D. Kevin Berchelmann
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

So, are you micro-managing??

This is an interesting and pertinent topic to me, as many of my clients–some aware, some not–suffer from the micro-managing malady. 

It’s been my experience that micro-managers do so from perceived need. At least in their minds, they feel they have a need for acute attention to detail in one or more functions, or with one or more (or all) members of their staffs. From my experience, the underlying reasons driving this perceived need come from (a) real or perceived lack of competency of employee(s),  (b) real or perceived lack of trust, and/or  (c) an overdeveloped personal ego/sense of self-worth.

Realize that most people want to achieve the same results with fewer efforts, and micro-managing takes MORE effort, not less.  The dangers to me are straightforward: in times of economic scrutiny, we need employees to be thinking MORE, not less.

So, how can we tell if we've crossed that line into micro-managing? What do we look for, and what can we do?  Some indicators (and suggestions):

1. You frequently get questions about problems without recommended solutions. Employees–even really good ones–tire of doing the legwork for a micro-manager, so will simply ask questions instead of problem-solving. “What do you want me to do?” is a typical question, and they are essentially absolving themselves of all ownership and accountability. You decide, you own. They screw it up, you own it.

2. You regularly ask successful employees for status updates. Stop it. They didn't get there by being an idiot, and you frustrating them isn't helping. Set priorities and deadlines, and then allow employees room to do as you asked. Status updates, particularly those without major project milestones, are simply a display of distrust.

3. You're questioning others’ good decisions. Usually because you would have “done it differently,” or are uncomfortable you weren't involved in the decision. How about just saying “Good work, thanks...?” Learn to shut up; diarrhea of the mouth is a career limiter anyway... 

Eradicating micro-managing is the responsibility of both parties–the staffer being micro-managed, and the manager “doing” the micro-managing.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Does Turnover Really Matter?

I mean really...

You only have 2 kinds of employee turnover: Involuntary (we whack 'em; this is a good thing) and Voluntary.

With Voluntary turnover, we then have Uncontrollable (planned relocations, illnesses, things like that, nothing we can do) and Controllable.

Controllable, the purview of leadership, has still 2 more categories: Inconsequential (no heartache here, good riddance, "see-ya," "Don't let the door hit you on the butt") and Consequential (Oh, crap, what do we do now??).

The only issue, from a turnover perspective, is the Consequentials. Losing those people we truly do not want to lose, and whose loss will significantly impact our organization. How big is that percentage? I'd argue fairly small. It had better be small, or our organization's survival is in jeopardy. The rest of the turnover is fundamentally a hiring/sourcing/recruitment issue...

I mentioned in an earlier At C-Level that we needed to hire more "A" - players and fewer "C" - players. If we're losing "C" employees, good riddance. If we lose even ONE "A" player, we need to find out what went wrong and do something different. "A" employees are too difficult to recruit and hire - their loss is clearly Consequential.

So, don't just blindly track "Turnover" as this holy grail of a metric. Track the turnover that matters. Another clear example of "measurement is easy; understanding those measures is hard." We have way too many measures and an insufficient understanding of how those measures translate into something actionable. But that's for another edition of At C-Level...


Kevin Berchelmann

Monday, August 11, 2014

Resolving Conflict--this isn't post-doctoral study, folks...

Conflict is a natural occurrence. In fact, it's frequently a really good thing, allowing organizational success by way of diverse thinking. My favorite phrase: When reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned people disagree, the organization is better served.

And I believe that. Of course, I could write a treatise on the reasonably intelligent and well-intentioned qualifiers, but that's for a different posting...

Instead, I'm just going to provide some tips and tidbits for combatting unhealthy conflict. Not to silent healthy conflict, mind you; I'm referring to the other kind. The simple, three-step model for conflict resolution has always been:

