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Video: Employees Are NOT Created Equal February 15, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in acknowledgement, attitude speaker, boss, business model, career, corporate culture, engagement, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, middle manager, performance, results, speaker, survey, time management, workplace.
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Too much effort is spent in managing people into conformity. The truth is that too many managers want one employee to be just like another employee – one who models the traits and gets the results management likes. It’s counterproductive when managers start trying to manage their employees the exact same way. It’s worse when they expect each employee’s results to be the same.



Managers: How To Handle 100+ Emails/Day February 9, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in advice, boss, business, business model, career, email, Employee Engagement, engagement, how to, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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Are you a manager who handles upwards of 100 emails per day? Well, the bad news is handling 100 emails a day is not management. That’s treading water. If you’re treading water as a manager, you’re doing it wrong.



When Managers Make People Wait December 9, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boring, boss, communication, corporate attitude expert, corporate culture turnaround specialist, Employee Engagement, engagement, initiative, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, middle manager, Tweak, waiting.
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Don’t you just hate standing in line? Banks have that long cattle pen (moo). Airports have the same line, even though you’ve already checked in AND put your own luggage tag on your luggage you still have to line up to give someone the bag. Huh. And now even stores like Best Buy make you line up like cattle (moo) if you want to return something to their store. It seems that buying is efficient – returning will eat up a good chunk of your life.

Organizations have become quite competent at making customers wait and you’re likely quite aware of how long your customers are forced to wait. But have you considered how much your employees wait?

Employees who are forced to wait, especially waiting for fellow workers, cause your people to think. When they think, they reflect on how bored they are waiting, When they discover how bored they are, they blame the job. When they discover how boring the job is, they disengage.

But you, as a manager, can Tweak™ the disengagement out of your people and get them to actively engage. Tweak™ing can identify problems and boredom before they become problems. Tweak™ Management creates dialogue between employees and managers.

Remove wait times for your employees and they actively engage. But only managers who communicate with their people regularly will be able to eliminate boredom. Otherwise, your people sit around waiting to speak with their managers about how long they are forced to wait.

People-work Not Paperwork December 2, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, Employee Engagement, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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It’s the simplest management philosophy ever: people-work not paperwork.

Your job as a manager is to manage people. Make your people your first priority – always.

Your paperwork and meeting with other managers should be secondary to managing your people. After all, the title is Manager – not paperworker, not meetinger. So do just what the title says – manage.

  • Move your meetings with other managers to off-hours and lunch-hours.
  • Stop hiding behind paperwork in your office.
  • Stop making phone calls from anyone but your people more important than your people.
  • Start engaging your people the same way you want them to engage themselves in their work (if you won’t do it, why should they?)
  • Start giving your people honest, consistent feedback.
  • Expect them to trust you not because you’re their manager but because you take an active interest in their success.

If you aren’t touching each member of your team at least once a day, you’re doing it wrong. Someone’s going to do it better and your good people will be inclined to go to work for them instead.

People-work not paperwork. Now get out of your office and go meet the people you’re supposed to be leading.

How Managers Get Labeled Racist and Bigot November 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, communication, confidence, conflict, corporate attitude expert, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, honesty, integrity, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.

It would so easy to blame your life circumstances on your mediocre teachers of your childhood. Hey, if they had no real understanding of success and how to achieve it, how could they possibly prepare you to be successful right?

So why is it that people are so quick to blame their bosses for not getting ahead at work? Nothing irks me more than hearing that incessant whining of “not being recognized” or “my boss plays favorites and I’m not it” or “it’s because I’m (gender, sexual orientation, race, age, weight, etc.).”

Those comments are the result of owning an “entitlement” mentality: you think you are entitled to be further than you are and now you are blaming others for not just giving it to you. Truth is, you are also entitled to be unemployed.

Managers who give credence to the people playing this game for fear of being labeled as a bigot, racist, etc., are just as guilty of keeping this entitlement mentality going.

Look, people who say this stuff do so because no one has told them any different. If they are not being promoted because they aren’t competent, then they deserve to be told they are not competent. Saying nothing for fear of offending allows employees to pull stuff out of the air, to make stuff up in the absence of information – and then you have twice the work to do in straightening it out.

