Please Stop “Improving” Things

WhyindexI hate it when people “improve” things for no apparent reason. Especially, things that really do not need improving. It’s much like looking forward to that perfect blend of coffee at your local shop and it’s been discontinued, for something new and “exotic”. I hate that — don’t you? (LinkedIn, WordPress you are right up there on my list of offenders.)

Change for the sake of change, really isn’t a reason. Sometimes elements truly work well. (Maybe you aren’t aware of that, but they do.) So — take a moment to reflect upon that, rest a bit and enjoy your success.

It is really alright to be still for just a moment.

If you find you don’t have time for that (because you are so busy changing things), at least be responsible. Ask customers what works for them. You may be completely surprised at what you might hear. I know, I’m usually surprised. It’s rarely what you expect.

So — stop showing off.

I already think you are great.

You can stop proving it.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.

What Happens When Leaders Don’t Care

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I’ve just spent the last week with my family at an extended-stay establishment. We are in the midst of repairing our home as a result of water damage. This kind of thing happens all of the time, but it’s not a fun process. We’ve hobbled along with a microwave and a bathroom sink for about 5 weeks. (I can only compare it to camping in your own home without of the advantage of somores) Finally, we came to a point where had to clear out, board the dog and stay somewhere else. We were more than ready for a reprieve from the construction.

For obvious reasons I won’t mention the hotel’s name. However, its parent company is one that has been an iconic brand for as long as I can remember. We were glad to be there — and likely should have taken advantage of our opportunity to relocate sooner. The staff was extremely accommodating, there were hot meals and it was oh, so quiet. No banging hammers or sanding going on.

Perfect.

Until we ventured out one afternoon and noticed a note on our vehicle, along with a sizable dent. Unfortunately — one of the hotel employees had mistakenly backed up into our vehicle. When the employee (who was very upset about what happened) later called to ask to settle without insurance being involved, I felt I should share what happened with the hotel’s General Manager. That was a monumental mistake.

I expected some sign of life — but instead “Crickets”.

As it turned out, she could not have given a damn. She had been alerted to the problem — and performed her corporate duty — informing us that she (and her brand) had no control over what happens in their parking lot. (Remember this was not another patron who damaged our vehicle.) She was professionally cold. She was dismissive. She was unmoved by the situation. She was quick to usher me out of her office.

Surprising, considering that her attitude was the polar opposite of the customer service creed the rest of the staff seemed to follow.

She was the anomaly. I get it. You don’t (or won’t or can’t) care. That was very clear.

The sad thing is she did have control over quite a lot — yet she failed to make the most of it.
A few come to mind:

  1. She could have built upon the goodwill already initiated by her staff.
  2. She could have shown empathy and forged a long-term relationship.
  3. She could have explored why we were staying at her property and learned the story of her customers.
  4. She could have been a leader, ensuring that her customers were a priority.

After all was said and done, we stayed 3 more days at this establishment and didn’t hear a peep from her. Nary a note, or a kind word was extended.

Unfortunately, all of the hard work of her staff (and they were wonderful), really won’t matter in the long run. Because we will never stay at one of their properties again. I did let corporate know — and she wrote a disingenuous note about how sorry she was for what had occurred and if there was anything she might do to call her. (Number given. Although she never even offered her card previously.)

Unfortunately, when leaders don’t care, customers don’t care either.

They walk away and never return.

That is a shame.

AlliedTalentindexDr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent.

It’s the End of American Idol: I Won’t Downplay Its Impact

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They’ve recently marked the end of the long-running show American Idol.

It was time.

However, it was more than the run-of-the-mill reality show. Its format augmented talent discovery by engaging us in the discovery process. A modern version of an old story we love to enjoy — the show allowed us to play a role in offering contestants the chance to change their lives and the face of music.

Some did.

How remarkable.

Whether you are still watching Idol today really isn’t important. (To be honest, I’ve opted to watch The Voice the last couple of years). It is the mechanism of talent identification that American Idol employed that mattered.

We have been exposed to artists (and genres of music) that we would have likely never experienced. At certain points during the show’s run,  I even became emotionally engaged with the process. (I stopped watching Season 3 after Jennifer Hudson was eliminated. Glad to see that she went on to meet her destiny.)

Yes, the process was far from perfect. However, we can learn from it. Moreover, I can’t help but think of how many talented contributors that function just under our radar, within our own organizations. How do we find them? How do we nurture their talent and align their gifts with organizational goals? How do we play an active role in that process?

The onus is upon us to do so.

I fear that much of what our contributors can bring, remains undiscovered. This because we haven’t developed the proper mechanisms to unlock their potential. That must change.

They deserve their moment.

How many moments are we missing?

Here is exactly to what I am referring. We might have missed this. Enough said.

_______________________________

What are you doing within your organization to identify and nurture talent? Share your strategies here.

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Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and also serves as the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors.

5 Operating Principles of the 21st Century Manager

Originally posted on The Alliance Framework:

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When we join an organization today, we rarely envision a long-term relationship. In fact, we anticipate that our career path will take us to many different workplaces, with varying missions and supervision. The days of The Organization Man are long over — and when Whyte penned this 1956 classic, no one could have envisioned the forces that would impact today’s workplaces. Gone are the promises that were once made when we entered organizational life.

