‘Managing Employee Relationships’ Category


Managing Employee Relationships: Decide and Communicate Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

On non-controversial matters, when the leader really could go with whatever the stakeholders identify with the most “pros”, I imagine no barriers exits.  However, when after input it becomes clear that stakeholders are divided on what the leader now believes is the “best” option, that’s when the going gets tough.  In moments like this is when the need to be liked gets in the way.  This need may cause the leader to just go along with the “majority” rather than making the hard decision.  Or, the leader may delay making the decision, continue to analyze the situation or seek additional input that supports her position so she “feels better” about making the decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Making decisions to produce desired results is part of the leadership gig.  Period.  In a perfect world, when the stars align and every person giving you input is in agreement, making decisions is a piece of cake.  In reality, a leader’s (or leadership team’s) job is to ask for input, genuinely listen to stakeholders and then make the final decision.  Leadership is taking the heat for the ultimate decision.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share the final pro/con list with the original group of key stakeholders (or in many situations at SOMC, a leadership team).  Prior to your next leadership team meeting, send all participants the final list of pros and cons generated by all stakeholders.  Ask each participant to reflect and come prepared to give input into the final decision.
  2. Determine the final decision by using structured discussion with decision criteria to come to consensus, or the technique of ‘multiple voting’ if more narrowing is needed. The most important step now is to look at the pro/con results from all stakeholders and apply a criterion to make the final decision.  For example, you asked for all possible ways to do a new process and the pros/cons for each.  Now you as the leader/leadership team has to view this list and make the final decision based on which idea will save the most cost (or best for the patient, have the safest outcome, etc.).  Applying the most pertinent Strategic Values as the decision criteria will help guide you as a leader/leadership team on making the best final decision.
  3. Communicate the final decision.  Develop a communication plan for the final decision, which should answer the What (what is the problem and decision), Why (why is it a problem and why this particular decision was made/Strategic Value criteria), Who (who will be affected by the decision), When (when will the decision go into effect), and How (how will the decision be implemented).  The most effective way of communicating this is through a “live” roll-out and a printed FAQ (frequently asked questions) document.

Are there other techniques you have successfully used to communicate your final decision?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Pros and Cons

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

This is going to start sounding repetitive, but time is a leader’s biggest barrier here. After all of our previous steps, you might be getting fatigued with this whole “input thing”. Ha!  Well…hang in there.  It will be worth it for key decisions that you need to make.  Also, our arrogance as leaders might convince us that we know what the pros and cons are better than our stakeholders.  Well…we do…from OUR perspective.  But the perspective we need to tap to make the most informed decision is that of the affected stakeholders.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Great is the temptation to take the list of brainstormed ideas and just pick the final solution from that list.  But remember, we are trying to engage people and to communicate through our actions that their “ideas and suggestions are seriously considered”.  So…enlist their help in seriously considering each idea.  Asking your stakeholders to generate the pros and cons of each idea accomplishes three things: (1) identifies blind spots we have as leader regarding potential solutions; (2) engages stakeholders through the action of thoroughly vetting each idea; (3) allows the strongest suggestions to emerge for all stakeholders to see through displaying all suggested pros/cons.

How can you do it? 

  1. Invite all stakeholders to suggest pros and cons for each suggestion from brainstorming.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  You can send the list of suggestions to each stakeholder electronically and ask them to respond with their pros and cons.  You could send or post the suggestions for a period of time, asking each stakeholder to think of pros and cons and then hold a meeting where you capture their thoughts visually (flip chart/screen).  Or you could post the ideas in an area for a period of time an ask your stakeholders to write pros and cons next to the idea (sticky notes work great for this) as they think of them and then you would summarize.
  2. Get these pros and cons “on the record”.  The method I prefer above is the electronic review and submission because it keeps all of the pros/cons transparent and their owners accountable.  This is important for a few reasons: (1) it allows the leader to clarify a pro/con if not understood; (2) it generally keeps people focused on the organizational issue rather than self-interest; and (3) the author is accountable to their responses (and non-response).
  3. Provide the summarized list back to each stakeholder.  Even when I have employed the electronic method, what I provide back is a full summary of each suggestion and pros/cons.  I typically put a number in parentheses to indicate how many stakeholders listed that similar idea.  This will be helpful for our next step of selecting the decision because it visually begins the process of consensus.

