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Handling Employee Contentious behavior?

What is behind it and should you dig deeper?

Tom was a contentious employee. He talked too much and got into arguments with fellow employees more than the norm. He even got into a fight once with another employee who had a short fuse. This resulted in a suspension of both employees until they could come back and verbalize what happened and how they could make changes.

When an employee has issues outside of work and it begins to flow into work, how do you handle it?

That was not the end of it. Upon his return, Tom explained to me in confidence that his wife was an alcoholic and had fallen off the wagon again. She was in her 40’s, he in his 50’s. They had a 9 year old daughter who when Tom worked was under the care of her mother. I listened intently to Tom’s stories and showed empathy for his situation. I tried to emphasize the care of his daughter as being of utmost importance. She had been left alone on occasion while mom sought solace in a drink. But I tried to not get too involved for fear of his becoming too dependent on me. He needed Al-Anon counseling or another counselor. I recognized the burden he was shouldering and asked him to determine if he needed to take time off, having already used his personal time off. He said he couldn’t afford it.

In the meantime, Tom’s work in complimentary sales with other sales people was suffering. At a sales meeting, he blew up at others who recognized he wasn’t getting the job done. I asked him to leave the room and go cool off and meet me in my office after the meeting. I listened to the others for 5 minutes and said let’s move on with our business at hand. I didn’t want to listen to endless criticism of him knowing the issues he was dealing with but acknowledged that their dissatisfaction was recognized and would be shared with him.

So now, the issue had spilled over with the rest of the team. It would be a short time before it reached the rest of the company, even though I had asked for restraint in the matter.

After the meeting, I sat with Tom and asked him if he thought his personal life was intersecting with his work life. After a long pause, he said it was. We had had numerous short conversations as I checked in with him periodically on how things were going. The answers were always short as he acknowledged he was taking care of it. He was protecting his paycheck. But this day, I needed and got a straight answer. His performance had been subpar and I could no longer justify his performance.

This was most difficult because I knew he was very capable and he had proven himself in the past, but he needed to deal with his personal issues. I decided to suspend him indefinitely to give him time to take care of his situation. If I fired him, I would add to his misery, this way he knew he had a job if and when he returned. His response was another outburst and he stomped off.

Tom came back 2 months later to let me know he would not be returning. He had checked his wife in to rehab and had been a stay at home dad for his daughter. He had filed for divorce with primary custody of his daughter. He was receiving help from family members and had taken another job.

The surprise ending for me on this was his thanking me for forcing him to deal with the situation and for listening to him when he was trying to cope. He had listened to his daughter to realize that she had missed out on her young life as she struggled with understanding her mother’s disease.

The hard part of leadership in letting people go is you never know what the end result will be. But, companies are in business to produce, serve and profit. The balance, which is everything, is found in how you treat people.

For more information and a free personal consultation, call (207) 577-1948. We deliver success for your business.

There’s No Such Thing as Multitasking!

So why is it so frequently used in résumés?

You get a resume and the applicant states she is a champion multitasker. She can do the job of two people. Great candidate, right? WRONG!

Many people include in their resumes that they can multitask but in reality, it never happens. Our brains can move from one task to another, but never are two tasks being done simultaneously. A cashier may be able to swipe bar codes thoughtlessly while carrying on a conversation with the customer but that is not multitasking. If the item required a manual entry, the conversation would pause or the cashier would not hear what the customer is saying. That would be serial tasking.

When multitasking is believed to be happening, the tasks become ineffective and inefficient thereby actually going slower than if they were done separately. If the employee focuses on one thing, the results are better and more accurate.

While people can listen to music while working, if you ask them what the past song title was and they can’t answer, then they are paying attention to their tasks. If they can answer, check their production rate. Our brains are not wired for multi-tasking. According to The Myth of Multitasking, Dr. Nancy Napier in Psychology Today states, “Multitasking is switchtasking and it takes time.” Switching from one task to another loses time, not gains time. The brain must adjust to a different thought process and that takes away from the efficiencies.

