How to Change the Behavior

“Is Jason smarter than everyone else in the room?” I asked.

“On some things, yes,” Ruben replied. “But, that’s not the point. Even if he does know something the team doesn’t know, he doesn’t have to shove it in their face. He needs to share, so everyone on the team can get better. That’s what teamwork is all about.”

“What do you believe about Jason?”

“Well, he is smart, but I believe his behavior is counterproductive. He makes his teammates feel bad,” Ruben pushed back.

“If he is so smart, do you think he could be an effective teacher?”

“Not with that attitude,” Ruben raised his eyebrows.

“In what context could that attitude be different,” I wanted to know.

“What do you mean?”

“Ruben. Look. Behavior does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in a context. Change the context, change the behavior. Could you change the context?”
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How Does Culture Drive Behavior?

“He doesn’t fit the culture,” Ruben explained. “Jason’s okay, knows the technical side of the business, but he doesn’t fit the culture.”

“What do you mean, he doesn’t fit the culture?” I asked.

“He doesn’t fit the team,” Ruben replied. “Our teams work together, support each other, help each other. If someone asks Jason a question, he snaps the answer, he treats the other person like they are stupid. And, they just want to know the answer to the question.”

“What does Jason believe about the team?”

“What do you mean, believe about the team?” Ruben looked puzzled.

“You said this was a culture problem,” I nodded. “Culture is a set of beliefs that drive behavior, for better or worse. Ultimately, those behaviors are repeated and become an unwritten set of rules that guide the team in the way they work together. That’s culture. But, it all starts with what we believe, what you believe, as the manager, what Jason believes as a team member. If you want to change the behavior, you have to change the context. What we believe, what Jason believes, creates the context and drives his behavior. What does Jason believe about the team?”

Ruben looked up into his brain, “Jason believes he is smarter than anyone else on the team. Jason believes that he could do all the work better than anyone else on the team. Jason believes the other people on the team slow him down. When someone asks a question, it proves Jason is right, that he is the smartest person on the team and he wants everyone to know it.”
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How to Destroy Development Opportunities

“You will never, ever get what you want,” I was calm. “You will only get what you focus on. How will you focus? You think you can determine your future, but you can only determine your habits and your habits will determine your future. How can you build focus into a habit?”

Meredith replied. “I know what my business plan lays out. My goals are well defined. There are three. I will print those out, on card stock, tape them to the bottom of my computer screen. So, when I feel compelled to get buried in my email, those objectives will stare me down.”

“And what is the first of those three goals?” I asked.

“It’s funny,” Meredith smiled. “Develop my two lead technicians to take over supervisory tasks so I can focus on our system of production. And, every time I follow-up on a project detail, I destroy a development opportunity for my lead technicians to follow-up.”

How Will You Focus?

“Quick breakdown,” I pushed. “What are the three things you have to get accomplished this year?”

“Well, that’s easy,” Meredith replied. “Those three objectives come from my business plan.”

“And, you have your three objectives for the year broken down into quarterly goals?”

“Yes,” Meredith nodded.

“So, how do you keep those three objectives in front of you when you stay buried in your email, handling all the traffic and details of your projects?”

“It’s tough,” Meredith shrugged.

“I know it’s tough, but if it wasn’t tough, how would you do it? How would you focus on your top three priorities each and every day?”

“One thing is for sure,” Meredith smiled. “I won’t find them buried in my email.”

“You are correct,” I agreed. “For many managers, email is counter-productive to focus. Email is efficient, it is self-documenting, but it can also be a distraction. How will you focus?”
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Which Details Demand Attention?

“Those problems come to me because I am the manager,” Meredith protested. “Being a manager is a big job and I take it seriously. That’s why I am so busy.”

“That is why you are so busy, or that is why you are so distracted?” I wanted to know.

“These are not distractions, these are important details,” she continued to push back.

“Don’t you have people on your team to handle these details?” I asked.

“Yes, but I am accountable. Sometimes, these details demand my attention.”

“How can you tell the difference, between the details that other people should handle and the details that demand your attention?”

Meredith sighed. “I don’t know. I guess that’s why I stay buried. I am trying to handle all the details.”

“Meredith, when you were a supervisor, you WERE handling all the details, but you are a manager now. We expect you to take a step back and look at the patterns in your team, the patterns in your work flow. Yes, there are some details that demand your attention. The way you lay out your system should surface those details that demand your attention. But, your system should also allow for most detail to be handled and tracked by your team. There is appropriate decision making at every level of work. Let your team be busy, so you can look at the pattern of work.”

