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Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Cause of Turnover

Monday, March 13th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Bosses are usually unrelenting when something goes wrong with a product/service. They, the team and often the entire company work to not only find the cause, so it won’t happen again, but also to placate their customers.

However, when the problem is an internal human one, they are more hesitant to root it out, since that often means first looking in the mirror and then actually changing (not just paying lip-service until the turmoil dies down).

Read other Golden Oldies here.

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn the right frame of MAPping Company Success it says, “Have a quick question or just want to chat?” along with both email and phone number.

A few weeks ago a “John,” a founder, called me to see if I had any idea why his turnover was so high.  

In response to my questions he described his company’s culture, management style, product, etc.

I told him that assuming what he said was what was actually happening then something else was going on.

Since we are several thousand miles apart, we came up with the idea of using a stationary camcorder to tape the interactions; a “set it and forget it” approach to capture the norm and not performances.

A few days later he sent me a link to see the results.

I choked at the length, but it didn’t take that long to find what the likely problem was.

To see if my instinct was correct, I watched the entire nine hours on fast forward.

What I saw was that, almost without exception, during every interaction John had, whether with programmers or senior staff, he interrupted them to take calls or respond to texts.

We discussed the ramifications and effects of the constant interruptions and I asked him how he would feel if they had acted the same way.

He said it had happened to him and he usually felt annoyed, offended or both.

So I asked why they would feel any different.

John said that also explained why one senior developer said he preferred to work where he was shown some respect.

John had chalked it up to the developer’s age and that he couldn’t handle the casual atmosphere, but thinking back the guy had had a good relationship and no problems with the team.

I suggested that instead of saying anything he just change, i.e., pay attention and not interrupt, since actions speak louder than words.

I also sent him this image as a constant reminder.

respect

John went further than changing; he called the most recent three who had left, apologized and said he would like them to come back.

One had already accepted a job, but the other two decided to give it another shot.

They both said that his candidness, honesty in recognizing the problem and sincere apology made it likely he would follow through.

Image credits: HikingArtist and via Imgfave

An Insightful Comment On Cheating

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

I received an email yesterday morning from the CEO of a well-known growth company. He wrote regarding yesterday’s post about cheating.

I asked why he wrote instead of leaving it as a comment.

He replied, I would rather avoid having it associated with me. If you want to write a post and have anonymous attribution, that’s fine. 

It’s an important observation and one that is especially applicable now. I’m sharing it with no additional comments from me.

Anything I tried to add would be superfluous and detract from its importance.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/9557815@N05/30738398861/When there are strong incentives to cheat and large negative consequences if one avoids cheating (since everyone is doing it), what should be the inducement for not cheating?

Where cheating is rewarded, truth and uprightness has potentially large negative consequences.

An organization or society built on fraud, trickery and deceit will eventually descend into chaos and anarchy.

Without leadership among both common people and the privileged, this is inexorable destiny.

Whenever there is a trend toward something, there are significant costs associated with changing the trajectory.

Who can or should be willing to bear these costs?

Image credit: Abi Skipp

Entrepreneurs: Fired Candidates are Often Pure Gold

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/theredproject/3482621628/

Yesterday I asked if you would hire someone who had been fired.

If you’re a smart boss your response is “absolutely!”

That’s because the reason someone is fired is far more important than the act itself.

Here are some of the more common reasons people are fired — often under the guise of poor performance, bad attitude, etc.

  • Disagreeing with the boss, whether publicly or privately.
  • New boss wants his own team.
  • Not complying with the boss’ requests, including sexual ones.
  • Doing [whatever] differently than the boss.
  • Standing up for another employee.

While there are many valid terminations for cause, the validity often depends on your point of view.

Years ago, when I was a recruiter, I presented a hardware test tech, who had been fired, to a favorite client. I told the VP that according to his boss, the tech was fired for creating problems in the lab and talking back to his boss — both of which were true.

However, in talking to his peers I learned that the boss in question had a habit of eating while walking around the test lab and scattering crumbs on the boards being tested.

The tech had asked him several times privately not to eat near the bench and, when the eating continued, brought it up in a department meeting, which led to his being fired for insubordination.

My VP was delighted; he said that was the kind of person he wanted on his team (the tech was hired).

It’s a smart boss who personally checks references (above, peer and subordinate) on all candidates before making an offer, instead of delegating the task to someone else, including HR (which usually checks with HR).