What method of generating pros and cons has been most successful for you?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Ask for All Options

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barriers to asking for options before making a decision is of course time.  There are critical decisions that need made quickly and may not allow for a full vetting.  But sometimes the “speed crisis” is self-generated because we want to move on and check the item off of our list.  Or we have procrastinated because it is a tough decision to the point that there is no time for this step.  As the leader I may think “I know best” and that going through this process is just a fig leaf.  Or I may assume that my stakeholders don’t care about a decision based on previous lack of input.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

No matter what the problem is or decision needing made…there are ALWAYS options.  There may be no really good options, but options there are.  The more you involve your stakeholders in the generation of options, the clearer it is that management has not already decided a direction.  This promotes potential buy-in if an option suggested by stakeholders is selected for the decision.  As a leader the fact you are taking the time to involve your stakeholders in options for a decision that affects them, will shape a positive perception on two key driver engagement questions on our Employee Engagement Survey – “My ideas and suggestions are seriously considered” and “I am involved in decisions that affect my work.”

How can you do it? 

  1. Identify the OBVIOUS options.  To get the flow going in your stakeholder group, start by identifying the most obvious options.  One such obvious option is to “do nothing.”  It is important that your stakeholders know that this is a serious option that sometimes is the best when all options are considered.
  2. Ask key stakeholders to suggestion as many additional options as possible.  The technique that is helpful with this step is Brainstorming (this link lists the steps and variations of this technique for your consideration).  The goal of this step is VOLUME.  Your goal is to get as many people participating and have the most extensive list of options as possible.
  3. Bring in an outside facilitator if necessary.  If your stakeholders have a pattern of not participating when you ask for suggestions and you have tried some of the techniques in the link above with little improvement, it may be time to ask an outside facilitator to assist.  Sometimes it may be a leadership style or trust issue that gets in the way with active participation.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  4. Share the full list of options with a larger group of stakeholders for further input.  Send your preliminary list out to a larger audience and ask them to add to the options.  This will give you the most complete list of options to consider before prioritization and selection.

Are there additional ways you have successfully used to gather options from stakeholders?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Manage Expectations of Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barrier to managing the expectations of those giving input is that leaders often skip over this step.  The leader knows why they are asking for input and how they will use that input…so there is really no need to clarify.  Likewise, each stakeholder has their own opinion of why they are being asked for input and how the input will be used.  The gap between the leader and stakeholder’s expectations, if not clarified, can create problems throughout the rest of the input process and implementation of the final decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Before you ask stakeholders to brainstorm options, it is imperative to describe up front how the input will be used to make a decision.  In organizations there are “Opiners” and “Deciders”.  It is important for leaders to get the input and opinions of the individuals affected by a process change or who do the work every day (Opiners).  However, the leader is accountable for the decision made and also responsible for taking the input and weighing it against factors that their stakeholders might not be aware of such as financial issues or conflicting strategic priorities (Deciders).  While great places to work regularly solicit and value stakeholder input, we are not democracies governed by majority vote.  Leaders sometimes have to make unpopular decisions that not all stakeholders support.

How can you do it? 

  1. Clarify, up front, the goal of getting stakeholder input.  This seems like a redundant, simple step, but think back to almost any relationship conflict you have ever had.  Most likely the root of the conflict was a result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication or misaligned goals.  Be very specific that you are asking for their input about X because of ABC reasons.
  2. Describe how their input will be used to make a decision.  Be ready to explain the answers to the following: Are you going act on their recommendations?  Or are you just looking for input and then making the decision yourself?  I like to use the phrase “your input about X is very important to me so that I can make the BEST decision.”  This insures that stakeholders are clear that you as the leader will be making the final decision.
  3. Explain how the decision that will ultimately be made from their input connects to the mission/strategic direction.  Never miss the opportunity to connect to the “why” that a decision from their input will have on the bigger picture in your organization.   This may help your stakeholders understand the impact of the decision that you will make (and have the best chance to engage their support for decisions that may not be in all stakeholders’ favor).

What other strategies have you used to clarify stakeholder expectations of their input?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Determine Who Needs to Give Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

When decisions have to be made fast, involving other stakeholders can seem like a waste of precious time.  The right stakeholders’ availability may be delayed.  Identifying the right stakeholders (right departments, job roles, expertise) might not be intuitive and take longer than expected.  Another barrier can be finding the stakeholders with enough interest and passion to not only make the best decision but also be helpful in the implementation.  If finding the “right” stakeholders, fast, seems too difficult, a leader will certainly be tempted to just make the decision alone.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

From the book Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership, the author reflected that Teddy Roosevelt “learned that an adaptive leader can only lead others by listening, truly listening, to understand what the followers believed at that moment in time. It cannot be done by charging ahead alone, simply espousing virtues. Once a leader knew what his followers believed—as well as their prejudices—he could empathize with them. Only then could he lead them.” In order for a leader to know a process, identify possible options for decisions/improvements, to make the best decision and to have buy-in for implementation, a leader needs to get the input of the people most closely involved.

How can you do it? 

  1. Choose a content expert and/or process owner.  If the decision leader is not you, then you need to engage the leader of the process and/or the subject matter expert in the area in the which the decision is needing made.  Understanding current reality of a process and ideas for improvement from the perspective of the person currently leading the process will be very helpful input.  Implementation of a change has little chance of being successful without the process owners input.
  2. Identify the appropriate stakeholders.  Working with the process owner answer the following: Who will be affected by this decision?  Who has expertise about this decision?  Who will be integral in implementing the final decision?  Who is passionate about this decision?  Who will make the final decision?  This will form the basis for a starting stakeholder list.
  3. Create a task force.  From the list of stakeholders, identify 5-10 (10 max) key individuals representing multiple perspectives that can serve as the group to select final decision options.  We will talk more about the function of this task force over the next few weeks.

What barriers have you faced when selecting stakeholders to help you with a decision?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Which Decisions Need Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Leaders have to make numerous decisions every day and let’s face it…leaders LOVE to check things off of their “to-do list”.  Taking the time to think about which decisions should have input from others is messy and would force the leader to pause before marking “Check.”  As a leader, I might not be in touch or miss the mark with what decisions my team would like their input heard. Or out of hubris, I may think that I know what’s best for my department and getting input is just as waste of my time.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

For employees to be committed to their organization and their work, they need to feel that their input is seriously considered, or there is a risk that employees will eventually stop offering suggestions and individual/departmental performance to suffer.  All leaders have limits on time and the extent to which they are able to use input from employees.  Outstanding leaders, however, are clear about what decisions need made and find a way to help their employees feel that their ideas are being seriously considered for decisions that affect their work.

How can you do it?

  1. Create a list of decisions that need made in your department Spend some time with your management team on generating a list of decisions that need made on a regular basis in the operation of your department.  Add to that list any upcoming decisions that you anticipate needing to make in order to improve results in your department. Place an asterisk next to the decisions that impact the work/schedule/assignments of your employees.
  2. Label them based on amount of input needed to make the best decisionAs a leadership team, label each decision with the following criteria (A) No input from team members is appropriate; (B) Some input or recommendations are desired so leader can make the best decision; (C) Appropriate for the team to make the decision.  If the decision has an asterisk next to it, challenge your team to label it either (B) or (C).
  3. Be willing to move decisions into different categories based upon employee input.  Share the list of common and anticipated decisions and your labelling system with your employees.  Facilitate discussion about each decision and get your team members’ input on whether or not you have labelled the decision appropriately.  Be willing to change the labelling based on input.

What are some examples of decisions you have to make that (1) need no input from team members and (2) need input from the team prior to making decision?

