Personnel

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.

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.

Leadership from Gratitude

Not Management by Ego

by Paul Beaudette

The presidential candidates, Republican or Democrat, have all demonstrated one thing in common. An oversized ego is prevalent when you run for president.

After all, what are you selling? YOU! You are selling yourself to the people of the United States. How you go about it determines how much of a narcissist you are. We have seen extreme levels of narcissism, ego-centricity, pomposity and vanity, and these came from one candidate.

In business, managers, leaders and office holders often have the ego-driven need to attain such a position and then bask in the glory of “I’m in charge”. To a new manager, what may have formerly been co-workers, are now employees and the responsibility of this new manager. The transition has to be handled carefully and responsibly to maintain a working relationship, yet achieve the level of respect and allegiance that the manager seeks from the employee and vice versa.

egomaniac

Strong manager egos often displace the actual message being transmitted. Your title isn’t your role, your role is your title.

If the manager’s ego takes over, the relationship becomes one of title, not role. Too often, you’ll see people promoted to positions that they are not trained for because they are family, or a friend of the big boss and feel they are ‘owed’ that position. The damage potential that this has to the workers will begin to trickle down to customers and diminish customer loyalty. Employees begin feeling used, threatened and hurt. Turnover increases and the constant flow of new people begins to affect the bottom line. Morale is destroyed and theft and misuse of company property appears. Customers vanish.

How do you keep this from happening? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Hire right. Don’t take your hiring process for granted. It’s not filling in vacant positions with bodies. Look at it from a standpoint of the customer. The customer wants a friendly personality, someone who can answer product/service/process questions and someone who can be expedient and accurate.
    1. When there is no direct contact with the customer, use the same scenario as in #1, but change the customer to a co-worker, team leader or anyone else within the company.
    2. Depending on the position being filled, you may choose to have a personality survey performed. These give you the traits of the applicant against the traits you are looking for. They provide a good indicator if a match is possible. They are also useful after hire to coach the employee to success.
  2. For Pete’s sake, don’t promote people just because they are related or a friend. Promote them because they are leaders or have the potential to become leaders. Whenever you want to fill a leadership position, interview the candidates (including internal candidates) and ask them the tough questions. Find out how they have handled stress in the past, what examples they have of conflict they have encountered in the past and what they did about it. Those experiential answers will go a long way in your decision.
  3. When the candidate’s questions revolve only around pay, company car, benefits and such; question whether they are only looking at status versus the interests of your business. Ask why the position is important to them. Question how they would change an unproductive behavior in an employee. How would they handle an irate customer with a legitimate complaint?
  4. Get a fellow team member to interview the candidate. They know what it takes to do the job and can ask pertinent questions.
  5. The ideal candidate will be someone who will do the job because he/she wants to be a part of a better business. This person will want the customers to better themselves through the interaction with your company. They will be happier, feel good and be personally productive within their own business. The manager (leader) you are looking for is someone who is personally grateful for having improved the lives of employees or customers. Their primary goal is not make themselves look better and boost their ego. It is to serve others.

The fifth concept is not common in business. In fact, it’s rare. But the end product is a person who is rewarded for having created an outstanding team of employees and extremely satisfied customers. Steven Covey would always say, “Start with then end in mind”. Well, here it is. The customer is the end and if you work your way backwards from there, you’ll find that this personality type creates the environment and attitude you need to succeed.

Paul Beaudette is a business coach and consultant. With over 30 years of ‘boots on the ground’ experience, he has made businesses successful through his leadership, controlled management style and financial acumen. “Don’t just survive, Thrive”

Leading Edge Business Strategies

7 Ways to Change Your World and Prosper

7 Ways to Change Your World and Prosper

It’s not unusual for a business owner to fall into a rut and find that things are moving along okay, but just not great. What is it that needs to change? What moves or risks need to be taken? Here are six things you can do to enter your brave new world.

It’s not a bad thing to get into the same old, same old and feel comfortable. After all, you’ve worked hard to get to where you are and now it’s comfortable, less stressful and you’ve worked out the kinks. It’s time to sail smoothly. But, as anyone knows in business, if you stay there too long, your competitors are busy dreaming up ways to beat you at your game. So, don’t hang around too long.

If you’re in a technological field, you’ll also find that you have to deal with innovation on an almost daily basis. Depending on your company structure and size, you may need one person to keep an eye on technology.

What do you do? Here’s how to change your world.

  1. Change your environment. We have a tendency to gravitate to routines as a normal practice. It helps us feel secure, keep on time and generally give us peace of mind. So, change it. If you always read the morning paper with your coffee, try reading a business magazine or a hobby blog. Reading is a necessary part of being in business, but by reading the same publications every day, you’re thinking becomes linear and you start thinking like the people you read. It is extremely important to see fresh ideas and new thoughts as often as you can.
  2. If you’re a runner, change your route. If you wear ear buds when you run, change your music, your audiobook or whatever you listen to.
  3. If you go for coffee to the same place each day, find a new location with different people. I used to stop at a coffee shop with the same customers each morning. The talk became very negative when one loud character coming in each day. He dominated the conversation and complained and mocked about other people, some were my customers. Others began joining in. I finally stopped going there and found a new place with a much more pleasant atmosphere.
  4. Re-examine your employees and see if you can switch some around to initiate some creativity with manufacturing processes, customer interactions or cost savings. Get them engaged in changing things up.
  5. Start calling on your competitors. There’s no better way to find out what they are doing then to stop in and say hi. I worked in a business where we repaired our competitors’ products. We were constantly at their locations picking up parts as they were at ours. There’s no better time to be inquisitive and find out what they are doing, sometimes just by walking in and observing.
  6. If you take the highway to work each day, try taking the secondary roads to work. There’s a lot more to see and at a lower speed, a lot more to take in. It stimulates the brain.
  7. Make new friends. Whether they be client friends or personal friends finding someone new will change the conversations and that is where differing thoughts come from.

Making changes will stimulate you into new thoughts, new ways and will enhance your prosperity in the long run. Plus it makes every day seem new and exciting! For your customers, they will see the changes they wished for. Don’t discount them, they’re looking for improvements.

Paul Beaudette is president of Leading Edge Business Strategies, a business consulting firm that assists companies in developing new sources of revenues, improving profitability and becoming financially sustainable.