Guident Newsletter – December 2016 – Issue 8

Are you leading your organization to its full potential?

Often I am asked to facilitate “Leadership Seminars” for managers of organizations.  One of the best books I have found for training managers in leadership is; The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, ISBN 0-07-141861-X.  In his book Colin Powell introduces the reader to his twelve leadership secrets.  One of his leadership secrets is; “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off”.

In my career, I have bought businesses and in doing so, I have had to change cultures and assess the full potential of new employees who joined our team through the acquisitions.  One such employee was Mary (of course, Mary is not her real name).  The company culture prior to the acquisition put a high value on the quantity of work an employee put out, not necessarily the quality of work.  Mary had been with the previous owner for many years and was a valued employee because she did a lot of different tasks in the office.  So many tasks that Mary was unable to do a majority of them accurately, but Mary’s “Old Boss” rewarded her and other employees based on their volume of work.

The new culture I wanted to establish would value the quality of work an employee did along with a reasonable volume of work performed.  I asked Mary to divide up some of her tasks among the other employees in the office and share her workload.  Mary was trained over the years to be very controlling and I recognized that if our new company was to reach its full potential, Mary would have to relinquish some of her duties otherwise she would eventually become, if she was not already, our “glass ceiling” causing a bottleneck in our workflow.  Mary resisted my recommendations and it was causing stress in our organization.  I came to realize I needed to take control and make a change.  Mary was a very valuable employee as she knew almost every customer and a great deal about our processes.  I knew I wanted to salvage her and I also knew she was not happy working under these stressful conditions.

I took most of Mary’s duties away from her, doing most of them myself as I knew it would be temporary until I could assess what her limits would be.  She conformed but not without resenting my actions.  In fact, I would say she was “royally pissed off at me”.  Once I established a baseline of tasks I began to assign duties back to Mary one at a time and I watched as she took on the tasks and performed them admirably until such time as she became overloaded again.  I took back a few tasks until I was sure she could handle the workload at a high level of efficiency and accuracy.  I would constantly give her “positive strokes”, as Kenneth Blanchard would say in his book “The One Minute Manager”, ISBN 0-688-01429-1, when I noticed she did a task correctly.

Before long, Mary was performing at a very high level and I believe really enjoying her job.  In the past, Mary knew she was making more than the usual amount of mistakes and I believe this caused her not to enjoy her job.  I also knew that Mary was a diehard baseball fan and would listen to her favorite team’s games on her break.  I told Mary, because she was doing a good job, that she could listen to the games at her desk during her work hours as long as it didn’t effect her work.  Mary was thrilled. Everyone else in the office was also thrilled because Mary had become a joy to work with.

As a leader of your organization, sometimes you will be forced to “piss people off”.  Remember to always preserve the employee’s self-esteem and be kind.  At the end of the day you must lead your organization and not let it run on “auto pilot” if you want to reach your full potential.  If you do it right your employees will thank you for it.  Today I can honestly say that Mary and I are friends and we enjoy pleasant conversations when we run into each other in public.