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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.


Who Gets Your Ear? November 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of accountability, kevin burns, keynote speaker, manager, middle manager.
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You’ve heard the term “getting one’s ear” haven’t you? It’s a term to describe how one person may get the attention of someone else and be able to influence that person. Presidents and other high-powered officials must choose wisely their counsel and be very selective about who gets their ear.

Wrong decisions can be made by listening to the wrong people. In fact, I recall a friend of mine who asked me to join into an investment group a few years ago. I researched the person in charge and found that he had a criminal record was banned him from securities investing. Just a few months ago, he was arrested for heading up a ponzi scheme. I hope my friend made out OK and got out after I sent an email with a link to the criminal’s past.

Not just anyone should be able to get to you. You must be selective of the voices you allow to speak to you. And as a manager, you had better be listening to the voices who have something to teach you – no matter what it costs. You, the manager, will be responsible to influencing the ears of others. I hope you’ve got your facts straight and only people in the know get your ear.

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.

Will You Acknowledge Their Service? November 10, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, acknowledgement, attitude, attitude of service, career, culture of accountability, culture of service, focus, greatness, kevin burns, leadership, loyalty, motivation, security, service.
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November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada and Australia. It is Veterans Day in the United States. And although November 11 is the day marked to honor military veterans in the United Kingdom, the ceremonies won’t take place until Sunday.

On this November 11, how about we take a moment out of our own busy lives to, just for a moment, think about someone else for a change.

Perhaps you work with someone who has done military service or work with the spouse of someone who has done military service. Perhaps one of your own relatives may be former military. Why not think about them for a moment on November 11.

Look around. Look at all of this stuff you have been able to amass. Think of all the things you are able to do and all of the freedoms that you have. We live in some of the best countries in the world. Oh sure, we have our moments and we have our difficulties from time to time. And we don’t always get it right. But, we pretty much have it all.

There is a process in place that is as simple as a young man or woman who makes a decision to sign up for active military service. That one person along with thousands of others get trained, focused and deployed to protect the very freedoms and luxuries of life that we have. How hard would it be to say “thank you” on November 11?

Here’s how easy it is: on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month take a moment to just be thankful that you have what you have. Someone, maybe someone you don’t know, made a decision to stand up for you. Some lost their lives standing up for you and some returned home. Remember, it’s not the price they paid that is important, it’s the fact that they chose to do something important at all.

Will you acknowledge their service?

The Weak Link Of The Strategic Plan October 21, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, boss, career, change, conference, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, ethics, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, management, manager, planning, strategic plan, strategy.
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A strategic planning session takes place. All of the players gather around the table. Every item in the plan gets voted on – only those with a unanimous vote get included in the plan. The plan is developed and the chairman asks for commitment to the strategy. One by one, around the room they go, each answering in the affirmative.

But back at the office, the truth sets in. The planning session was a waste of time because you had no intention of doing anything in the plan. You already knew in the back of your mind that to accomplish some of these items in your department you would need a herculean effort. You had no intention of doing your part. You simply figured out that it would be easier to just go along with everyone else at the meeting than to explain why it wouldn’t work for your department. So you find a ton of excuses why your commitment hit a snag.

In other words, you lied. And because there was no “accountability” mechanism built into the strategic plan, no one will really know until next year, when give your commitment to another plan you have no desire in implementing.

After all, you only have six more years until you can retire. Why embrace all this change and work so hard when you’re this close to retirement. All you have to do is hang on through five more annual planning sessions and you’re home free. Let the person replacing you worry about it then.

Don’t worry about suffocating your departmental Culture by not embracing new strategic directions. The job is all about you – not those who still have their whole work lives ahead of them. Nope, you just have to figure out a way to get out of embracing new technologies and practices. You’re too close to pension to retire. No, you just keep developing your personal strategic plan of finding excuses for not embracing the corporate strategic plan.  Just keep watching the clock. You can do that because you’ve turned your back on your colleagues.

By the time everyone catches on, you’ll be out of there anyway – with your legacy of “do nothing” and non-accountability to remind your people of your ineffectiveness as a leader. Nope, your replacement will be as welcomed as a cool summer breeze. But you’ll have your pension – and the embarrassment of your leadership abilities to keep you warm at night.

