In 8th grade I had a boyfriend, we’ll call him “Mr. ND;” he wore a Notre Dame jacket every day. On paper, Mr. ND was the perfect match for 8th grade Colleen. He got good grades, he was so sweet, and he was definitely less immature than those other 8th grade boys. So when Mr. ND asked me to go out, I said yes! Over the course of the next few weeks or month, however long junior high relationships last, Mr. ND and I would hang out at the lunch tables, we’d go to the library, he’d even let me wear that Notre Dame jacket.
But eventually, I knew Mr. ND and I, we were not the perfect match. But he was so sweet I just didn’t have the heart to tell him. I waited way too long, but I did eventually break up with my boyfriend. I had an out-of-body experience, so I can’t remember any of the details. But what I can share is that Mr. ND went on to have much more successful relationships, I went on to have much more successful relationships, and we are still connected via social media 35 years later.
Well, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. ND when I was speaking to one of our clients who’s the CEO of a small business, and he was telling me that one of his biggest challenges is not letting go of employees, even once he knows they are no longer the perfect match. He had a situation where more than one of these employees he knew deep down was not the right fit, but he just couldn’t get rid of them, he didn’t have the heart to let them go. He had the right intentions, he felt like this is their livelihood, he was giving them a paycheck, so he was just going to hang on to them as long as he could. He also felt like, “I don’t have a replacement and it’s going make me and everybody else have all of this extra workload. We’ll just make it work.”
Well of course, it didn’t work.
These employees ended up quitting anyhow, leaving him and the rest of his staff in a bind without having any backup. And I know you have been either in that same situation or you’re in it right now, where on paper, that employee was the perfect match; their resume was great, the interview process went well, they looked perfect for all of the personality assessments. But now that they’re in the role, it’s not the right fit.
And you deep down in your gut know that, yet you believe that, “Hey, I’m just going to hang on to them. I feel bad, I want to give them a second, a third, a tenth chance.” You believe that you are actually helping them, when in fact you are doing them a disservice. For every moment, day, or week that you hang on to them, you are stealing time from them. You are taking away the time that they could be investing and looking for the right fit opportunity for them.
Because at the end of it all, you’re going to let them go or they’re going to quit anyhow. You’re also claiming that it is about them, but I’m going to challenge you to look deep and say, is it really about them, or is it about you not feeling comfortable in having the conversation? And if that’s the case, go through the proper channels to get the support that you need. This CEO also shared that immediately after these employees left, his other team came to him and said, “Oh, thank goodness they’re gone. I had this problem, this was going on.”
When you don’t let go of an employee and everyone else sees the issues, you are risking your reputation as a leader. The rest of your team starts to question the strength you have as a leader. They wonder why you are making a poor decision. And potentially, it may cause them to leave or for them to say, “Well, my leader doesn’t care how we respond or behave. I might as well do the same.” So, do not hang on to employees for longer than is necessary. Go through the proper process and procedure, but when you know deep down that it’s not the right fit, do not kid yourself that it’s about them or that you believe you’re helping them. You’re not helping them, you’re not helping the rest of your team or your organization, and you’re definitely not helping yourself.
Move swiftly when you need to get rid of those employees.
Recognition – the simple act of acknowledging a contribution. Leaders, the word recognition, the act of recognition is not time intensive; it should not feel daunting. Yet, Gallup found that 40% of employees say that they receive recognition only a few times or less per year. This is insanity because on the flip side, those employees who receive recognition that hits the mark for them, they’re five times more likely to be engaged in the culture, they’re four times more likely to be productive, and they are three times more likely to stay loyal to your organization.
Recognition is very simple; it does not have to be some major program, though recognition programs are great. What I’m offering for you as a leader, a people manager, is that you are engaging in frequent, consistent, simple recognition for your employees. You don’t need to come up with an entire motivational system, or some huge incentive plan. If you yourself offer recognition frequently and consistently to your employees throughout the year, you’re going to achieve these results.
We talk a lot at The Corporate Refinery about the personalization need – because look, the people you lead are people; they’re human beings. They have their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotions. So if you want to have them generate more and you want to be able to recognize their contribution, you’ve got to personalize it. Personalization is going to be key. The magic question that you should be asking your employees when they come onto your team, when you first hire them (and if you haven’t done it already, go do it now!) is simply asking them how do they like to be recognized?
I had some employees on my sales team who really wanted recognition purely with cash. They wanted that commission, that showed the recognition. Others wanted to earn that big incentive trip. Others preferred flexibility, time off. Others didn’t just want recognition from me, they wanted recognition from two layers above me, from our Senior VP. So I figured out how to make that happen.
Ask your employees how do they like to be recognized, and find ways to do that consistently. One of the big mistakes that we see is that leaders assume everybody likes public recognition. So you build it into your team meetings, hey, I’m going to have a place where I recognize and acknowledge everybody, or certain individuals. Some people do not like that, so they don’t even acknowledge that as a form of recognition.
