Costly Promotions

Companies are very focused on being cost conscious, especially in the current economic climate. Many bosses have promoted their key employees too quickly, beyond their skill level — to their level of incompetence. Bosses falsely believe they are saving time and money, but this type of reactive decision-making ends up being costly and has a detrimental impact on the company. Sadly, the once successful employee feels forced to leave the company when her/his continued contribution is short-circuited, and will rarely go quietly.

Since the person was previously treated as an asset to the company, it is often unclear as to why this sudden experience of failure is happening. Instead of having a professional conversation with her/his boss to provide solutions to this dilemma, s/he blames extraneous factors and looks for a new job, outside the company. The real issues? The newly promoted person may not have taken the time, or taken advantage of the opportunities, to develop the interpersonal skills required for the new position. Perhaps s/he has not learned how to delegate or is unable to prioritize and manage multiple issues well. S/he may simply lack the interest and ability to quickly learn the skills required for performance success (e.g., technology, financial, mechanical, sales, etc.) in this new position.

Time to get real. Newly promoted people may be unable to acclimate appropriately when business needs change rapidly. Where did the old adage, “sink or swim” come from? It didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. Unfortunately, employees feel they can not say “no” to their bosses’ requests without hurting their career. If they may agree, their naiveté can create additional issues and stresses since they do not possess the required depth and breadth of experience. It’s time to create a win-win development plan that helps the employee succeed and meets the needs of the business.  Be realistic – it takes time. Employees won’t suddenly become great managers if they have poor people skills. Employees with no interest in financial monitoring will not handle their budgets well. Top sales people will not make the best bosses. Remember, accepting mediocrity loses customers internally and externally.

Provide an outside coach. An outside coach can provide insights that the corporate mindset and culture may overlook. The employee will feel more comfortable sharing her/his challenges and fears, confidentially. They know many bosses have long memories, and don’t want the risk. Ensure there is clarity of goals to be accomplished every three months. Write them down. Put together action plans for implementation. Monitor effectiveness. Keep it simple and smart!

Keep valued employees. Although egos play an important role in a person’s ability to stay and thrive after a failure, it requires the boss’s dedicated intention to keep a valued employee! Find a position within the company where s/he can be successful. Don’t be afraid to create a new position to keep the person, but use a scientifically validated assessment tool to ensure you’re not simply creating another new issue. The cost of hiring a replacement is much greater than realigning a job description to match up employee skills with business needs. Provide focused training and development so the employee can gain the skills s/he lacked that caused the demotion in the first place. This allows the employee to experience success once again, and provides her/him with the opportunity to be promoted in the future.

©Jeannette L. Seibly, 2010

Generating Ideas for Profit

Many entrepreneurs and business professionals love to think up new and innovative ideas all the time. It’s fun. It keeps the ego alive and happy.  Unfortunately, an inability to take these ideas from start to profitability often impedes progress. When the ego gets in the way, the focus of moving an idea from the conceptual into the practical drops.  Some simply don’t have the business experience and fail to create a practical plan. Others are easily distracted by the “bright shiny object” and neglect to finish executing the steps necessary to finish the project.

Delve into your ideas.  Complete a strategic plan along with a reasonable return on investment (ROI). If an idea seems to have a positive ROI, make a detailed tactical plan. Again, review your ROI to ensure you haven’t inadvertently made it unprofitable. Recognize that some ideas simply cannot be made into a profitable venture.

Keep Additional Ideas.  Write these ideas down anyway and file them for later review.  It might be worth revisiting them in the future, from a fresh perspective. You can focus most effectively on launching only one profitable project at a time. 

Beware the lure of bright shiny objects. Too often the shininess of new ideas rivets our attention and we quickly lose interest in any current project. If we haven’t developed the brain power to work through ideas carefully, the cloudiness of implementation overwhelms us before we even get started.

Create Focused Action Plans. It’s crucial that you work with a Business Coach to provide clarity and ease in developing a plan for success, and to ensure financial profitability. Remember, the success or failure of any project is in the details. Hence, the need for a detailed and Focused Action Plan. 

When you hit the proverbial wall, it is time to make a critical assessment before implementing any changes.  What is working? What is not working? Knowing the specifics will prevent making arbitrary or unnecessary changes (aka sidetracked by new ideas) that sabotage success and drain time, money and energy.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Beware of Time Mongers

As business owners, executives and professionals we are very busy people.  Many of us wish we had more time to get everything done.  The unfortunate truth is that it wouldn’t matter if we had more time –  we would simply keep creating too much to do!  Instead, make time work for you.

