‘Managing Employee Relationships’ Category


Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Mastery

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Early in my career I had a leader emphatically state that most people just want to do their job and go home with the least amount of effort. While I agree that human nature is inclined to do what we WANT to do rather than what we NEED to do, the belief that members of the workforce want only the “easy” way out may translate into leadership behaviors that can pose a barrier to promoting mastery.  If you think your staff doesn’t want a challenge, you don’t create challenges for them.  If you don’t believe they care about achieving the goals, you may stop asking their opinions or ideas on how to improve.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Another primary need that every human has inside of them at some level is the need for mastery.   Mastery is described as our desire to overcome a challenge, and in doing so find meaning or purpose in the work we do every day.  It is not a leader’s responsibility, nor is it practical, to light every employee’s flame every single day.  A leader’s job is to create an environment and support a set of circumstances that creates the tension for challenge and potential for achievement.

How can you do it? 

  1. Set clear goals and expectations.  People you serve need to see the challenges ahead clearly if you want them to have a chance to overcome them.  Our job as leaders is to make clear what outcome the team is striving for, why it is important and when the team needs to achieve the outcome. This provides the path, or opportunity to achieve a meaningful outcome.
  2. Create an optimal challenge.  Hard, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs) are great to fire up those you work with who live for an underdog challenge, but no one wants to feel hopeless.  A leader’s job is to strike a balance between challenging and over-the-top hard.   Break the bigger goal into smaller goals that have a possibility of being achieved in the circumstances.
  3. Give consistent feedback.  Are we there yet? While the need for mastery is met by achieving a goal, no one wants to feel lost along the way. Leaders need to give regular feedback on your team’s performance toward the goal, reminding them of “why” the goal is important (the light at the end of the tunnel) to help get them through the challenging path toward achievement.

Question? What are some strategies you use to give consistent feedback about goal achievement to those you serve? 

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Care

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

I had a manager say to me once that this “caring” stuff wasn’t necessary as his employees were getting paid for their work and that should be enough. This view of the connection between those he serves and the organization as merely transactional limits the possibilities a more balanced relationship can yield.  As referenced last week, everyone has needs that are prioritized differently.  A leader may not personally have a need to know that they are more than the work they are producing, which may be a barrier for extending care to others in the workplace.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Because leadership relies on your ability to influence others to achieve results, it is important to consider what you can do to build trust.  If your employees do not trust you, they may only follow you so far.  Most every human has a primary need for care – the need to be more than a number or a resource to be used.  When employees feel that they count, that their organization cares about them as individuals, they are more likely to invest or engage more of themselves in their job.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make a genuine effort to “know” those you work with.  Your goal here is to learn some “vital statistics” of those you serve.  The more colleagues you interact with the harder this can be, but it is worth it.  Develop a system, or log, for keeping track of a few vital basics – what their job is and key results they participate in, names of family, life events, hobbies, etc.
  2. Regularly round with those you serve.  Now that you may know more, show some interest in those you serve – in the work they are doing and in them as a person.  Go to their place of work and interact with your direct report 1-1 regularly.  (At SOMC we ask leaders to do this at least quarterly.)  While you may follow-up on operational issues during this time, make sure to genuinely check-in with them on a personal level (not like a telemarketer! Ha!).
  3. Be willing to lift a load.  Plato is quoted with “Be kind, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load.”  In your interaction, you may learn of a particular issue (personal or professional) that is getting in the way of them being able to perform.  A simple inquiry, offer of encouragement or unexpectedly helping your colleague through a tough situation will not be forgotten.
  4. Show an interest in their future.  Ask those you serve “what’s next” in their career. Try to learn what long-term goals they have (even if it is not in your department).  Be supportive and look for ways that they can work toward their goals while in your care.  This support shows that you do not wish them to be indentured and will be appreciated.

Question? What are some other behaviors you can demonstrate to show you care for those you serve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Awareness of Needs

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

The amazing, and incredibly frustrating, aspect of relationships is that each of us looks at situations differently, through lenses shaped by our experiences and our needs. Sometimes actions and decisions have to be made too quickly to fully appreciate different perspectives.  Leaders can get too busy or too focused on putting out fires to step back and consider the thoughts of others.  And, sometimes leaders care only about their own needs and achieving the ends, with disregard for the means and the people who produce them.

