October 21, 2014

How’s This For A Pair? Contest Results and Baseball

By Paul Bieber

The results are in. Seven correct answers came in so close to each other that each submitter will earn an autographed copy of my book. The rules said the first three correct responses, but let’s not argue over a couple of minutes.

Here are the winners:

  • Ian Barker, The Glass Racking Company
  • Ken Gamble, North Alabama Glass
  • Bill Evers, AGC Glass
  • Don Maryott, Frye-Tec
  • Jim Stremplewski, Clover Architectural Products
  • David Tamplen, Service Glass Industries
  • Mike Hayward, AGC Glass

Congratulations and thank you for being readers of this blog.  I have Ken and Jim’s address.  Will Ian, Bill, Don, David and Mike please drop me a note with your shipping address and the books will be on their way.

Let’s look again at the statements and the correct answers, which are B, C, E and G.

A. “You are going to get a 3 percent raise next year, which, by the way, is larger than the rate of inflation! I feel that is especially generous based on today’s economy.” Everyone wants a raise, so it is certainly good news when you say this.  An employee does not want to hear abot 3% raises.  The economy is recovering and 3% now is just the middle of the pack.  Also, your saying this is generous doesn’t impress anyone.  A real big, “This is not the way to gain the hearts and minds of your employees,” goes with this one.

B. “Everybody, come over here to see the outstanding work Bill just finished!” Praise is so important to every employee in your company. It is wonderful to praise an employee, and even better to share that praise with your whole company. Let everyone see that you care about quality, that you recognize good work and that you are proud of the troops. Or will most people think you are showing favoritism in the company?  Winner, Winner, Winner.  This is just about the best thing you can say publicly about an employee.  Share the praise with your whole company.  Let them see that Bill’s hard and/or smart work is helping everyone.  You will build morale if you do this when it is earned.  Don’t do it once-a-month.  It may be twice in a week, or once in three months.  Make it real and it will count.  Privately, reward Bill in other ways; maybe a gift card for dinner at a local restaurant, or movie tickets, or whatever.  Gifts don’t have to be big bucks to count, they just have to be sincere.

C.  “So you made a mistake. That’s OK; let’s try to learn from this.” Sure, you say that everytime someone screws up. You don’t jump up and down and worry what your customer will think. Well, what would happen if you tried this? Do you think your employees will tell you about mistakes before the customer calls yelling at you?  Could you run your company using this approach? Remember, everyone makes mistakes.  And you can always learn from mistakes; in fact, you have to, or you will repeat them.  If the mistake is a lapse in safety or ethics, there is no acceptable excuse in my book.  The ‘mistake-maker’ is toast.  But if this is an ordinary mistake, you can learn from it.  The person who made the mistake feels badly already, I guarantee this.  You can either continue the dreadful feelings, or build the employee back up and make the improvement.  You too can learn from someone’s mistake by altering your training program so that others don’t follow down this path.  If your employees know they can come to you with a mistake and not get their heads blown off, you’ll find out about problems sooner and easier.

D.  “Bill, you did a great job on that storefront yesterday. Please take tomorrow off as a way for me to say thank you.” What a great boss you are to thank this way to Bill. This shows you appreciate good work by your team. Or are you thinking of laying Bill off and want to see how his department runs without him?  Oops.  Loser, loser.  This will always scare an employee, even though you really are trying to do something good.  If you want to reward with a day off, invite the employee to your office and schedule a day sometime in the future.  Never drop this reward on someone without any notice.  You will really have a paranoid staff. 

E.  “Hey Al, can you give me a hand on preparing this quote? You know the labor needed better than I do.” Some managers will never say this as they think this is a sign of weakness that they don’t know everything.  Others will ask for help on things they don’t know. From an employee point of view, will employees be glad to help you as they feel they are part of the team and you trust their abilities? Or will they look at you as unknowing of the job?  Are you comfortable in your position?  Do you think it is OK to ask for help from within?  If you are, then you hit a home run with this question to Al.  Everyone should know that you are the boss, but they also should know that you don’t know everything, and that they have important ideas and thoughts to add to your company.  Asking for help will encourage people to offer help to you and to others in your organization, improving the whole company.  Everyone wants to look smart in front of you; pick the opportunities where this is really needed.

F.   “Hi Mary, my buddy, Jerry, asked me to be a substitute player on his golf league team for four weeks, so I need to take off on Monday and Thursday afternoons. I know what a great employee you are, and I know you’ll be able to cover the office for me. Thanks for doing this.” Will Mary be flattered that you think she is a great employee? Will she now get her chance to show you how good she really is? Or will she think she is covering for you while you go out and play? If it is someplace in the middle of these two comments, is that a good place to be?  I sure hope you have never used this one.  If you do, don’t count on staying in business for long.  A good employee will always cover for you when needed, but playing golf isn’t ‘when needed’.  It doesn’t matter that you own the company.  You have just thrown your wealth and position in the employee’s face, and that slap hurts.  If you had just said that you will be out of the office, with no other context, you would have been OK, but here you flaunted it, and you, my friend, are a loser.

G.  “Hi Sam, let’s have a discussion about what you see as your future here at the company. You’ve been here three years, and it is time to figure out where you are going to be in the next three years.” This is either one of the best sentences you can speak to an employee, or one of the worst. On the best side, you know Sam has done a good job, and you want to use his talents to their fullest extent. He has accomplished his current job, and his work area runs like a Swiss-made watch. On the other hand, will Sam feel that you don’t have a plan for him; will he feel you think he needs a new task, as he hasn’t done his current task well? Is it all in the asking, or is this a question you should never ask?  ASK, ASK, ASK.  Let Sam know that he is a valuable part of your company and that you want to be sure to keep him with your firm.  If you don’t meet annually with your employees to go over their futures, then shame on you.  But even if you don’t, then this question is still a solid hit.  Think hard about it before you ask Sam; have ideas in your head.  Give Sam a week or so to think his ideas through; don’t ask him to come in to your office in an hour.  Before you ask Sam, speak with his direct supervisor for thoughts and input.  What does Sam do well that you don’t know about, and where does he have gaps in his knowledge that you should plan on filling?    You can make Sam your best employee by keeping him challenged in his work.

On now for baseball, Kansas City in seven.  You heard it here.