After all, the whole point is to acquire great talent, meaning talent who will be great for you.

Flickr image credit: Michael Mandiberg

If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Cause of Turnover

Friday, May 30th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn the right frame of MAPping Company Success it says, “Have a quick question or just want to chat?” along with both email and phone number.

A few weeks ago a “John,” a founder, called me to see if I had any idea why his turnover was so high.  

In response to my questions he described his company’s culture, management style, product, etc.

I told him that assuming what he said was what was actually happening then something else was going on.

Since we are several thousand miles apart, we came up with the idea of using a stationary camcorder to tape the interactions; a “set it and forget it” approach to capture the norm and not performances.

A few days later he sent me a link to see the results.

I choked at the length, but it didn’t take that long to find what the likely problem was.

To see if my instinct was correct, I watched the entire nine hours on fast forward.

What I saw was that, almost without exception, during every interaction John had, whether with programmers or senior staff, he interrupted them to take calls or respond to texts.

We discussed the ramifications and effects of the constant interruptions and I asked him how he would feel if they had acted the same way.

He said it had happened to him and he usually felt annoyed, offended or both.

So I asked why they would feel any different.

John said that also explained why one senior developer said he preferred to work where he was shown some respect.

John had chalked it up to the developer’s age and that he couldn’t handle the casual atmosphere, but thinking back the guy had had a good relationship and no problems with the team.

I suggested that instead of saying anything he just change, i.e., pay attention and not interrupt, since actions speak louder than words.

I also sent him this image as a constant reminder.

John went further than changing; he called the most recent three who had left, apologized and said he would like them to come back.

One had already accepted a job, but the other two decided to give it another shot.

They both said that his candidness, honesty in recognizing the problem and sincere apology made it likely he would follow through.

Image credits: HikingArtist; via Imgfave

Miki’s Rules to Live by: What to Say When

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

People are often faced with the quandary of deciding how honest they should be when responding to some version of the classic “does this outfit make me look fat” question.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/istolethetv/2956799679/

This Rule serves as a good filter to help you decide how to respond

“Never confuse
telling people what you think
with telling them
what they want to hear.”

That doesn’t mean you should always provide the latter and not rock their/your boat.

Sometimes people really do want to know if the outfit makes them look fat.

The trick is to evaluate the situation in order to decide how to handle it.

Flickr image credit: istolethetv

Benefits, Respect and Retention

Monday, October 8th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/twicepix/4878819302/Why is common sense often treated like rocket science?

If you want to increase your overall retention rate start by respecting your people.

There are too many managers who only respect their ‘stars’ and then wonder why turnover is rampant in the rest of the organization.

Then there are the legions of managers who believe that if they can’t demonstrate their respect with perks because their budget was cut there is no way to prove they value their people.

Ahem! Respect isn’t a matter of perks.

You’re people aren’t stupid, they know the score, so tell them the truth and build trust.

Provide what what tangible proof you can to show that you value your workers, from health care to chocolate, but don’t insult them by saying the company can’t afford something when it obiously can.

Respect isn’t about benefits and benefits, no matter how exotic, don’t give you the right to disrespect them.

Nor will benefits underwrite bad management—you don’t get to micromanage, insult, play favorites, or bully your people just because the company offers health insurance.

The bottom line is simple—if you treat your people as replaceable don’t be surprised when you have the opportunity to do so.

Flickr image credit: Martin Abegglen

Creating A Happy Workforce

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Yesterday I said that creating a happy, i.e., productive, innovative, caring, workforce, was 80% MAP and 20% money-based employee support initiatives.

Everyone who writes or talks about management, or is interviewed as a role model, says the same thing in a variety of ways.

It boils down to what people want

  • respect;
  • honesty;
  • shared commitment;
  • clear communications as to where the company is going, how it’s going to get there, what’s expected of them and how it all fits together;
  • an ethical culture; and
  • authenticity throughout.

No details, they’re available in dozens of places, including this blog, along with plenty of how-to’s.

Now, let’s say that you’ve done your best to implement what you’ve learned (at whatever level you are), but you’re not getting the expected results. Productivity is still elusive, your people seem apathetic and you have more turnover than is healthy.

What’s wrong? What are you missing?

The answer is most likely deep within your MAP.

As you’ve read over and over, the key to all this is authenticity—translated that means you believe what you’re saying.

