It’s the championship game and you’re all set for an edge-of-the-seat experience for the next four heart-pounding hours. This is football at its finest. What gets your adrenaline pumping when the closest to the field you’ll be is the five feet between you and the TV? It’s the spectacular plays like a shoestring tackle on the 1-yard line, a goal line stand, a running back launching five feet into the air over a defender, an impossible one-handed end zone catch. It’s all the fantastic plays that professional athletes make when they’re fired up and playing at their peak.
After several pallets of pricey parts were rusted and ruined in a rainstorm, two red-faced managers argued loudly over who controlled production space and who was responsible for the costly disaster. Each manager insisted he was right about what should have been done and who was to blame for the ruined parts. Neither knew how to break the standoff.
Treating each other with respect and common decency should be a given. It shouldn’t matter what a person’s title or position is; nobody should ever be yelled at or denigrated at work. And, of course, it makes sense to create a pleasant, positive work environment. It’s not just healthy for worker attitudes, but it’s also the human thing to do. I understand all that and agree with it.
Meetings, meetings, meetings. Doesn’t every company have too many of them? Questions like, “What’s the point of dragging all of us out of our cubicles when the conversation only pertains to a few?” and, “Wouldn’t it be better to use that time actually doing the work instead of just talking about it?” scream ubiquitous disdain for any group powwow.
“What happened?” you ask. HR screened the résumés and gave you the best of the stack. You checked for education, work experience, and skills, and they were all there. You interviewed her and she sounded bright and enthusiastic—a real go-getter. It all felt right. How could she have been so wrong for us?
In 1969, behavioral scientists Walker and Lorsch discovered that two virtually identical workplaces could produce vastly different results according to one simple decision. What they learned is a lesson worth repeating. The researchers studied two cardboard box manufacturing plants that were like the identical twins in high school you couldn’t tell apart. The plants were…
In Part 1 of our series you peered through the window of an accounting department to see a dysfunctional accounting team at work. Teammates were blaming each other for mistakes and missed deadlines, and clients were taking the brunt of it. You watched them long enough to see them pull together and find ways to…
In Part 1 we saw how an accounting manager began to realize that staff member mistakes and poor performance weren’t so much because employees were lazy or incompetent, but more the result of poor processes and systems causing disorganization and delays. Staff ideas of what was supposed to be done and who was supposed to be doing it constantly conflicted. It was obvious every time another “oops” was discovered and a deadline missed that staff members weren’t communicating and something was broken.
I try to hire the best employees. Once they’re on board, I work hard to motivate them applying what I learned in my management training. My employees don’t seem lazy, and they’re definitely smart enough to do the job, but for some reason things aren’t working. People keep making mistakes and our work is falling behind. What can I do?
Seriously Cynical Supervisor”
Could you have written this letter? If so, you’re not alone.
Some silos were built to last. Trying to poke a hole through one isn’t always easy, especially in those reinforced by years of isolation and self-preservation. Jim, a human resource manager just assigned to a new general manager and business unit, found that out.
I coached Jim to help him get the most from his new assignment. I taught him what it means to be a business person instead of just another HR professional with a bucket of HR tools. He learned that if he looked for problems in the operations, he could make a real difference—he just needed to find the opportunities and figure out how to help operations solve the problems. Jim got it. He was excited to show the general manager what he could do.