Archive for February, 2010

Why Organizations Cannot Afford “Can’t Do” Leaders

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Recently I conducted a series of workshops for new supervisors. Most of the participants were eager to learn skills that would help them be effective managers and generally make their lives easier. Among the group, however, was one “outlier” – i.e., an individual whose consistent response to all ideas, tools, and skills was to identify reasons why they would not work. He stubbornly refused to acknowledge that, in fact, some of these time-tested tools and techniques could work in his department. As one workshop participant told me quietly yet emphatically during a break, “I’m glad I don’t work for HIM!”

Here are eight reasons why organizations cannot afford “can’t do” leaders:

    1. “Actions speak louder than words,” and these leaders are poor exemplars.

    2. Organizations that tolerate this perspective and its concomitant behaviors send the message to employees and other stakeholders that it’s okay.

    3. In looking for negative things, these leaders will find them. Conversely, because they aren’t looking for positive things, they will not find them.

    4. Consistent negativism kills creativity and innovation.

    5. Employees won’t want to work for them, and other managers won’t want to work with them.

    6. Because their expectations tend to be very low, employees are likely to meet those expectations by performing at a low level regardless of their ability.

    7. Morale and productivity will decrease.

    8. Turnover is likely to increase: research shows that the #1 reason why employees leave organizations is dissatisfaction with the immediate supervisor.

What are the options for dealing with a supervisor like the one in this workshop? Here are some choices:

1. Insist that he change his behavior

The organization must communicate its performance expectations and standards clearly; identify how his performance will be evaluated and by whom; provide the support necessary to help the individual change; give him sufficient time to make the changes; hold him accountable for meeting or exceeding the performance standards; and let him know the consequences if his behavior does not change.

2. Accept the behavior

This option requires that the organization be willing to accept the costs listed above.

3. Find him a job for which he is better suited

Not everyone has the talent required to be an effective supervisor. This individual’s “can’t do” attitude may stem from a poor fit with his new management position. If this is the case, then all parties would be better off if he were moved to a different position.

4. Fire him

This is the option of last resort. While it should not be taken lightly, it should be on the table. The organization has a right to insist that its employees, especially managers, meet or exceed its performance standards.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

What’s Next for YOU?: Take Charge of Your Life Today

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

More and more often, I hear people at various stages of their careers expressing a common desire: to do something different than they are doing now. Some of these individuals have reached retirement age and are looking for new challenges or opportunities; others have been laid off or are seeking their next job in anticipation of losing their job; still others who are working feel dissatisfied because they haven’t found their niche yet. Those who are just joining the labor force are wondering what their careers hold in store for them.

What all of these people have in common is a wonderful opportunity to take charge of their lives. Yet many of them don’t know how to do that, or where to begin. As a result, they settle for the status quo.

As someone who has done a substantial amount of career counseling over the years, I discovered that I have a talent for helping people identify their passions and find ways to incorporate them into their lives. Along the way I have learned that, despite what they say, some people are not ready to make the transition from merely doing a job to engaging in those things that bring them joy. Sometimes they lack the skills or experience to do so; other times they choose to not change. In order to distinguish between those who are ready for a transformation and those who are not, I have developed what might be described as a “readiness assessment.” Here are some sample elements:

To what extent are you willing and able to:

    • Be successful?
    • Suspend judgment of yourself?
    • Be kind to yourself?
    • Unleash your creativity?
    • Examine your beliefs?
    • Recognize and “own” your talents?
    • Think outside the box?
    • Take responsibility for the quality of your life?
    • Make the necessary changes?
    • Recognize that how you experience life is always your choice?

If you already are experiencing the type of joy-filled life that comes from living your passion, congratulations! Please tell us your story. If you are not, how ready are you to begin to make the transformation? Let us know!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Make a Difference Today

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Do you ever feel the need to “do something” when you read or hear about disasters around the world such as the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and Chile? Do you worry about the well-being of the children affected by such disasters? There are many good relief agencies that rush to the aid of stricken victims. I would like to recommend one agency that does a phenomenal job of specifically addressing the needs of children worldwide: Save the Children.

For 13 of the 15 years she has been with Save the Children, my sister-in-law was one of the first responders who rushed in when there was a natural or man-made disaster anywhere in the world. I cannot remember the number of times my mother told me that Caroline was in a war zone or a country that had suffered devastating floods or a tsunami or an earthquake. Caroline and I have had conversations about the work that Save the Children does, how much effort and planning go into ensuring the organization is in a state of constant readiness, and how seriously its leaders and employees view themselves as good stewards of the resources people entrust to them. Because of the extensive experience Save the Children has had in doing this type of work, other agencies rely on it to coordinate relief efforts on the ground. Such was the case in Haiti, even though three Save the Children employees living in Haiti while working on a project lost their lives in the earthquake. To make a difference in the lives of the children and their families in these and other countries, please visit the Save the Children web site. And thank you for indulging me.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

It’s Time to Banish the Elephants from Your Organization’s Living Room

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Several months ago I wrote an article called Is the Political Correctness “Elephant” in Your Workplace? that really seemed to resonate with people. “The elephant in the living room” is a common metaphor for situations in which people refuse to address or even acknowledge a major issue even though everyone knows about it and it is causing serious problems. My contention was that rather than addressing tough issues, such as having to confront poor performance or make a decision that is bound to cause angst among some stakeholders, leaders often shirk their duties by hiding behind “politically correct” excuses. They take the path of least resistance which, over time, results in dysfunctional behaviors and outcomes that create and enable a toxic environment. Too often, employees and the public enable this state of affairs.

Current economic conditions are making it harder, if not impossible, to ignore these elephants. As organizations are compelled to cut back on programs and people, they are being forced to question what they are doing and why they are doing it – and whether they ought to continue to do it. For example:

    – In the public sector, we have seen politicians at all levels repeatedly make decisions based primarily on self-interest rather than on what’s best for the public. While many recognize what’s going on in these situations, those who gain from such decisions (e.g., votes to fund pet projects that benefit only a few, or approval of worthy projects for which taxpayers should not be footing the bill) tend to ignore the implicit quid pro quo – i.e., support during the next election. Even those who don’t benefit directly may go along with the decision, expecting that their “turn” will come.

    – In the private sector, decisions that were made in the name of creating shareholder value yet resulted in workplace dysfunctions now are coming to light (e.g., unethical behaviors, self-serving actions). While media reports indicate that Toyota’s “elephant” seems to be cost-cutting decisions that ignored important safety implications, this type of behavior is not new – nor is it likely to be the last time we see it.

    – In the non-profit sector, we often find well-intentioned leaders, employees, and volunteers who are so consumed by their passion for “the cause” that everything else is secondary. While such enthusiasm is laudable, it becomes dysfunctional when it results in hidden costs that are ignored, such as the large number of burned out employees and volunteers, and the high levels of turnover.

The question is, what can we learn from this wholesale exposure of elephants in our organizational living rooms? We have an opportunity now to take a good look at them, and to make a conscious decision about whether or not we will tolerate them in the future. We need to examine what factors gave rise to their creation and maintenance, and to take actions to change them. For some suggestions about how to begin to rid our organizations of this kind of toxic behavior, or at least to minimize it, I invite you to read my article How to Drive the Political Correctness “Elephant” Out of Your Workplace.

And let us know what your organization is doing to create an elephant-free zone!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.