your key customers what their impressions are.
- Pick the right activity for your assessment of what you want to work on.
- Set up the team with the what, who and why of team building… Make sure that your team is prepared to participate.
- Get someone to facilitate the activity. You should be in the activity with them, not looking over them.
- Reflect at the end.. Ask those open-ended questions, what happened, what could have been better, how does this apply back at the office and so on. Make sure to circle back on the what and why’s that you attempted to accomplish in the first place.
- Document and share the results. Always good to capture the reflections and share them with your team. Especially on those items that the team wants to take back to the office.
I have done a lot of team building over the years. Some where really good exercises with some really good results. Others were not so good. Team building should not be a “here we go again” first thought. Team building should be exciting and the team wants to do.