Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Let's play the blame game!!!

Ever notice how folks choose between WE and THEY when referring to their favorite sports team based on their performance? Usually, what you'll hear is "We won!" and "They lost." Folks just have a natural tendency to want to associate with a winner and run far away from a loser. This is also covered by the old saying that "Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan."

As interesting and unimportant as this is when talking about sports teams, the whole concept needs to be considered differently when thinking about how we come across in our business or family environments. Careful choosing of ME, YOU, and WE can go a long way to letting folks know what kind of person you are, how they are viewed in your eyes, what kind of responsibility you take, and generally what kind of leader you are.

Let's start with something "good" to talk about... like a successful decision (in hindsight). You're talking with the group about that past decision. Maybe it was clearly made by the team as a whole, and saying something like, "That was a great decision we made" flows naturally. But what if it was really YOU that made it, and everyone knows it? Now is the perfect time for, "WE really made the right decision back then."

Look, you know you made it, they know you made it. But what's important... taking the credit or making the team feel successful? Isn't it also possible that SOMETHING from part of the team helped you make that call? If so, they were involved anyway. The point is, you live and die by your team, and sharing the credit for anything with them makes them feel good, increases morale, and will generate more successes in the future. ESPECIALLY if you're in some kind of situation where the big boss is around too, using the WE word is going to go a LONG LONG way. Again, ultimately, the big boss knows who was leading things and you'll get your just reward (at some companies).

So, if WE is good, why wouldn't YOU be even better? I mean like saying, "That was a great decision YOU [ALL] made." Well, you need to see if that's appropriate. If the team clearly went in a different direction from what you had originally wanted, maybe it is. But even so, you probably let them have their way, and you get some of the credit for recognizing that maybe you don't know everything in the world ALL the freaking time. In general, WE will work for most instances.

And, as you might expect, when things go "bad", shifting in the other direction is the mark of a good leader. "I really blew that one guys," or "That one's on me." Yeah, maybe the whole team can share the blame, but take blow. As bad as it is not to include the team on the good stuff, pointing the finger towards one or more of them for the bad stuff totally sucks.

By the way, these rules don't apply to only the times when you're with your team. If you're in a management meeting, use HE, WE, and THEY in recognizing successes of your team, and use I, MY, and ME when talking about the bad stuff. Again, folks kinda know who was responsible for what anyway... or your boss will certainly find out. But acting this way in a meeting shows the other managers that your team is more important to you than you are. Set a good example and maybe other folks will follow and improve morale on a wider basis.

When your team knows you're trying to include them in the successes and not blame them for the failures, they'll appreciate it and be much more likely to go to the mat for you next time.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The other side of evil

So we were discussing needing to dismiss someone for poor performance, and using the "will he be surprised?" question as your threshold of whether you were being "evil" or not. You have a responsibility to your company, but you also have a moral responsibility to not unnecessarily mess with someone's life.

But that covers folks on the way out. What about on the way in? In my mind, you have an even greater responsibility to avoid being evil when making the hire. Let's examine...

You're recruiting. You're interviewing. You're giving all the candidates the hard sell about how great your company is, and why it's the only place they should even consider working. Whether it's about the type of work, potential workmates, salary, benefits, chance for advancement and growth, or anything else, this is the place to be! Of course I'm assuming that you've told the honest truth during your sales pitch. If not, give yourself a slap in the face and change your evil ways.

So, you've found the person you think is the best for the job. What does "best" mean anyway? Is he really really suited for it? Is his chance of success 90% or greater? If so, wonderful... make the close! But if the "best" you can find will only have a mediocre chance of succeeding with you, don't do it. "Well, I can get him to come here, and even though he only has a medium chance of success, if it doesn't work out, we'll just let him go." In the words of Dr. Evil... "Riiiiggghhhtttt...." Maybe he doesn't have a job now (or just is very unhappy where he currently is) so this isn't totally criminal. But if he's happily employed, you're messing with his life. You're being evil. At the very least you'd better tell him that you might be willing to try him out, but that his chances of success are iffy. See what he has to say about that. Push back a bit.

What if you do have more info on the candidate? It doesn't happen often, but sometimes, as a hiring manager, you get insight into other opportunities that the guy has available to him. He might just outright tell you, but usually it will be because you have a history with the guy. The history is invaluable on its own, and it can give you a solid foundation for knowing who might be your best targets.

But, especially in these cases (or if the candidate is just currently employed somewhere else), you must consider what's best for the guy even over your own personal needs. Help him walk through his options. Put your company in its proper place in the choices he can exercise. If you really come out on top, great for everybody. If not, and he still wants to come work with you, realize that the "tug" of other great opportunities will always be there nagging at him. Push back on him and get him to justify his position. What's exciting him so much for your opportunity as opposed to staying where he is or going somewhere else?

You can see that, in most hiring situations, the "talk him out of it" test is another good tool for assessing someone's state of mind. Don't go crazy, but just gently point out any legitimate points that might make some other decision better for him. If he shows so much excitement and interest that he can overcome your push-backs, you can feel pretty good moving forward.