  1. Get all the facts on the table,
  2. Understand the others' positions, and 
  3. Find a win-win solution.

Now, I don't know about you, but that last step seemed to take a quantum leap of faith after the first two. Here are some specifics that may help to bring that leap of faith back to something closer to a normal acceptance of logic...
  • Listen. No, not that kind of listening... really listen. Listen to understand, not refute. Listen to find common ground, not to validate your position. Listen, hard.
  • Don't interrupt. Your parents told you that--you should have listened to them (see guidance above). Keep your blankety-blank trap shut and let someone talk. You can't listen if you don't, and the very act of obvious respect may act as a conflict-resolving catalyst. Stranger things have happened. And while we're discussing interruptions... opening your mouth, shaking your head, and otherwise demonstrating your desire to speak are all interruptions, even if no noise comes out of your pie hole. Don't do it.
  • Use "I" messages. Yes, we learned that ridiculously basic, 3-part feedback technique in Communications 101 (did you take notes?). They are as useful and viable as ever, and even more so when resolving conflict. 
    • "When you..."
    • "I feel..."
    • "Because..."
          Remember, our goal is to resolve conflict--really change
          behavior--not to simply win.
  • Ask. If you really want to know "what it will take" for someone to get over a conflict situation, it may be as simple as simply asking. Give it a shot.

Conflict may be necessary for successful organizations, but unhealthy conflict is never part of that need. As leaders, we must identify it, address it, deal with it.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Soccer, Leadership and the Pony Express

It’s finally over. The World Cup, soccer’s Super Bowl, is done. Germany wins. Now, back to real sports on television (kidding, kidding…).

Though, obvious by my snide comment, soccer isn't “my thing,” it clearly has a world following. Mostly because other countries don't have baseball, football--the real one :)--or basketball to watch during off-seasons, but no matter… millions watch soccer.

So, what can we learn from watching those games (assuming you did watch them)? Well, aside from “don't bet on the home team” (7-1 Brazil… seriously??), there are some leadership lessons buried within that larger-than-a-football-field arena…

1.  Winning is not a one-man game. Soccer has stars, to be sure, but the players don’t have the luxury of quarters or periods. They go flat out for 45 minutes at a time. At any given time, one or more players are “flat-out,” while others are just “running hard,” the soccer version of on-field resting. 11 players on the field for each team, and it takes all 11 to win. The German team wasn't a collection of bought-and-paid-for stars (think Miami Heat), but a well-honed team of players who needed each other (synergy) to succeed.

2.  Short-term actions, long-term view. There are 54 total matches played during the World Cup. Germany eventually won the World Cup by beating Argentina (the long-term goal), but had to win six matches (games) before that just for the opportunity. Strategy is necessary, of course, as are long-term goals. But it’s execution of the tactical that takes us to the end. In short, both are necessary for success.

3.  Stopping the reverse pony-express. Long-term development of talent leads to long-term business success. A close friend of mine derides organizations for what he calls the “reverse pony-express syndrome,” whereby we ride a horse until it nearly drops, swap riders, and start again on the same horse. Germany is a great example of not doing that. As a true team, they relied on the collective versus one standout player; so much so that the MVP was actually awarded to a losing player. We don't need the best individuals to get the best results, we need folks who play well together and look out for the common good.

So, I may not be a soccer aficionado, and I may have screwed up some jargon above due to my ignorance (forgive me, European colleagues and friends), but the lessons are solid nonetheless, proving that even in the mind-numbingly boring, we can derive pearls of wisdom.

Did I mention I prefer real football?

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Egalitarian folly

I recently read a blog posting from someone holding themselves out as a "contrarian" HR professional (consultant, of course).

I recently read a blog posting from someone holding themselves out as a "contrarian" HR professional (consultant, of course).

Now, I consider myself something of a contrarian myself, as many have used words like that (and sometimes even MORE colorful) to describe my rants, thinkings, and positions on various issues, and I'm OK with that.

This particular blog entry, however, brought a couple of things to light...

1. Can you really call yourself a contrarian? Isn't that for others to determine? Kind of like calling yourself "easy to get along with." Yeah, maybe... but who says??

Someone else, that's who.

2. The specific "contrarian" issue was about performance evaluations and pay. We can argue for hours about the concepts and ideas surrounding this, but the most significant (I'm guessing "contrarian") comment was:
"I am an advocate of 'when the team wins, we all win.' In my opinion when you reward individuals for their individual effort you can unconsciously promote a zero sum game where I win at another employee’s or the company’s expense."
Huh?? "When the team wins, we all win?" Maybe, but what if that "team" is being carried by just one or two super-performers? And of course employee pay is a zero-sum game; dollars (including payroll dollars) are fungible, not infinite. Dollars spent in one direction are potentially at the expense of another direction. Not everyone can be a star employee, and those who are should be rewarded -- those who aren't, well, shouldn't.

Let's not dumb-down performance management -- and subsequent pay initiatives -- to the lowest denominator. We should manage performance responsibly, and pay appropriately for the results and accountability defined.

This isn't rocket science. But it's not "everyone is the same" either.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Monday, May 5, 2014

Adam Silver… Good decision, mediocre leadership

The NBA’s Adam Silver is no demonstrably exceptional leader. At least given the recent example of decision-making without discernment. At best, he could be a negative example… something to hold up as a “kids, don’t do this” sort of thing.

Now, before everyone gets all huffy, hear me out; Donald Sterling is a moronic jerk. I can’t say for certain whether he’s a racist, though I can say that, assuming the recordings are valid and in context, he’s said some things that sure sounded racist. He damned sure needed to be punished, no question. I don't question Silver's decision, merely make a case that the decision was virtually faite accompli, and not representative of the type of lofty leadership with which others are giving credit.

Here’s the thing: making a reactionary decision, based on extraordinary public outcry on behavior that by all accounts was nothing new (numerous accounts of Sterling saying these things before) is far from an exhibition in leadership. It shows no vision (the behavior wasn't new) and it (forcing sale) wasn't even his decision to make. He simply decided to ask the owners to make that decision.

He’s being held up as courageous, in part, for making a decision to ask someone else to make a decision.

Corporate sponsors were bailing out, players (even the Clippers’) were talking boycott, and the media frenzy was threatening to sully the entire sport. Donald Sterling didn't “do” anything special (this time) except say something to a single person that was recorded. This entire hoopla is not based on Sterling’s previously well-known racist behaviors (e.g., discriminatory slumlord) or any such atrocity. This became an issue because dollars started being effected

In my view, Silver had no choice, and no-choice decisions--like bankruptcy, financial layoffs, closures, paying required taxes and making payroll on payday--are not “leadership,” no matter how necessary. In fact, they frequently represent quite the opposite.

Like all decisions, there are two camps in the aftermath. Those who believe a given decision was correct hail the decision-maker as smart and decisive; those who do not, see the decision as a poor one made in the heat of the moment without benefit of due consideration. I’m not weighing in behind either camp—I’m simply saying that this particular decision, though potentially necessary—was no specific indicator of leadership acumen and values.

Sort of like the optimist/pessimist argument: pessimists say the glass is half empty, optimists say the glass is half full. I’m a consultant; all I know is that you've got too much glass.

Now, to add insult to injury, Dennis Hof has banned Sterling from the Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada. And he did it proactively, unwilling to jeopardize current clientele who might be present when Sterling paid a visit, using known evidence and incomplete information and without any media or public pressure.

Just something to think about.

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Troops Eat First

The troops eat first.

In earlier times, this was a simple axiom, borne of logic: First came the horses, then the troops (foot soldiers), then the officers. Over time, it was shortened to simply, "the troops eat first."

I would suggest that it's just as relevant today as then, though for different reasons.

In leadership effectiveness, it simply means, "Take care of your people -- especially the good ones -- so they won't have to do it themselves." I often tell C-level managers that "someone has to look after the well-being of your solid performers." If you don't do it yourself, the employee has to. Usually with the help of an outside friend, headhunter, or someone with influence and priorities other than yours.

Make sure they are "fed." Developed, mentored, given ample opportunity. Not necessarily a big, cumbersome, formal effort, but something that clearly shows them that, "Hey, I'm looking out for you -- no need to look elsewhere for development & growth."

The troops eat first, el generale...


Kevin Berchelmann 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hey, Where'd Everybody Go?? Poaching back in vogue...

I've had several clients and colleagues ask about impending staffing challenges; more specifically, what happens when opportunities for key performers are appearing in ready form?

We are staring down the barrel of impending poaching opportunities. Most efforts at reorganization and such have distilled talent down to key performers; Now, other firms are going after them. 

It's coming...  What to do? Some things to consider:

1.  Anybody who tells you money doesn't matter... well, they'll lie about other things as well.  Money isn't a prime motivator for most; it's seldom even a satisfier, but it can be a dissatisfier... People expect to be paid what they are worth, and if another, reasonable organization offers them 25% more, your pay is the issue. 

