‘Managing Employee Relationships’ Category


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.

Managing Employee Relationships: Developing Others and Pursuing Accomplishments

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

There are SO MANY tasks to get done in a leader’s day – schedules to complete, calls to return, time and attendance tracking, issues to handle, projects to finish.  As leaders we are typically not good at carving the time for our OWN self-development, let alone time to consider the development of our workforce.  For many of us, we come to work each day with the best intentions and then allow ourselves to become distracted by “fires” rather than staying focused on the tasks that matter.  When we allow ourselves to get absorbed by “the work” we aren’t present for those we serve and over time, we may miss those subtle cues that our employees are giving us about their own development needs.

Why is it important to do anyway?

As a leader you have invested a great deal of time and resources hiring the right fit for your department.  You invest a significant amount of time orienting and training a new employee for their position.  But your role in developing that member of your workforce doesn’t stop there.  Now…I fully embrace the idea that development is a two-way responsibility (1) a person has to reach out and take responsibility for their own development and (2) a leader needs to be tuned into their employees to be ready to offer development options.  For the members of your workforce that WANT to grow, it is our obligation as leaders to involve them in ways they might achieve their development goals.  Trustworthy leaders help “light the way” for these employees to pursue accomplishments that may or may not be within their department.  The employee benefits from the growth opportunity and the organization benefits by re-engaging an employee that may have been lost to a competitor…or worse, lost to disengagement or “presenteeism”.

How can you do it?

  1. Pay attention to and be present with your employees.  It is refreshing when a person is assertive enough to speak up and say “Hello!  I want some development, here!”  But 99.9% of your workforce may not be comfortable expressing that to their leader…or more likely, they are unsure of what they want, but know that what they are doing now is not satisfying. Know your team members and their strengths.  Observe them…are they using their strengths to the fullest in their work?  Are you seeing any signs of disengagement?
  2. Have conversations that matter.  Ask your employees about whether or not they are engaged with their work and if there are other things they want to accomplish to fulfill their development goals.  Do this regularly to role model the openness with which to talk about development needs.  Share of yourself and how you addressed your development needs throughout your career.
  3. Don’t stand in the way of someone following their dreams.  Once you know what the development goals are for your employees…try like crazy to help fulfill them.  This is true even if their dream is not in your department. This is VERY HARD to do.  I know.  The alternative, however, is an employee that is not committed to their current role and you risk losing an employee from the organization entirely.

What are some additional barriers that get in the way of helping your employees accomplish their development goals?

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 Creating Full Lives

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Hiring and training members of your workforce takes time and financial resources.  And, when leaders invest in people, they naturally would love for them to stay and contribute in their job role within their department so as not to continue replacing the position.  I have encountered managers that have actually expressed that they prefer to hire “lifers”, or people that have no aspiration or ability to do anything but the job for which they have been hired.  These managers proclaim that hiring individuals with talents or interest beyond the job for which they have been hired is a bad investment for their department.  These managers believe that hiring only “career” people within their departments saves them time, money and effort.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Certainly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring individuals whose goals are to build a career within your department.  It is the exclusive leadership practice and mindset described above that I would like to contrast against trustworthy leadership.  Trustworthy leaders understand that once they hire an individual it is their obligation to assist in the development of that individual to their fullest potential.  Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leadership, explained that “the best test of servant leadership is “Do those served [by the leader] grow as persons?   Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”  Trustworthy leaders understand that the job a person is currently working may only be a stop along the way for the individual.  They “get” that true leadership is focusing on the whole person so that their employees may learn, grow and contribute to the organization…even if it is in another position within the company or outside the organization.

How can you do it?

  1. Remove the barriers that frustrate your employees.  If you want members of your workforce to develop their skills and talents to their fullest, you must remove the things that are getting in the way of that happening.  Ask your workforce “What gets in your way of serving your customer?”  They will tell you.  Some things that frustrate your employees may be valid functions of the job they are hired to do.  Possibly… that position may not a good fit for the individual. Through discovering what de-motivates your workforce, you may be able to improve processes and job matches that will allow people to enjoy their work.
  2. Help your workforce connect to the great value of their work.  We all work for different reasons.  Whether your workforce comes to work every day simply because they need a paycheck or they have a higher calling, each person adds value at some level through the work they do.  Make sure they know what individual value they bring to the table.   Share how what they do makes a difference for the patient or those they serve.
  3. Talk with people about their talents and how they might contribute to their work and the organization’s success.  Some of us find fullness within the workplace.  Others will combine work with outside activities to complete themselves.   Support those you serve to lead a full life.  Trustworthy leaders understand that when those served feel supported to be “complete”, that the payback is a more focused, re-dedicated workforce.

In your career, describe some ways you have been supported by other leaders to live a full life?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Sharing Information and Extending Influence

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Being able to influence a situation, whether selecting from available choices or actively arguing a point of view, raises an individual’s stake in the outcome.  Once again, leaders who are not confident in their own skills or position are not always comfortable sharing information and inviting others into decision making.  Putting yourself and your ideas out there for others to critique is scary and exposes vulnerabilities.

Why is it important to do anyway?

With all of these challenges, extending influence is extremely critical to developing trust with people.  When your workforce is given the opportunity to influence the outcome of an activity, policy or decision their desire to understand and interest in participation change.  The increased level of engagement comes from being invested in the outcome.  At SOMC, there are two questions on the employee satisfaction survey that directly relate to a leader’s ability to successfully extend influence: “My workgroup is asked for their opinions before decisions are made;” and “I have the opportunity to influence policies and decisions that affect my work.”  Trustworthy leaders not only seek input from their workforce, they work diligently to ensure the feeling of “having a stake in the outcome” is real, not a fig leaf.

