Building a more flexible employee

Wondering about how to solve this one. Got an employee who is good at things, as long as there are no changes. But we need more. Stuff always comes up and we can’t always put him in a place where he won’t be interrupted. We can’t protect him from problems that crop up, in fact, we need him to attack the problems, not just get in a groove and do what he’s always done. There are go-getters who solve problems and he’s an obstructionist. How can we turn him around?

Thoughts of the day: Change and uncertainty are hard for some people. Flexibility and adaptability are great skills to have. Build up training programs to help your less flexible employees.

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If Employees Aren’t Listening, Reflect on Leadership

Worried that people who should be listening to me, aren’t listening to me. Think about my employees, and ask myself, “If they’re not going to listen to their boss, who are they going to listen to?” How can I keep from getting pushed out of the way?

Thoughts of the Day: Take a look around you. Make time to think about what you want, and whether the habits of communicating are getting you there. Figure out how you can get better at communicating. Lower your perception of the consequences if things go wrong. Think before you speak. Plant seeds.

Is it really just you who’s being ignored, or are others having the same problem? Is it all employees, or just some? Is it the same employee over and over, or different employees at different times? Is it all the time, or just some of the time?

Figure out the conditions under which you observe that you aren’t being heard. Compare that to your observations about what others experience under similar conditions. Do a reality check on who, when, what, and how people go their own way without dialing in to you.

Then ask some questions. Are they attempting to spread their wings, trying to fly solo with new skills they’ve acquired? Are they repeating a habitual way of behaving with you – as in, they always dial you out? Or is it somewhere in between?

Now do a reality check. What happens if specific people do or don’t listen to you? Do they get better results with, or without your input? Or do they come out about the same either way? Do they get enough value from your input that they can achieve higher level outcomes? Are you making requests that make their life easier or harder? Try looking at it from the receiver’s viewpoint.

Time for a bit of self-reflection. How do you come across as a leader? Are you positively motivated, and are you positively motivating the people around you? Can you inspire confidence?

Think about this. If you’re not ready to empower yourself to achieve success, how will you impart that to others? On the other hand, if you’re leading and no one is following, why is the whole group following a different path? What is it about how you’re coming across?

Can you take as good as you dish it out? If someone isn’t listening to you, ask them why. But be prepared to hear some things that might make you uncomfortable. Listen without defense in order to learn.

What in your style of presentation is irritating people or pushing them away. It often comes down to what you say and how you say it. Is it all about getting what you want? What gets in the way of perceiving or responding to what the person across from you needs?

Negative approaches tend to generate negative responses, and vice versa for positive ones. Keep doom and gloom to a minimum – it’s neither inspiring nor motivating. Instead, search for purpose. Put people on a mission.

Give people a visual of how things might turn out. Make sure it’s one that they’d actually want to achieve. Make it something worth having, something worth reaching for, from theirs, not your, point of view. To do that, you’re actually going to have to invest some time figuring out where the other person is coming from.

Remind yourself that it takes a village to build well rounded solutions. Plant seeds. Ask for small changes. Encourage behaviors you want to see continue by saying, “thank you, I appreciate that.” Talk honestly about problems, but also build people up by showing them how changes they are making lead to a better world. Take time out to celebrate wins – more than the time spent moaning over losses – a lot more.

Looking for a good book? Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek.


No More Drama in the Workplace

I cannot have drama in my office anymore. I mean slamming doors, not talking to people, holding grudges. One really valuable employee is creating a lot of disruption. I can’t let the person go – this one employee is too important to my company. But I also can’t ignore the problems they’re causing.


Thoughts of the Day: Setting the ground rules for acceptable and unacceptable behavior in an office is essential. When people mis-behave, look at what’s causing the stress. No one is above the rules. When you put someone on notice, start looking for their replacement.

Take a look at the impact this person’s behavior is having on everyone else in the company. My guess is it’s having a big impact, whether or not people are saying anything directly. Fixing this situation now is critical, as bad behavior over time only tends to get worse.

Has this behavior been around for a long time, or is it recent. If it’s recent, sit down for a chat to ask about what’s changed recently for this individual. If it’s long standing, it’s time to change the rules of behavior – for this person, and while you’re at it, to set the rules of what will, and will not be tolerated from everyone in the company.

Establishing a standard of acceptable behavior makes it easier for you and all the rest of your managers to address conditions that stray out of bounds. Consider implementing these simple rules:
• Courtesy and respect for everyone, by everyone, 100%
• Take time each day to tell others how much you appreciate their help
• Recognize good work publicly, as often as possible
• When providing correction, do it in private; don’t embarrass anyone publicly
• If it’s unclear who is in charge, or who should be in charge, call a meeting to discuss the situation, ask a manager to sit in to moderate the discussion
• No one lives above the rules

Some people have received less social grounding that others. Some people are poor observers of the impact they’re having on the world around them. Make sure that this individual is aware of how their actions are being perceived. Cite specific examples. Ask this person to discuss what else they could have done, that would have been more appropriate.

When someone acts out, it’s usually because of underlying problems. Where is the stress coming from for this person? Home? Work? Combination of the two? And what can you do about it, if anything? Time for a lengthy discussion. Keep it businesslike. You’re not a therapist. If there are personal issues, suggest the person seek professional help. Make it clear that behaviors have to change.

After the meeting, if you’re so inclined, you may want to do some research on resources this person could tap into to get help, whether the issue calls for financial counseling, social interaction modification, or personal coaching. Many times when people are under stress, they are least likely to seek out help, and most confused about what to do next. It’s not your place to tell them what to do, but you can make suggestions.

Make it clear that immediate behavior change is essential. Do put this person’s job on the line. You cannot risk losing the rest of your good employees because of one bad apple.

Put the person on notice, and create a written agreement around what has to change. Ask this person to sign the agreement, to acknowledge that they understand. And stop hoping things will change: instead make plans in case they don’t. Post the job, interview candidates, line up 2-3 people who would be qualified to do the job. Having options will make it easier for you to hold this person accountable for making changes, and will make the transition smoother if things don’t change.

Looking for a good book? The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace; Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, and Will Make You Happier, by Ian Palmer, Richard Dunford and Gib Akin.

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