More than a half century later — today’s managers have struggled to keep pace with the evolution of modern organizations.

The operating social contract between employee and employer has been forced to flex significantly. Whyte’s best seller depicted a qualitatively different contract within organizations, as compared to those developing today. In that previous world of work, organizations had the luxury of offering security and a predictable future. Employee commitment was derived from — and exchanged for…

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5 Strategies to Curb Your Micromanaging Ways

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If you’ve ever been micro-managed, you fully understand the aggravating confidence-busting results that can occur. Fear of impending failure, decreased motivation and complete disengagement from your work. When your supervisor doesn’t seem to understand the levity of the potential consequences — work life can become quite miserable.

However, if you are that individual doing the managing — and worry that you tend toward micromanaging — there is little advice to actually help “save you” from yourself. In many cases, it may feel that the root of micromanaging begins with the behavior of a struggling employee. However, there is another perspective to consider.

Setting personality characteristics aside — your need to micro-manage could be the result of neglecting a few, very necessary best practices.

So, let’s explore a few ideas to help curb a tendency to micromanage:

  • Become mindful of the potential consequences. Pause and consider that you need to support an employee, not badger them. Ultimately, you cannot control every individual action — and if you try do so you — you squelch autonomy, independent thought and growth. However, the worst outcomes are yet to come: the damage you will wreak upon trust and self-confidence.
  • Evaluate employee strengths in relation to assignments. If performance seems under par, have a conversation with the employee about the scope of his work in relation to his or her skill set. Sometimes an employee is simply not a fit for the work at hand, and this must be addressed in short shrift. If it becomes evident that this was a selection mistake — take actions to re-assign them.
  • Commit to communicating fully. Many performance issues have much to do with unclear performance expectations about the role or how the work should be completed (Organizational style and mores come into play). So, don’t skimp on communicating job-related information during on-boarding and the initial months of employment. Furthermore, review best practices at the start of key assignments. If you invest more time in your employee, there will be far fewer issues to potentially micromanage down the line.
  • Discuss feedback mechanisms. Individual differences reign here. While we all must be accountable, what may completely suffocating to one employee “check-in wise”, may be perfectly acceptable to another. Be sure to agree upon the level of day to day supervision, that works for both you and your employee. If possible, consider utilizing technology (Trello and Basecamp, for example) to dampen your desire to look in too frequently.
  • Emphasize on-going learning & development. It seems that our work lives become more challenging by the day. As a  result, your staff may require on-going training to stay prepared. If someone’s skills begin to lag behind, it is up to you ensure they have the opportunity to seek the training that they require.

Are you a recovering micro-manager? How did you stop the cycle?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and also serves as the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors.

Considering Grit

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I’ve just watched Michigan State University’s basketball team beat Louisville to reach the Final Four, as they continue to follow an unlikely path through the NCAA tournament. If you follow college basketball religiously — or simply get caught up in the excitement as I do — you’ll note that surprise outcomes occur quite regularly.

That’s really why I watch. I always root for the underdog. In this case, it was my Alma Mater.

As it turns out, they didn’t need my help.

A few key elements are usually present in these upsets. In this case, a fantastic combination of youth, talent and exquisitely seasoned coaching. However, there is another secret ingredient that psychologists have been observing, that likely played a role — grit.

Grit can take a solid competitor and transform them into a warrior. (Leaders that can stoke grit likely have the ability to do the same in the workplace.) In this classic research, Angela Duckworth of the University of  Pennsylvania, explored the attitudes and conditions that contributed to achieving valued outcomes. What became evident was that talent is not always enough — perseverance was also required. (See her TED Talk here.)

When I watched the reaction of the players as the final buzzer sounded, it was clear they knew that had done something extraordinary. They had met a Goliath and pulled through, again.

I do realize that Michigan State’s path may end here — as they face Duke in the next match-up. However, this matters little.

With a hefty dose of grit, they’ve already met their true potential on that court.

That is a win in itself.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and also serves as the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors.

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Dangerous Business of Workplace Advice

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In my profession, I am in the business of offering advice.

That may not seem like a perilous role — but I assure you it is. Even when individuals seek me out as a workplace coach (and pay for the content of my advice), they are not always open to receive what I have to offer. This may be related to something researchers call “Feedback Orientation”. (Read more about that here.) However, this may have more to do with the fact that people, are quite complicated.

Although clients may thank me months later —  I often hear the “sound of crickets” as a response to my honest advice.

It is difficult to sort out responsibility when a career isn’t moving along as expected. It is even more difficult to realize that we own some of that responsibility. It is a process, for sure.

During our work lives, most of us will be in the tenuous position of offering workplace advice. Here, are a few guidelines, learned from years of joyous revelation and bruises.

