Monday, March 26, 2012

The Madness of it All

"A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world." --- John Updike

I recently spoke with a business leader who was offered a great sum of money to sell his business. This leader is facing quite a few challenges in regard to employee relations and to him the offer is looking quite appealing. He told me, "I must be mad to continue doing what I'm doing with the problems I'm facing, but I just find it hard to let it all go."

We're all like that in some respects. We build our business, nurture it, give it all the right nutrients for growth, so that when an opportunity arises, we find it difficult to part with it. Some leaders, like the one I spoke with, would not even entertain letting the business go if they didn't have to deal with petty employee issues all the time. That business leader also shared with me that he feels like the business family he thought he had is turning their backs on him.

Like the elimination process of the current March Madness basketball tournament, leading employees requires a process of elimination that include three key areas:

1.) Eliminate indecision- Empower your team members to make decisions on their own. This does two things: it frees up your time to oversee the picture and it instills trust and confidence into your employees. Indecision stagnates your business and turns your employees into robots. You didn't hire robots. You hired walking, talking, thinking, creative humans. Empower them to be human. Their trust in you will increase and their sense of ownership will give them confidence to give only their very best.

2.) Eliminate the need to litigate- Use the tools found here and at our site to protect you and your business. Remember to put in place good communication tools such as job descriptions, employee handbook, and mission statement to communicate what is expected of each employee and how their job contributes to the success of all.

3.) Eliminate rights- This is a controversial one, but is needed in today's business environment. Although we want to empower team members and give them the freedom to make mistakes, that doesn't mean that they own the farm. Occasionally, some business leaders still need to let employees know who the boss is and that "if the employee doesn't work, he doesn't eat." Some employees have a sense of entitlement that the employer owes them and that they should get paid for just showing up. Obviously, this person should have been weeded out during the interviewing stage, but if some have slipped by, it is time to let them know that their right is to give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. If a sit-down is needed, have someone else present with you and inform the employee that they might not fit into your organization unless some things change. For most of these employees, a simple chat will either correct the situation or send them packing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trade Shows 101

If you’ve ever worked a trade show, you know the challenges can be endless. From reserving floor/booth space, to organizing help, scheduling meetings, ordering promotional items, and advertising location. These all can take a toll on a business and its team. One of the best ways to begin a trade show event is to look at it as an architect or a building contractor would when designing or building a home--- from the ground up.

I’ve worked trade shows before and I notice that there is always one or two booths where attendees tend to gather near the end of a show day. They don’t necessarily go there because they are interested in the vendor’s products or services. No, they go there to give their pups a rest. I’m talking about their sore, tired feet. These folks are standing in that particular booth space because that business is using comfortable flooring. The attendees are enjoying a cushy comfort. They recognize that a good floor helps to cut down on fatigue for those tending the booth.

Since we are beginning at the floor, the smart players will include their company logo on the flooring because they know that not every attendee is looking up and around. In fact, studies show that as the body gets tired, we tend to look down more often. Why not take advantage of a captured audience and have your flooring imprinted with your logo or other company information. We still do trade shows for exposure, advertising, and getting noticed, right? Take advantage of all of your booth materials and place your name and logo so all eyes can find you. Remember, begin at the floor, and then build upward. If your event takes you outside, place your name and logo on the canopy of your booth. Always be thinking about every marketing angle when it comes to trade shows.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lessons from Lindsay Lohan

"Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion." --- Jim Rohn

Believing that the employer has a responsibility for its employees is step one toward building a great team. Responsibility however, should not be translating into hand-holding and pampering of employees, but creating a safe working environment with fair pay and benefits, and an opportunity to grow with the company.

That is a broad, general description that doesn't include other factors that come from the heart of a business leader such as caring for a team member injured on the job (above what is required by Uncle Sam), and celebrating with an employee the birth of a child. These fall under the term, "responsibility."

There is, on occasion, where an employee might take advantage of the employer's responsibility. Those are rare, but when it does happen, the employer should know when to part ways with that team member. In other words, it is okay to cut the cord... cut bait and move on...okay, I'll say it: fire them.

When faced with a difficult employee that wants to continue in a pattern of behavior that is unhealthy for both the employee and the business, there are three things you should do:

1.) Right the situation- Use all means possible to salvage the difficult employee. Although this sounds counter-productive, remember that you put a lot of time, energy, and money into bringing this person on board. You obviously believed in him or her, so there must be something there that you want to hold onto. Do all you can to keep or make that person whole again. If, as in the situation with Lindsay Lohan, the team member has a problem with addiction or troubled behavior, send him or her to your EAP or offer other services that might be available from your insurance provider. Allow them time off for recovery. If your company can afford it, do it with pay. Also, be on the lookout for domestic violence situations. If this person is a victim, be sensitive to his or her needs and provide the right resources. We offer a domestic violence policy for free to be included in your employee handbook. Also, take this quick READ

2.) Right now, right away- If you find that you cannot or don't want to try anymore with this person, severe the relationship. Fire him or her. Do it now. If you've tried to salvage this person, stretching yourself to the limit to provide resources in the form of medical help, financial assistance, more training, etc, then you've down all you can do. Do not continue to baby this employee. The rest of the team members are watching and they know what is going on. This person is dragging down the team. When you've made your decision to let him or her go, don't dance around it. Do it right away, and not halfway. Be sure to have someone present with you and do offer severance if you can.

3.) Right down everything- Okay, the grammar isn't correct, but it fit the sequence. The point is to document, document, document. Write down every thing that has transpired regarding this employee. Be sure to include time and dates and the names of any witnesses that may have been present. Your only defense if you terminate this employee, is to have a running record of everything. No special forms are needed. A simple legal pad and pen should do the trick.

You don't need to have a repeat offender in your midst. Do all you can, but don't be afraid to fire someone. Most of the time, when a business leader lets a problem team member go, the other team members get stronger. They were waiting for you to make a move.
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