Management Tag Archive

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Three things to keep in mind about your reputation

More wisdom from Seth Godin:

Three things to keep in mind about your reputation

  1. Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do.
  2. Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change.
  3. The single best way to maintain your reputation is to do things you’re proud of. Gaming goes only so far.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Three things to keep in mind about your reputation

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This Tango Takes Three!

This tango takes 3!

This month’s article is an attempt to change the conversation with a non-performing employee from one of blame to one of collective responsibility. We are happy to point out that, in keeping with the provocative nature of these articles, there is probably plenty here with which you might take issue. We welcome your critical review.

We start with our definition of Stewardship, as offered by our friend Glenn Mangurian: the responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance assets that do not belong to you but have been temporarily entrusted to you.

As an employer and a manager, you have been entrusted with the human capital asset of your employees. You have a responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance that asset. You must leave behind a richer set of assets at the end of the year than what you inherited at the beginning of the year. We discussed this in recent articles on performance reviews (Employee Performance is not just about Results and Put an End to the Annual Performance Review).

In this article, we discuss the implications of this stewardship responsibility. When you hire an employee, you are making a commitment that you will grow this employee to be a richer person each year – not just financially richer, but richer in their craft, in their profession and as a human being. You, as an employer, are accepting this obligation, knowing everything you know about this employee you just hired. So, in a job interview with this potential employee, not only should you ask if the individual can perform the duties of that job, you must also ask if you have the skills to enrich the individual, if your company has the capacity to enrich the individual, and if the individual has the potential and willingness to be enriched. It takes the combined efforts of the employee, the manager and the company for the individual to be enriched. In other words, it takes three to tango.

Does every employee have to grow each year? What is wrong with Joe, the welder in the machine shop who just wants to be a welder? Joe is a darn good welder. That is what he wants to be, he doesn’t want to do anything else, and I want to keep him. Joe is happy. He gets a good paycheck. He has a good life. Joe has been with me for a decade and I want to keep him for a couple more until he retires. What is the problem with that approach? Why shouldn’t I just let Joe be?

Well, there are actually two problems: The first is an economics issue and the second is a philosophical issue. Your company is expected to grow and improve each year. Not only is your revenue expected to grow, but you are expected to generate at least as much profit per dollar of revenue in spite of your expenses growing with inflation. How do you do that? By doing what you used to do even better and more of it. This economic reality requires each individual in your company to do more and do it better each year. So, you can’t just let Joe be. Joe has to become a better welder each year, weld more per unit of time, weld it for a lower cost, etc. But, wait a minute. Is it possible to do that forever? Don’t you reach a point where Joe is performing at maximum capacity and it cannot be done any better? When you and your employees peak, your company peaks as well.

The second problem is philosophical. An attitude of “let Joe be” instills a level of complacency that will permeate the entire organization. If you let Joe be content with doing what he did last year, you have to let the entire company be content with what they did last year. Will that be acceptable to you? Your organization’s excellent performance this year must become the benchmark of mediocrity for tomorrow. So, as a company philosophy you must require each employee to grow each year.

Now for a bit of reconciliation. Growing each year does not mean that Joe has to become a supervisor. Each employee has to constantly grow in his or her craft and profession. Even better, each employee should constantly expand their skills, knowledge and interest into related disciplines – neighboring disciplines to their craft and profession, neighboring disciplines of interest to the employee, and neighboring disciplines of relevance to the company. This growth responsibility falls on all three parties: the employee, the manager and the company. Although, in this day and age, no company guarantees lifetime employment, collectively, the three parties should guarantee lifetime employability.

How well do most companies fare on this score? Most companies will philosophically accept this position at the point of hiring an employee, but they quickly back pedal within a few years. Let’s point out four typical scenarios that companies and employees face.

First, a non-controversial and positive scenario is the performing employee with a growth trajectory. This is the case of an individual that performs exceedingly well. The individual grows in their job, takes on new and expanding assignments, assumes greater responsibilities and is generally successful. The employee, the manager and the company all discharge their stewardship responsibility. Well, that was the easy scenario where the dance and the music make for a beautiful tango.