But having worked through this with hundreds of managers over the years I can say that frequently one or more of the “required” attitudes weren’t synergistic with their MAP.

They used the right words, even thought the right thoughts, but deep down they didn’t really believe—and their people knew it. Not ‘knew it’ as conscious thought, but knew it as a gut feeling; knew it because every time their manager said one particular thing they found themselves mentally squirming and didn’t know why.

What they did know was that it made them uncomfortable and worried them. The discomfort sat in the back of their mind nibbling away and their productivity went down, which made them still more uncomfortable and created fertile ground for any opportunity that came along.

The solution to this is simple, but very uncomfortable since it requires you to turn you eye inwards to find the offending MAP and then do what it takes to change it.

Now to the 20% that requires money.

Employee support usually falls in four categories.

Technology

When budgets are tight, new technology may be unavailable, but that’s just one piece of supporting your people and you can often work around at lest part of it. Brainstorm with your people and find solutions within the parameters with which you have to work.

Training

Training can be done if you get everybody involved. Here are four things to do within your organization that cost little to nothing.

  • Build a useful library, both hard copy and online, that includes classic and current information and runs the gamut from traditional to controversial to off-the-wall. Encourage your people to read up on subjects that interest them, whether or not it directly applies to their expertise.
  • Choose “topics of the month” based on both need and interest, and then encourage free-wheeling discussions on a regular basis.
  • Adapt scheduling so people can start to use, and become proficient in, the new skills about which they are reading and talking.
  • Support brown-bag classes (better yet, buy lunch if you can) in which they can teach their skills to others. Add cross-working assignments whenever possible to ensure cross-training.

Career opportunities

Providing career opportunities is easier than you think—and also more difficult. It requires you to do everything in your power to help your people acquire the skills necessary for them to take the next step in their chosen career path—that’s the easy part.

The difficult part is doing it even though you know that the person will leave, whether your group or the company, in order to take that step.

Rewards

The tighter the economy the more difficult it becomes to provide financial rewards—or so it seems. Overcoming this challenge goes back to authenticity and honesty.

You start by explaining clearly exactly what your financial constraints are, both yours as a manager and the company’s. Your people aren’t stupid, they’ll know if what you say is true. In the thousands of people I’ve talked with over my 25 years as a recruiter I never found one that didn’t have a pretty good idea of what was going on in their company.

Once that’s done, get creative. Ask your people for ideas and involve them in finding creative ways to provide incentives with what you do have to spend—just don’t do anything that isn’t synergistic with your MAP.

Doing all this is the best gift you can give your people—and yourself.

If you’d like to talk more about it feel free to call me at 866.265.7267—no charge, no joke.

Image credit

Are you an unconscious bigot?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Smells are said to be a major source of memories and anchor them in our mind; that’s what writing does for me, it reminds me of things that have happened.

My earlier post reminded me of an uncomfortable time I had with a brilliant manager, uncomfortable because I had to help her see the unconscious bigotry in her own and her team’s actions—one of the most diverse in the company.

Huh? How could someone who had recruited, hired, built, and retained a multi-ethnic group composed of both gay and straight, and including a variety of religions, be a bigot? How could that diverse a team be bigoted? And how in the world would it be noticeable to an outsider (me)?

It’s simple, and can be summed up in the current lexicon as, “It’s the jokes, stupid.”

I don’t mean telling overtly bigoted <fill in the subject> jokes, I mean sharing those ubiquitous Internet jokes and cartoons about Polish/Irish/Black/Southern/blonde/fat/old/young/etc.

Sure, some are funny, and I’ve passed along my share, but as intolerance has grown greater in recent years, I find myself deleting more and more of them. Not because I’m some kind of saint, but rather because I change the reference to one that applies to me or a good friend and then see if it’s still funny. If it is, I send it on, if not, I delete it.

Many years ago, I knew a woman who was always telling me religious jokes (yes, they were funny). We laughed a lot at them, so one day when she was over I played The Vatican Rag from my favorite Tom Lehrer album, That Was The Week That Was.

She went up like a Roman candle, we’re talking totally ballistic, screaming about sacrilege and words of the devil, etc. Now, this was someone who never went to church or mentioned being Catholic in the six or so years that I knew her and told jokes involving, as far as I remembered, every religion.

Obviously, I remembered incorrectly.

And that’s when it hit me, an unconscious bigot is someone willing to joke about “them,” but can’t take a joke about “us.”

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