  • Gauge receptivity. People are endlessly complicated — and we don’t own a crystal ball. So, when someone seeks advice from us we assume they really want that advice. Warning: this is not always the case. Sometimes we simply need to vent and aren’t really looking for advice of any kind. Keep this in mind.
  • Stay in tepid water. A good rule of thumb is this: Don’t open any door they haven’t already cracked open. When discussing loaded topics, things can get heated very quickly. You may not know the complete history of a specific issue or problem. So remain cautious.
  • Timing is everything. Don’t lay down the “tough stuff” when someone feels beaten down by the workplace. Have the foresight to take on a topic in stages. When an individual has had a less than positive experience (passed over for promotion, etc.), they need time to heal. They may need to just stay in process mode for a bit of time. So, hold back.
  • Focus on skill building. I’ve found that in most cases, building skills offers the confidence to move on effectively. Steer your contact toward longer-term mentoring or training. You are less likely to crash and burn.

Of course, if someone seeks our advice — we should try to help. At the very least offer, “What can I do?” and lend an empathetic ear. Even if your only advice is to seek out a professional, being open to the unvarnished version of their experiences, is valuable.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and also serves as the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors.

It’s Hump Day: Offer Your Mind a Kick-Start

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I start most days with YouTube.

That may seem odd to you — but it works for me. Today, Gregg Allman, George Harrison, Green Day, and The Verve are my colleagues. My partners in crime. My morning coffee mates.

Yesterday, it was Aretha. Tomorrow it might be Chopin. I’m not sure. I’m completely open.

We often forget that we must leave ourselves the room to be our best. (Certainly our brains require this.) When pushed to the limits, working on only fumes, we’re likely to fail.

I’m not sure what works for you — as the seeds of creativity are quite different for each and every one of us. That’s the beauty of the workplace. We are individuals. So are the required roots of creativity.

So start your day with what works for you. Take the time to identify this. Then become brutal in its application. Take that morning walk — or listen to that audio book — or queue up Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga.

Start your day with the proper foundation.

Then push “start”.

What powers you though your Wednesday? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto.

The Vital Importance of Being Honest in the Workplace

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We’ve all suffered momentary lapses of memory at work. Fuzzy recollections of what occurred on a specific project or initiative — time has a funny way of chipping away at facts and figures. We might lose ourselves in conversation and misspeak or dance around the truth to put another person at ease. However, knowingly misrepresenting who we are or what we have accomplished during our work lives, usually proves detrimental to both work and career. Ultimately, misrepresenting our own history has the potential to derail both promising careers and healthy organizations, alike.

As a role increases in both scope and exposure — being mindful of how we present ourselves and remaining true to our word — becomes an even greater responsibility.

Honesty about credentials and work experiences can affect nearly every aspect of our work lives going forward — and has proven to do so in many realms including government, sports and news/entertainment. Moreover, this dynamic can impact how we fill our most vital roles in organizations today — limiting our ability to match skills with organizational needs.

Of late, this issue has very publicly affected those that we most need to trust. (Network anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for an inaccuracy describing his work experiences. This week it was revealed that VA Secretary Robert McDonald miscommunicated that he served in Special Forces, when he served in the 82nd Airborne Division. He has issued a formal apology. Personally, I thank him for his service to our country. )

From inaccurate resumes to name dropping, the selection process is wrought with misrepresentations and dishonesty. During our actual tenure within an organization, other looming issues with transparency can develop. These situations can lead to problems — both undetected and catastrophic.

For organizations to remain effective, it is imperative that we not only identify needed competencies and utilize state of the art selection strategies. We must also attempt to remain transparent as contributors — so that roles are matched effectively with the appropriate candidate. This includes respecting the exchange agreement that exists between employers and employees. However, whether workplace cultures encourage honesty during selection and tenure, is another topic to carefully consider.

Breaches during these processes can create a myriad of cascading problems, for all of us.

What are your thoughts? Have you been tempted to stretch the truth, where your work history is concerned? Have you hired an employee and their resume was later deemed inaccurate? Is lying a necessary evil to move forward today?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto/NewYork. Her blog The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as a “Top 100 Website for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.

Lower Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images
This post previously appeared at LinkedIn.

Why Brian Williams’ Suspension Surprised Me

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I’ve been hashing and re-hashing the news that NBC has suspended anchor Brian Williams, after it was revealed he embellished stories concerning his experiences. Whether his memories became hazy when recalling events, or he purposely enhanced his story of a helicopter ride in 2003, is really of no consequence. His role as managing editor at NBC required the utmost caution and care when disseminating information — an essential competency for continued success in that role.

I truly feel for his predicament, as we all make mistakes — and his respect his tenure. However, I remain disappointed that NBC didn’t respect the most critical competency required for that role: complete honesty.

Organizations become loyal to their most valued employees — a common and usually positive occurrence. (It is the essence of building a two-way relationship.) However, that loyalty can negatively impact that same organization in cases such as this. Our own judgements can become cloudy, where a much loved or respected colleague are concerned. But, in extreme cases, a parting of the ways is the only solution that really makes sense.

A 6 month suspension does offer Williams and NBC time to sort out his situation, and consider potential paths. However, he should have stepped down from his role immediately. When he didn’t do so — he likely should have been fired, rather than suspended.

Leaders must make tough calls where the essence of their organizational mission is threatened. I do understand that in this case, there are many powerful elements to consider.

But sadly, in some cases — we must part ways with even our most engaging employees.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto.