Your practice is what you are

Your practice is what you are

Your company is what you are, regardless of what your promotion says you are.

She is filing her nails, smacking her gum, and looks up at you with eyes that say, “and what do you want?” As a new patient or client, how does that make you feel?  Or she doesn’t even look up as you walk through the door, and you stand by her desk while she finishes writing something. Her attitude makes you feel that you are disturbing her work and should come back later. Or when you walk in, you are greeted by a nicely dressed lady with a big smile, a hearty “Good morning, what can I do for you?”

What do these three ladies tell you about that office, and the owner?

They mirror the management and the leadership of the office. It speaks loudly of the professionalism of the leader and management.  The motivational aspirations of the posters on the walls tell of the intentions of management, but the actions of the staff say much more about the owner and management.

You are Defined by your Actions.

There is a best-selling book on management by Roy Spence entitled It isn’t what you sell, it is what you stand for: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by urpose.  It sold like hotcakes and gave many business owners needed vital information that transformed their purpose and operational basis.  This is all good, but there is much more.

Your purpose standing alone doesn’t cut it.  It is What you do that defines you, regardless of how noble your purpose is, or how inspiring the aspirational posters you have on the walls of your office or in your PR.

Your Company’s Image, Reputation and Goodwill Depends on Who you Hire, Fire, and Promote

 The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.”

– Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility

As the Commanding Officer of your squad, company or even Regiment of employees, the buck stops with you, regardless of the number of your staff below you.  You are responsible for them, for your policies you aspire to and enforce, and for what happens on a day to day basis.  What is critical is the effectiveness of your staff and how you keep them producing high quality products.

How do you do that?  How do you keep the statistics soaring week after week through the actions and production of your employees?

How do you make that happen?

Your employees are acutely aware of what you, the boss, does constantly, so they can stay in step and emulate the policies you actually follow, regardless of what the written policy may say.  If you are the boss, you can take it to the bank that all of them are watching you. You are the key to their paycheck and future. They don’t want to rock the boat, and they want to do well in your eyes and like anyone else need praise and rewards.

Do you stay late and arrive early?  Are you aware of each of your immediate employees beneath you and their needs and wants.  Do they understand your company’s needs and wants? Do they follow your policies and are you aware of their production?

Rewards, Praise, Promotion: The Holy Trinity

Every employee in every company eventually becomes aware of how much each fellow employee is making, and of the recognition you give them for their work through praise, rewards and promotion.  This is a delicate matter for you as boss, to keep morale and production moving on an escalating plane. If you are graphing statistics of your employee’s production, and it drops, you better take a look, it could be symptomatic of a problem. It could be because of a drop in morale because you rewarded, praised or promoted a fellow employee and overlooked the sagging employee.

You better quickly remedy this. It may have been an oversight. If it was on purpose, the unhappy employee should have been called in and explain the reason for the pass over.

Communication is KING

Every employee should know he or she is appreciated and important.  The way to reinforce this is through the Holy Trinity of production:  Praise, Rewards and Promotion.  Of course promotion is the higher of the three, for it implies stellar production, more pay for the employee and more outlay for you. If it is justified you should do it. It is chief of the holy trinity. But if not quite deserved, you should always praise at least.  “Attaboys,, and a pat on the back, or even a certificate of thanks and well done, can be given and put in the personnel jacket. Every employee knows more and more of these serve as armor for any future situation when armor may be needed.

Production is the basis of Morale, and produces employee loyalty and staying power.  Add acknowledgement and you have truly high morale and happy employees.

It can be overdone so that praise become empty and worthless, but it can be underdone so the employee doesn’t feel important and after a greater or lesser time passing of being just a number and a cog in the big wheel will blow, or leave. And there is cost in finding a replacement. It is so easy to give praise, and costs nothing. Calling the employee in and thanking him or her for something, he or she actually that was of value is vital.

Giving titles, a sign on the desk, a business card, is a very powerful and efficient, and inexpensive way to praise and give the employee a feeling of a solid position in the company.

How do you deal with an employee fails to deliver, proves to be stupid, incompetent, lazy or intentionally a problem?  If you are smart, you won’t have to deal with them in the first place. The answer starts with hiring.

Getting that Stellar Employee, or Not, Starts with Hiring

No matter how perceptive, diligent or trained one is in Human Relations, a bad sleeper employee sometimes slips through the grid and that mistake can cost the company. How can you avoid this?

There is just so much that one can ascertain about a prospective employee in an hour interview, but a lot may be revealed.  The employee must have survived a background check of previous employers to merit a person to person interview in the first place.  Even that may be unreliable for many previous employers are cautious, and even reluctant to tell the truth, for fear of being sued by the previous employee. But it is vital that it be done.

There are written personality tests that are very accurate in revealing traits, so these must be used and evaluated before the interview.

Now the prospective employee is in the interview and is being scrutinized by prepared questions that have proven to evoke important information. He or she is showing the best face possible, and many times can fool the most astute interviewer.  It would be best if the questions were a surprise, to catch the new hire off guard, and then be able to see how he or she reacts. For Example:  What is one thing in your life have you done that you are the most proud of? What is one thing you did in your previous job you are proud of. What do you fear? What is your predominant weakness?

A candidate who has an arrogant streak or is suppressing anger and resentment may not be able to hide it for a whole hour. It may pop out through diligent questioning. It is a trial of sorts, but must be friendly for you want your employee, if hired, to love you later, but you don’t want to hire a narcissist or person who is apathetic, griefy, angry or antagonistic which characteristics may become dominant in the future.

The interviewer must know the rules of discrimination, and be careful not to even approach questions of race, religion or sex and sexual preference.