So find out how to personalize the recognition as best as possible, and then do it frequently and consistently, and you’re going to yield that loyalty, that productivity, that engagement from your employees for the future. Do not overcomplicate it, do not feel like this is a daunting word. It really is that simple to do, yet will give you the best results!
I returned to the office after being on vacation, and I noticed that my manager was acting really strange toward me. I’d been reporting to him for about six of the ten years I’d worked for the company, and we’d actually had a really good working relationship. But this week after vacation, he never once said hello, he wasn’t acknowledging anything I was doing, and then he openly ignored me as I stood inside of his office for about 15 minutes while he spoke to one of my direct reports.
This form of behavior continued on between he and I for about eight months, but it also was uncovered that this behavior of his had happened for 15 years among over a dozen other employees. This behavior is a form of bullying, but what’s come to my attention is it is also a way of quiet firing. This particular manager was using bullying-type tactics in order to quietly fire employees that he was not aligned with.
But there are two buckets that I want to bring to your attention about how managers who care deeply are potentially quiet firing – because I know that you showing up here right now are the type of leader, the type of manager who cares about your employees. But you may actually be engaging in quiet firing without knowing it. So let’s talk about the two biggest danger zones, if you will, of where you might be quiet firing your employees.
Number one is by avoiding crucial conversations. You might have an employee, or multiple employees, who aren’t meeting their performance standards. Maybe there’s been a conflict in the workplace, there’s been a major error, and you as a leader are really uncomfortable and don’t know how to have a crucial conversation, so you avoid it. You avoid it, hoping they’re going to course correct, or if they don’t, they’ll eventually get pushed out of the organization.
That type of behavior is really close to the same bullying type of behavior. Avoidng crucial conversations is one way that you might be at risk of quiet firing. The second area is through withholding coaching. Again, I don’t think that you’re necessarily intentionally withholding coaching. You yourself might be so busy that you can’t even think about how to go and coach your employees.
But look, as a formal people leader, formal people manager, you’re responsible for the development of your employees. So by not actively coaching them, by not finding out what their needs are for development, you are quiet firing; you’re engaging in that behavior. So today, even if you haven’t been intentionally quiet firing, you do need to be intentionally learning – going through training on how to have crucial conversations and how to be a better coach as a leader.
You’ve got to meet your employees where they’re at. You need to develop your skills in order to develop theirs, whether that’s through getting them above and beyond the performance standards, or just developing them in general. Don’t be that manager who is engaged with quiet firing – even if it’s unintentional. I know you care about your employees, let’s be aware and be intentional to not engage in this behavior. Go out and learn the skillset that you need to be the most successful leader that I know you can be!
There was a discussion in my daughter’s eighth-grade history class, Reese was sharing with me how her teacher brought up the fact that kids don’t really have any choices in school; that they are governed by a very set, long list of rules. They have rules about start and stop time of the school day, start and stop time of each individual class, how much time and how they go passing periods, between classes. All of their teachers have a set of rules for how they operate in the classroom. And in fact, schools have rules about when kids can actually eat and go to the bathroom.
I mean, talk about rules – but you and I get it right, could you imagine if middle school students had no rules?! I mean, the absolute chaos that would ensue! So we need those rules, and you as an adult understand that in society we need some rules to set the foundation in order to have safety and protection. Even in your workplace, you need to have a foundational set of rules for efficiency, for productivity. But you may cringe when you have too many rules, feeling like it might stifle you. Well, I want to invite you to flip this on its head and think about rules in a different way.
With no rules there’s no bar to be set, so you don’t have anything to really aim for. So I’m going to be sharing with you three rules that, when it comes to women in leadership, you need to be thinking about for this year. I want you to use and leverage these rules as the bar, not the foundation, to set your standards in order to really challenge yourself this year and accelerate your leadership skills. Are you with me?
Alright, so the three rules. Rule number one: elevate your communication. Every study and piece of research I keep seeing as we’re heading into this new year is pointing to the need to not necessarily develop hard skills like we have been – though you need those – but to really develop your soft skills. And communication is at the top of that soft skill list. In fact, nearly every answer I give to answer a question is, “You need to up your communication.” That the problem could be resolved with better communication.
So you need to elevate your communication as a bar, as a rule, for this year. Rule number two in this coming year for you as a woman leader is you have got to stop forfeiting your power. Stop forfeiting your power! I know that women, on average, have a tendency to be asked to do certain things, and have a tendency to say “yes” to things. Most of the time it’s because, “Hey, I’m a team player. I don’t want to seem like I can’t get down and dirty and roll up my sleeves when people ask me to do something.” But in fact, every single time you say yes, you are forfeiting your power.
You have to find a way to delegate, to say no, to find ways that you can reclaim your power and actually demonstrate your strength as a leader. Finally, rule number three: measure yourself. Measure yourself and do not measure yourself or compare yourself against someone else. You must measure yourself against who you were the day before. If you want to raise the bar and accelerate yourself in leadership, you better start taking stock and measure yourself on it.
