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Take The Christmas Party Away From The Office December 16, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, christmas party, consequences, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, morale, office party.
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You can’t erase a memory because once that memory has been committed to … uh …memory, it’s there forever. And that includes the Christmas celebration drinks at the office and the consequences and responsibilities that follow.

If you want to toast with your co-workers, pick a neutral location away from the workplace. Do not, under any circumstances, allow alcohol to cross the threshold of your workplace.

In addition to being responsible for the behavior of your people under the influence, allowing alcohol into the office makes you responsible for virtually everything that your people do between the time they leave the office and actually arrive at home. That includes how they get home. But host an event in a bar or hotel ballroom, and then the responsibility is on the host facility to ensure their guests don’t get too drunk and disruptive.

Do not host a party in the workplace. Your workplace is for working. Bars are for drinking. If you want to have your people enter into a high-performance mindset when they walk through the doors each day, don’t allow them to come out of that mindset while they are in the office by creating a memory of drunken or lascivious behavior fueled by alcohol. Focus.

Build your culture of high-performance by keeping focused. Assess every activity (including the Christmas party) to ensure that you are not sending your people mixed messages. Doing so creates difficulty for managers and hurts your Culture.

If you want to celebrate with your people, take it outside.

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How Managers End Up With Average Staff December 7, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude, attitude speaker, coaching, communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager.
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Take stock of your employees right now. You are about to separate your people into three categories.

  1. Category 1: how many of your people could you consider to be the best in your industry – the high-performers?
  2. Category 2: how many of your people would you consider to be at least average (competent) and do decent work?
  3. Category 3: how many of your people would be considered below average?

I will bet that the largest number of your people end up in Category 2.

So why is that? Why are you hiring and managing only average people to turn out average work?

Most managers will make the excuse that 80% of workers are considered average – when in fact it is 1% of workers who are average (right on the mid-point) and 99% either above or below average. It is nothing more than an excuse because it lets managers off without having to try harder to coach their people to become higher-performers.

This is how managers end up with an average staff – they accept that this is the hand they have been dealt and then make excuses for not wanting to make it better – because it seems like a lot of work. But then those same managers complain that their staff members aren’t engaged on the job. Huh. Imagine that.

It’s not workers who have an attitude of “good enough,” it’s their managers who have it. Good enough lets you off the hook of having to coach better, communicate better and to take more of an active interest in their development.

Yes you do have the time. You just have poor priorities. You’re not a paperworker or a meetinger. You’re a manager. So manage – priority one. Make your people better and want to be better. You are the coach – they are the players. Are you going for an average season or are you going to attempt to win the championship.

The job is “people-work not paperwork.” Re-prioritize.

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.
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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.

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.

Bad Managers Are About To Be Found Out November 4, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in career, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, future workplace trends, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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This is the end of the road for autocratic managers who hide in their offices and avoid their own people and decisions. This is the end of the road for managers are quick to blame, who offer poor communication direction and instruction. Because you can’t build a solid corporate culture by busying yourself with meetings or pretending to be swamped by stacking papers on your desk, filling out time sheets, pushing paper and constantly holding a phone to your ear. You’re not fooling anyone by starting your own fires just so you’ll have something that makes you look busy and important.

No, the job of a manager is to coach, to inspire, to motivate them to spend a little time each day improving the little things that add up to big performance. A manager’s job is to tweak performance.

Employees dislike being told constantly what they’re doing wrong. Managers should already know that. So by knowing that, why is it that so many managers still spend so much time harping on employees about what they’re doing wrong? Because there are a lot of managers out there that have no idea what they’re doing. And up to now they have been able to hide it. But, they are about to be found out. And that single fact alone should scare most managers and organizations as a whole.

The truth is, employees want to be coached in the same way athletes are coached. Sports coaches spend time each day with their athletes fine tuning and adjusting their performance. Think for a second about how well a professional athlete would do on the sports field if all the coach ever did was harp on them for what they were doing wrong.

Get with the program managers: there’s a new generation of worker that is expecting to be coached not crapped on. Your people don’t want you to do the work for them, they want to offer suggestions as to how they can do the work for themselves. Your job as a coach is to find a way to uncover the little a-ha moments of your people that makes them want to be better, to get focused and to engage themselves in their work.