Fighting The 5¢ Fee For Plastic Bags October 13, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude of service, business, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate social responsibility, corporate values, culture, culture of accountability, culture of service, customer, customer service, eco-friendly, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership.
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Request from a reader: Would you please address the issue of paying 5 cents for a bag to put your purchases in before leaving the store? I’m sure there is enough markup to cover the cost and carrying out the items un-bagged leaves me, the consumer, open to charges of shoplifting and is also opening the door to easier shoplifting for those that take part in this kind of thing.

Response: I agree with you that the 5¢ charge is ridiculous. In fact, I think the charge should be 25¢ and it should be imposed at every store – not just a few. I understand your point of shoplifting so put magnetic anti-theft strips on every item (a cost covered by extra bag fees). Bags were free when we didn’t think about the cost of cleaning up all of the free plastic bags in landfills.

But the market is changing and so must we.

I think the discussion really has nothing to do with whether or not a store can cover the cost of a plastic bag. The question is whether a store can cover the cost of what the plastic bag does to the environment in the long run? The bag fee is to make consumers decide whether they REALLY need a bag in the first place. And, if the bags continue to be free, you’ll probably see a 3% jump in your property taxes to cover off the the cost of cleaning up all those free plastic bags in the landfill. You’re going to pay one way or another.

But the discussion shouldn’t be just about shopping bags. There should be another 25¢ charge levied on each plastic disposable diaper (not 25¢ per box but each diaper individually) sold. In addition to the 82,000 tons of plastic a year and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp — 250,000 trees used to make a year’s worth of disposable diapers, these materials are trucked away, primarily to landfills. It is illegal in most U.S. states to dump human waste in landfills. That law is simply unenforced when it comes to diapers.

I am all for charging 5 cents for each compostable vegetable-gluten bag in the stores – a fee I would gladly pay. These bags break down in landfills in less than a year.

Customer Service isn’t just about fawning over customers and trying to kiss their butts. It’s about being a “service” to the lifestyle of the customers and customers’ families now and in the future.

Every organization needs to have a conscience in today’s marketplace. And every organization needs to have that conscience drive both their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy as well as their Corporate Culture initiatives. Personally, I think it is incumbent on business to re-shape how the consumer thinks – not just bow to what consumers are used to. Consumers only demand what they know – not what they don’t know. So change their minds and make a difference. Your employees will carry the torch of their work meaning something.

Filter-Free Corporate Culture September 2, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, accountability, business model, career, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, filter free friday, kevin burns, keynote speaker.
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tell the truth on filter-free fridaysI was fortunate to be invited to deliver a presentation to a gravel company last year. Since then, I have had a great relationship with several of the staff members. In fact, my blog posts regularly make their way through the emails of managers and supervisors – and I am thankful for that. Funny though, my philosophy of Filter-Free Fridays™ has been one of the more popular suggestions.

There are a few more inter-departmental phone calls and a better willingness to tell the truth on Fridays. The conversations usually begin with, “It’s Filter-Free Fridays™ right?” Once they hear a “yep (with a knowing smile),” then they let go and tell the truth. And what a great place it is to work when co-workers don’t bite their tongues for fear that someone might be offended – especially when there is little to be offended about. It’s an even better place to work when, on Fridays, some of the guys go for a beer after work and talk truthfully about where they work – in full view of others – and they speak highly of their workplace. Can you say you do that?

In fact, in speaking with the HR Director today, I found out that the last five people hired have been as a result of being referred by friends already employed by the company. Imagine never having to put out another “Now Hiring” sign or an ad in a newspaper looking for people because they’re lining up to come work for you. That’s a solid Corporate Culture built on many ideas – including one of openness and honesty.

A funny thing happens to an organization when they embrace an idea that they like: they keep it at the conscious level in their brains – not the unconscious level. When you give people permission to speak freely, provided their utterances are not hurtful of demeaning, they will usually welcome the chance to not have to run every word through a filter before they speak it. And that is the concept behind Filter-Free Fridays™.

Fridays are the days you speak the truth, where you yourself become accountable and help others become accountable. Fridays are the day you take the protective plastic packaging off of your ideas and thoughts and you let people see the real you speaking your real truth in an effort to help, not hurt.

Eventually, every day becomes Friday. Once it does, it becomes an attractive Culture for others to want to join.