If you speak with your people every single day (and that really IS your job – not paperwork and management meetings, contrary to what you might think) and let them know how they are doing in simple ten-second conversations, you end up eliminating a lot of the backlash that could come later. People want to know how they are doing and in the absence of information, they will make stuff up based on what they THINK is the truth. My Tweak™ – The Future of Management program addresses exactly this.

If this is happening to you as a manager then you’re not managing, you’re defending. And you can’t help your people get any better if you’re constantly defending yourself. When this happens, you are in the way of your people getting any better. Now you need a new manager to start over. Maybe you should have just told them the truth: that their work is mediocre and not worthy of promotion.

When Managers Interview Over Their Heads November 17, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, career, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture fit, culture of high-performance, customer, engagement, high-performance, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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It really isn’t a tough concept to wrap your head around – the chance that a manager is at some point going to interview a job candidate who is clearly superior to the manager in every way: charisma, performance, communication skills, relationship-building skills, leadership qualities, knowledge, experience, etc. So what does a manager do when interviewing someone like this?

The truth is, most managers would be afraid that hiring someone who clearly outperforms them would be simply hiring their own replacement. And so, sadly, many really great people get passed over as “overqualified” because of a manager’s own insecurities.

The truth is, a high-achiever might be just exactly what your organization needs – but here is the caveat – only if the Culture fit is right.

Hiring shouldn’t always be the best person – but should be the best person for the company Culture. Having a highly-focused, customer-focused, high-achiever on staff might be just the ticket to get the rest of your people to build a new customer-focused Culture of high-performance.

But most times this doesn’t happen because if a manager hasn’t been able to build that Culture already, then he or she obviously doesn’t know how to do it. That makes it unlikely that they could recognize good talent and Culture potential if it came along.

But nowhere is it written in the management handbook that a manager can not learn from an employee. Real good managers, employee-focused managers will do what is best for their employees and won’t act out of fear of looking poorly or inept. But the moment you pass over a great potential employee because of insecurity is the moment you look incredibly inept.

How Managers Poison New Hires November 17, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude, boss, career, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, Employee Engagement, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, mentor, middle manager, onboarding, performance.
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managers poison new employees while onboardingThe truth is, new hires will get sucked into the Culture of the workplace faster than formal training will stick.

Managers who welcome new employees on their first day then promptly hand them off to any employee because they have a meeting to run to, run the risk of doing two things:

  1. giving a very poor first impression that staff and their contributions don’t matter – meetings do, and
  2. potentially poisoning your new hire by foolishly choosing some random employee and having them learn the real “attitude” of the place from someone disgruntled or actively disengaged.

You say you want to increase employee engagement and reduce employee turnover, yet you hand off a newbie to other staffers without a plan. What are you thinking?

Who is the employee with the best attitude, the best performance, the best engagement and the best intentions? That person is your new on-boarding mentor. Have a conversation with the potential mentor and tell them that because of their performance, you are placing new hires in their care to learn the correct way of doing things around here. Give your people positive responsibility and you will find that they rise to the occasion.

The first relationship that a new employee strikes up is usually the longest lasting relationship. Make sure your new hire gets mentored by the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right performance and the right engagement levels.

If you want to ensure the future Culture of your workplace is headed in the right direction, don’t just willy-nilly leave new hires with your staffers. The first few days are important learning times for new employees – especially for improving Culture. Make this a strategic move. You will have made your own job much easier down the road.

