Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Invest in Your Best: Re-Recruit Your Top Performers

Listening to my friends’ tales of their Valentine’s Days last week reminded me of well, business. Yes, okay, I love my work, but I don’t think of it as a valentine. What I mean is that all the “re-romancing” my lucky girlfriends and I received is somewhat similar to the practice of “re-recruiting”.

In both instances, the object of your attention is reminded of how much they are valued by you. You want to keep them around. You appreciate all they do. You make the effort to give them some attention and maybe a little something so they know that.

Performance reviews are an obvious time to engage in re-recruiting, but any time is a good time to let your key personnel know that you notice all they do and want to reward them for it. Sit down with your top 20% and let them know that you value their talent and contribution and want them to be with the company next year too. Ask, “What will it take for that to happen?”

Re-recruitment doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive. Listening to what your valued employee wants or says “would be nice” and then providing it can make all the difference in the world. Do they complain about their chair? Get them a new one. Do they want more flex time? Authorize that. First of all, you listened. That doesn’t happen enough, and it makes the listened-to feel like they are important and worthy. If you empathize when you listen, you are way ahead . And if you act on what you heard, then you just finished with a gold medal.

Now is the time to re-recruit your standout employees, says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Motivating Employees For Dummies. "Indispensable workers who helped businesses stay afloat during tough times will have new career options as conditions improve," says Messmer. "Employers need to make retention of top performers a high priority or risk losing these key players and, possibly, their competitive advantage."

"Let your top performers know they have a clear career path within the organization and re-evaluate compensation levels to make sure they're in line with what other firms in your industry are paying for similar positions."

A recent WorldatWork study found that nationally, the top recruiting trend has been the re-recruitment of current employees.

"If you don’t want your top talent walking out the door, be sure to re-recruit and re-engage them now," said Marcia Rhodes, spokesperson for the global HR association. "Compensation is no longer the big draw, total rewards are. By total rewards I mean the deliberate integration of pay, benefits, work-life, recognition and career development to motivate and retain top talent."

Rhodes added that the pay cuts and pay freezes of the past 18 months have left employees demoralized, and many studies indicate that a high percentage of employees plan to look for new jobs once the economy recovers.

Re-recruitment is a necessity if you want to keep your best employees, regardless of the state of the economy.  And letting them know you value them, directly and often, is important.  Don't assume they know. 

The key point to remember is:  Invest in your best!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tips for Managing Your Narcissistic Boss or Employee

Do you work for a narcissist?

Narcissistic leaders draw attention to themselves. They tend to accomplish a lot, so they are often allowed to stay in their positions. But how they accomplish things can be brutal. And eventually, people have had enough.

The current uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East are supported by people who have finally had enough of their narcissistic leaders. What makes one a narcissist?

From the DSM-IV, the Bible of psychiatric disorders, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five or more of the following…”

There are nine behaviors listed, including “is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love”, “has a sense of entitlement” , “is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends” , “is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her” and “shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

This not only describes leaders such as Qaddafi and Mubarak in the Middle East, but also describes many leaders in business. Do you recognize anyone you know?

If you have a narcissistic boss, you may be expected to work long hours with no recognition that you have any personal life. You will be expected to be brilliant and on top of things at all times, but will get no recognition for your hard work, and indeed, your boss may take the credit. The narcissistic leader abuses power, lacks empathy, and thinks that the rules don’t apply to them. They are special, and you are not and never will be on their level.

Don’t take anything your self-obsessed leader does or says personally. It’s never about you. Keep your conversations about work. You can try to talk to them about how you work best – it may be worth a shot to educate them about specific issues you’d like to see changed. But keep it professional and objective. Complaints won’t get you any headway with a narcissist, and attacking doesn’t help with anyone. If your narcissist is particularly abusive of their power, get out. They won’t change.

If you suspect you have a narcissistic employee, be vigilant. Don’t share personal information. Stay on top of any attempts to discredit you or others, and ask for accountability whenever there is a hint of transgressions. They will need coaching on how to be a team player.

At their core, narcissists feel inadequate. So contrary as it sounds, you can help your narcissistic employee by building their self-esteem: discover their strengths, help them develop them, and congratulate them on their successes.

Narcissists, as long as they are kept reigned in to some extent, can be top producers and valuable assets to an organization. So your narcissistic boss is probably here to stay. And if you have a narcissistic direct report, your leadership skills will be heavily tested. If you can positively manage your narcissist employee while still developing a cohesive, productive team environment, then you will have become an excellent leader.

Warning: foul language! Again.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meritocracy vs. Cronyism: Coaching the Meritocrat

Most of us would prefer to work in a meritocracy – a place where one is successful because of their talent and ideas are accepted based on their merit.  Realistically, however, the world is not always conducted this way.  People are hired and promoted based on who they know, or as in the case of former US Ambassador Cynthia Stroum, how much money they donate to a political campaign.

Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle philanthropist and investor, was awarded her post as US Ambassador to Luxembourg based on the fact that she raised over $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.  The fact that the President awarded the ambassadorship based on her favorable connections and wealth is not and was never a point of contention. Only 3 of the past 21 ambassadors to Luxembourg have been career diplomats.  Offering an ambassadorship to rich, loyal backers is an accepted practice in the United States.
Cronyism, the opposite of meritocracy, exists everywhere, not just in the highest levels of the US government.  In business, it may be referred to as “the old boys club”.  The emphasis on networking to obtain jobs and key positions acknowledges the fact that who you know can play an equal, and sometimes greater, part in your success than what you know and what you’ve accomplished.
All workplaces are a combination of meritocracy and cronyism, and from what I have seen in my work with a variety of organizations, the emphasis is usually on the side of meritocracy.   Having connections does grease the opening door, and it can be a deciding factor when determining who to hire given a  slew of candidates with similar talents.   But if someone cannot perform up to expected standards,  they usually don’t keep their position, whether or not they have wealth or connections.  Ambassador Stroum turned out to be a power abuser, and recently resigned from her position after an in-depth investigation of her leadership practices.  When diplomats request re-assignment to Iraq and Afghanistan from Luxembourg, it’s one strong indication of poor leadership. 
Beyond getting hired or promoted, maintaining good relationships are essential for getting projects approved and ideas accepted.  Most of us recognize that in order to be effective within an organizational culture we must do a certain amount of strategic networking.  However, a meritocrat does not acknowledge the fact that connections and relationships may come into play.   Meritocrats firmly believe that everyone and everything should be judged solely on their merits.  When their newest great idea gets shot down, they are outraged, affronted or confused.  Life is unfair in their eyes.  Obviously their idea was overlooked by short-sighted, clueless egotists.
Meritocrats, according to James Waldroop and Timothy Butler in their book  The 12 Bad Habits that Hold Good People Back,  are often those who scored well on standardized tests growing up.  They were rewarded for their hard work and intelligence, and expect that obvious exchange to continue throughout their lives. 
If you have a meritocrat on your team (or if you are one)  be aware of how destructive  this can be to their career, and how much it can not only limit their success, but their team’s success.  They may have excellent ideas that will never truly get off the ground unless they learn how to involve others.  Most meritocrats are hard-working, smart employees who want to contribute to the organization.  They need help to do that effectively, and before they self-sabotage.
Another way to look at it is that they haven’t grasped the nuances of their organizational culture.  They need guidance to understand how to get things done and as in any culture, the balance of merit and relationships needs to be taken into account.
As a manager of a meritocrat, coaching is required.  First of all they need to know that you empathize with their position.  Unless they hear something like “It does seem unfair.  Your idea is excellent, and it is a shame others don’t recognize it’s value”, they will not be open to hearing what you have to say next.
And what you say next is critical to them understanding that just having and communicating an excellent idea is not enough.  Do they want to be right, or do they want to be effective?  Do they want to get their own way or do they want to be successful in their project?  Naturally, we all want both, but that is not an option here. 
With questions, move the meritocrat from blaming and righteous indignation to generating ideas to dissolve their roadblocks.  Discuss what and who the obstacles are, and who needs to be involved.  What are the points that can be compromised on and how can the key decision makers be drawn in? 
Once you’ve pulled them into a solution orientation and they are started on an action plan, they will need reinforcement to stay on course.  They are meritocrats so they will fall back on their righteousness again.  Be sure you are there to remind them that what also has merit is rewarding loyalty, friendship and support.  And although that may look like “cronyism”, it is a fact of life. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How Was Your First Day at Work?

Happy New Year!
Chinese New Year brings a number of good memories for me. One of them involves my best ever first day at work.

I had been hired as an international sales and marketing manager, responsible for the Asia Pacific region. My first day of work was also the first day of the Lunar New Year. The entire international department went out for dim sum.

I absolutely love dim sum, but the experience is even more enriching when you have native Chinese accompanying you. They can order in Chinese, and they actually know what everything is. There were at least two Chinese people in our department, including my boss, who paid for the lunch on the company credit card.

Sweet! It was a comfortable and fun way to get to know my new colleagues. But the fun wasn't over. As the lunch drew to an end, my new boss turned to me. "Sally, most of us are carpooling over to AAA to apply for our international drivers licenses. I need someone to drive my car back to work. Will you do it?"

My boss drove a sleek black Porsche convertible. I had never driven one before. But would I do it? No question. I was flattered that on my first day of work, my boss entrusted me with that responsibility.

As I cruised (carefully!) back to the office after that delicious Chinese feast, I thought I had found the best job ever. I wasn't too far wrong.

I have had many first days and some of them have been surprisingly disappointing. How one is onboarded, starting with the first day - and actually even before, during the interview process - is a key indicator of their future experiences with the organization and the culture within it.

How do you welcome a new employee? What do you want them to experience on their first day? What was your best experience of a first day at work?

What was your worst first day at work?