The second scenario, still positive but uncomfortably so, is the performing employee for whom the company cannot offer the needed growth opportunity. This employee performs very well. He or she grows in their job. The individual is critical to the company. The boss depends on this individual. After a few years, the employee needs new assignments or additional responsibilities in order to grow. But, in your small company, there are limited growth opportunities. You just don’t have that next position for this employee. They are ready for it, but you are not. What should you do? What is your stewardship responsibility? The company has a responsibility to act selflessly and work with such individuals to position them for their next career growth opportunity, which will likely happen elsewhere (see Small Companies Must Turnover Good People). The employee, the manager and the company are usually hesitant to face this situation. And, in that hesitancy, all three fail to be a steward. In this tango, the music stops but the dancing continues without the gusto.

The third scenario represents the performing employee whose personal growth does not keep up with the market and environmental growth. This is where many companies get stuck with a “used-to-be-performing” employee who hasn’t kept up with the fact that you don’t use a calculator anymore but have to make an Excel spreadsheet. As in the case of Joe, the welder, this is an employee whose consistent excellent performance many years ago has slowly but surely become below mediocre by today’s standards. Who is at fault? All three: the employee, the manager and the company have been complicit in allowing the employee not to grow. In this tango the manager and the company have moved on to the new song but the employee is still dancing to the old song.

Finally, the fourth scenario involves a non-performing employee. The company and the manager often ignore the non-performance as an act of kindness when, in fact, it is gross negligence of their stewardship responsibility. When you hired that individual, you accepted a stewardship obligation to grow that individual. You have two options: either to discharge that stewardship responsibility or absolve yourself of that obligation. You do not have the choice to ignore it. If you approach the conversation with the attitude, “I (the manager) am unable to find ways, and create an environment in which, you can grow as an individual,” then the conversation becomes less about blame or judgment and more about stewardship. Both the music and the dancing stops in this tango.

You, as a manager, have an obligation called stewardship and a privilege called management authority. The former requires you to care for your assets. The latter allows you to acquire and dispose of your assets. The more diligently you discharge your stewardship responsibility, the more impenitently you can exercise your management authority. But, remember, this tango takes three.

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3 Ways to Help Keep Your Dental Office Staff Happy

Happy staff, happy life? Quite possibly. Although there’s no guarantee that a happy staff leads to a happy dentist, you can be sure that a happy staff strengthens your practice. When your staff is unhappy, that unhappiness manifests itself in the form of turnover, which is something you don’t want to see with any level of frequency.

Turnover is bad for your practice for a few reasons. First, it costs you money. You’ll have to recruit new staff and train them. You may even have to turn down appointments because you don’t have enough staff on hand.

Turnover also hurts morale in both your employees and your patients. Employees see the turnover and start to wonder whether they too should look for a new job with another practice. Patients see frequent turnover among your staff and wonder why their favorite hygienists or receptionists are no longer around.

You can limit turnover by making your office an enjoyable place to work.

3 Tips to Keep Your Staff Happy

  1. Give praise. Study after study has shown that employees – regardless of industry – view praise as the single most rewarding benefit they can receive. In a recent study, 83 percent of all surveyed employees said that individual praise was more rewarding than any form of bonus or gift.

    There are a few ways in which you can offer praise. You can do it in a standardized way that’s open to all employees. Popular forms of this kind of praise include an Employee of the Month award or contests that are tied directly to some performance metric.

    Another good way to praise is in one-on-one conversations. Performance reviews present a perfect opportunity to offer praise. You can also do it when it’s not expected. Pull a high-performing employee aside and let them know how they’re doing. Tell an improving employee that you notice and appreciate their efforts. These actions may seem small, but they pay big dividends.

  2. Help them with retirement. Your employees are worried about retirement. They’re concerned that they won’t have enough saved and that they’ll have to continue working long past their desired retirement date.

    You can show your appreciation for their efforts by helping them save for retirement. A 401k plan can be an effective way to do this. It gives your staff the opportunity to save money for their own retirement and it gives you a vehicle to contribute. If your office is small and you think a 401k may be too complex or expensive, you could talk to your financial advisor about alternatives like SEP IRAs.

    Many employees expect some kind of group benefit plan at their place of employment. If you don’t have one, you may have difficulty recruiting quality talent. Similarly, your employees that you do have may view their benefits as being inferior to those offered at other practices.