When Managers Suffer Upward Bullying August 31, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, bully, career, competencies, complain, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate values, culture, culture of accountability, decency, diversity, environment, hiring, HR, human resources, kevin burns, keynote speaker, labour, management, manager, middle manager, senior executive.

managers suffer upward bullying tooA bully is a bully and it doesn’t matter who the victim of their efforts is: co-worker, subordinate or manager. According to a Chartered Management Institute (CMI-UK) Bullying At Work report:

  • 39% of all managers have been bullied in the past three years
  • 49% of middle managers said they had been bullied, making them the most bullied among the UK management population
  • 70% of respondents said misuse of power or position was the number one form of bullying
  • 17% of bullying was through physical intimidation or violence, making it the least used form of harassment
  • 54% of women said they had been victims of bullying compared to 35% of men
  • Only 5% said they would talk to HR first if they were bullied

Add to that the fact that this year, women accounted for 51% of management positions in the workplace and you can see where the real threat is to see the numbers of upward bullying incidents rise.

To create positive corporate cultures, senior management needs to become aware that upward bullying is on the upswing and must take immediate action to do 2 things:

  1. to initiate bullying awareness campaigns throughout their workplaces (remember bullying can run both upwards and downwards so managers also need to take the training), and
  2. to institute tough guidelines that bullying, either up or down, are immediate grounds for dismissal – and to stick to it no matter what

The problem is when middle managers approach senior managers to discuss issues of being upward bullied, they may be seen as unfit to manage or, at least, not capable of reigning in their staff causing many issues of upward bullying to go unreported – allowing the bullying to continue. A senior manager turning a blind eye to a mid-manager’s cry for help could be interpreted as a misuse of power or position – another incident of bullying.

It’s these types of sensitive issues which can decide whether you have a strong corporate culture capable of attracting high-performers and top talent or whether yours is just another mediocre (possibly awful) place to work masquerading as a professional organization that cares about its people. Great thing is that you get to decide.

Consider Kevin to address this issue at your next meeting. Call us toll-free in North America 1-877-287-6711 or visit us at www.kevburns.com

How Managers Can Make Employees Care August 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude, boss, business model, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, Employee Engagement, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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how managers can make employees careEmployees will care about the job about as much as their immediate supervisor cares about them.

Yes, I know I keep writing about this, but it’s only because you’re not listening. Look, this is important. If it wasn’t important I wouldn’t be wasting my time with it.

Plain and simple, your people don’t care about the job because you don’t care about them. Don’t argue with me here. I’m right on this one. You (manager) only care about:

  • how you look in their eyes,
  • how you look to upper management,
  • how competent you seem,
  • how you stay within budget,
  • how much respect you get,
  • whether you get a perk,
  • whether you get acknowleged from above,
  • whether you get the right employee
  • how well your department as a whole performs,
  • how well your turnover or safety rates look,
  • how well your department hits its targets,
  • whether you get your bonus,
  • whether you tow the company line,
  • how to minimize disruptions,
  • how to get them to stop in-fighting,
  • how to make them friendlier to each other,
  • how to get them to stop wasting time,
  • how to make them like you.

If you want your people to care about what they do, then stop making it all about you and start making it all about them. You work for them. They don’t work for you. You’d better get that one real quick or your Culture is going to suck.

How Marketing Connects To Culture August 23, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, business model, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, culture of service, customer relations, kevin burns, keynote speaker.
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Speaking with a medical school student last week, she commented that she wished more time was spent on marketing a medical practice. I think she is going to be a bright doctor. It’s something more medical professionals need to concentrate on to drive more profits to their practices. (By the way, they’re called “practices” because they haven’t been perfected yet.)

Marketing, however, isn’t just advertising. Advertising is a very small component of marketing. In fact, if you simply made a few adjustments to how you interact with your steady stream of clients, you could slash your advertising budget substantially and still increase your business.

How you treat customers (patients) is marketing. The customer experience is marketing. How you handle customers on the phone is marketing. How long you make them wait is marketing. How you set up your waiting room is marketing.

Now here’s the problem: if you do the marketing part wrong, you can have long dire effects on your corporate culture. Let me explain. The experience you give to your customers will be reflected back to you by your customers. Upset your customers and they will be upset with you – which creates an adversarial relationship – which, over time, creates an us-versus-them attitude and culture in your workplace. And the longer that culture exists, the more unhappy your employees will become with their jobs.

The less respect you offer your customers, the more damage you do in the long run to your own corporate culture. You will never turnaround culture until you accept an outward attitude of service which will create an inward Culture of Service. An outward Attitude of Accountability creates an inward Culture of Accountability.

If you want to build a strong culture, don’t just do what your competitors are not doing. Do what they are not even prepared to do. Start with the experience you offer your customers if you want to start improving the Culture of your workplace.

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