July 10, 2014

Taking the B.S. out of Business. ~ Larry Bangs


“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” ~ Andy Warhol

{This is the first of a series of articles written by Larry Bangs based on his 25+ years of experience coaching, consulting and leading hundreds of entrepreneurial, owner-operated businesses}

If you are an owner, executive or manager responsible for employee performance and continually frustrated with getting the kind of production and cooperation needed from your employees, we might be able to help.

The first place to look is in the mirror.

People we manage will always reflect—in one way or another—our personalities, our work habits, our quirks and, most of all, our ability (or lack thereof) to build solid relationships and engender authentic communication. But there is hope! It’s pretty much the same as taking your dog to a training class. A good instructor will tell you right away that the class is much more about training the dog’s owner than it is about training the dog.

There are a few pretty simple “rules of the road” in managing people which, if we are willing to change the way we operate and follow them rigorously, will truly take the BS out of your business.

WARNING: Do not attempt to implement these recommendations unless you are willing to be unreasonable (we will not accept nice sounding reasons in the place of results that have been promised); cold-blooded (we don’t give much, if any, credibility to stories, excuses or explanations—just the facts); and compassionate (we will listen to whatever your people have to say and make every effort to have the outcome of the interaction be a collaboration, one out of which we both walk away satisfied and having accepted full ownership for whatever has been decided).

Managing people is a dance—it’s vital to establish ourselves as being in the lead and, at the same time, to stay in close communication and “go with the flow.”

So much for the “set-up,” let’s get to the good stuff—simple, straight-forward policies/guidelines to follow.

1. Be sure all employees are clear about what they are accountable for and hold them to account consistently! Accountabilities are clearly defined result(s) they agree to produce within a given period of time with a commitment to improve the systems and methods for producing the result as they go.

Accountabilities are not things they do. All too often, job descriptions are written in terms of what employees are expected to do rather than being focused on the results they are expected to produce. Ask your employees, “Would you accept it if in your next pay envelope there was a note saying the company is in a cash flow crunch and we’ll pay you when we get the money?” Probably not. Employees are paid to produce results, not excuses. That is the fundamental agreement.

Hold them to it—firmly and fairly.

2. Policy: “Complain only to someone who can do something about—and be ready to be part of the solution.” Hopefully, we all have a pretty good idea of how much gossip, backtalk, complaining, etc. goes on among our employees. Allowing this kind of conversation to flourish in the workplace is very much akin to putting a flu virus in the water cooler. Everyone gets infected. And everyone needs to be on board with this one.

The minute someone begins to complain to someone who cannot do anything about the complaint, they should be politely stopped and asked to go see someone who can do something about it. This policy alone, rigorously enforced, will reduce BS by 50% or more.

3. When breaking down a problem, ask “what happened?” not “why?” The moment you ask someone “why” they did something, they become defensive, and the question itself screams out for reasons, explanations and stories.

If we ask “what happened?” we are much more likely to get the actual facts of the situation in a non-threatening way. Get out from behind the desk, sit with them and patiently walk through what happened. They will feel as though you are with them as opposed to looking to trap and punish them. Make them your partner in coming up with a solution to the problem. This is the part where we get to practice being unreasonable and compassionate in the same conversation.

Recognize a pattern? There is a big difference between producing results and offering excuses and reasons.

Employees can get really good at telling stories designed to play on our sympathies and appeal to us as being a good gal or guy. The minute we buy into that, we lose our credibility and, in fact, their respect. Being a good manager of people entails pushing both ourselves and our employees outside our respective comfort zones.

Coming up

“There are four and only four legitimate responses to any request.”

“There is much more to management than what meets the eye.”

“Performance reviews that really review performance.”

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Jessica Sandhu/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Larry Bangs