This is Part II of the series I promised you.
Last week I shared some of my thoughts on supporting your boss and being a dream employee. Here are some more universal truths:
- Offer solutions, not problems. My first boss after college, Fred Pfannenstiehl, taught me a valuable lesson. He used to say, “Come to me with your problems, and I expect you to have at least three reasonable solutions along with the problem.” A lot has changed in all these years, but Fred’s advice is still excellent.
- Do what you say you will do. Let me repeat that. Do what you say you will do. If you say you will call, call. If you say you will follow up, follow up. If you have a deadline, meet it. Everyone has extenuating circumstances: illness, family emergencies, weather, and colleagues not honoring their commitments, but most of the time, you need to find a way to honor your work-related obligations. By most of the time, I mean 99% of the time. This is how you are judged. If your boss, colleagues, or organization can’t depend on you, then you aren’t a great employee to have around.
- Keep it light. Smile a lot. No one wants to be around a curmudgeon.
- Say positive things about your workplace, your colleagues, and your products. What if you can’t? Well, then that’s a clear indication it’s past time for you to get a new job. You are getting paid to represent your company. If you can’t represent your company well, find a new company.
- Know your boss’s and your organization’s goals and strive to meet them. Think not only about your tasks, but about advancing the organization as a whole.
How do you help make your manager successful?
I am fortunate that this blog is read by employees and leaders in a myriad of industries, states, and positions. There are so many differences in terms of what is important across industries, yet there are some universal truths. Here are a few; I’ll share more in the weeks to come.
- Care more about getting the work done than who gets it done. Whether you are negotiating a federal policy or stacking items on a grocery shelf, if you can help serve the client, patient, or customer, be like Nike and Just Do It.
- Continue to learn. Whatever your position, learn more about how your market, your product, and your procedures are changing. Read about your profession. Listen to podcasts.
- Respect your boss’ decisions even if you don’t agree with them. If your boss, manager, supervisor, or chief gives direction and you don’t agree, be curious. Why are they making that decision and how can you support it?*
- Don’t let your boss be caught off guard. If you are a teacher and you think a parent might complain, prepare your principal. If you are a lobbyist and you anticipate media attention, prepare your manager. If you are a drug researcher and you think the data might be faulty, prepare your manager. Bad news is bad, but it is better coming from you than from an outside source, or even an inside source. Don’t let your boss be surprised.
- Initiate projects that would help with business goals. Don’t wait to be told. If you can think of a way to advance the cause, go for it. Likewise, the more you can complete your work without direction, regardless of your position, do it!
- Understand that your manager is human. He or she will make mistakes, upset you, and not always do what you would do. Get over it and cut him or her some slack.*
*If the decision is illegal or unethical, follow the proper channels to have it investigated.
Want to have a dream boss, be a dream employee!
What are your universal truths?
One of the first questions I ask when I start working with a new client is, “Are you using performance appraisals well, and how does performance management work in your organization?” I guess that’s more than one question, isn’t it?
Once in a while I hear that performance management is working well, that appraisals are written and discussed, and that there’s a benefit to the dialogue. As I said, that’s once in a while. Unfortunately, too often there are cobwebs in the system.
A few years ago, when I was working for a community organization, I asked a similar question. I got answers like, “Oh yeah, we do them. I have my form.” When I asked what was learned from the performance review discussion, I received dark stares. As I probed deeper, Shannon, a brave employee, told me, “The CEO takes a pen and just draws a line down the page and marks every standard as excellent.” I thought, now that’s scary!
I found what Shannon told me incredible, so I asked Thomas, the CEO, about it. He confirmed that it was true. “What,” I asked, “was the purpose of having performance appraisals?” Thomas told me that the board of directors asks about performance appraisals, so he does them. He said it’s simple – he uses the form that he inherited and just fills it out and puts it in each employee’s file. He didn’t even plan on discussing them. Oh my! There are some serious skeletons hanging out in that organization’s closet!
As I started talking more with Thomas, I found out he “just didn’t have time” to write appraisals. Hearing that made me batty. Still, he told me all about his direct reports. What each employee was doing well, and what each had trouble managing. He talked for a long time and in great detail. I returned to my office and I wrote drafts for him. Neither one of us realized it, but we were starting a process that lasted over a decade. Every year, I would ask Thomas questions, and he would answer. In the end he would have a draft performance appraisal for each of his direct reports. Someone told me that I was “ghost writing” but I wasn’t really; I was just capturing and organizing his thoughts.
As a result of our work together, Thomas’ senior leadership team has had performance appraisals for the past 11 years. They discuss their goals, accomplishments, and challenges with Thomas at least once a year. The courageous conversations are happening. And, as you would guess, once Thomas started, it spread throughout the organization. The culture of the organization shifted.
If the words, “performance management” are just words, it’s time to take action.
Do you find the performance appraisal process in your organization to be helpful? Do you learn from it?
Performance appraisals can be either a trick or a treat. I hope yours will be both sweet and helpful.