Working on Positive Behaviors

Another area with which I was at odds with HR was the importance & emphasis placed on the formal disciplinary process…informal/verbal warnings, written warnings, final warnings, “on documentation”, Performance Improvement Plan, etc…and exactly how we went about coaching the managers through it.

I fully understand the need to “have your ducks in order” when it comes time to pull the trigger.

Society has rules, businesses have standards & when you break the rules or fail to measure up performance-wise, there indeed needs to be consequences.

I get it.

You must have the documentation that clearly demonstrated how the employee progressed through the various disciplinary stages before finally being terminated or else, you could open up the company to potential legal action & regulatory review.

I get it…and I agree with it.

HR would teach the managers which actions of the employee would cause them to move to the “next level of disciplinary action”.

But what they rarely helped with was how to reverse the trend.

How to get the employee to improve their performance.

What options may be available to help avoid future absences, increase quality, be more productive, make them a better…and happier…employee.

Or, at a minimum, at least stress the importance of “reversing the downward trend” for that employee in addition to keeping good records.

(I always encouraged my managers to immediately speak…first thing in the morning…with every employee who’s returning to work from an unplanned absence.

No need to “scold” anyone, but I wanted both of them to know EXACTLY where the employee stood with their attendance record.

I wanted no surprises.

It could lead to a gentle reminder that they’re treading on thin ice.

Or it could be a heartfelt thanks & appreciation for truly maintaining an excellent record. Hey, one absence in February & another in November of the following year will not earn you a Perfect Attendance award for either year, but a 21-month consecutive streak is, indeed, an accomplishment worthy of recognition!)

It seemed they just wanted to ensure that the “get into trouble” process was locked down tightly. Nobody got away with anything & punishment was fairly meted out.

But what they failed to clearly get across to the managers is that their (the managers’) REAL RESPONSIBILITY is NOT to ensure that the rules are being followed & that performance is up to par & to know how to “write things up” when they weren’t, but rather…

…it’s TO teach the employees the right behaviors that’ll help to avoid disciplinary issues…

…TO show them ways to improve their performance…

…TO work with their people to avoid these issues…

…TO help !people reach their true potential

There needed to be a healthy balance.

* * * Time for yet another side conversation (monologue?) here…

I’ve often wondered why there wasn’t a formal, established organization/department/function that concentrated SOLELY on “Management & Supervisory Practices & Training”, some sort of advisory board or super coach or whatever.

Amongst the most vital people in any organization are the first-line supervisors.

They are often the major factor in determining – – AND SHAPING – – employee satisfaction.

More people probably quit a job because they”don’t get along with the immediate boss” than for any other reason.

And while the “next” level of management is ultimately responsible for their direct reports, I’m just not sure that everyone has the necessary talents, time or appetite to successfully carry out this most-important function.

“Managing managers” (coaching managers) is the most difficult area to master in all of business.

Bar none.

(I could tell you some crazy stories about “Bar Nun”, but just not right now…)

I do know that many companies are, indeed, investing resources in this “rather new” role. (My good friend, Susan Hartley, formerly with Citi & currently @ USAA, has handled this role superbly for almost a decade now!) * * *

And while it’s true that a manager, a leader, must, at times, play the role of the warden, the classroom monitor, the bad cop, it’s more important that they be the teacher, the guidance counselor, the parole board, the advisor who’s able & willing to stress the positive behaviors needed to perform better.

Not just reciting the numbers, but showing them HOW.

Why are they absent so much?

What can WE do about it?

Why are their performance #s not up to snuff?

Are they actively listening to the customer?

Properly using all their available tools?

Readily familiar with all products & services?

Able to offer viable options to make things easier, cheaper, more convenient & more accurate for the customer?

Are they obsessed with exceeding the customer’s expectations, getting the customer to smile at the end of every interaction, or are they merely answering questions?

What managers & true leaders must realize is that every employee who leaves (voluntarily or forcibly) represents a major black eye for the company.

I don’t care if they left for more money, better advancement opportunities, a less stressful environment, due to poor performance or poor attendance or whatever…it’s OUR fault!

Every manager should be taking EVERYTHING PERSONALLY that happens within the “walls” of their area as well as the larger organization!

If so many people are leaving for more $$$ (that’s happened continuously with Citi & USAA), then it’s YOUR responsibility to speak up to your superiors, to HR.

If there’s a toxic work environment, address it. Open people’s eyes.

Sometimes, organizations like to “play with numbers” to make themselves “appear better”.

I remember when the USCC/U.S. Citibanking Center originally had a 15% ceiling for annual turnover.

Changed it to 20% as we approached 14%.

Changed it to 25% as soon as we got to 19.8%.

Then changed it to 30% when we hit 24.8%.

And before I left, I know it was 29.5+%. I’m sure the ceiling was then increased to 35% just so we could could stay below it, while performance in this area was steadily deteriorating.

Same with employee satisfaction surveys.

We would hold parades when “very satisfied” rose from 60.5% to 62%. Great, recognize the improvement & applaud it! And while I’m fine with celebrating mprovement…

That also means that 38% were NOT “very satisfied”!!!

If customers are not “very satisfied”, they’ll leave…even if they’re “satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”.

Same with employees.

And having an ice cream social 2 days before the survey really doesn’t help that much.

Employees are happiest when they’re performing better. When they’re not stressing out over their next call/assignment/case. When they feel confident that they’re able to do their job well.

And just like customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction is a 24 x 7, 365 days job!

You must be obsessed, crazy about it, a fanatic.

PASSION…have it, show it, spread it.

I’ve always been MOST proud of my employee satisfaction results & customer satisfaction results, something WE accomplished while ALWAYS meeting & exceeding all KPI/Key Performance Indictors & enjoying great attendance/retention.

They’re all interconnected.

But you must concentrate on what behaviors will get you these results…forget about the silly charts & temperature gauges!

Show your people WHAT we need to do, HOW we need to do it, WHEN we need to do it, FOR WHOM we need to do it, and WHY we need to do it.

Don’t shove your goals & targets down their throats…put on your cheerleader outfit, your professor eyeglasses & show them what we need to achieve.

Teach them how to improve their “behaviors”.

Concentrate on what the employees are doing every single day & the numbers will happen automatically!

Treat them like family & they’ll make you incredibly proud of them.

Show them how much you care. How deeply you’re invested in them & in the company. Be the ultimate customer advocate as that’ll also make you the ultimate employee advocate.

And vice versa.

Drip passion & make sure it’s contagious. Be infectious!


Thank you, as always, for listening!

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