Friday, April 10, 2009

What Prevents You From Doing Your Best At Work?

I’ve had the opportunity (and good fortune) to literally meet thousands of workers in a variety of companies – hospitals, factories, office buildings, you name it. And it has been my experience that the vast majority of people in the workplace and good, decent people who want to do the right thing. They want to do a good job, they want to treat their customers and patients well, they want to contribute to the end result, and they want to have the opportunity to stand up and speak out when something is wrong.

Unfortunately, many good people face obstacles in the workplace that prevent them from doing the right thing.

Here are a few of the obstacles many employees routinely encounter:

  • Bullies – Coworkers who threaten, gossip, undermine, disrespect and otherwise negatively affect individuals or even teams.
  • Ineffective Bosses – Leaders, supervisors or team leads who turn a blind eye to situations, who tell employees to “work it out” by themselves, who do nothing to come to the defense of a team member against an aggressive manager from another department, an irate customer, or a bullying employee.
  • Repressive Company Culture The organization is structured in such a way that employees are afraid to express their opinions or give what might be perceived as negative feedback about the organization. The fear of retaliation is so great that people simply go along with the status quo in order to keep their job and not adversely affect their standing.
  • Faulty Processes – Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are non-existent, current processes are ineffective or outdated. Needed tools and resources are scarce.
  • Broken Infrastructure – The organization does not clearly and consistently communicate essential information with all employees. Goals are not shared, clear expectations are missing, and there is no accountability. Interactions with other departments are frustrating due to silos, communication breakdowns or a lack of cooperation.

The #1 priority for the leadership within every organization, regardless of the industry and regardless of any other responsibility, is to eliminate obstacles that prevent employees from doing their best. If leadership at every level isn’t doing this, they are not doing their best; and they are a liability towards the organization’s success.

What is your experience? What obstacles have you encountered? What has prevented you from doing your best at work? Please share your insights.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The “Bare Bones” Qualities of an Effective Leader (EF):


The EF communicates timely, specific, reasonable expectations and directives. Team member understand their individual role and how they impact the team and the organization.


The EF has a genuine “open door” policy. Team members are comfortable approaching the EF with questions, concerns, or ideas. The EF makes time for team members.


The EF doesn’t withhold information from the team. The EF promptly disseminates information from management meetings, learning workshops, reports etc. An informed team is focused and proficient.


The EF treats everyone the same – with respect, courtesy, and fairness. There are no favorites or scapegoats.


There will be times when an individual or situation needs to be addressed. The EF confronts issues immediately.


The EF finds opportunities to give the team credit for accomplishments. Conversely, the EF accepts the blame and does not allow anyone to mistreat any member of their team.

We’ll take a closer at each quality in a future article.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Training is Not the Answer

I consult in the areas of organization development and performance improvement. Over the years I have been faced with the following scenario:

I meet a prospective client. They have heard good things about me and the work I do. The client has some specific challenges, usually around leadership or team effectiveness, which they vaguely describe as “we need some help with communication.” They assure me that they need assistance, they want to move to the next level, they want improve morale, they want to effectively work with other departments, they want to reduce turnover, and they want their managers to be more effective. Then, without warning, they deliver that fatal blow:

“So, we’d like you to do a workshop. We can give you an hour or so.”

Long ago, when I was a new eager consultant, eager to work, I would foolishly agree and grab my calendar to schedule the date.

Experience has made me much wiser. I will only work with clients when I can actually help to improve their situation. So, when a client suggests the “quick fix workshop” I stop them in their tracks.

Attempting to bring about effective change or improvement using the wrong methodology will guarantee that:

  • The team will be more cynical, negative or apathetic following the workshop, since they are only too well aware and smart enough to realize that the session they attended at best was a diversion or at worst a waste of their time.
  • I will be blamed for this failure. The client will say that I was ineffective. Of course this is not true, but this is what will happen.

Time and time again clients want that training “magic bullet.” Training is not always the answer. Training is appropriate when it comes to skill building. Training is not a panacea for every workplace ailment. Many leaders are quick to throw training at every problem because they read about it; they received an email touting the gimmick of the month, or their boss or someone in HR recommended training as the solution to their problem. It is not a solution. It is a waste of time and money, even if only an hour was allotted. These events merely provide a feeble distraction. And I can absolutely assure you that it makes matters even worse.

What can you, as a leader in your organization do? You can start by listening to my recommendations. Frankly, if you really knew what was needed you wouldn’t need my help. A skilled consultant is not an “order taker.” Let me assess the situation. I will share what I have learned over the years working with clients from a variety of industries who faced a similar situation. I will offer options, ideas, and most importantly, an objective perspective. Why not take full advantage of my expertise? Just realize that it is going to require more than an hour.