Monday, September 28, 2009


One of my favorite questions to ask employees is "Do you feel content and challenged in your role?"

If their answer is indicating in any way boredom the conversation usually follows with more open-ended questions about why the associate gets bored and what he/she is doing about it.

One of my least favorite answers to hear is "When my work is done, there is nothing else for me to do." What does that mean exactly? Does it mean team members truly lack the clarity to see that there always is something to do?

When team mates don't have the inherent vision to see their role's infinite possibilities it is time to break down the communication to the most basic of levels.

These question and answer exercises might seem simple but simple fixes have the power to avert huge mistakes. Think about the hospitals that have given 100 grams instead of 10 of a prescribed medicine, or more recently, the embryo implant mix-ups. Simple errors, sometimes with fatal results, abound not only in the medical but also in the corporate world. No streamlining of methods or processes that will help your productivity, safety and morale is ever too small.

Ideally, we'd all hire solely go-getters, but the reality of it is that sometimes people have to be taught to be seismic thinkers, sometimes people need a bit of a shake up to shape up, and many times with a little positive Q&A leadership people will surprise you with performances high on the Richter Scale. So go ask. Find out if the boredom is justified or not...but above all remind them to not to wait until you ask & give them the tools to fix and outgrow these challenges.

Here is a sample list for those times when there's "nothing to do":

■ Document patterns observed

Based on the premise that most processes can be improved at one time or another a good question to ask is, "When was the last time you got frustrated with another department?" Well, there it is! you have plenty to do. Spend time improving communication processes, if you repeatedly ask a department/co-worker to answer all of your questions and invariably some answers are missing, then perhaps you need to establish a system that everyone will follow when communicating in written form.

■ Document proposed solutions to patterns observed

Teach them, if necessary, to view all "issues" as growth opportunities.

■ Mentoring

To follow up on the prior point: even better, instead of teaching them yourself, pair them up by empowering someone to be a mentor and help others develop untapped skills.

■ Improve job description & requirements

Because of the rushed pace of the workplace the clear, written delineating of the day-to-day basic activities falls through the cracks and people learn as they go. Why not take a quick moment to jot down things that will save time and be helpful to others following in our footsteps?

■ Advance own skills by doing tutorials (online, books, etc.)

■ Present info learned from tutorials

This will enhance your team member's ability to communicate with larger groups and instill leadership qualities in the process.

■ Job performance update

■ Job shadowing

■ Goal documenting & updating

■ Clean up of computer files (email, Word docs, etc.)

This will help all your systems run more smoothly and avert technical problems.

■ Organize physical work materials

■ Offer assistance to a co-worker or department

It might not be a bad idea to customize a list to your associate's roles, print it and post it in a prominent area of their work space. Let's make today and all of the days to come No Excuses Day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009



1. Did you ever have a job where the mere act of walking in would
make you feel that you could not breathe?

2. Do you ever stop to consider how many people in
your team could be feeling that way right now?

I bet all I have that question #1 made you go back in time & clench your teeth even at the brief resurfacing of those old feelings.

Remember the frustration?

That frustration that invariably leads to an increased employee issues, wasted time and sooner rather than later productivity loss? Well, just because it is not happening to you right now it does not mean that those feelings are not lingering in your workplace's corridors right as you seat reading this coffee in hand.

Funny thing is how much of this can be solved by the simple act of listening. Not the plain old listening, but the kind of intent listening that must take place during team meetings and any other gatherings, the kind of listening that does not involve the ears. The body language- listening, the results-listening, and the listening for one's team intrinsic mood.

If something does not sound quite right, to your ears, your eyes, or your intuition then action is a must. One of the key issues we find arise during this intent listening sessions is team construction and pairing.

The magic of pairing. So underrated. We insist that people must be able to work with anyone and be flexible at all times. True. Ideally that should work, and so should communism.

But the reality of it is that if you put two people that usually don't see eye to eye to work together for an extended period of time this won't translate into rewards of any kind. No matter what level of maturity, skill and professionalism is at work, if the heart and collaborative spirit is not there, you lose, and so will your company and your bottom line. History shows us that good partnering is essential to any great achievement, why ignore such tried and true wisdom?

While it is true that working with folks who have different points of view is likely to enrich us, if philosophies and personalities are diametrically opposite, the enriching part won't ever matter, because personal issues will inevitably blindfold & undermine more positive attributes.

The right pairings and team building won't take place overnight. This is an art with almost no science to it. So listen. Ask questions. Take the time to re-evaluate who sits next to whom, who seems unhappy to work with whom, what pairs/teams feed of each other's ideas and energy, and begin taking into account your team member's input when designing groups that will work side by side, departments, and shifts.

And why not go as far as to take more drastic measures and even consider having your current employees interview new hires that they'll work with? Studies show that companies that invest on that initial time to get to know potential new hires have a much lower turnaround than companies using more traditional interviewing/hiring methods.

Something to think about.

The most successful pairings occur naturally.
Don't get in the way of what works.

Photographs courtesy of GSN
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