Why is this important to do anyway?

There are certain principles of the human condition that appear to remain true regardless of race, generation, culture, etc.  These principles, or basic needs, are present in all of us, and are part of what shapes our thoughts and behaviors.  When a leader acknowledges the different needs of those he serves, he communicates to his team that he “knows” them and that they are accepted and their perspectives matter.  This basic human respect is at the core of trust and can impact the amount of engagement your team is willing to give in order to produce the desired result.  Leaders who do this well are those supervisors, teachers, coaches that you would follow anywhere…that you do not want to let down.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be clear about your priorities.  This is such a simple to-do that is so easy to stray from in our day-to-day tasks.   Identify the high-level priorities for your organization/department.  Then, rough out the high-level “how’s” to achieve these “what’s”.  No matter what curve balls that will get thrown in the course of a busy week, the team you serve are counting on you to stay focused on what is really important to achieve these results.
  2. Be aware of your needs and those of the colleagues you serve.  Each leader serves a team of people who will then execute these “how’s”.  Be willing to get input from your team and understand that each person’s perspective (including your own) comes in part from needs that we have.  Accept that we are all mixed bags of strengths and weaknesses and do your part to capitalize on the strengths each brings.
  3. Balance your energy between being “present” and focusing on tasks.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse.”  There is a delicate balance between how much energy you place on people vs tasks.  You cannot invest your time completely in meeting everyone’s needs at the expense of results.  And…you can’t ignore the needs of those you serve and expect to achieve results (at least in the environment we prefer at SOMC).

Question? What are some strategies you have used to balance your focus on people and results?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with “Weighted” Relationships

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leading others is a heavy burden.  This responsibility “weight” can be overwhelming to some leaders and paralyze their actions.  That people’s lives are affected by the heaviness of leadership decisions can be more than what some signed on for when they became a manager. This weight also has power and the potential to arouse in some leaders their desire to control others.  The fact that a leader is now “in charge” can be an intoxication that fuels a person’s need to dominate.

Why is this important to do anyway?

And…this weight has the potential to inspire.  A leader, a teacher, a parent has the potential to truly make a difference in the world, in their organizations, through the influence they have with others.  Leaders who understand the principle of “weighted relationships” take the responsibility of leading others seriously and understand that they have the power to add to someone’s quality of life or take away from it.  A Saratoga Institute study found that a manager’s behavior was the number one factor in determining an employee’s satisfaction at work, and a Gallup study found that and employee’s relationship with their manager has a strong correlation with an employee’s turnover with an organization.  Leadership is a heavy responsibility and we need to be aware of ourselves in order to most effectively leverage this weight to help those we lead achieve results.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be aware of “your way”.  Everyone has a certain way of doing things.  This “way” can be referred to as a culture or brand, or simply the certain style in which you behave shaped by your beliefs, values and past experiences.  You “way” spills over into your team and helps shape the micro-culture within your organization.  AND…people care more about what happens in their local communities than at the state level.  Choose your “way” intentionally.
  2. Be aware of your words.  Your words carry weight.  Those you serve want to hear from you – expectations, praise and correction.  What you say means more to your direct reports than the same words from the CEO.  So be careful – mean what you say and say what you mean.  Language shapes perception.  If you regularly use phrases like “they work under me or for me” then be aware of the stage that sets for your workplace culture.
  3. Be aware of your actions.  You are always on stage and your actions carry weight.  Those you serve are not only listening to your words, but also watching your behavior.  When words and behavior are incongruent, our colleagues will believe behavior every time.  Make sure YOUR behavior matches what you expect in others.  You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

What other suggestions would you share with a leader in effectively managing the weight of their influence on others?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Achieving Results Through Others

Vicki Noel

(12/21/14)

What are the barriers to doing this?

Have you ever heard or uttered the phrase “if you want something done right, you might as well do it yourself?”  At some point in every leader’s journey this kind of thinking has been our cop out.  Many leaders get promoted to their roles because they are excellent performers on the front-line.  We’ve gained confidence from this and in some cases have defined ourselves by our competence and our ability to produce individual results. This self-importance view can block from our minds the need to share with others what result we are seeking and from translating into action what we expect.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Leadership exists to produce results.  Period.  Some of those results can be achieved by you as an individual.  But it is neither practical nor possible to do it all and achieve sustainable results.  You need your team of people and other connected stakeholders to work with you to achieve results.