This does not mean to suggest creating recurring processes that create boredom in assemblies. Rather think about the most efficient way to use repetitive processes to benefit the employees as well. Time the events to allow for different tasks at measured intervals.

No matter what the business is, there are ways to accommodate tasks using defined roles that allow the performance of multiple duties without the use of multitasking, but rather creating intervals of tasks to allow switching with minimal to no loss of productivity. Mapping and using a timeline helps create these intervals and improves efficiency, therefore bottom line.

Are you a multitasker? Let us know how you do it in the comments below.

What 1 Question Gets You the Right Consultant

Hiring the most relevant consultant to your business or industry is key to making changes within your company and making them efficiently. Turning processes around, creating relevant data and formulating meaningful financial information lie at the core of any business change.

The most important question is “What is your experience?”

It’s not just about consulting experience, but also hands-on, real practical experience doing what they will do for you. While the consultant

may have extensive experience, the people he sends you must as well. Experience is a result of years doing the work, the management or the financial control of a company. If the consultant they send looks like he or she is 26, the chance of their having years of experience greatly diminish. On the other hand, if you hire an IT consultant, that could be an advantage.

Bonus Questions

So here’s the rub.  If you hire an experienced consultant, will they know the current trends in business? What a great question to ask! How about, “What strategies have you recommended to businesses who are challenged with rapid growth?” “What fast track strategies have you suggested for the business office trying to keep up with uncontrolled growth?” Or to be more specific, “What software changes have you suggested when invoicing falls too far behind?”

These are questions specific to your goals. An experienced consultant who has kept up with current products and trends will more likely be able to help you resolve this.

Your savings will come in time (money) saved by the consultant and your business. The quicker you can resolve your situation, the quicker you’ll be saving. Remember as well, you need to dedicate a team of employees to work through this.

Consultants save you money in the short or long term.

Succession – A Case History

A 70’s thriving business is not a guarantee of a 90’s success.

A medical widget supplier did a wonderful job of starting a vendor business of medical devices. After all, he had formerly been a user and installer of these products himself; he saw the need for a supplier to furnish these devices locally. So, he started his own business.

From the start, the demPeople talkingand and need was validated. Business got off to a fast start and the pace never slowed. Hiring became essential and a growth from 2 to 10 employees happened quickly. With the growth came a good reputation and recognition in the business. Deliveries were timely, products had quality and receivables were worked out with all customers. If a customer needed a little extra time, he got it. The company participated in trade shows, professional organizations and donated generously to non-profits.

Of the employees, one was the owner’s son. He had come on board to help out and ended up staying. His place was at the counter for sales. He had not gotten that position because of his personality. The other employees worked around him to maintain satisfied customers. The time came to hire an outside sales representative to seek new accounts. The new representative was experienced in the field and was able to make technical referrals to the customers. In the 80’s and 90’s the business flourished. In the late 80’s, the owner and founder of the business died unexpectedly. The family was devastated and the employees were left wondering “what next?” Customers paid their respects but expected no changes in service.

The family grieved but with the support of a few key employees, was able to pull it all together to keep going. The founder’s wife came into the company as a bookkeeper/controller to keep track of the financial aspects.   As the economy recovered from the recession of the early 90’s, business grew. The outside sales representative was promoted to president of the company since neither the son nor the wife were viable figureheads for the leadership role. Another outside sale representative was hired. A side consulting business was formed that would make recommendations to clients for specific products to use in special cases. The consulting business returned higher profits which in turn boosted the company bottom line.

A few obstacles were encountered. There had never been a succession plan, after all the owner was not that old. He had not spent any time grooming anyone to take over. The son, who was not ambitious to begin with, was not a likely successor. The wife was not technically knowledgeable of the products and was not interested in leading or managing employees. She was not one to move the company forward. The newly named president had limited power. He had no control over the finances which left him responsible for overseeing employees and customers. Through all this, the company moved forward without much being said. Employees were in the dark.

