Don’t Fear The Rattlers

There is a saying, “Don’t pet the rattlesnakes.” When bosses make decisions, these are not always perceived as welcomed solutions. Some employees are very attached to the current state of the business, and are not privy to financial impact or other business issues behind some decisions. Any change can cause employees to get nervous. When you look at financial results and other objective data with the human perspective factored in, the end result may be some of your employees are upset by the required change.

Your response. When you encounter a rattlesnake, you simply back up and review your options. The same response works here. Some times it’s as simple as waiting out the rattling – by communicating the changes in a factual manner.  Other times, you may need to change your implementation approach to ensure employee buy-in.

Consistent communication is the key. When you make changes, communicate in a straightforward manner. Keep it simple and smart (K.I.S.S.). Don’t get into mind-numbing details. Pick three key points and share them appropriately and simply.

Right decisions may not be applauded. Change of any kind can create uneasiness amongst employees, regardless of economic and/or political environments. When you make the right decisions for the right reasons, simply stay the course. K.I.S.S. (see point above). Eventually, most employees will concur it was the right course of action after they experience the sure-to-come positive results.

Poor decisions may not cause rattling.  Poor decisions coupled with no reaction from employees or customers may allow you to falsely believe you’re on the right path. The truth is you may have a history of making incorrect decisions, if you base them upon little or no factual information, or unable to interpret the data in a manner that creates truly new solutions. Employees and/or customers may simply seek other employers or vendors/suppliers silently.

Solution? Talk with your business mentor(s) to ensure the design and execution of your decisions meets your business needs, now and in the future. It’s critical to incorporate the human side into your process to support the success for all of your (internal and external) customers. Encourage your employees to provide solutions in a positive way, and not in a critical “all or nothing manner.”

©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

Got client loyalty?

Many of us falsely believe that once we have a client they are ours for life. We stop doing the little things that differentiate us from our competition. Perhaps we rank order our clients in order of revenues received, and respond to them accordingly.  Or we fail to form strong relationships that will get us through any “bumps in the road.”

Be a great advocate.  People are looking for quality and service not just a good price.  Most clients are willing to pay extra for the right connection, service and knowledge.  Clients love to do business with people they like and enjoy, particularly vendors who share their products and services with their own clients. 

Connections.  Treat these clients as “gold” and look for the “little things” that  make the difference.  For example, if you enjoy researching family genealogy, share resources.  If you love stock car racing, pics of nature, or a particular sport, connect with them on FaceBook and post your pics or other activities.

Responsiveness.  Minimizing the importance of others’ requests will not keep them as your client. What may seem obvious to you, will not be readily apparent to others.  If there are complaints, handle them as quickly as possible.  If there is a constant nay-sayer, or you repeatedly receive the same or similar requests, provide these clients free training, either one-on-one or in a webinar.

Customer Service Blitz.  Conduct a Customer Service Blitz designed to get your staff on the same page.  This will allow them to do what they do best: 

  • Sales people focusing on selling
  • Customer service advocates handling the details. 

Train your staff in the nuances of client management, share legacy knowledge with them of client issues and situations.  Encourage and enable them to continually cultivate client loyalty.

©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

The Critical Manager

  • Do you always find fault with whatever someone does?
  • Do you believe your way is the only right way?
  • Do you praise privately but rebuke openly?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a critical manager. You attitude and behavior can make it difficult to work with you and nearly impossible to learn from you.

How do you transform your ability to lead a high functioning group?

Look for opportunities to praise.  Acknowledge others for a job well done, even if it’s a small step or contribution.  Consider ideas that may initially seem off-the-wall, or inappropriate, and acknowledge contributions in a positive manner.  Your openness will encourage everyone to stretch their thinking and behavior to improve their skills.

Learn from their mistakes.  Every mistake can be turned into a learning moment. It’s important to understand the difference between a Zero Tolerance Policy for unacceptable behaviors, versus, a tolerance for mistakes. Employees will inevitably make some mistakes when they learn a new task, take on a new project, or work with new clients.  Ensure your systems are up-to-date, and all your employees are well-trained to minimize errors at repetitive tasks. Develop an infrastructure for creating and executing non-repetitive opportunities.

Make 2-2-2 your paradigm. Acknowledge two positive things they have done well.  Then, share very specific areas for improvement, no more than two. Wrap-up with two positives they have done well. This makes feedback easier to give, and receive!

Hire a coach. It’s important for your own career and business development that you learn to effectively work with and through people to get the job done. Effective management produces win/wins on a regular basis.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are your customers never happy?

Recently a customer service manager had received several complaints about a new system that they had implemented. The feedback from clients was not positive. There appeared to be errors in the system design, and it was difficult to use. The product developers had not asked for input from end-users before creating and launching it. The product manager deflected these valid complaints by saying, “They’ll never be happy, regardless of what we do.” The problem has now escalated to the point where major clients are ready to leave.

Customers are the lifelines for most businesses.  Vendors and suppliers do not have the luxury of sticking their collective heads in the sand (think “ostrich”). There is always a solution, but it may require setting aside egos.

Listen and Learn!

Then, listen some more. Frequent complaints indicate there is a problem, whether or not you agree about the significance of the issue. Unfortunately, product or service designers may not have directly worked with the end-users (aka their specific target market). Customer service people may not have an adequate understanding of how to resolve glitches due to limited work experience. Regardless, everyone’s lack of understanding can be costly. Learn first hand from actual end-users about the use-ability of your products or services.

Solution-Focused Task Force.  

A simple concern can quickly escalate into a major problem when your customers do not feel heard. What’s the key? Put together a structured task force with both customers and people responsible for the design of a product or service (or, use your account executives or sales reps to elicit invaluable consumer information). Be sure everyone has the opportunity to voice concerns. When this process is handled properly, it reduces emotionally charged dissatisfaction, weeds out inflated egos, and unites the task force toward a common goal. Come prepared to impartially state the facts for both sides. Brainstorm possible solutions. Learn how to ask questions that elicit clarity instead of defensiveness.

Resolve it now!

Your failure to act quickly or to effectively resolve issues objectively can make a significant difference in the longevity of your company. Or even your own career. The solution can be very simple (e.g., clearer instructions). Other times it may actually require costly re-engineering with more adequate beta testing this time. Your clients’ eyes are watching you. In the meantime, they are assessing the perceived value of any of your services or products. The goal is to create a win-win outcome for everyone.

©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