Are You Ready to Lead in a Crisis?

A good manager can help mitigate the trauma of a workplace crisis.  This applies to all types of upsetting events including sudden deaths, natural disasters, terrorism, robberies, product failure, layoffs, bad publicity, and/or workplace violence.  Preparation is the key when facing a serious crisis.

Not sure if you are prepared or not?

  1. Find out if there is a crisis plan in place for unforeseen events.  Too many organizations are surprised when a crisis occurs.  If you are not satisfied with what you find, lead the charge to review and revise the plan.
  1. Learn about the basics of critical incident response in order to avoid pitfalls.  All crisis counseling and communication are based on a model of resiliency.  In a recent presentation, Bob Vanderpol, President of Crisis Care Network, said that resiliency factors include a variety of healthy behaviors such as a belief in something bigger than oneself to help move forward, good self-care, and access to a strong support system.  Knowing how to communicate an expectation of recovery takes some preparation.
  1. As a manager, your employees will look to you for information and guidance. The EAP can be on site to talk to employees but the real message comes from leadership.  Access your EAP quickly for help with messaging about the incident.
  1. People need information to move away from their anxiety. The EAP will help with a script to help you and other senior leaders and help you to get comfortable delivering the news.  The message should be clear and direct.  Employees will be comforted when they see you act with compassion and confidence.  They want to know what you know and how the organization will be responding.
  1. Acknowledge that the events have impacted you and that you understand that others will be impacted too.  Be prepared and open to a wide variety of reactions and show care and concern for others.

Good crisis leadership is critically important, yet many managers are caught off guard.  Work with the EAP to position leaders as caring, honest and hopeful.   You will encourage resiliency and help people get back on track quickly.

Stressed-out Employees: How Can Managers Help?

Stress causes significant work productivity issues and ultimately affects the performance of a work group.  As a manager, you can make a difference!

1. Show that you take stress management seriously. Left ignored, stress can have debilitating effects on the health, welfare, and productivity of employees.

2. Remind employees to practice good stress management including physical exercise and good nutrition. Remember: what you do to manage your own stress sends a strong message to employees.

3. Practice good time management to reduce chaos in work.  Demonstrating your own skills in this area by getting organized, prioritizing projects and tasks, eliminating clutter, and keeping a daily to-do list.

4. During times of change, make sure people understand the changes that are taking place and the new requirements of their job.  “Big picture” knowledge may help them see where the changes fit in.  Define roles and empower decision-making.

5. Stress at work often results from poor communication, lack of feedback, and comments that make one feel undervalued.  If you are unsure whether you are causing unneeded stress, find ways to solicit feedback from your employees either directly or indirectly.

6. Tell employees about the Employee Assistance Program. The EAP is strictly confidential and can help employees resolve a host of personal issues.  There is a lot that you will never know about the stress of your employees.

How are you dealing with your stress?  The EAP is there for managers too!

Six Tips for a Stress-free Performance Discussion

Giving performance feedback is difficult for most managers.  Remember these 6 “Do’s” to help you get through the performance review season.

1. Do plan and carve out enough time to complete the review process and create a quality document.

2. Do look back over the entire year’s worth of contributions and keep the most recent performance level (good or bad) in perspective as you create the review.

3. Do look at last years stated goals and development plan and capture the results in the review.

4. Do be clear in how you communicate. If the person is great…tell them and tell them why. You’ll have more consistent performance and avoid having the employee “guess” if they are doing a good job. The flip side is true as well. Be clear if performance is not up to par. Tell them why and what they have to do to improve and offer your help in getting them to a higher level of performance.

5. Do give your employee time to read the review in advance of your face-to-face or voice to voice meeting. The employee needs time to digest what you are saying as well as formulate questions for clarity.

6. Do follow-up with the employee after your conversation to ensure they are focused, know what they need to do and know they have your support.

Start out the new year with a resolution to give constant feedback.  Adhering to the “No Surprises” rule of performance reviews will take most of the stress out of the real thing.