Weebly Method

A 300 employee San Francisco startup, Weebly, invites candidates to work an onsite trial week, paid at fair market value.  It is hard to suppress anti-social behavior when working closely with others for that amount of time. Weebly’s CEO David Rusenko said in applying the “No Asshole Rule:

“Assholes can hide it in interviews, but for whatever reason, they cannot hide it for a whole week. I don’t know why, but it all comes out within a week.”

Slips Through the Grid

Regardless of how diligent and competent the interview, there are always some who show their fantastically able side initially and then, on a day to day schedule, manifest that hidden trait that creates a problem.  The rule is to “fire quickly.”

Suppose your new hire realizes that he or she just doesn’t fit in, or can’t do the job, but wants to keep the job regardless, and doesn’t have the grit to quit and move on.  Their problem should have manifested itself enough for the manager to detect it, and the right and merciful thing to do it let this person go and find work that would be a better fit in another role or company.

But on the other hand, the company may compromise with the No Asshole Rule, and keep the employee because he is a high performer, or “for that one bad trait, he has four good traits going for him, and of course he will be hard to replace—we will just have to make do.”

It is almost axiomatic that as soon as you think plus traits vis a vis minus traits cancel each other out in staff retainage, you have compromised your own values and things are set to go wrong. It is like saying that you can survive by holding onto your bad ways while you have really good intentions after all. It just won’t work. Bad will pull it all down sooner or later. Exceptions should NOT be made.

Dr. Cameron Sepah in an article entitled “Your Company’s Culture is Who You Hire, Fire, and Promote, says:

“I’ll share the system I designed and helped implement at my company. It starts with evaluating each employee on the Performance-Values Matrix. Whatever employee evaluation system you use — whether that’s a formal annual review or regular one-on-ones — employees should be evaluated on both their performance-based behavior and values-based behavior. Both should be quantified on a spectrum (e.g. a 1–10 point scale), but I’ve simplified it into a 2×2 matrix for illustrative purposes.  I also usually use more PC terms, but the colorful language helps me cheekily make my point here.”

One who is familiar with hiring employees and running a business can glance at the above matrix and understand it instantly, for over time any professional having run a business or practice has had to deal with these people and make things go right. If they are successful in business, it is a cinch they have employed either this method of handling employees or something similar, but it is abundantly clear that this succinctly describes all the major categories of employees. It is sad that the good ones are so hard to find, and keep. Take a look at each one in turn.

Incompetent Assholes  (Fire Fast)

These are not just low performers.  They suck the energy of any company as well as sap overall employee motivation by not contributing equally to the workload and are toxic to company morale. Discover and fire ASAP.

Competent Assholes

This presents a catch 22 dilemma to many companies who have a high producing, highly able employee who just doesn’t fit in, who lacks social skills to the extent that is causes interpersonal issues.  They are retained to the jeopardy of the company because they are (1) valuable (2) hard to replace (3) barely tolerable to have in the machinery of the business, but tolerable.  You know this kind of smart-alec, wise-cracking, or angry antagonistic asshole—or one who just finds fault and criticizes everything and everything, gossiping, spreading rumor and dissension. He or she will invariably rub employees the wrong way and not just cause them to leave, but reduce efficiency, by there being bad blood or resentment in the office. It is probably the cause of many other competent employees leaving to get away from him.

Handle:  Separate him—get rid of him.  Or, if you see he may be transformed, put him on what Sepah calls a “Values Improvement Plan”, which is a series of 360 degree reviews from management, peers and direct reports.  If given a chance and improved, great. If there is no change, just get rid of him, he is poison.

Incompetent Nice Guys (Manage or Move)

Here is the genuinely nice guy, but he just cannot cut it, and yet is allowed to hang on, draining the energy of the company and taxing co-employees for he is not carrying his weight.  He is getting a free ride. That is unfair to the other employees, and to the company. So the answer is to see if his incompetence is because of a lack of understanding of his job.  Sometimes misunderstood words about his job makes one look and act stupid, when it is just a words, or some other valid and redeemable reason for his mistakes, find out what it is and correct if it can be done. Give him a chance. But a limited time to fix himself.

He can be moved to a lesser post that doesn’t require the competence of the existing one.  Or, just let him go.

Competent and Outstanding Nice Guys

Given how rare these individuals are, founders should go out of their way to attract and retain them. Outstanding nice guys and gals should be formally recognized and rewarded with raises and promotions.  (Holy Trinity) These are the current or future leaders of your company, and need to be nurtured and cherished given that they are the foundation for your company’s performance and morale.

 There is no justification in retaining competent Assholes

Sepah says:   “there is a myth of the “10x engineer” in Silicon Valley, where a truly talented engineer is 10 times as valuable and productive as an average engineer. Even if one engineer could possibly do the work of 10, if they are an asshole — especially in a management position — they will decrease the performance of the people around them to such an extent that their team’s net productivity will break even or be at a loss long-term.”

Inevitably, like a little decay, it will soon rot the entire tree if not cut out or somehow handled so it contributes. There is no quid pro quo—equal exchange of a little good a little bad will balance and is better than nothing at all. Knowing human nature, compromising and going against one’s natural integrity and better judgment will harvest trouble.

Your practice reflects who you are

The environment of your office, the faces and competence of your employees, are all extensions of you.  You cannot afford to compromise on hiring and retaining any questionable employee.The obvious Assholes, the clearly incompetent, should be weeded out quickly.  You are the best, you deserve the best, so hire and retain only the best. Make sure that you employ the Holy Trinity: Praise, Rewards and Promotion. PRP.  That is the very fuel that propels a happy staff and thus a happy you.