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CEO Alert

Why Managers Can't Increase Productivity -- And What You Can Do

Terri Levine, MCC, PCC, MS, CCC-SLP

CEOs are in the hot seat. According to a report in the Financial Times, the recent trend for average length of stay in the CEO position is just three years, with some being given "the boot" after just 18 months and one after just 12 weeks. This is less than what it was some 15 years ago.
The most common reason for this high turnover is attributed to their performance, with a smaller percentage leaving due to retirement. We could also say a CEO is only as good as his management team.
Studies have proven that the morale of a company's workforce is directly linked to profitability. Low morale, low profits. High morale, high profits. Workers who are happy in their jobs and with their employers perform better, resulting in higher and improved productivity and profitability. And Gallup surveys have shown that the old-fashioned methods of offering financial incentives, company cars, etc. do not produce long-term benefits.
As a CEO, you need to start with your management team and make sure that it filters down through the ranks.
* Managers, like all employees, are starving for assurances that their employer and co-workers respect them. They do not achieve their potential if senior management is constantly looking over their shoulder or micromanaging them. So we need to stop "managing" -- stop pushing, threatening, looking over shoulders, or checking up on them in a way that does not make them feel good about themselves or the work they perform. There are better ways to keep informed and better ways to achieve the desired results from your team.
* With all the problems in the world -- terrorism, the economy, fear of job loss, etc. -- you need to encourage a focus on things that make your managers feel good. People do prefer to focus on things that make them feel good, but many simply don't know how. They've never been taught. Your job as CEO is to instill a positive and happy focus in every employee. Don't let them focus on what they fear might be happening or going to happen.
* Create a mission and a vision that evolve from the participation of every employee, not something dictated by those at the top, which creates an "us vs. them" feeling. The people doing the work also create the dollars -- collectively, you all represent the company, which is why a collective process of visioning is the key.
* Honesty -- Allow each person, from the CEO on down, to speak their truth without fear of ridicule, judgement or reprisal. Today's employees are less trusting, having witnessed fraud and corporate scandals. Remove the red tape and "politics," and you will decrease the fear of speaking up. This way, you can get to hear their ideas. Many a new or improved product or way of doing something better has sprung from the employee think tank, earning and saving their companies millions. You don't have to be a Harvard graduate to have a good idea!
* Hold "What's Right" Meetings -- Meet regularly with employees, in a group setting. There is no agenda here other than to share what is going well, what people are noticing that is working right and what people are feeling good about, and then to share those items that are not yet correct. This process leads to the exchange of ideas about how to make things work better. This is also a perfect opportunity for the CEO to publicly acknowledge the success of a manager and his department. When you say, "George, that was a great idea you implemented. I congratulate you and your entire department for a wonderful success. Great job, everyone!" George and his "team" will go back to work looking for more ways to earn your public praise. You have just made them all feel great about themselves and made them feel their efforts are noticed, appreciated and worthwhile.
* Create Transformation Teams -- The purpose of transformation teams is to have an idea exchange for creating a better work environment. The aim is to have every employee offer input. I've seen immense benefits and improvements from such team brainstorming sessions, from creating more products and services, to new programs, systems and effective cost-saving ideas.
* Focus your managers' attention on creating what they do want, rather than on what they don't want. For example: the kind of community they want, the work experience they want, the way they want to feel at work, and the actions they will take each day to support their co-workers and the company. If employees spend their workday thinking their jobs are stressful or no one appreciates them, or myriad other energy-draining thoughts, they'll create more of those experiences. If we encourage employees to spend their day thinking about more of what they do want and what makes them happy, then that is the reality they will create.
* Celebration -- Encourage your managers and employees to notice when other people are doing things well and acknowledge them. "Thanks for getting that to me before the meeting." "That was great work!" People are bombarded by commercial messages telling them their parenting skills are lacking, their dietary habits are appalling, they don't know how to dress, and so on. Then there are the family messages about how they don't earn enough, or they don't spend enough time with their family. Praise costs nothing, but its effect on employee morale is priceless!
* Morale Check -- Managers need to view their roles as employee checkup specialists, taking away obstacles and challenges, hearing what employee perspectives are, taking their pulse of how they are feeling, what they want, and what would give them a feeling of well-being at work. Then the manager needs to spend time acknowledging progress, looking for greatness, and focusing on increasing buy-in.
* Employee Evaluations -- Most people dread the evaluation process. To some, an evaluation sounds as if you are deciding how worthy a person is. For others, it's simply a fault-finding mission. We reframe the evaluation process to become "Wow to You" sessions. A "Wow to You" is a way to celebrate the great strengths and the lesser strengths you see in the employee. With this new method, you are always looking to find what the manager is doing well, what would be ideal, what isn't a great strength yet, and what resources are needed to support the manager and enhance his or her strengths.
* Community -- Develop a sense of community within the company. Start with the work environment. What is great about it? What would support all your employees to enjoy the workplace more? Is it office space, music, plants, better lighting, parking? Do they want childcare on-site, flextime, job-sharing? Brainstorm ways that bring fun, respect and acknowledgment back into the workplace and create an environment where people enjoy coming to work.
* Skinny Meetings -- Managers often complain of too many meetings that take up too much time. They tune out instead of tune in. It's easy to pare down meetings, if you view a meeting as a time to meet for inspired action. Ask everyone to contribute ideas and participate -- do not judge what is offered. Make sure everyone leaves the meeting with at least one inspired action, and returns to their departments feeling good about themselves and the work they do.
As CEO, you no longer tell everyone what to do -- you encourage their participation in the process of what is being done in the best interests of the company. Develop a safe and happy environment for them to work in, offer positive feedback and keep an open-door policy.
Don't just ask your managers to do a job without ensuring that they have the skills and tools necessary for doing it. If you are new to the position, you need your management team to buy in to you before they will buy in to your ideas and vision. Leadership qualities can be learned. And for the fastest results, consider hiring a professional coach to work with yourself and your management team.

Terri Levine, MCC, PCC, MS, CCC-SLP, is CEO of Coaching Instruction, a master certified coach, a public speaker, and author of "Stop Managing, Start Coaching," "Work Yourself Happy," "Coaching for an Extraordinary Life" and "Create Your Ideal Body." Contact her at www.terrilevine.com.

Article Abstract from April, 2004




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