How can you do it?

  1. Invite your workforce to participate in meetings.  If you are interested in extending influence to your workforce, you have to invite them into the conversation.  Make sure that there are enough opportunities for you to interact with members of your staff (rounding, department meetings, and huddles).  Set aside time during each of these interactions to ask for the opinions of your team on processes, policies, improvements, etc.  Share your thoughts and ask them what they think to further the meaningful exchange.
  2. Let go of your position powerSharing information in a way that extends influence is the same as sharing position power.  The individuals doing the work every day have viewpoints that we can’t possibly have.  For extending influence to be successful, the humility necessary to let go of your “position” and extending the power to your workforce to create new solutions of define improved processes is required.
  3. Really listen to what other people have to say.  If you ask…really listen to the response.  Actively listen to the ideas being shared by your team.  Write down their thoughts.  Ask follow-up questions.  Even if you don’t think at the moment that there is value in an idea, take it down anyway.  Who knows…there may be a “nugget” of an idea that has merit.  Also as a “leader really listening” (another SOMC employee satisfaction question), follow-up with your team on all the ideas and what may be pursued and others that will not be and why.  Connect improvements and changes to individuals’ ideas.

What is the most effective example of ‘extending influence’ that you have observed from another leader?

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

Managing Employee Relationships: Sharing Information and Enhancing Participation

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Open, two-way communication is absolutely essential to build trust in any relationship. Yet most leaders are much more comfortable with one-way, mass communication…sending a group email, posting a flyer…than with communication that requires an “exchange”.  When leaders create opportunities for an exchange with those they serve, it creates a possibility for vulnerability…for decisions or actions to be challenged or questioned.  Not every leader is willing to put their sense of authority or control at risk for the invitation of their colleagues to participate.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Sharing information in ways that enhance participation means ensuring that those you serve have a way to ask you questions, have multiple ways to access you as a leader and are asked to give their feedback continuously.  While this can be frustrating and even “messy” sometimes because you as the leader may be challenged or you may feel you lose control of the conversation, your organization will be better off if you hear your workforce out and use their criticisms to make changes that strengthen your organization.  The members of your workforce have the most invested in the success of your company.  Allowing them to participate in the decisions and direction of your organization is critical to furthering their level of engagement.  Employees who are “with you” are happy to succeed with you, certainly, but are also willing to rally and go through difficult times with you.

How can you do it?

  1. Consistently use all of the “basics” of sharing information.  Before anyone can participate in an exchange of information, they have to have a starting point of basic information.  Strengthen and continue to use basic information sharing techniques such as newsletters, emails, department meetings, postings, etc.  Enhance these tools by using some of the ways to promote understanding so your workforce is clearer on how they are to use the information.
  2. Promote participation by example.  Take the time to visit with your employees, find out what they are doing, answer questions and ask questions of your own.  Go to their area of work on their shift.  This sets the example of participation.  By your own actions you are modeling that you are interested and want to participate with your workforce.  By extending this trust you may just get it returned to you in spades.
  3. Share “lessons learned” as often as possible.  When there has been a significant learning or experience that has affected the outcomes or processes of your organization…share it.  Involve all those that were a part of the situation to share their story and their lessons learned with others.  This not only recognizes their role but invites them to participate in the shared learning of the organization.

What are some of the ways you promote participation in your workgroup?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Sharing Information and Promoting Understanding

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Throughout our lives we have heard the phrase “information is power”.  It is true.  Unfortunately, some leaders misinterpret this saying to mean that a strong leader must withhold information to keep tabs on their power.  Unfortunately, this practice of “hide and seek the information” consumes a significant amount of time and energy on the part of the leader.  It doesn’t allow for the collective ideas and contributions of the workforce and thus less than stellar results.  And lastly, this practice does not build trust between leaders and those they serve.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Information is power.  Successful organizations have figured out that people need information in order to perform at their potential.  Sharing information is also a competency that demonstrates that a leader trusts their workforce, and is worthy of reciprocity of that trust.  A trustworthy leader who is honored by their followers is less likely to experience the insecurities that some have thus creating the desire to hoard information.  A leader who is committed to inclusion attempts to create opportunities for question & answer forums and feedback from those they serve.  Trustworthy leaders who value their followers know that those they serve need information to be successful.  If a leader wants to be perceived as trustworthy they must figure out effective ways to share information.  One factor of effective information sharing is delivering it in a way that promotes understanding.

How can you do it?

  1. Connect your message to the “action” and the “why”.  When sharing information, make sure to explain what you want people to do with the information and more importantly…why.  Making information actionable promotes understanding because the message clearly explains what you as a leader expects others to do as a result of the information.  Your employees have to manage a huge amount of information from emails, order forms, data bases.  Help them cut through to what is most important by being specific.  Engaged employees want to know the why behind what they are doing.  They want to know that what they are doing has meaning.  “Because I said so” didn’t inspire us to engage when we were children, and certainly less so as adults.  Promote understanding of the purpose of the request by taking the time to explain the “why”.
  2. Translate your message.  Take the time to “know your audience” and translate your message from the specialized terms and abbreviations that often develop within a profession.  I am not suggesting to “dumb down” a message.  This approach will be instantly perceived as insulting and condescending.  Rather, if you want to be understood think of the viewpoint of your receiver…what their level of knowledge at the start is and what you need them to know.  Use everyday terms and avoid using abbreviations.
  3. Be transparent.  Leaders need to share information early and often…even when they don’t have all of the answers.   Put yourself in the “hot seat” at rounding meetings and answer any questions you are asked to the best of your ability.  When you “don’t know” admit it.  When there are things you cannot yet share, explain why.

What are some additional strategies you use to promote understanding while sharing important information?

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