By the mid 90’s, the wife was in her 70’s and her energy level was diminishing. The concept of growth did not interest her as she preferred keeping things simple and easy.  Her work days soon became ½ days and part of those was napping at her desk. The wife died and left everything to the son who didn’t have a clue about what to do.

The company became lethargic and attitudes took a nose dive.  Inventory shrunk and product availability grew sparse. Employees began seeking other jobs and when business became anemic, he decided to find a buyer. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Another recession had started and the value of the company dropped. He wanted out so bad, he took the first marginal offer that came his way and sold. The company sold for roughly half of what it had been worth at one time and with inaccurate inventory data, he was left with nothing at the end.

Succession planning is essential. Whether the transfer is to a family member, an employee or outside parties, maintaining the value and growing the value of a company are essential to survival in today’s business world. Customers look for continuous improvement, employees look for continued stability and successors look for an opportunity. The strategy of continuance is one that can be worked on daily for short term and long term success.

Leading Edge Business Strategies, LLC is a consulting firm for small business. Paul Beaudette is the President and has over 30 years of successful business experience managing companies to sustainable profits and leading employees to productivity and efficiency resulting in growth and profits.

Contact us at info@leadingedgebusinessstrategies.com

 

In Business with Children – a Succession Story

Now that people are living longer, healthier lives, they are no longer willing to give up the reins of the family business sometimes even into their 80’s. That puts the next generation into their 50’s and 60’s. How do they plan for their retirement?

Jeff and his sister want to take over the family business from mom & dad who are in their 70’s. Mom & dad show no signs of letting go. Jeff is in his 50’s and wants to move the business along into the 21st century, increase revenues and provide for his own future. So, how does he fire mom & dad? People talking

Jeff is sensitive to the fact that his parents founded the business and are just as emotionally attached to it as they are
financially. They never set money aside for retirement and even though they take 8 weeks off in the winter to warmer climates, they still run the show from southern latitudes. Jeff feels like he can never assume full control. His sister is marginally interested in the future but deep down expects Jeff to take care of that. Another brother who is not involved with the business  lives on the west coast.

This scenario plays itself out too often. There have been few to no conversations about the ‘when mom & dad get older’; they’ve never initiated the conversation because they are living day to day until some outside force imposes a change. Many times, the younger generation doesn’t want to offend the parents and create a morbid discussion about “when you die”. So it is left untouched until it is too late. What is the best option in these cases?

It’s time for a talk around the campfire. A skilled business coach with the gift of sensitivity can bring this discussion to light with the entire family involved. In the scenario above, all members of the family, even the one not involved in the business, must participate in the conversation. After all, he is set to inherit a part of the net worth even if the other two siblings buy the business. ‘Ouch!’ Really? He’s ever done anything for the business. But, he is an equal sibling. You may think he deserves none of it, but he thinks differently. It may not be an equal share, but it’s still a share.

If this is being handled when it’s too late (death of a parent or both), this can get ugly. But if it is handled while they are still around, they can have input. The screaming can happen before the will is executed instead of after and normally it is split on a more even keel. There’s something about the parents not being around that elevates the conversation and settlement to an ugly level.

When the succession planning is done ahead with a third party leading the discussion, it is easier to discuss with a business consultant in the room. A good business consultant will regulate the conversation and bring the greed and control levers to a neutral position with thoughtfulness. All parties need to benefit in some form. Telling your parents that it is “time to step aside and let us take over” is usually realized by parents during the course of the conversations, making the end result easier.

So don’t wait until it’s too late. Find someone with the gift of compassion and start thinking of this 5 years ahead, make that 10 years ahead. Begin preparing the business for the change and for mom & dad to step aside. They’ll feel respected and appreciated for how it was done and will be prepared to make the move much easier.

Leading Edge Business Strategies, LLC is a consulting firm for small business. Paul Beaudette is the President and has over 30 years of successful business experience leading companies to sustainable profits, new growth strategies and business sustainability.