Coaching Session 12

Today’s audio is 11:10 minutes long.
worlds-best-bossNOTE: I released a podcast episode that you may find helpful – You Don’t Have To Go Undercover To Be A Better Boss

In the last session we talked about moments of truth with your boss. Today, let’s talk about your moments of truth with your employees.

Whether you ever win the proverbial “World’s Best Boss” coffee mug or not may be up for debate, but thankfully this isn’t a contest. Besides, there is no world’s best boss, just as there are no world’s best employees. So right off the bat let’s decide we’ll forget about comparisons. They’re useless when we’re talking about how you can improve your moments of truth with employees.

First, let’s define a few things. Maybe a better term would be “clarify.”

Moments of truth with employees aren’t always pleasant. This isn’t about having a ping pong table in the break room, or free snacks throughout the day. I know we’ve all seen and read of the software startups in Silicon Valley. And we’ve seen pictures of how Google is set up. And just in case you’ve not seen any of those pictures, just gaze at the ones I posted below of Google’s Pittsburgh facility. These amenities may help a company create a culture, but they don’t address the issues of boss and employee interaction – the moments of truth.

Google PGH office
Google’s Pittsburgh Office

An employee has royally messed up. They’re not a problem employee. In fact, they’re anything but. Yet, for some reason they have botched this task and you’re going to have to come in to fix it. It’s a moment of truth for you with this employee. What are you going to do? How will you handle this?

It’s not a happy moment of truth, but it’s an opportunity for you to really serve this employee and your organization well. Maybe it’s even make or break time for this employee.

An employee has performed well above what was expected, or forecasted. Here’s another moment of truth for you. What are you going to do?

It’s a happy moment, but it’s just as important as the other opportunity. In fact, it may be more important in that some bosses are clueless about managing happy moments. They can be quick to jump on problems, but much less proactive when it comes to celebrating victories.

Moments of truth with employees are those crucial times when you – the boss – set the tone, send the message and communicate other important messages that will impact the employee, the culture and the future.

Great leaders see the future first. However, they don’t just see it, they affect it. As a great – or potentially great leader – it’s your responsibility to make a difference in the most meaningful ways possible to bring about more positive results for your organization. That involves lots of diverse moments of truth:

  • Confronting and correcting poor performance
  • Confronting and correcting poor behavior
  • Coaching and correcting performance deficiencies
  • Establishing performance expectations
  • Providing inspiration to higher performance
  • Celebrating victories
  • Knowing when to employ tension (and when to employ greater comfort)
  • Using your authority to remove roadblocks for your employees
  • Protecting your employees from distractions (that includes insights you may have because of your position)

Seeing the moments of truth in real-time is the big challenge!

There are tons of them. They can happen in a flash. They can creep up on you. Some, you may expect. Others, come at you from left field. That makes the real-time part of it crucial. But time isn’t the only issue.

Moments of truth can be subtle, disguised and not so obvious. That’s because you’ve got your head in a thousand different things making it hard to see everything. The problem is when you’ve got an employee in a moment of truth and you ignore it, or you simply didn’t see it. An opportunity is lost. Worse yet, the employee is negatively affected. It can also impact the culture and your reputation as a leader.

Here are ideas for you to consider:

One – Improve your awareness by making the problems of your employees a priority. 

Every boss has problems. Triage your problems so you can set as many of them aside while you work to focus on the problems of your people. Resist the urge to make your problems the priority in your own life (and in everybody else’s life, too). Instead, make it your job to find out what struggles are hindering your people right now, in real-time. Offer to help, not interfere. Ask them if there’s something you can do to help them.

Two – Talk is cheap. Do what you say you’ll do. 

Do I really need to expound on this? Well, plain and simple – don’t tell people you’ll do something unless you’re going to follow through. For some bosses, the problem is they forget what they said they’d do. They get distracted by something else. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to them, but it’s a very big deal to the employee who was counting on it. Other bosses find it difficult to refrain from over promising. Pure and simple, be a person of your word. Don’t give your word flippantly. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be congruent.

Three – Stay connected to employees. 

Let’s say you’re watching and paying attention. An employee shares a frustration with you – something your authority can help them with (let’s say it’s a challenge that involves another department). You have a conversation with the other department and run a bit of interference for your employee. It smooths the way for them to now make more progress. Now you resume your normal life. Oops! You neglected a moment of truth – connecting and keeping your employee informed.

One of the things I hear as often as anything whenever I’m in a room with employees and a boss is, “You never told me (us) that!” Bosses often think they informed people. Or they think they followed through. They had good intentions. They meant to tell people. They meant to follow through. Again, distractions in their life caused them to neglect important moments of truth.

Stay in touch with your people. Have a sense of urgency to communicate the things they need to know – things they must know! For example, the moment you end your conversation with the other department, call or go see your employee to inform them of what you’ve just done. Ask them to let you know how things progress. Foster improved connectivity on the part of the employee by leading the way with your own willingness to reach out to them first.

Four – Don’t wait. Always get ahead of the curve by being a prompt servant. 

You can’t wait for employees to come to you. Most employees won’t do that. The smartest ones will absolutely not do it. They want to be self-reliant. They don’t you to feel as though they’re unable to get the job done on their own. Be mindful of this and don’t step on their feelings. Don’t dampen their ambitions. But don’t wait either. Be proactive in making sure people know you’re available for them.

Think of how shoppers or diners feel. We go to a restaurant and we hate waiting to be seated. Worse yet is arriving to a restaurant and nobody even knows we’ve arrived. That’s poor service. You’ll be delivering poor service if you’re not prompt in offering to serve your employees. This is where your demeanor, body language and tone play a vital role. Be conversational. Be cordial. Be friendly. Don’t be threatening. Don’t interrogate. Offer. Make yourself available.

“I just want to check on the progress of that project and let you know that I can help you.” WRONG.

“How’s the project going? I’m never too busy to help you if you think of something I might be able to do to help you.” BETTER

Don’t make these proactive conversations too formal or employees will shrink back. You want to behave in a way that will cause employees to lean forward, toward you. Make them know you’re in this with them to help them. Otherwise, they’re going to think you’re lurking in the shadows waiting the opportunity to pounce on them whenever there’s trouble. Foster collaboration with you.

Five – Praise the behavior and performance you want.

When employees do lean on you, praise them. When they achieve the desired goal, praise them. You’ll get more of what you reward so use praise to reward the things you want. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. If it were, you’d be doing it habitually…and you’re not, are you? I keep repeating it because it’s among the most powerful advice I can give any leader – catch your people doing good work.

I’ll talk to you soon,

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