The Performance Pro

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Open Your Door and Lead

Repeatedly, I hear employees grumbling about the things going on in their workplace. They cite examples which always include a variety of issues, culminating in low morale. Then the clincher comes. “Our President is always in his office with his door closed. There’s really very little interaction. We never see him.” This is a typical symptom of the workplace performance crises that can occur with the practice we call Closed Door Disease.

An ad in the Wall Street Journal cited these facts regarding the position of CEO’s:
-With shorter grace periods and higher performance bars, results rarely meet expectations.
-The CEO sets the tone. The personality at the top becomes the personality of the corporation.

Doesn’t it make sense that when the head is under pressure to meet quotas and increase bottom lines, that the relationships with the body (the team players) becomes crucial? Wouldn’t this be the time when high morale could parallel increased production? So what is it that the Closed Door executive just doesn’t get?

The traits of a successful company leader consists of qualities such as being action oriented, capable of innovative thinking, calculating risks and embracing change. While these leadership traits may be extraordinary, there are those leaders for whom rapport building is just not in their mix. They are not comfortable with it and see it as a waste of time. When relationship building skills are a pork chop short, gaining employment commitment and buy-in for a project can be a tortuous process that often falls short of expectations. Hence, a leader often find himself sitting behind his closed doors wondering why his people are making this so hard.

If you find yourself in this position, find a consultant that can help you develop your people reading skills and grow your rapport building backbone. We’ve found that once executive teams are educated on the different behavior styles and taken through certain exercises for discovering how to best communicate with each other, it is much easier to gain commitment, solve problems and grow effective teams--reducing down time and dollars lost. Whether it is an investment in a single session or ongoing consulting basis, honing communication skills can reap bottom line rewards. A few observations to get you started:

Don’t let your position go to your head. Stop and take a reality check. Are you the same person that got you to this position in the first place or have you become more aloof? Are you sincere in building relationships or are you seen as in-effective and insincere? Remember, it’s not how you see yourself that counts, it’s how others see you.

The problem may be that you really don’t care what the employee thinks, you know exactly how you want to run things and don’t need to waste your time listening to him. If this describes you, you need to grasp the concept that no man is an island. When morale suffers, productivity suffers, ROI falls. Is this the result you want? What could you be doing better? You may need to face some hard facts on your
management style. Is your management style “shutting down” your other players ?

If you have been guilty of the Closed Door Disease, the first thing that needs to happen, is that you need to let employees know that you value their input and that your door will be open to them. Then when one pokes his head in, stop whatever you are doing and give him or her 100% of your attention. Take the time to become a good listener and acknowledge appreciation for them sharing their ideas. And don’t drop it there. If it is something that requires follow up, follow up on it. If you use his idea, give him the recognition for it.

According to Simon Wright in his article on the subject in Smart Business, leaders need to be honest
with their people. Many people are uncomfortable in their speaking abilities; as a leader it comes down to this: Get over it! ( You cannot afford to be silent. If you are forced to have lay offs, for example, rather than just remaining silent, like you don’t care about the effect on your remaining employees, address it. Be very clear on how life is going to change. You might say something like: “We are going to have to adapt and move on if we are going to keep our results where they need to be. These are difficult times and it’s not going to be easy.” A serious statement like this is going to be received much better when it is balanced with an mutual level of previously established rapport. Be sure to thank them for their continued effort—and remind them of your open door.