Whether it’s a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, on the different skills, your goals – are you even setting goals? Are you looking at what you did yesterday and saying, “Can I be better today?” The only way to do that is by measuring yourself. You’ve got to have the data. I want you to take these three rules when it comes to women in leadership for this year and not use them as the foundation, but use them to challenge yourself. I know you can become the leader that you don’t even realize exists within inside of yourself. You can do it, but only by following these three rules to really raise the bar and get you there this year!
I was recently reflecting on my time and experience in the corporate world; what the cultures were, what opportunities I had, the promotions I received or didn’t receive, just all of the dynamics that were happening. And I found something really interesting – over the course of my 15 years, I worked for two companies.
The first one hired me straight out of being an elementary school teacher. They were taking a risk for sure, but shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to an official leadership position. Now, I didn’t have any formal leadership training, I didn’t have formal leadership title or experience on my resume, yet there was something that this senior leadership team saw in me as an opportunity to promote me.
I was an assistant manager, moved into branch manager, I was running an entire branch, hiring, coaching, responsible for a branch’s P&L. Fast forward three years later, and I moved into the second organization. I now have a track record; I have proven results of my leadership experience. Yet, it took several years of me expressing interest in going into a leadership role before I was promoted.
In fact, it took a different manager of mine to get me into that true leadership position. Now, I don’t know exactly what the reasons are. I’ll give everyone a benefit of the doubt, but this brings me to a stale perspective that we see; that too many organizations expect people to be 100% ready, to already have this 100% proven track record before they get promoted to a leadership role. In fact, where is the training that we’re offering?
I didn’t receive any formal training prior; I was self-educated. Even after I got promoted into a formal leadership role, we didn’t have that training. I took it on myself. Well, where are organizations in terms of training?
And then, where are some opportunities that are maybe soft approaches, where they can exhibit their leadership skills on projects or task forces that already show before they get promoted? There are also a certain group of people that can meet 80% – 90% of the job requirements; put them in that leadership role, give them the concurrent training, and they will rise to the challenge.
So individuals and organizations, how are we partnering together and taking equal responsibility to rise and raise everyone at the same level? Fill that leadership pipeline. If you want to retain your top talent, they are not looking to make the top salary; pay them fairly and invest in their training, show them that there’s opportunity for growth and development and a future for them at their organization.
This is going to grow top leaders in your organization today. Don’t wait for people to be ready, that is a stale myth! Let’s partner together, let’s find that rising talent, and let’s give them the opportunity. If you’re interested in hearing more about how my team and I go in and really forge new paradigms when it comes to women in leadership, I encourage you to click on the link and book a call with me. I would love to have this conversation with you. Let’s take action today and create top-tier leaders in the workforce.
We partnered with a global company to deliver a multi-layered program that would address their need for a new and effective talent management strategy. You may be sitting in the same position right now, where you have an influx of new employees while people are leaving. So within your talent management strategy, the first component, when you have a new employee coming on is your onboarding process.
Now is the perfect time for you to challenge yourselves and re-evaluate your best onboarding practices. What we have found is that this is the time that we need to create personalized onboarding processes. There is no longer bringing a group in and having this “one size fits all” strategy. Certainly can we have a group do an orientation, might we have a group go through some training on your systems and tools?
Last week, I talked about leading with humanity; that each person comes into your environment with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. So you as a leader, it’s your responsibility that in addition to the mass approach, you’re also pulling the individual aside and creating a personalized onboarding process for them. I’m going to give you three questions that you as a leader should be asking when you have a new employee joining your team.
Number one is, “Tell me what your future vision looks like.” This is not about, what job title do you want next, what exact department do you want? Open the conversation to have them share with you what their strengths are, where they see themselves being utilized. If they see themselves in an office or working remote, if they see themselves collaborating or working independently.
Get a sense of the bigger picture of where they want to go in the future, so that you can then create the plan for them moving ahead. Number two, you need to ask what motivates them.
But during the times when you do need to motivate, you need to understand how the individual wants to be motivated. Each of us are pushed by certain things, and most often different things. Don’t assume that every single one of your direct reports is motivated by the same thing.
One person may be motivated by a bonus, another person may be motivated by time off, yet another person may be motivated by flexibility. So ask each person as they’re coming onboard, or quite frankly now is your opportunity to ask even your current existing team members, what motivates them. And then finally, number three, ask them, “What are you interested in learning most right now?”
I love asking this question. First of all, it puts the onus on them to decide what they should be learning, what excites them. Then you as their leader can support them in coming up with the game plan to get them there. Which the game plan doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re offering all of the training, but it puts that responsibility on them to be thinking, “Hey, I should be learning something new. What is that?”
Then co-create, collaborate together on building that plan and stay close with them as they are going through that learning and development. Again, perfect time for you to be re-evaluating your onboarding process! If you have several new employees coming in during this time of reshuffling, and really taking the opportunity to create a personalized approach to your onboarding process. Now is the time, get started!