  3. Create a bonus plan. Your staff knows that you make significantly more money than them. They’re likely fine with that. After all, they also know that you bear all the risk of owning the practice.

    However, they also know that they contribute a great deal to your success. When your business is operating at full speed, they like to be recognized for their contributions – and not just in praise.

    A bonus plan can foster the feeling that you’re all working for the same team. It can create a direct link between your employees’ performance and their compensation. You can tie the bonuses to the practice’s overall performance or you can tie it to specific job functions.

    One note on bonuses, though. Whatever system you put in place, be sure to make the system easy-to-understand and transparent. If employees feel that bonuses aren’t fair, bitterness and resentment could develop.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day management of your practice. However, always remember that your staff is a crucial part of your practice’s success. Invest in their happiness and you’re likely to see the benefits.

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Changing dental insurance with a connected toothbrush

From Fortune:

…a dental insurance company, giving connected toothbrushes to policy holders makes all the sense in the world. Knowing that your policyholders brush their teeth on the regular means they are less likely to develop cavities and other issues associated with high claims. The insurer might even be able to promote more brushing or even flossing using incentives from the app associated with the connected toothbrush.

Source: Beam will change dental insurance one connected toothbrush at a time – Fortune

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I think it is a creative and exciting way to use advanced technology to improve dental health and ultimately to improve the human condition.

On the other hand I am not at all happy to have an insurance company monitoring my brushing and adjusting my benefits based on how often I brush my teeth with their bluetooth toothbrush. Way too creepy like the “Big Brother” dental plan is watching. 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale not an instruction manual.

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Mediocrity Invited: how to encourage high performers

In most of our companies we have a big sign with bold letters over the main door into our building. It has been there a long time and is such a regular part of the fixtures that we have lost sight of it. Although we diligently practice what the sign says, few of us, if any, notice it as we walk in and out of the building each day. We probably can’t even remember what it says, so let me remind you: “Mediocrity Invited.”

We do many things to ensure that mediocre employees feel totally safe and secure and are not made uncomfortable. This month’s article illustrates examples of things we do to ensure that we stay true to our promise on the front door.

Accountability is uncomfortable, so ignore it.

Most companies have difficulty creating a culture of holding people accountable. When somebody has not done an action item from the previous meeting, we merely note it and move on. Holding that individual accountable on the spot is uncomfortable – both for ourselves and for the delinquent. So, instead, we don’t hold him or her accountable. By the way, who in your company would prefer that you hold people accountable? Clearly, those who are accountable. Who would not prefer it? Of course, those who are not accountable. Oh yes, I forgot the signage on the front door: Mediocrity invited. We wouldn’t want to make the unaccountable uncomfortable, would we?

Put off performance management a little longer.

Most managers who have let go of an employee will confess, when asked, that they waited too long to take action. At the same time, they acknowledge that the peers of the non-performing employee had noticed the lack of performance long before the manager even became aware of it, much less took action on it. So, the performing employees, who picked up the slack of the non-performing, have been waiting patiently for management to take action. Let’s ask ourselves who in your company would like management to take quick action on non-performing employees? Of course, all the performing ones. Who would prefer that you be cautious, deliberate and slow in taking action? I suppose the non-performing ones. Oh yes, the signage on the front door!

Don’t celebrate one person if it’s going to ruffle others.

We all like to recognize employees for good deeds done, particularly deeds that are beyond the call of duty. We want to acknowledge them publicly, but fear its impact on somebody left out. The fear of giving recognition is the fear of upsetting those unrecognized. So, we include a few more people in the recognition.

The other day one of the senior managers came back from a great industry gathering where our advertising work was featured prominently and received a lot of accolades. True to our culture of celebrating success he sent out a company-wide email sharing the joy and recognizing a half a dozen people. Just in case he had missed a few others who might have contributed, he added a caveat that he was rushed in sending the email and promised to send another with any names he may have missed. And yet, I suspect that there were probably one or two individuals who really stood out in making that advertising campaign a success. Would we be comfortable pointing out just one person? Instead, have we not diluted that recognition by including all?

In many companies where management recognizes individuals at their monthly all-hands meetings, executives work hard to ensure that everybody gets a turn to be recognized. They don’t want one name called out too often, and many names never called out at all. Who would prefer this approach? The people who otherwise would not be recognized. Oh I forgot, the signage on the front door.

Pay over-performers and under-performers the same salary.

Recently, the Director of HR in our company sent a memo to the executive team asking for input on the annual salary review process that we will undertake in a few months. Compensation has been a frequent topic in these Food for Thought articles. Although most companies espouse “pay for performance” they practice “pay for pulse.”

If you truly believe in paying for performance, ask yourself this: Does the spread of salaries among comparable employees resemble anything close to the spread of their individual performances?
Most managers will concede that a highly performing employee contributes manyfold the amount that a poorly performing employee does. Yet, is the star performer rewarded with pay that is a manyfold multiple of the poor performer? It is tough to spread the salaries of poor- and high-performing employees through meager annual salary increases. So, how can we spread the salaries to reflect their relative performance? I offer a collection of ideas, though admittedly most of them are bizarre, and end with the only practical idea that I have actually used.

Option 1: Guarantee a raise or resignation

What would happen if you announce to your employees that you are abandoning the practice of annual salary reviews and corresponding salary adjustments? From here on you will practice a flat salary model unless the employee requests a salary review. Tell your employees: “If you want a salary increase, just come and ask. All you have to do is ask! Come on over, anytime. All I require is that you bring your resignation with you. I will guarantee one of the two. Just come and ask. Come anytime. Come often!”

What kind of employees in your company would like this approach? The high performing, confident ones. Who would fear this approach? The non-performing employees lacking in confidence. So, why won’t we do this? Oh yes, the signage on the front door.

Option 2: Take from poor performers to reward high performers

Annual salary increases usually average a small percentage increase, say 3 or 4 percent, reflecting movement in the market and the company’s financial appetite. That small a number leaves little room to really recognize the high performer with a distinctly higher salary.

That leads us to our next bizarre idea. What if you had all employees, upon employment, sign an understanding that the offered salary is for the remainder of the calendar year? At the beginning of each year every employee’s salary will be automatically reduced by 10 percent. Furthermore, indicate in the agreement that you commit to contribute the 10% savings from the entire payroll to the pool of money available for annual salary increases. So now each year an employee’s average salary increase can be 13 or 14 percent! Of course, you intend to reach that average by distributing much larger percentages to the high performers and very low percentages to the poor performers. Again, who would like or dislike this idea? Yet alas the signage.

Option 3: No increases below 5%

Finally to something more practical, and something at least tried out by me. When management conducts salary reviews and plans out annual salary increases for each employee, they are always cognizant of the total payroll impact. It’s usually measured in terms of the (weighted) average of all of the salary increases given to the entire workforce. Seldom, if ever, does management examine the standard deviation of that distribution. Would you prefer a high standard deviation or a low figure? A high figure indicates a wide spread in the increases – some employees (hopefully performing ones) receiving large increases and others (hopefully, non-performing ones) receiving low increases. You would want a high spread.

How do you get a high standard deviation, yet keep the mean at the, say, 3.7 percent you have budgeted? Well you have to give a lot of zero increases to afford a 15 percent increase for your star performers. How can you force that? A practical idea: Require your management to achieve the 3.7 percent average with the caveat that nobody can be granted an increase between the amounts of 0 and 5 percent. So, all the increases have to be either 0 or 5 percent and above. Yet, the average must compute to 3.7 percent. You will get your desired result. Tempting as it is, I will not ask the question of who would like this approach and remind you of the sign. And so I did.

Next time you enter the front door of your building, take a look at that sign. How long has it been up there? Who takes note of it? How institutional has practicing the words on the sign become? If you want to change the signage and are wondering what to put up instead, here is a suggestion: Put up a real sign over the door that reads, “The sign that used to hang here has been intentionally removed.” Cause your employees to come and ask you what the new signage means. You will intentionally cause a conversation.

We welcome your comments on our Food for Thought mailings and encourage you to explore the Food for Thought archive. We hope your business is doing well. We’re happy to chat about the content in this article or anything else with which you’d like assistance.

Food for Thought is our way of sharing interesting concepts on corporate leadership and management with others who might find it useful. The thoughts offered are intended to be controversial and thought-provoking. They are intended to help our readers intentionally realize their potential, what we call >Potentionality.

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