Employees want to be informed of what is going on, this is how you build an employee’s sense of ownership and ultimately increase employee retention. Employees see a true Open Door policy important for a healthy work culture. In other words, this is how you achieve the best results. And for the CEO, results are a good thing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Avoiding the Title of "Jerk"

In finding words to describe a jerk, I would imagine ‘lack of manners’ and ‘showing no regard for others’ might be a couple of the attributions mentioned. The interesting thing about "jerkhood" is that it is a quality usually not recognized by the person holding the title. I imagine there are times when we all may be of guilty of “jerkism” but when it becomes a habit it can be detrimental to relationships and one's very existence. Being a chronic jerk is just not "a good thing."
In Ken Lloyd's book on Jerks at Work, he states, "As tough as work is, particularly in light of the long and arduous hours that men and women are now putting into their job, work can be turned into sheer torture by the presence of just one jerk. Even sadder is the fact that many organizations and even many departments would rejoice if they only had one jerk."
There are symptoms of the condition. These may be things like: noticing your friends flee; not being included in casual social events; co-workers stop talking when you enter the room; or, you find yourself in the middle of frequent conflicts. Just in case you think you might have caught the affliction, ask yourself the following questions:

If someone is a different personality make up from you, do you:
1. Accept then and try to get to know them better and find the bonds you may have?
2. React negatively because you feel uncomfortable?
3. Just ignore them, knowing you have nothing in common?
4. Act rude to them, making you feel like a "bigger" person?

In tense situations, do you:
1. Act quickly to smooth and quietly make things better?
2. Get tense and upset too?
3. React with anger, using harsh words?
4. Speak your piece and make the situation worse?

When talking about others, do you:
1. Never say a bad thing about anyone?
2. Never talk about anyone else?
3. Tell all and then some?
4. Think it makes you look good if you tell bad things about others?

When others are trying to listen to something, do you:
1. Sit quietly and respect their rights?
2. Save you comment for after the meeting?
3. Make comments and disrupt the silence of others?
4. Use this as a captive audience for your own platform?

Do you greet your co-workers by name each day:
1. Always?
2. Frequently?
3. Seldom?
4. Never?

Total the number of your choices. If the total number is:
5-10 Congratulations! You are free from jerkism and an inspiration to others.
11-15 You undesirable tendencies are showing. Be alert to them and tread lightly.
16-20 You are undoubtedly deserving of the title bestowed upon you.

The good news? You can avoid the title of “Jerk” by recognizing the tendencies that get you into trouble and committing to wanting to change your behavior.
--List reasons why you want to change your behavior.
--Identify your most common offenses.
--Make a regular practice of supporting self-talk(Ex. In the shower, turning the car key. “I will make…” "I will do...." "Today I will be..."
--Make a plan for handling these situations better.
--Think in terms of “you” not “I”.
--Make someone’s day
--Be a messenger of kindness
--When hit with a challenge, take a deep breath and think, how can I turn this around?
--Keep an Achievement count – how many times did you avoid being a jerk today?
--Share your goals with someone close to you.
--If you ‘fall off the wagon”, choose the high road. Quickly remedy the situation. It take a big person to say two tiny words, “I’m sorry.”
--Turn to a higher power for help on your life journey.

Thursday, January 25, 2007



Of all the communication skills taught, it would seem that learning to look someone in the eye is one of the hardest to do. It's just doesn't seem to come naturally. Instead, we tend to look at the ceiling, or down at the floor. In actuality, chances are that we are really listening and just trying to process what is being said. People who process information visually tend to look up and to the right while they listen. Kinesthetic processors tend to look to the ground while listening. The result is that the person you are listening to doesn't think you are listening. They may even get hurt feelings or angry that they don't have your attention.

The next opportunity you have to listen to someone; look them in the eye while they are speaking. Note: I said "eye" and not "eyes." Glancing back and forth to their eyes can make you look shifty or like you are not really listening. This is one of the skills that actors work hard to perfect. It is impossible for the person to know that you are looking in just one eye. They will assume you are listening intently.
Master this technique and you will be seen as a great communicator!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Professional Image Pendelum Swings

Business casual is on the decline as companies today are fed up with the lack of professionalism through poor choices on the part of their employees. With the tough economy and fierce competition which exists today, companies need to build their brand in the marketplace and attract customers. If you don't want your company revert back to required traditional business, you will want to heed these warnings: Cover the cleavage, starch the shirts, hide the tattoos, and think clean and classic. Oh yes, and don't forget to polish those shoes!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

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