Empowerment & The Hallelujah Chorus

  The manager of a retail store told employees that their responsibility was to make transactions easy and quick for customers. However, if an item had no price or bar code, the cashier was required to call a manager.  What’s wrong with this picture?   We can do two things to make it easy and non-threatening for our team members to make decisions independently.    1. First, ask them "What are some situations where you aren’t sure whether to take an action or to refer it to me?" Then clarify what you want: "Well, in a situation like that, I’d like you to (fill in a, b, or c below).        a.  Ask me for a decision or permission before taking action       b.  Inform me after taking action       c.  No need to inform or involve me: "You handle it." (insert "Hallelujah Chorus" here)     2.  Second, make a positive comment when he decides and acts. If his decision wasn’t exactly the one you’d like, calmly and warmly say "Next time, I’d like you to _________________. You made the right decision not to keep the customer waiting. I’m glad you handled it."   Correct the decision but reinforce the action of deciding.   How much time could … Continue reading

“What Do You Want to Be?”

  "What do you want to be?"  That’s what I ask people who are looking for a job, seemingly don’t have a goal, and need something to work toward," says Sheree Sorrells, an employment counselor at a North Carolina JobLink Center. "It may be the first time anyone has asked the person that question in many years. Often, I notice his or her first reaction is to sit up straighter." . . . sit up straighter . . . what does this tell us about what that person may be thinking or feeling? Sitting up straighter could be the first in a series of behaviors leading to preparing oneself for a job. As we’ve all heard many times: "A long journey begins with a single step." When I hear the question "What do you want to be?" it thrusts me into my imagination, and my dream. "I want to be a nurse, a firefighter, a chef, a business owner." Imagining myself in one of these roles pulls me up in my seat. It pulls me out of my present an into a different future. It pulls me to do the work to make that future come true. Usually, people are asked what they want … Continue reading

Your Fingers

"Everybody’s behavior makes sense to them at the time," says Dr. Aubrey Daniels, founder of the consulting company bearing his name. We can remove the mystery and superstition for why people do the "crazy" things they do (translation: things we don’t agree with). It’s not voodoo. It’s the consequences. "I just don’t understand why he won’t pick up his clothes. I end up picking them up every day." The answer to the question is right there. You just read it. When we don’t approve of someone else’s actions, and wish we knew how to change those actions, all we have to do is ask, "What happens for that person when he or she does that action?" If she keeps doing the same action, we know that a positive reinforcer (from some source) is fueling her behavior, keeping it running and running, no matter how much we detest that behavior. When Mike’s daughter was nine, he gave her a laundry basket for her closet. "Put your dirty clothes in here, Shawn. The day before you want clean clothes, take your basket down to the laundry room." Downstairs they went for a lesson. Using her fingers, not his, he taught her, "Here’s how to run the washer." And later, "Now … Continue reading

Be a Great Boss In a Tough Economy

Can’t offer more money? Can’t guarantee job security? Can’t give promotions now? What can a boss do during a tough economy to show how she values people? 1.  Ask their opinions. Close mouth and listen. Take notes. You don’t have to use all the ideas. Just save them. This demonstrates to that person that you take his ideas seriously. And who knows? There may be a gem in there somewhere – later if not sooner. 2.  Keep your own complaints about the current situation to yourself. Vent to a trusted friend outside your organization or to a spouse or companion when you need to let off steam – not to your staff. 3.  Listen to your staff’s frustrations but minimize the time you both spend talking about conditions neither of you can control.  Once the problem has been stated, re-direct the conversation to the solution stage with a question like "What do you suggest?" or make a statement that gets the conversation onto today’s priorities. Whatever you listen to, you’ll get more of! 4.  Give frequent informal recognition for work that you value. "Good solution," "You saved our bacon!" and "Great preparation for that meeting" are quick and cheap ways to … Continue reading

You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Work Here – We’ll Train You

 When Vickie started working here, she went out of her way to serve her customers quickly, and with a smile. Now she takes much longer, and often just tells them why something can’t be done. What happened to Vickie? In her first week when Vickie checked with another department in order to give fast answers to customers, her co-workers coldly informed her "That’s not our job, and the credit people will complain to our boss."  Later, when Vickie figured out a shortcut to speed up a procedure, her boss said, "Our policy is to do it the old way. Don’t waste your time on that." Vickie quickly learned that extra effort and improving  a process was frowned upon. On the other side of the coin . . . Atlanta’s Fulton County Government Manager John Sanford broke his quick stride across the spacious office lobby to bend over and pick up a tiny piece of paper from the carpet. He continued describing his goals for his 11,000 employees to a visitor without missing a beat. Half an hour later, Matt, his Operations Director, joined them walking down a long hallway. Suddenly, Matt sprang ahead and snatched up a paper clip from the floor.  It looked to the visitor as if Matt wanted to get there first. John gave Matt … Continue reading