Fix it now.  Get market lines on your compensation, and act proactively - it's simply too late after they've received an offer.

Once and employee receives an offer, you're on borrowed time.  Even if you convince them to stay for the moment.

2.  YOU know they're good, but do THEY know that YOU know??  Top performers know they are top performers.  Not necessarily egotistic, they do, however, have solid self-awareness.  The question most have is, "do you recognize the value that I bring to this organization??"   "Do you give me the recognition that value deserves??" 

And not just money; there's personal recognition, peer recognition, intangible rewards, and professional development investments.  All of these tell top performers that you know they are top performers..

3.  Ask Them!  To quote Tom Peters, "This company had a unique way of communicating; they talked to each other!"  Want to know what those top performers really need?  Do something really whacko and ask them.  That's right, plain, simple English.  "Say, Top Performer, I've been wondering.  You do such a good job around here (remember, s/he knows this already), I wanted to make sure we were taking care of you properly.  What can we do so you will continue to really, really like working here for us?" 

Top performers are generally reasonable; you won't hear "double my salary," or "give me 10 weeks of vacation."  You may hear, "Well, I'd like to spend some time working in R&D;" or "I was hoping to start my MBA, but I'm not sure if the schedule will work..."

Then, to coin a line from Picard, "Make it so."

Keeping top performers isn't nearly as difficult as we sometimes think it is.  It's a function of being aware of their value, and ensuring that THEY are aware of our knowledge of their value.  Then, do right by them.  That's your best bet in immunizing them against the coming poaching epidemic...

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Those Who Can't Do... TEACH!

An article in a recent Wall Street Journal once again extols the virtues of getting rid of performance reviews. It's written, of course, by a career academic and author who fancies himself a consultant as well.

Therein lies the problem. I have no problem with academics, per se. I just want them to remain in academia. It's when they venture out into the real world that their distorted perceptions and laboratory theories fall apart.

Someone need to lock those guys up, before they do real damage to some unsuspecting company.

In summary, this gown-wearing, tasseled professor believes that performance reviews have no impact on measurement, pay, development or, in fact, performance.

And perhaps, given his limited, myopic experience, that's been true. And I'm certainly not one to claim that all performance reviews are of great value. Some aren't. Sometimes managers, untrained and unprepared, fail at the effort. Sometimes, we don't communicate regularly enough to prepare them for success.

But to paint all performance management with the same "ineffective" brush is, well, just plain stupid. Well-trained managers, managing performance in a well-thought process, can create a higher-performing organization than would ever occur if we were all left to our own devices.

You would, of course, have to spend some time in the real world to know that. The real reason for this article in the WSJ? The proposed alternative: 

                           "Performance Previews" 

That's right, an entry piece to introduce--in all likelihood--this pointy-haired ivory-tower resident's new book. Didn't see that coming.

More consultant-speak and fads. Yes, that's what we need...


But that's just me.


Kevin Berchelmann 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Training--Avoiding a Train-Wreck

Training is essential for success—always has been, always will be. But like everything else, not all training is created equally. Nor is there one-size fits all when it comes to employee training (leadership, technical, interpersonal, whatever). Some things to consider...

1. Don’t dump into training. In the short term, an employee will only rise as high as his or her trainer. Put an idiot in charge of training, and don’t be surprised when you’ve got intellectually challenged drones rolling off the assembly-line.

2. Segment or modularize training. It’s true that “the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure.” Thinking you can sit a plebe in a classroom setting (or technical training scenario) for five straight days and them actually learn anything, well, that even sounds stupid. Create useable, absorbable chunks of homogeneous learning. Send ‘em out, and let them try it on for size. Bring ‘em back and try some more...

3. Don’t train on anything unless you’re certain it’s a training opportunity. If an employee’s job is to press the big red button when the big black dial reaches “10,” and they don’t, it’s likely not a training challenge. We frequently confuse training needs with corrective actions, and sometimes even discipline. They are neither. Training is for—and only for—demonstrated skills shortfalls.

Olympic athletes need training; professional actors and musicians need training. Even the best professional sports players in the world need training. It’s only in business where we think, “...nah, she’ll be ok. She can just learn by watching Bob.”

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann