How Guilt Can Hold Back Good Employees

People with a tendency to feel guilty for disappointing their coworkers are among the most ethical and hard-working people to work with. However, these highly guilt-prone people may be the most reticent to enter into partnerships.

By understanding this phenomenon, managers can make the best decisions about team-building and increase productivity. (For more, click here.)

As a supervisor, how can you use the research discussed in this article to create effective workplace dynamics and increase productivity? As an employee, how can you put to use this research in your work life?

When It Comes to Making Good Decisions, Bad Options Can Help

Think of the worst idea ever for a new business venture, one that is guaranteed to fail. Or try to imagine a truly terrible, good-for-nobody new government policy. Or even, as a class of grade school kids I know recently did, the worst idea for a birthday party. (For the record, some of those terrible party ideas included holding the event in a sewer, a joint birthday party/funeral, and, worst of all, a party with no cake.)

My guess is that this exercise, which I often run with my students and clients, was easier for you than it would have been had I asked you to come up with a great idea instead.

Many of us are in search of the elusive good idea … (For more, click here.)

Would you use this bad-ideas exercise? When and how would you do so?


Six Ways to Be a More Approachable Leader

Never underestimate the importance of being approachable to effectively managing your organization. When you are approachable, people can relate to you. They understand what is needed for success and are willing to do what it takes to get the work done. When others believe you are open to hearing what they have to say, they will tell you the things you need to know.

Being approachable doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you’re doing whenever someone needs your attention. It does mean that when you give your attention, you give it fully. Here is what it looks like … (For more, click here.)

Are you an approachable leader? Which of the characteristics discussed in this article describe you? How can you do better in this area?

Managing a Team That’s Been Asked to Do Too Much

Recent cases highlighted in the media suggest that executives, in a desperate quest to quench the market’s unquenchable thirst for growth, are ignoring reason and dictating growth targets so insurmountable that their employees are turning to unethical and perhaps illegal means to achieve their goals (e.g., Wells Fargo, Enron, VA). Are you worried about something like this happening in your organization? You might believe that you’re an innocent pawn in this game, but as a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that unreasonable targets don’t unleash harmful behaviors on your team.

Harmful behaviors come in many forms. At the relatively mild end of the spectrum, unrealistically high targets can motivate employees to game the system using short-term tactics that can be destructive in the long run. Common examples of such trade-offs include upselling products or services that are of little value to the customer or selling at unprofitable prices. Less-common but more-dire consequences of unrealistic targets include … (For more, click here.)

Have you ever been on a team that has been asked to do too much? Led a team that’s been asked to accomplish far more than available resources will allow? What from this article will you use when you find yourself in that situation again?

When You Should Ask–Not Tell–Subordinates What to Do

Your instinct as a first-time manager is to tell people what to do. It’s not asking versus telling, it is telling versus asking.

After all, you’re in charge, and that’s what bosses do. Or not.

Telling works great in fire drills, emergency rooms, and battlefield situations. In most other settings, asking is your go-to approach. It’s easy to bark orders. Instead of wasting your valuable time explaining, you point and command. Telling is a go-to tactic for many managers.

It’s a lousy tactic. (For more, click here.)

What from this article will you put into practice tomorrow? Next week? Never?

Radical Candor–The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss

Kim Scottco-founder of Candor, Inc., has built her career around a simple goal: Creating bullshit-free zones where people love their work and working together. She first tried it at her own software startup. Then, as a long-time director at Google, she studied how the company’s leaders created an environment where the joy that people took in their work felt almost tangible. As a faculty member at Apple University, Scott learned how Apple takes a different path but is equally committed to creating the conditions where people can do the best work of their careers and love doing it. Along the way, she managed a lot of teams in various states of euphoria and panic. And while she did a lot right, she’d be the first to admit everything she did wrong.

The good news is that Scott, now an acclaimed advisor for companies like Twitter, Shyp, Rolltape, and Qualtrics, has spent years distilling her experiences into some simple ideas you can use to help the people who work for you love their jobs and do great work. “At Google, I was really curious — did creating such a great work environment require having the world’s greatest business model? The answer is no. Luckily, there are some things that any of us can do, even before the profits start rolling in.”

The single most important thing a boss can do, Scott has learned, is focus on guidance: giving it, receiving it, and encouraging it. Guidance, which is fundamentally just praise and criticism, is usually called “feedback,” but feedback is screechy and makes us want to put our hands over our ears. Guidance is something most of us long for.

At First Round’s recent CEO Summit, Scott shared a simple tool for ensuring that your team gets the right kind of guidance — a tool she calls ‘radical candor.’ (For more, click here.)

What from this article can you put in to practice in your interactions with your employees? To your work life in general?

Completing this 30-Minute Exercise Makes Teams Less Anxious and More Productive

Here’s a funny thing about work: We spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family. Yet more often than not, we don’t really understand our co-workers—because being honest with one another is scary.

When a teammate’s lack of organization annoys us, we vent to others. When a boss says “this is fine” (not “this is great”), we wallow in anxiety. Many of us figure out our colleagues’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes through trial and error, not through explicit conversation.

This strikes me as a colossal waste of time, productivity, and happiness. Ignoring these issues just leads to … (For more, click here.)

What from this article will you use next time you are in a team situation?

OPM’s Guidance on Firing Bad Employees Will Remind You That It’s Complicated

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday reminded federal managers that they have several tools at their disposal to discipline poor performers or employees engaged in misconduct.

OPM released 22-page guidance — not intended to be “comprehensive” — outlining the various disciplinary procedures for Title 5 employees, depending on whether the issue is performance-related, or a result of misconduct. The guidance walks agencies through the proper steps, including notification and documentation, required for suspending, reassigning, demoting and firing employees and members of the Senior Executive Service.

“Maximizing employee performance and addressing misconduct, when appropriate, is a critical responsibility of managers and supervisors,” wrote acting OPM Director Beth Cobert in an accompanying memorandum. “If the available management tools are used appropriately and when needed, managers and supervisors have an opportunity to deter future performance or misconduct challenges, and employees have an opportunity to improve their performance or correct their behavior, all of which will benefit the agency.”

The OPM guidance, as government documents go, is pretty informative and jargon-free. But the guidance, which outlines an extensive process for many disciplinary actions, also is a … (For more, click here.)

Have you ever been involved in having to deal with misconduct or poor performance? What tips would you have for others having to do the same?

When No One Speaks the Truth at Work, You Face a Choice

I would be shocked if you couldn’t recall being in a meeting where someone in a position of authority uttered something so fantastically full of crap that you thought you might choke. I would be even more shocked if the general response of the individuals present in the meeting wasn’t aerobic head nodding. In general, people struggle to speak truth to power.

Accountability Without Authority

A client of mine described a situation where the overseas leader rolled out his latest mandate for safety. Henceforth, the safety manager at each location is to be responsible for all accidents. If there is an accident, the safety manager is to blame. My client asked about the authority and autonomy for the position. After a lot of double-talk, it turned out there was no … (For more, click here.)

Have you ever experienced this? How did it impact your organization’ s ability to accomplish its mission and your ability to successfully do your job?

Want to Improve Government Customer Experience? Focus on Employee Morale

Federal efforts to improve agency interactions with citizens will fall short unless employees are fully invested in the process, understand the goals, have a say in how to make improvements and are rewarded for their work.

Recent studies of the private sector have found that employee engagement goes hand in hand with the quality of customer experience they provide. Federal leaders should focus on this connection, considering the government lags well behind the private sector on employee engagement, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government analysis. This gap is making it harder for government to meet the rising expectations of citizens for fast, simple, user-friendly interactions.

In the public sector, research conducted by the National Center for Organization Development within the Department of Veterans Affairs found that… (For more, click here.)

Do you agree that the strategies listed in this article can lead to improved employee morale and citizen satisfaction? Which have you seen at your agency? Which do you wish you would see at your agency?