This cartoon always makes me laugh. In looking at this cartoon, simply ask yourself this question “If uncensored, what would your employees write on a wall next to a suggestion box about you and your executive team?”
In the leadership coaching work I have provided executive level leaders and their teams over the last ten years, I have discovered that there are 3 main complaints employees seem to voice regarding upper management and the leadership team. These complaints or concerns are not isolated. They are common across all geographical boundaries, so take note of these and rather than take my word for it, go ask your employees how they feel about these concerns.
1. Micromanagement: We all know what it feels like to be micromanaged. Your boss, parent or authority figure is constantly checking up on you, breathing down your neck or looking over your shoulder to make sure the job you are doing is absolutely textbook perfect. Micro-managers are usually obsessed with controlling the project and pushes everyone around them to succeed, beat the clock and “do it the way we have always done it”. If you are a micro-manager, you are taking a big risk of disempowering your employees, actually hurting their work performance and destroying their confidence. In this case, it is not uncommon for a top employee to eventually become so frustrated they will leave and go to work your biggest competitor.
Solution: Prior to the start of a project, fully train your team on the plan, strategy, processes, expectations, where to go for resources and when to ask questions, and then…let your employees go and implement the job you have empowered them to do. Give them the freedom to take on the project, and if you do observe an employee going way off track, invite them into your office, explain your observations and retrain on that one aspect of the project. During a new project, you may also notice an employee taking on a task that may not be what you asked, but it is actually getting better results, so take note of that. Ask someone you trust to observe you during the project and to call you on the carpet when you start back down the micromanagement track.
2. Lack of Accessibility. It is not uncommon for the executive level leaders and senior managers to become isolated from the employees of the company. Their offices are located in the executive tower at the top of the building and they literally stay on that one floor for the entire day. This creates a feeling of a hierarchy at play, and as an employee, if you are below the top of the totem pole, you will feel so far removed from the decision makers that you may either:
- Do a really lousy job, because you think no one is looking or cares
- Start down a path that is illegal (stealing, harassment)
- Begin wondering what secrets the company is trying to hide from you
- Quit your job
In my opinion, there is no excuse for this. This approach is the “good old boys network” approach, and is really outdated and no longer an advantage for success.
Solution: Lead and manage by walking around the company on an every other day basis. Simply pop in and out of different departments to say hello and to find out what is going on. Take a notepad or your digital device with you to jot down complaints and suggestions and notice if you see repeating patterns in concerns, worries or doubts.
Another approach to improving accessibility is to hold town hall meetings two times per month, and give your employees the opportunity to gain access to you and your team and to talk to you openly and candidly. During the town hall meeting format, as a leader, your job is to listen and to thank your employees for their suggestions…not to justify or make excuses for why something may not be going so great. It is perfectly fine to explain why a certain decision was made to clear up any confusion, but it is not okay to argue or make excuses during dialogue with your employees. At the end of the day, your employees need a voice, and if there is a negative perception floating around your company, it is your job to change the perception from negative to positive.
3. Wrong Fit. In this scenario, an employee is hired to fill one job and the first day he shows up, he ends up in a completely different role. In my mind, this is basically a form of lying to an employee. If an employee is hired to do one job and placed in another, he will forever be miserable.
Solution: Perform a Strengths Finder Profile on each employee and place them in roles where they can thrive. You can purchase the book Strengths Finder 2.0, and inside the book will be a code to go online and take the assessment. If you discover at the last minute that the job OR the job description is going to change, and it is not a good fit for your new employee based on her skill set and strengths, it is critical for you to communicate to her that the job role has changed and give her the option to stay or move on to find a better fit.