How can you do it?

  1. Be crystal clear about the results you are being paid to achieve.  It is so easy to bog your day down with “comfort tasks.”  Like comfort food, doing these tasks give us a nostalgic euphoria that reminds us of a time when we were competent.  The good ole days! Ha!  When you get into this trap ask yourself “is this what I am paid to do?”  Before you can ever clarify expectations to others, you must be clear about the results you are expected to achieve for your organization.
  2. Break down the path to the results into milestones.  At SOMC, we are asked to achieve perfection in all that we do.  That can appear daunting to those we serve.  Be clear about the end result, but take the time to think of the “mini goals” to get from A to Z.  Get input from those you serve on these process changes and milestones and share this lighted path with your team.  Also, be prepared to re-focus your colleagues on the interim goals when they stray or get discouraged.
  3. Hold yourself accountable firstWhen our team does not produce the expected results, it is our fault.  Welcome to leadership.  The sooner we come to this conclusion the faster we can course correct to get back on track.  Acknowledge to your team that you have not communicated your expectations clear enough.  Make them clear and hold yourself and your team accountable for each other’s performance.

What are some other strategies you have used to refocus yourself and your team on the results you are expected to achieve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Achieving Results Through Engagement

Vicki Noel

Why is this important?

Recently, while presenting at another organization’s leadership conference, I was asked by a senior leader the following question: “How can you justify spending SO MUCH time on employee engagement when you have so many OTHER important results to achieve?”

That one question has inspired this blog series. Achieving results in our organizations is incredibly difficult, no matter what the industry. Whether as an effect of globalization or increased local competition, achieving the same results for sustainability TODAY is increasingly more challenging than yesterday. Customer expectations continue to rise. The competition for skilled talent has escalated. Yet, many organizations fail to realize that the only true competitive advantage is leadership. Leadership is achieving results through people…through their performance…their expertise…their delivery of service. My answer to the executive above…how can you NOT focus on engagement. An engaged workforce is the means to exceptional organizational results.

How can you do it?

Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Over the next several weeks, we will explore some strategies that when executed can encourage those you lead to be as successful as they can be. We will explore the following concepts and the strategies for making these concepts come alive through your leadership.

  1. Leadership is the art and science of “moving” people. As a leader, we are paid for achieving the results through many others doing the work. This involves a change in our thought processes that we’ll discuss over this series.
  2. Leadership is a great responsibility and one of “weighted relationship”. As a manager you may not be the MOST influential person in your organization…but you are the most influential to your direct reports. Accepting that you have this amount of influence is the key to your effectiveness…or your ineffectiveness. We’ll discuss ways your behavior can lead the way in promoting excellence in others.
  3. Leadership is acknowledging that those you lead have different needs. There are certain principles of the human condition relating to performance excellence that remain true regardless of race, culture, religion or generation. Each person has fundamental needs that lie at the heart of achieving results. During this series we will explore these needs and how when acknowledged, a leader can tap into another’s potential.

Can you share a personal experience of a leader who was able to take you and others to a place, a result, that you didn’t think you could reach? What were some of the ways this leader motivated you to achieve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog. We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Uncovering Knowledge and Applying Wisdom

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leaders gain a sense of security from the knowledge that we conjure to guide us through all of the choices we must make every day.  Making a choice is a relatively simple task that moves us from uncertainty to certainty.  Many times we let our own anxiety or insecurities muck up our brains’ natural decision algorithms with clutter such as “What if people won’t like my choice?”, or the more paralyzing “What if the choice I make is wrong?”  The fear of being wrong or not perfect can present a barrier for leaders when trying to learn as much about an opportunity so that they can make the best possible decision for the organization.

Why is it important to do anyway?

The workforce we serve is counting on leadership to make decisions to ease as much uncertainty as possible.  They have jobs to do and working in uncertainty is distracting and uncomfortable.  So…we have to get over our own fear of failure because that’s our job to do so.  Each day in healthcare, the complexity of the decisions we have to make grows.  As uncertainty increases so does our need for more creative and useful knowledge to guide our choices.

How can you do it?

  1. Go to the source to get your information. Part of leadership is knowing who to go to when you want an answer to your question.  Rather than hunting around for the information you need to make your decision, if you can go to the source and get things settled quickly, then you are free to move on to the next issue needing resolved.  Be familiar with and USE the “sources” inside your organization – those who ensure that questions are answered.
  2. Capitalize on the collective wisdom.People who are wise are frequently asked for advice or commentary on how they have faced challenges and are seen as role models.  All organizations have many “wise ones” in its midst.  When faced with uncertainty that you personally don’t have the depth of knowledge to make an informed decision, seek wisdom from others.  Collective wisdom goes beyond the sum of each person’s wise thoughts and actions.  Listening to the collective wisdom allows a leader to make value-based decisions and/or ethical judgments that are consistent with the culture.
  3. Extend trust and ye shall receive. As a leader you cannot possibly know the answers to every problem and situation.  If you have a need to be “right” or “perfect” chances are you are not making many decisions or you ruminate for so long that your workforce loses faith in your ability to lead effectively.  Your “sources” and “wise ones” are all around you.  Don’t just seek them out, but trust in their information and advice, make the decision and share in the successes and consequences of that decision.  Leadership is not an island…you are in this together with those you serve.  When you extend trust it WILL be returned to you in spades.

What is an example where a leader trusted in your wisdom when making a decision and the impact of that experience on your relationship?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog .  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Addressing Risk in Uncertain Environment

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

In all organizations when leaders make a decision, there is risk that the decision may not have the desired outcome.  In an environment of uncertainty for the organization, the risk stakes are higher for leadership decisions.  Because of this risk intensity, leaders may delay having to make a tough decision to stall the inevitable outcome.  Leaders may put their head in the sand and hope that the uncertainty will go away and therefore they can avoid making the decision all together.  Or they could pawn the decision off onto someone else to avoid being associated with the decision so they can remain “loved”.

Why is it important to do anyway?

One of my favorite sayings about aspects of leadership that I do not enjoy is that they are “part of the gig.”  When you sign on to the position, there are going to be aspects you simply love…and many that you wish you didn’t have to perform.  Both are part of the commitment to leadership, and whether we like it or not, our workforce is expecting us to deal with uncertainties and make the tough calls.

How can you do it?

  1. Remember the honor you experience as a leader.  I refer to this as the “happy place” for me as a leader.  You need to remember the stewardship you signed on for when you accepted your position.  This helps put the proper frame of reference around the tough decisions you have to make every day.  You have to remind yourself what is REALLY important and at the same time handle tough decisions in a way that you can look at yourself in the mirror every day and know you have honored the position and responsibilities you have.
  2. Promote a culture of safety in decision making.  Acknowledge the risk that exists with decision making and expect that you and others you serve will make wrong decisions.  It is going to happen.  As a leader, transparency when you have made mistakes, sharing openly how and why you made decisions that did not work and then what you did to remedy the situation, will demonstrate to others that it’s o.k. to make mistakes.  This promotes a “safety in decision making” that many members of your workforce need to feel before they may make tough decisions.
  3. Utilize a transparent and consistent decision-making model.  All you really have are your words and your actions… and your workforce watches and listens to make sure the way in which you make decisions is consistent with your values and those of the organization.  Those you serve are more comfortable facing risk when their leader is predictable and consistent in their method of decision making and the decisions made reflect the values of the organization.