To use the time you do have more effectively, change your attitude:

Multi-Tasking is a Myth. Thinking or doing something in addition to listening or working on a task creates mediocre results. And, more work in the long run due to customer dissatisfaction. Stay solely focused on the task at hand and you’ll get it done faster and better. This also works wonders when listening to others. It’s amazing what we miss when we’re not focused!

Pay Now or Pay Later. We use our busy-ness as an excuse for not taking the extra minute or half-hour now (or scheduling it for the near future) to hear what someone has to say, fully! Because we are poor listeners, it takes us longer to resolve an issue or get to where we are going. Unfortunately, it often takes us hours, days, months, and even years to resolve something that we could have resolved now.

Prioritize. Many of us wish we didn’t have to handle certain projects or handle sensitive employee issues. We’re late for meetings, or fail to ask for and receive needed direction.

As a boss or leader, you need to handle the toughest parts first! Being the boss doesn’t allow you to impede productivity of others because of your own inability to handle issues. The biggest obstacle? Not being prepared. Take time to break issues into smaller pieces. If you are unable to handle people issues or conflicts, appoint someone else to handle them for you. Talk with your coach if you don’t know how to break issues into smaller do-able pieces.

20 minute rule. Tackling anything unpleasant, but necessary? Set aside 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to handle tasks or issues (hint: shut the door and turn off voicemail or email).  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short period of time.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

What is your capacity? Planning & Growth

What is your capacity to handle new clients without reducing what you deliver? The focus of small business owners everywhere tends to be the same: Making money, paying bills–not building systems and people, not planning capacity.

As entrepreneurs, we usually believe we can handle an increase in sales volume. It’s what we seek, it’s the holy grail of growth—right? Unfortunately, unplanned rapid growth can send any business to an early grave. Often, only after the fact of rapid growth do we discover we didn’t have systems and people to meet our growing needs.  Customers have little patience for trial and error. Waiting until necessity drives development of systems and people, we miss the opportunity to proactively increase capacity.  Ultimately, we damage profitability, and our reputation. So, how do we dodge the bullet?

Hire the Right People. Hiring the best can be a slow process. We must answer three questions:”Can they do the job?” (capacity); “How will they do the job?” (behavior); and, “Will they do the job?” (occupational interest—is this what they want to do?) All three questions must also be context-specific: “Can they do this job here?” If the questions are asked properly and answered clearly, the probability of hiring someone who fits the job increases. Research confirms it: people who fit their jobs produce more, stay longer, and create happier, more profitable workplaces!

Clarify strengths and weaknesses. When your capacity doesn’t change much, employees stagnate!  Those who might have handled new challenges have left for new opportunities, usually with your competition.  Current employees may have effectively departed while still on your payroll—a problem Harvard Business School calls “presenteeism.” A clear view of each of each employee’s “true” interests is critical. Remember, it’s an ongoing process: A wise entrepreneur once said, “When you think you have it all handled, you’ve set yourself up for failure.” Our working systems are often created by employees for their own convenience, not necessarily for your customers. Worse, we rarely know what our systems really are, and employees modify them continuously.

Customers have their own, private opinions about your business. Ask them questions, directly and indirectly:  What works for you, our customer? What do we do that does not work?  Allow them to clarify. What do they need from you? What else would they like from you?

Develop accountability and responsibility in your employees, managers and yourself.   Simply having feedback is one thing, acting productively on it is another—and acting is harder!  Measure skills in your managers, and plan to improve them. Make sure everyone realizes it’s an ongoing process: “Perfection is a direction, not a place.” Handle problem employees now! If you have an employee unable to do the job, be fair and let them go.  Hire slowly, fire quickly.

One manager put it very well: “The most expensive employee time I have is the interval between when I realize they have to go, and when I actually make it happen.” An effective manager must concentrate on, and measure, results.  ”Working hard” is a valuable part of the systems producing your total results, but is rarely sufficient. Focus on these fundamentals of business, and you will soon see new opportunities for growth in your business, based on planned increases in your capacity!

Copyright © Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2004-2010

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo, LLC takes your company to the next level by creating leaders, success and results. Whether it be generating your next million, making a strategic difference or resolving people issues, SeibCo, LLC is your partner in causing unprecedented results and impacting your bottomline.

John W. Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers. 

Attitude Transformation Brings Satisfaction

Do you hear an internal mantra, “I should not have to do this!” over and over?

Unfortunately, there will always be job duties or activities that must be accomplished for your continued employment or to run your business successfully. If these hated tasks constitute more than 20% of your job, you are probably in the wrong line of work.

Truly successful people learn how to get the hated job activities over and done with minimal stress. They are good at delegating to others who are competent to do them. Yes – there are people who actually enjoy doing the work you hate to do!

There are certain business practices and standards must be adhered to, no excuses are acceptable. Customers, employees, the IRS, a judge or plaintiff attorney are not interested in excuses; they do not care “why.”

We all must follow the laws and common expected business practices (e.g., following standard accounting practices, refunds, EEO/Equal Employment Opportunity, DOL/Department of Labor, etc.) Failure to follow your own business policies and practices can provide irreversible consequences, personally and professionally.

Swish. When there is something you hate doing, create a new attitude or visual picture. For example, if you work in retail and hate it when people walk in the door, “swish” to see the people walking in the door as “new money.” Or, if you hate working with accounting details, “swish” and see QuickBooks as the pathway to your million dollar success.

Be selective when saying “yes.” Learn to say “no” instead of taking on job duties or activities that are not your forte.

  • If there is a legal issue, give it to the attorney.
  • If you have an accounts issue, delegate it to your customer service rep.
  • If you have a sales or customer service person who won’t return calls, replace them!

Realize you are setting the tone for your future. Then you are free to say “yes” to legitimate requests from your customers, boss, Board of Directors, or business partners.

Create your future. You were hired, and you accepted the job. Now you need to adhere to getting the job done in a manner that positively supports the company. Customers truly don’t care how you feel about your job duties. As the business owner or executive, you created the current business model. Even though it may have worked well at one time, if it no longer meets your business goals, it’s time to strategically create the future. If you are no longer energized in your business or job, hire a coach and find a job or business the “fits” your thinking style, core behaviors and occupational interests. Set yourself up for satisfaction and success.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are you a company “brat”?

  • Do you believe the company’s policies and procedures do not apply to you, as an employee or business owner? (Think “ethics and integrity”)
  • Do you make negative comments, gestures or express facial disgust when someone else is talking, and call it humor?
  • Do you refuse to listen to others thoughts and opinions — believing your ideas are the only “right ones?”
  • Are your mistakes always someone else’s fault?
  • Do you indulge in being angry whenever someone does something you don’t like?
  • Do you frequently disparage your boss, co-workers, clients, and vendors to others?

If you’re a top producer, highly paid individual, business owner and/or the bosses’ key person, keep in mind that while you may enjoy success, the paycheck and favoritism today, it may not last. For the unwary, career and/or business derailment is inevitable.

Companies are being bought and sold faster today. The acquiring company isn’t going to take on problem employees (or owners) who are unwilling to be part of the new corporate team, and act accordingly. Good bosses are upwardly mobile and often do not stay with the same company forever. They may not want to take you with them for fear of their own future career derailment. Realize that co-workers and management have long memories and could sabotage your attempt to become part of their upcoming venture or a newly assimilated corporate culture. Word gets around about poor ethics and integrity, both from vendors and within companies. Your success in business today won’t guarantee the same results tomorrow. 

It’s time to improve your business savvy while you still can!

Hire a coach. You need to get real and come down to reality about what you’ve been doing. Hire a coach who is supportive of your success, able to effectively “kick your butt” in order to have you listen and ultimately transform your interpersonal skills into excellent business acumen.

Take a 360-degree feedback assessment. Use a tool designed to build upon your good skills and clarify specifics to help you grow professionally. Do not use the types of tools that use the detrimental approach of allowing others to “dump on you.” It will only deepen any animosity between you and others. 

Actions speak louder than words. While you will need to be forgiving of those who have rightfully complained about your poor people skills, simply asking for forgiveness will not be enough. Develop a focused plan of action with your coach. Follow it. Understand that it will take longer than a couple of weeks or months to effectively transform you into a team member whom others enjoy working with, believe they can rely upon and – bottom line – trust.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

When employees make costly mistakes ….

As bosses and executives, we do our best to ensure our employees are given the tools they need to do their job well (e.g., computer, desk, policy manuals, etc.).  However, non-tangible aspects of a job can be roadblocks to their successes (e.g., limited people skills, lack of discretion or business savvy, inability to work well with boss and co-workers, inability to plan properly or make decisions within appropriate timeframe, etc.). These aspects of poor job fit can devastate profitability. Moreover, how you handle these occurrences may help your employees learn from their mistakes and ultimately make or break your own career.

First and foremost, use scientifically validated assessment tools for hiring, coaching and managing your employees for success. Good job fit most often reduces the chance of costly mistakes on the job. [Contact for further details.]

Gossip. Everyone does it, but unfortunately, there is no way to know who else is listening. The people seated at the next table in the coffee shop may learn invaluable information that they can use to get a competitive lead with a prospective client, or even proprietary information for product development.  It is imperative to periodically remind employees of their confidentiality agreements and advise them of the sensitivity of the information they may possess.

Zero tolerance. When major errors in judgment happen, it’s best for all employees to know proper protocols and be empowered to implement them immediately, such as contacting the boss, the appropriate human resources executive and/or company attorney.  Do not be fooled into assuming theft, harassment or safety violations won’t happen on your watch.  If the unthinkable does happen and someone is killed or hurt on the job, damage control will fall to you.  What if key employees leave due to a perceived hostility in their work environment, or your company files for bankruptcy? These unfortunate occurrences quickly and irrevocably change your daily reality and do not bode well for your career or the company’s reputation. 

Finesse is necessary.  Handling delicate issues can be a challenge for everyone. Every company has a client or vendor, business associate, or business partnership that didn’t work out due to ethical reasons. Unfortunately, some employees may not understand the significance of these unwritten no-no’s (e.g., don’t do business with, etc.). Empower your employees to navigate these no-win issues knowledgeably and work with them to minimize the impact and fall-out.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

What if your boss is wrong …

What do you do when someone says something untrue? What if that someone is your boss?

Pick your time and place. Many professionals have inadvertently sabotaged their own careers by telling a boss s/he is wrong — in front of others. It is better to wait until you can have a one-on-one meeting. Be sure to prepare the facts in a manner that your boss will appreciate (e.g., written, numeric, graph, articles, etc.).

Be willing to step in professionally. If you see someone is about to sign a contract or make an agreement, and you know the facts are incorrect or have changed, take action. Be willing to stop the meeting and ask for a confidential conversation with your boss and/or management team.

Let it go. Understand that no matter what the facts are, some bosses make their decisions based upon their gut feelings. It won’t matter what you say. They are going to do what they want to do — without regard to your input or feelings. Handle the fall-out graciously when that happens. It only takes a couple of negative outcomes for an astute boss to start listening to your recommendations. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are you a Pouncer?

Many bosses love to just saunter up and start talking about job performance. Unsuspecting employees experience this as being pounced upon.  You’ll know you are a pouncer if your employees seem to run for cover every time they see you coming their way!

You may believe this type of management style can be good for morale, but in truth it only alleviates your own boredom and maybe lessens your frustrations with the ongoing challenges of working with people and/or systems.

Employees will make mistakes.  This is a truism. If they are not periodically making mistakes, they are not growing with the business. But if employees are making the same mistakes over and over, it’s time to review their performance and put them on a plan for improvement. Usually training is missing, or they are in the wrong job. No amount of finger-pointing or complaining will fix these problems without tactical and/or strategic intervention.

Don’t expect your employees to take the blame when you make an error. It’s up to you to apologize and work with your employee(s) to clean up issues.  Learn to laugh at yourself. Have compassion for others. Take responsibility and be accountable to get a problem handled quickly.  How you handle setbacks is an example that your employees will mimic.

Walk it out. Write it out. Talk it out.  It can be lonely at the top. If you are someone who lets your frustration get the best of you, regardless of the reason, take time for yourself. Get enough exercise. Keep a very private journal (not at work). Hire a coach for confidential conversations that will reduce your stress level and stir up solutions.  Simply talking out issues can help you resolve them quicker and improve your management style.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Do your clients think you are inaccessible?

Ridiculous you say?  Hhhmmm…

  • Does it take several phone calls to get in touch with you? 
  • Does it take longer than 24 to 48 hours to respond to your voice mail messages or emails?
  • Do you normally use the excuses “I’m too busy.” OR “I don’t have the time?”
  • If so, you probably do not know this Law of poor customer service:
    The longer it takes for you to return a call or respond to an email, the more the issue will grow exponentially larger.

 Try this instead:

Treat your phone and email with reverence. Phone messages and email messages from clients and prospective clients are the life blood of your business. Prompt responses are a good opportunity to enhance the value you provide to your clients. It’s also a great way to up-sell and cross-sell any additional products and services that they may need, but do not realize you offer.

All clients are important. Rank ordering clients as to whom you will contact based upon revenues will work only until you lose the BIG client. Then, you’ll need to re-group and try to re-capture smaller clients who found excellent customer service with your competition while you focused on the BIG client.

Keep meetings. Continually canceling, not being prepared, and not taking responsibility for ensuring the client feels valued are good excuses for your clients to seek out other vendors. It’s easier and less expensive to keep good clients, then to go and find new ones.

Blitz them with customer service. We falsely assume, with devastating results, that everyone knows how to be a good representative of the company. Train all employees to be on the same page, and work together for the benefit of the client. Contact me for details … it will save you many clients!

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010