And if you as a manager don’t think that you are able to act as a coach to your people because you’re too busy, then you’re in the way. Step aside and allow someone who can do the job to coach your people to the next level. Your people deserve better.

21 Management and Culture Contradictions October 20, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of excellence, culture of high-performance, customer, engagement, excellence, high-performance, hiring, HR, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, loyalty, management, morale, performance, results, sales, senior executive.
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What organizations say they want and what they do is in complete opposition:

  1. you say you want your people to become leaders and independent thinkers but you send them to cookie-cutter leadership schools making them followers of someone else’s doctrine.
  2. you say you want to attract people with strong skill-sets but advertise titles and job descriptions and base who gets an interview on looking simply at a resume.
  3. you say you want to attract, hire and retain the best but you take out mediocre ads just like everyone else and post the same “Now Hiring” signs as everyone else – attracting the available, not the best.
  4. you say you want to have a strong Culture of Excellence in your organizations but at the first sign of financial crisis, you cut, slash and burn budgets that would help build morale.
  5. you say you want to have strong managers capable of handling issues but you force them into pointless meetings and force them to fill out reports no one looks at.
  6. you say you want to have your front-line staff be more engaged in their work but you don’t empower them to make decisions.
  7. you say you offer an innovative place to work but institute blanket policies and refuse to be flexible with work hours, job duties and telecommuting.
  8. you say every person is important but don’t encourage senior executives to get out of their ivory towers and press-the-flesh with front-liners.
  9. you say you have open-door policies but won’t say the hard things that need because your fear of offending or hurting is greater than your need to be honest.
  10. you say everyone in the company is equal yet senior management act like they’re members of an exclusive club of perks and benefits.
  11. you say you encourage ideas and free flow of thoughts but rarely implement employee’s ideas or even respond to many of them.
  12. you say every employee is important but you only give awards to and reward your salespeople.
  13. you say you offer superior customer service but when polled, only 8% of customers agree.
  14. you say you want more sales built on your value proposition but at the first sign of competition, you crumble on your value cut the price.
  15. you say you want fewer meetings but you keep on meeting to find ways to reduce the number of meetings.
  16. you say you have the best staff but you put hiring in the hands of old-school HR departments who, by their very results to date, have proven incapable of finding that staff.
  17. you say you want high-performers but don`t arm middle-managers with the skills to coach high-performers.
  18. you say you want to grow but aren’t prepared to make a major investment in that growth without absolute certainty.
  19. you say that you want to be the best but compare yourselves to mediocre and low-performing competitors.
  20. you say that you really care about being better than you are but no one is prepared to take the risks and make the moves that elevate the organization for fear of personally looking foolish.
  21. you say that you want loyalty from your employees but slash their jobs when shareholder profits are in jeopardy.

You say a lot of things. But the measure of organizational success isn’t in what you say – it’s in what you do. So what will you do today?

Who Would Want To Steal Your Crappy Managers? October 6, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, career, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, job-seeker, kevin burns, keynote speaker, loyalty, management, manager, middle manager, morale, sales, survey.
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What would you do if 25% of your managers, salespeople and IT people handed in their notice within the next six months? Are you prepared to roll over that many of your key people? Do you have a plan?

Well you had better get one. Survey results today show that’s exactly what is happening: 27% of Canadian workers are looking to change companies within the next 6 months. But if your organization has a wage-freeze on right now, that number jumps to 34%.

“Organizations caught in a tight race for survival can ill-afford wide-spread desertions, especially if the people who are lured away are their best performers,” notes Greg Leach, Senior Vice President and study author. “While the sudden departure of any single group would derail any organization, it appears that the greatest threat may be the potential loss of managerial talent. This could lead to a domino effect that could bring the organization to its knees”.

Asking your people to keep on doing more work for the same or less money is creating a Culture crash. Your people have had enough of same pay, lousy work-life balance and you asking them to show loyalty to you while you show a disregard for them.

Worse yet? 31% of managers are looking. Sorry, but that’s going to collapse your Culture if you lose 3 in every ten managers. It is true that an employee doesn’t quit the company – they quit their manager. But the converse is true as well: good managers keep good employees. You will likely only lose your good managers. Hey, who wants your crappy managers? Your competitors don’t want your lousy managers. They want the good ones so you will just lose the good ones others want. When that happens you will suffer the domino effect of employees leaving right after their managers do.

What’s your plan now?

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