What are some strategies you use manage the barriers that an uncertain environment presents to you as a leader?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog .  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

 

 

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Balancing Uncertainty and Opportunity

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Every leader within every organization has to face uncertainty.  Healthcare, as an industry, is on a particularly bumpy “uncertainty rollercoaster”.  Leaders regularly have to make decisions on issues when the causes and the outcomes are not always known in advance.  Making decisions when the outcome is unpredictable is uncomfortable and anxiety-producing to the workforce and leadership.  Sometimes in an effort to find certainty and solutions to ease our discomfort, leaders will miss seeing the opportunities that uncertainty can reveal.  The tendency to hunker down and engage in “prevent defense” to protect what certainties we DO know still exist may lock blinders in place to the opportunity knocking around the corner.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Uncertainty is a normal part of business.  And great leaders are always looking for opportunities.  Trustworthy leaders that have confidence in their skills and who surround themselves with quality people are more likely to successfully balance the uncertainty of business situations with identifying opportunities for improvement or change.  The more engaged our workforces are the more they are depending on us as leaders to anticipate and acknowledge the environmental factors contributing to uncertainty.  Trustworthy leaders view their team as invested stakeholders and critical to uncovering the improvement opportunities that exist and the potential short- and long-term solutions.

How can you do it?

  1. Keep your workforce up-to-date on uncertainties impacting your organization.  It is hard to look at the faces of those you serve and share with them all you know and have there be as many (if not more) unknown factors affecting your organization than known.  Trustworthy leaders acknowledge what they don’t know and commit to keeping their workforce informed as new information becomes available.  And…you have to keep that commitment if you want people you serve to be engaged in the solutions.
  2. Consider all options and make choices consistent with your values.  It is very critical that leaders do the tough work up front on clarifying current reality and generating every possible solution option when faced with uncertainty.  Generate a list of pro’s and con’s for each option.  Engage those you serve in adding to and participating in this list.  Trustworthy leaders balance all of this feedback and review each option against the organization’s mission and values to make the best decision.
  3. Involve your workforce in implementing the solutions.  Involve key staff members in implementing the improvement solutions.  Ask them about necessary implementation steps, what ideas they have for successful change, and about possible barriers to getting the work done.  After implementation, involve staff members in evaluating the implementation and the changes – what went well, what did not go so well, what improvements can be made for the long-term solution.  Listen to their suggestions and implement those that make sense.

What are some additional strategies you can think of to balance uncertainty while looking for opportunities?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog .  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Developing Others and Providing a Path

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

One real barrier is resources. Most of us no longer have the resources in our organizations to hire a leader’s successor with enough time to properly train.  On rare occasions it is possible, but not likely in today’s environment.  Also, with the expense reduction pressures of most healthcare organizations, many “formal paths” of leadership have been eliminated or reduced so that current leaders are taking on more scope and reducing the number of formal leadership opportunities.  Individuals who may be interested in future leadership roles may think the future is bleak in these flat organizational structures.

Why is it important to do anyway?

When you believe in your organization and support the direction the culture is heading, it is a trustworthy leader’s stewardship obligation to play their part in helping that culture sustain for future generations. In organizationally “flat” companies this can be challenging but not impossible. However, it’s worth considering and the payback is huge.  The last thing you want is to lose individuals with leadership potential because a possible path is not clear.

How can you do it?

  1. Ask those you serve about their dreams and goals.  This is a conversation that you should have with your direct reports often.  This could be done during regular rounding or performance conversations.  Ask if their current job is satisfying.  Ask if there are tasks or projects they would like to take on out of the normal routine for growth opportunities.  Ask where they see themselves in the next few years and future.  Ask what skills and experiences they need to help them reach their goals. Just ask.
  2. Provide as many opportunities for varied skill development as possible.  Once you ask and have reflected on possibilities, you need to be prepared to deliver.  Working in partnership with your employee, share some of the possible development experiences or opportunities that exist within your department (but also outside of your area…that’s the hard part).  Decide on a realistic timeframe for different opportunities.  Explain very clearly that these are opportunities to lead from where they are and that there is no guaranteed leadership position at the end of the rainbow.  There is a risk that this potential leader may leave once you have provided these growth opportunities.  But in the “big picture” you’re helping shape the future of leadership…and that is worthwhile work.
  3. Lead anyone willing to the “water”.  Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  I try to look for the “spark” in anyone, regardless of their job title…and quite frankly, I pause when someone verbally tells me they want to be a “manager” or a “boss”.  Look beyond that…look at the person’s willingness to contribute regardless of their title.  But development is a two way process.  You can offer the “water” or the opportunities, but they must be willing to “drink”.  And leadership is not for everyone.

What are some examples of “paths” that were lit for you in your journey to leadership?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog .  We learn best from each other’s experiences.