Progress Measured by the Inch

“Quick breakdown,” I interrupted. “What were the top three things in your email this morning?”

Meredith’s hands dropped off her keyboard.

“You know,” she shrugged. “Details on a project. Someone had a question about how something should be done. Did we finish a step on another project. I am pretty busy around here.”

“And what are you going to do, today?” I continued.

“More of the same. I have a meeting in about an hour, following up on some details, tracking some materials that got misdelivered.”

“Let me change the question,” I shifted. “What are you planning to achieve today?”

“Achieve?” Meredith muttered. “You mean like something bigger. I don’t know. I measure progress around here, inch by inch. Lots of things grab my attention. I know you think I should be focused on longer term objectives, but there are so many other things that seem important.”

“Why do those other things seem more important?”

“You know, they are right now. What am I supposed to do, ignore them. Problems don’t go away by themselves.”

“Why are those problems going to you?”
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

Stop Being So Busy

“What are you working on?” I asked.

Meredith looked up from her computer. “Just answering some emails,” she replied. “You know how it is. If you let them stack up, you will never get through them all. Besides, you never know when something important will pop up that needs immediate attention. If you can nip it in the bud, it won’t grow into a bigger problem.”

“Sounds like that could keep you really busy?”

“Oh, yes. Sometimes, I could spend the whole day.”

“How do you ever get anything else done?” I probed.

“I know, I know,” she finally nodded. “It’s a constant tension, in my own mind. I should be out walking the floor, checking on my team, but then I feel drawn back to my email, like I will miss something.”

“So, how do you ever get anything else done?”
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

All In a Row

This post was originally published Dec 23, 2005.

As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch. The mercury vapors went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday. As we cross into our 12th year of publishing, we will take a short break. Management Blog will return on January 4, 2016.
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

Twelve Months From Now

I repeated my question. “What things do you need to pay attention to, that will have an impact one year from now?”

“This company is pretty stable in what it does,” she replied. “We may replace a machine or our volume might go up or down. But what really changes, is the people. You never know what is going to happen with the people.” Melanie’s mind began to race like she had just discovered uranium.

“You’re right,” she continued. “The biggest thing that always changes, is the people.”

“And even if the people don’t change, the people change. Even if it’s still the same people, they are not the same people.”

Melanie’s discovery of uranium was shifting to panic. This new world that opened up just a few seconds ago, suddenly got very scary.

“So, I am responsible for knowing that, a year into the future?” she asked.

I nodded.
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

Being Busy

“You were promoted because your manager was promoted. I didn’t think you were ready to make the move from supervisor to manager, but the position was open and the COO was impatient. He is now having second thoughts when he looks at your turnover statistics.”

Melanie was quiet. Her voice, calm. “I didn’t know that. But you said two of my supervisors quit because they graduated night school and got better jobs. I can’t help that?”

“We found out in the exit interview. They had jobs lined up three months before they gave you notice. And you didn’t know.”

“But how was I supposed to know. We stay pretty busy around here,” she protested.

“Melanie, the job of being a manager is not about being busy. It’s not about scrambling to save the day. As a supervisor, you were effective at that. Now, it is killing your effectiveness as a manager. As a manager, your role is completely different.

“You said you could anticipate things, as a supervisor,” I continued. “You said you could see the future. I need you to see even further into the future. As a manager, I need you to think out 12 months.”

Melanie shifted, sat up, “But, who knows what is going to happen a year from now?”

“Indeed,” I said. “What things do you need to pay attention to that will have an impact one year from now?”
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016. Here are some responses to the program.

“Drilling down to get to the core of what candidates actually did and were responsible for was a big take away for me. Before this course, I would have moved to the next question without getting the answer I needed to make an informed decision as people do try to answer what you want to hear not with what they have demonstrated they are capable of.”

“There were two ideas that were the most helpful to me. One was taking the time to develop a set of interview questions for each role that focused on how the candidates meet the job requirements. The other idea that was helpful was the decision matrix, especially when considering a number of qualified candidates.”

“The biggest concept that is sticking with me is the importance of the interviewer controlling the interview so that they obtain the important, detailed information from each candidate regarding the candidate’s skills, capabilities and attitudes. It is so easy for the candidate to control the interview and “dazzle” the interviewer with made-up answers that are pleasing to the ear but not necessarily true. This program taught us not only that it is important to create specific questions that elicit the truth from candidates, but it taught us HOW to create those questions. It was extremely helpful that we created questions for an actual job that exists in our company because it made it easy to apply the concepts of the course to our own real situations at work.”