3 Ways To Manage Procrastination November 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, procrastination, time management.
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Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have identified traits of procrastinators:

  • Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators: they don’t pay bills on time, they don’t cash gift certificates or checks, they leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.
  • As a culture we don’t take procrastination seriously as a problem. Because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  • Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner (time management) is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  • Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned. Managers may reinforce (and sometimes even create) procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of excuses.
  • Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink – the effect of avoidant coping styles.
  • Procrastinators lie to themselves such as, “I work best under pressure” or that time pressure makes them more creative. But in fact they do not work best under pressure nor do they turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  • Some are thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush. There are the avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them. They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

Here are 3 ways to manage procrastination (taken from my new program, Tweak™ – the Future of Management):

  1. Eliminate long deadlines for project completion – in the same way that manufacturing ramps up daily production over a longer term (5000 more widgets over 25 days = 200 more widgets per day) you must break down projects into daily steps. This forces the procrastinator to engage NOW! Tomorrow is always the deadline. This way you don’t get blindsided by being too far behind. You can correct immediately.
  2. “Show me what you have so far” pop quiz in public – risks embarrassing the procrastinator. Knowing that you might ask at any time for status reports forces the procrastinator to have something prepared. Always ask for status. Inspect, don’t expect. Procrastinators fear embarrassment. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Deliver consequences and don’t buy excuses – last-minute efforts produce mediocre results at best. If a procrastinator is not pulling his/her weight, take project responsibilities away from them and swap project responsibilities with a good worker. Give the procrastinator’s project responsibilities to the good worker and give good worker’s mundane tasks to procrastinators so that the good worker is not punished by having to pick up the slack.

What are your thoughts on procrastination? What has worked well for you? Leave me your comment below.

What Good Managers Know November 10, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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Your own kid has probably played some sort of organized sport. You’ve probably already figured out that there are some very good coaches and some that are just awful. The problem with bad coaches is that they can instill some bad habits and behaviours early on which can make breaking them more difficult later on. A good coach will have to first undo what the bad coach has done.

Playing for a bad coach can hurt motivation and the Culture of the team to the point that the players simply don’t want to perform anymore. Hey, you’ve seen it in pro sports too.

Some coaches play to win – others play not to lose. Two very different philosophies that become readily evident in the performance of the team: one team offensively makes things happen regardless of what their opponent may be doing and the other team plays completely in defensive mode, their play dictated by what the other guys do.

Just like sports, the poor performance of an employee is a perfect reflection of the manager’s ability to coach that employee to a better performance. Every employee can be coached but not every manager can (or will) coach. If you can’t (or won’t) coach, you, the manager, are in the way and are solely responsible for hurting the performance of your department. Don’t blame your staff – they are working with no direction.

Oh, and trying to look superior isn’t coaching. Come to think of it, it has absolutely nothing to do with management either.

Good managers know that the manager of the future (the future starts now) is a coach first, manager second. If you don’t know much about coaching then you know little about managing. If you won’t improve your game, why should your employees improve theirs? Lead by example.

When Managers Do It All Themselves November 8, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, performance, supervisor, teamwork.
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What would happen if in an orchestra, the lead violin player wasn’t playing as well as she is capable? Would the conductor step down off of his podium and relieve the violin player of her violin to play it himself?

If a top goal-scorer on a hockey team wasn’t producing during a game, would the coach run to the dressing room to dress in the uniform, don a pair of skates and go take that player’s place on the ice?

In both instances, it’s ridiculous to think that the conductor or the coach would step in during a performance or a game and do it himself. So why is it that a middle manager, during a performance (also known as a workday), often steps in and does the job himself instead of the employee he is responsible for coaching and managing?

Look, the manager has enough to do during an average workday: reports, fires to put out, coaching, inspiring, offering instruction, etc. Who has time to be doing the job of both the manager AND the job of the employee?

Here’s what happens when a manager jumps in and takes over for an employee: it makes the manager look like a self-important dolt and makes the staff member look like an incompetent fool. If a  manager jumps in and does the job himself, it says to the staff that no one can do the job as well as you. And if no one can do the job as well as you, no one is even going to try because it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations of a “do it all” manager. No matter how well you can do the job, it will never be good enough.

You can’t build a solid workplace culture of high-performance if only one person (the manager) is doing any work. Your job as manager is to manage – not to perform the job yourself. If you find yourself having to constantly do the job of your subordinates then two things are wrong: you’re hiring the wrong people and your ability to manage is suspect.

If highly skilled athletes can’t perform and a highly skilled orchestra can’t perform then don’t think for a second that the problem is all of the athletes and all of the orchestra members. That only leaves one person left.

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