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

Managing Employee Relationships: Improving Engagement Through Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

In leadership we make decisions every day that can affect our individual work, our departmental processes and our organization’s results. Making the effort to gather input from those we serve before making these decisions may take too much time for the urgency of the problem.  We may avoid seeking input out of pride – either believing we don’t need others’ input or that making decisions is “my job.”  We also may not ask for employee input for fear of what we might hear.  We might be criticized, our employees may be negative about a potential decision or worse yet, misunderstand that giving input is not the same as making the decision.  We also might make an assumption that our employees just don’t care or will not have valuable input anyway.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Through over 20 years of employee engagement surveys, Southern Ohio Medical Center has determined that the perception employees have that “their ideas and suggestions are seriously considered” and they are “involved in decisions that affect their work” are two key drivers for engagement in our culture.  Departments that have high engagement results, perform well on these two items.  Departments that do not perform well on these items…do not.  In order for us to sustain a culture where employees want to engage in our mission, we need to allow them to engage through meaningful input.  Over the next several weeks of this blog series, we will discuss in detail how you can implement the following input process framework as a tool in your engagement tool kit.

How can you do it? 

  1. Determine what needs decided and who owns the decision.  Before you engage others for their input, be clear about the decision needing made.  Make sure you have the subject matter experts and process owner involved.
  2. Identify all of the possible solutions and select the best decision option.  Make sure you have all of the key stakeholders involved and gather their input about all possible solutions and what they would identify as the “best” option.  Ask for input on how best to communicate to the affected stakeholders and their thoughts on implementation.
  3. Make, communicate and implement the decision.  Make the best decision you can with the input from your stakeholders.  Communicate the decision and outline a clear plan for implementation.

What example can you share that demonstrates the power of input (or lack thereof) on employee engagement?

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

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Modeling

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

As we have discussed throughout this blog series, leadership is hard.  It is human nature to wish someone else would take responsibility when in a tough situation.  Psychologists Latane and Darley define this reality as the Bystander Effect.  In difficult situations, the more people that are present, the less responsibility we feel to risk stepping up – someone else will, right?  Most situations in leadership are ambiguous.  When faced with ambiguity we tend to look around for the reaction of others and follow their actions.

Why is this important to do anyway?

But guess what? Your workforce looks to YOU for direction.  Your model and your decisions are ALWAYS on stage.  When times are difficult, your employees are looking to you for inspiration.   If you show urgency and jump to action, there is a higher chance others will follow than if you don’t act.  If you model calm, there is a greater likelihood that your team will respond with confidence.  In leadership you must… “be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi)  Be the lead you want others to follow.

How can you do it? 

  1. Model with courage.  Most people do not carry the emotional strength to be true to themselves.  One gift you can give your workforce is to stand up for what is right.  Your courage will model the strength for others to trust in their convictions.
  2. Model with performance.  As a leader you have to “up your game”.  You cannot expect others to demonstrate high performance if you are not willing to hold yourself to the same…and higher.  Be the benchmark of performance you want your team to strive for.
  3. Model with passion.  Your employees want to be a part of something that is worth getting excited about.  If they do not see any passion or energy in you, there’s a fat chance you are going to see your team get excited.  Get fired up about the work your department is doing.  Show interest in them and connect their work to the mission of your organization.
  4. Model the way.  Models provide a picture for us that we use as a guide.  Your moods, your reactions, your response to mistakes, your recognition of those doing the work…all of these paint the color on the picture of what kind of leader you are.  Make it a picture worth viewing and one your employees can have to pattern after.

What are some of the other ways you actively try to model 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 Fun

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Achieving results in today’s business environment is really hard.  And as a leader you are held accountable for the results of your team.  Some leaders may think that having fun at work is goofing off and distracts from productivity.  Other leaders may cope with the stress of work by  “knuckling down” and tolerating humor even less.  Some managers fear that if they allow fun at work that their workforce won’t respect them or take them seriously.

Why is this important to do anyway?

People have the need to have to play.  All work and no play really DOES make Jack a dull boy…and a stressed out one too.  Work-related stress has been linked to increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders, easily matching the loss in productivity from physical injuries.  As it turns out, laughter really is one of the best medicines.  Laughter releases pleasurable endorphins, lowers blood pressure and helps us tolerate more pain.  Fun also increases the number of days your employees will spend at work.  Fun and laughter have been linked to less absenteeism and fewer sick days.  An environment of fun is serious business and when present can have a direct correlation with creativity and innovation.  Fun also gives the brain a break from the monotony of routine tasks.  Laughter is one of the strongest glues that bring a team together.  And when morale is strong, the team is more resilient and can take on even the most challenging problem. So why have fun?  Well…it makes our tough jobs a little easier.

How can you do it? 

  1. It starts with YOU.  Lighten up, will ya?  As a leader, your behavior sets the boundaries.  If you allow yourself to loosen up and have a little fun, you are giving your employees permission to do the same.  Your workforce will take their cues from you. Now I’m not suggesting that you act goofy all of the time.  Rather, just lighten up enough to allow others the freedom to have a little fun.
  2. Be willing to laugh at yourself.  Certainly not everyone is a comedian…and PLEASE, don’t try to be one.  You have to be mindful of “safe” humor, so avoid telling jokes because you never can be sure what may be offensive.  But one of the safest and most powerful things all of us can do is to not take ourselves so seriously…to laugh at yourself.  This signifies humility which draws people to you.  Instead of covering up your mistakes, quirks or challenges, find the lighter side and share them.  Your staff will love you for it.
  3. Tell stories to keep the laughter and learning alive.  We have learned from stories from the time we were born.  Stories can share a lesson, a challenge and a laugh.  The best kinds of stories…have all three! Every organization and department has their unique culture and stories associated with the work that they do.  In Human Resources we have sick “HR humor” that allows us to relieve the stress of dealing with problems all day long.  When we encounter one of these “you can’t make this stuff up” situations, we try our best to share that story for us all to learn from but more importantly…to have a shared hearty laugh.

What are some other strategies you use to inject fun into your work and that of the department you lead?

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

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Connection

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Some managers may hear the word “connection” and think that I am suggesting a “love fest”.  Well, I am…sort of.  True connection takes investment which comes from emotional energy.  Some leaders are not comfortable with the idea that they have to “invest” some of their self into their team.  Other leaders are convinced that a high-performing team is one where their employees just do what they say without question.

Why is this important to do anyway?

One of our primary psychological and biological needs is to build emotional bonds with others.  Our brain chemistry is wired for connection.  Connection with others also helps us find meaning and purpose.  Most of us who work full time spend the majority of our waking hours at work.  Meaningful connection within a group unleashes powerful social forces that influence behavior.  Great managers realize this and give careful thought to protecting and building their team.  A healthy team will provide an inspiring work environment, while a dysfunctional one will quickly erode morale and engagement.  A leader’s job is to do their best to encourage a “sticky” team environment.  Here are a few things a leaders can do to support an environment where the team pulls together.

How can you do it? 

  1. Shine a light on the “purpose” of the team and their work.  A sticky team must center on something larger than itself.  No amount of superficial “team building” exercises will accomplish this environment.  Teams want to achieve something.  Regularly clarify the goal or target your team is shooting for and give the team feedback on their progress. When leaders create an environment of shared success, it helps team members to realize purpose and feel relied upon by others.  Hold each team member accountable for their part to make sure each is pulling their own weight.
  2. Support and environment of energizing discomfort.  When there is absence of conflict that is NOT a good sign that your team is sticky.  A team full of quiet “go-a-longers” will have mediocre performance at best.  You want to support and environment of trust, where team members can have respectful disagreements over process, share their opinions, thoughts and concerns without a fear of isolation or retaliation from you or the team.
  3. Remove team members that are “solvents” to your team’s stickiness.  Whether you have a slacker, whiner or bully on your team, please hear this…you will NEVER have a sticky, high-performing team as long as you allow them to continue. Period.  These individuals are caustic and will dissolve any bonds your team may have developed.  Great team members will leave as soon as another opportunity is available if you do not address these employees.  Work with your HR team on a plan to successful manage or extrude these members from your team.

 Think of the “stickiest” team you have been a part of…what are some of that team’s characteristics?

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