Go “Dotty” for Fitness

  You go, girls! Thirty fitness buddies are exercising themselves dotty. On the chart shown above, fitness buddies launched their goals and feedback for fitness. Buddies wrote their first names into a square, claiming it for their self-posting of points earned during a month. Their checklist of fitness behaviors they perform to earn points include keeping a food diary, hiking, playing Fitness Jeopardy, working out in the gym, swimming laps, and attending aerobics classes. Each day, each person posts a dot into his or her square, with the goal of spelling out the word "FIT" by month’s end. This takes 30 dots (representing 30 activities). We see tiny sticky notes written by the director of the fitness club as well as friends, proclaiming "You go, girls!" "Great start," or "Bravo." Folks are engaging in some fitness behaviors for the first time: increasing the frequency and duration of exercise and making healthier food choices. When this month ends, each person will set personal goals for the new month. After the first two weeks, attendance in exercise classes averaged 29 people, compared with 20 before the self-posting of feedback. After classes, we can overhear, "Let’s go to the gym and post our dots." Feedback makes fitness fun!    

You Reject My Fabulosity? Who Asked YOU for Feedback?!

Every supervisor, manager, and leader knows how uncomfortable it is to give feedback. Receiving feedback is several times worse for many of us. We like to believe we’re doing everything right, or if we aren’t, that no one has noticed. My title above is extreme (to get your attention, of course). Few of us believe we’re fabulous. But we usually think we’re O.K. I keep working to become less thin-skinned. Some folks admit they have "no skin." Almost all of us hate rejection, however we may define it. As a result, we may be kept in the dark by someone who has valuable feedback for us, but dreads our defensive reaction. I don’t want to be the last to know how someone views my work, I want to be the first to know! So I’ve finally learned to ASK for feedback, and then RECEIVE it with appreciation and without arguing, justifying, or defending. After conducting a seminar, I asked my customer, "What would you like more of next time? What would you like less of next time?" This made it easier for him to give me feedback. Here’s why: 1.  I asked for it. 2.  I gave him two specific (also quick & … Continue reading

Your Silent Language

We speak without talking. Our most powerful messages don’t come from our words. They come from:      – our eye movements      – our facial expressions      – our posture and gestures As far back as 1959, anthropologist Edward T. Hall named these behaviors "The Silent Language." Most telling today, though, is the blackberry or cell phone addict who says "I’m listening," even as she texts away or glances at the phone to see who’s calling, then thinks whether to answer. Her silent behaviors clearly state the opposite of her words. As Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein writes in the Wall Street Journal: "The texter doesn’t realize that he is communicating right now, with every glance and movement – – and that we’re reading him all too well." The person who interrupts a conversation with you to take a cell phone call with sends the immediate and unmistakable message: "Whoever’s on the phone is more important than you." A reminder to all of us in leaderhip to "watch ourselves,"  . . .  because others surely are.

Poke Yoke: Video Game or Business Tool?

  Poka Yoke.   You think, "Isn’t that the video game my children play?"  No, that’s Pokemon, "Game Boy" game with cute animated characters.  The challenge of that game is to train your Pokemon (pocket monsters) to do non-lethal battle against other Pokemon.    Poka-Yoke is the Japanese term for "mistake-proofing."  Like the video game, the challenge is to see how skillfully you can mistake-proof the key tasks and processes of your business.    This means designing the product or the task so that it is difficult or impossible to do it wrong. Like the diesel fuel nozzle at the gas pump, purposely made too big to fit into a gasoline automobile.   How can you make the key tasks of your business easy to do correctly and difficult to do incorrectly?  Hospitals color-code certain medications to make it easier to identify the adult dosages from the child dosages.  Factories post instructions for each step of the job right at the work benches.  Airline pilots use checklists to follow for landing safely (which is too crucial to trust to memory).  Another technique is to remove any unneeded tools that could be used to do the task incorrectly.  If the job involves using wood screws to attach something, provide … Continue reading

Russell’s 5-minute Rule

“Don’t allow more than five minutes to elapse in a meeting without writing something on a flip chart.” This is a gem from Russell Justice, international quality consultant for Eastman Chemical/Kodak (retired) and co-founder of The Transformation Network. After five minutes in a meeting, Russell asks the question, “What are we saying here?” and writes down the answer. If the conversation starts wandering, he turns the five-minute timer on.  The purpose of his meetings is not to “yak,” but to: Define problems Identify causes Make decisions Plan actions (including reinforcement) Writing decisions in a meeting includes a bonus, expressed here in a quote by Dr. Masaaki Imai, author of Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success:           “The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.”