The Performance Review Season is Upon Us

‘Tis the season! No…not the holiday season, the performance review season.  Many of you are about to launch into the performance management process for your employees and the writing of the review is one of the most important tasks you can do as a manager.  Below are some “Don’ts” to keep in mind as you write reviews for your employees.

• Don’t cut and paste from last year’s review.  Tempting as it might be, something new MUST have happened and anyway the employee will know you took the easy way out.

• Don’t put any performance surprises in the review.  When an employee reads their review for the year it should not be the first time they are told of poor performance.

• Don’t write cookie cutter phrases, similar examples of development opportunities or other commentary for your employees.  Contrary to popular belief, employees do share the content of the review with their peers.  No one will feel good about working for you.

• Don’t EVER leave a hard-copy of the finished review on your employees office chair or in their email without a heads-up and a scheduled time to discuss face to face or in person.

• Don’t do the review in a vacuum. Seek input from the individual employee, peers, co-workers, customers  etc. in order to provide well rounded feedback.

• Don’t make the performance conversation a once a year event. Check in quarterly so you remain aligned on goals and progress to plan.

Please tell us your “Do’s” and we’ll publish them next week.


The Power of Thank You

The other day I thanked an employee for her specific contribution in helping us win a new EAP account.  She beamed and responded with, “It means a lot to me to hear that!”  This exchange reminded me just how important a thank-you can be.  When is the last time you thanked an employee? I mean really thanked an employee.  Not just the off the cuff “thanks” that rolls off your tongue without much forethought. If you can’t remember it’s probably because you haven’t really taken the time to be that deliberate with your communication.

Saying thank you is such a simple gesture but one that can be so powerful for a manager to use. In the current economy and with many businesses forced to do more with less, it is more critical than ever to be deliberate about how you thank employees for doing something for you or the company.

Will a great thank you replace a salary increase or a promotion? Probably not, but it will set a tone of respect and acknowledgement for work well done within your organization. As salary and bonus budgets decrease and employees are being asked to take on more, you need to pull out all of your retention tools from the manager’s toolkit. This is one that is simple to do and won’t cost you a penny, yet, could yield you a significant amount of ROI.

You may wonder what the difference is between saying thanks and THANK YOU. Here are a few suggestions to get more leverage from a simple two word phrase.

  • Stop and look the person in the eye.
  • Take the time to explain the benefits of what the employee did …what was the impact to you, the department or the organization as a whole.  Be specific.
  • Tell the employee the value they bring to the group.

Next week, try to find one thank-you each day and let us know how it goes.

Managing Counterproductive Behavior

Counterproductive behavior is also popularly known as high-school-like behavior and includes bullying, backstabbing, shouting, acting out, showing favoritism, forming cliques, rumor spreading, complaining, or not getting along with others.  As a manager, who has time for this nonsense?  However, like it or not, watching for this behavior and being able to quickly intervene can take far too much of a manager’s time. Continue reading “Managing Counterproductive Behavior”

Welcome to My Blog!

After almost 30 years of running an EAP and HR firm, I decided this past weekend that I couldn’t wait another day to start my blog.  This urge was ignited by the news that the preview copies of my new book, KGA’s Survival Guide for Managers, are arriving on Wednesday.  The book, which is comprised of 12 short chapters, is a great jumping off point for a meaningful discussion with managers and supervisors around the country.

I am deeply empathetic toward managers and supervisors, always on the front line of business today.  There is no training that can prepare a manager, or even an HR professional, for the types of things that go wrong.  Whether handled well or handled poorly, these issues cause extraordinary amounts of stress for managers.  The issue I refer to may be rooted in personal problems, work life difficulties, employee relations’ issues, complaints, threats – you name it.  The problems that a manager faces can run the gamut- often when there’s no time available to deal with them.

My blog is going to focus on providing practical advice on how to survive in the role of manager or supervisor.  It will only work if you, the reader, participate with your comments and questions.

Let’s get started!