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    Entries in management (36)

    Thursday
    Jun142018

    When to tell an employee who resigns - 'No need to work your two weeks notice, just get out of here'

    The World Cup kicks off today and in what can only be deemed a fantastic coincidence for the 'Sports and HR' blogosphere, the event has already provided us with an incredible story upon which to opine, one that fits the formula of 'Yes, it is a 'sports' story but it really is a workplace and HR story'.

    In case you don't know what story I am referring to, it involves the head coach of Spain's team (one of the favorites to win the World Cup), getting fired from his post just hours before the event is set to start. Let's all get on the same page with the details of the story courtesy of reporting from ESPN.

    Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain's national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament.

    In a news conference at Spain's training base in Krasnodar, Russia, Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said Lopetegui's fate was sealed just two days ahead of the team's World Cup opening game, as Rubiales could not accept an Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) employee having negotiated his next job without informing his employers.

    "We have been obliged to fire the national coach," Rubiales said Wednesday. "We wish him the best, he has done an excellent job in getting us to the tournament. But the federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have; the World Cup is the biggest of all."

    A lot to unpack there, but just to be sure the non-soccer readers get the important details, here is the gist of what went down.

    1. Spain is one of the top teams in the world, has a great chance to make a deep run in the World Cup, and the coach, Julen Lopetegui has done by all accounts a great job, (unbeaten in their last 20 games), of getting the team ready for the tournament.

    2. As is the case with many national team coaches, Lopetegui had planned to move on from coaching the national team once the World Cup was over. For top coaches like him, coaching at one of the world's leading clubs in the Spanish League or English League represents the pinnacle of the profession, (and is the most lucrative).

    3. The Spanish League Club Real Madrid is the best club team in the world, have just completed winning the European Champions League for the third year in a row, and surprisingly found themselves in need of a new coach for next season, following the shock resignation of their coach.

    4. Combine #2 with #3 above, and we arrive at Lopetegjui agreeing to become coach of Real Madrid at the conclusion of the World Cup.

    5. See the reaction of the Royal Spanish Football Federation above upon learning this news. Essentially they said to Lopetegui, 'Thanks for the notice, but no thanks. Clean out your desk and hit the bricks.' Note, this 'Two weeks notice' is not the usual two weeks notice - it is the World Freakin' Cup, but the people calling the shots did not care. So on the eve the competition, Lopetegui is out.

    So let's spin this story back around to the real world. I don't know for sure how it will effect Spain's performance in the tournament, and you probably don't care. But we do have employees, sometimes high profile and top employees resign all the time. So when should you let the resigning employee ride our their two weeks notice gracefully, and when should you pull a Royal Spanish Football Federation move and show them the door immediately?

    I have three scenarios that line up with the Royal Spanish Football Federation position:

    1. You find out the employee is leaving to go to work with a direct competitor. Leaving Coke to work for Pepsi. Leaving Lowe's to go to the Home Depot, that kind of thing. The sooner they are out of your office, off of your email, and out of your memory the better. Kind of an easy one. Real Madrid does not compete with the Spanish national team, so this one does not really apply here.

    2. You're in an important, stressful period at your shop, and you get the sense that the lingering presence, and the impact the departing person might have on the team they are leaving behind present a risk that is not acceptable. This is the closest to a justification I can get for the Spain move. All of a sudden, all everyone wants to talk about is that the coach is leaving, and the focus on performing in the tournament becomes a risk.

    3. You know the 'two weeks notice' is more or less a paid vacation for said employee, who may have checked out long before officially checking out. If you get the sense that almost no value will be derived from having the departing employee around, you are all better off just acknowledging that and letting them go as soon as possible. Again, probably not applicable in the Lopetegui situation, but stll one scenario that is pretty common in our world.

    I am not sure how this HR move will work out for Spain, it was definitely surprising considering the timing and the importance of the World Cup. I guess we will know in a few weeks.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great day!

    Monday
    Apr302018

    One podcast, forty minutes, three solid talent management lessons

    Regular readers should know by now I am a huge fan of the podcast format. Perfect for when you're in the car, waiting in the Dr. office, on the treadmill, on a plane - or really anywhere when you have a little bit of time. Of course my primary interest in podcasts is the one I co-host, the HR Happy Hour Show, but I also listen to plenty of others during the course of a week.

    Recently I caught an episode of a basketball-themed podcast, The Woj Pod, hosted by legendary scoop-chaser Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN. On the show, Woj interviewed Steve Clifford, longtime NBA head and assistant coach, who recently was let go as head coach after a pretty decent 5 year run with the Charlotte Hornets. Sure, this was a basketball pod, but the best part of the conversation almost had nothing to do with basketball - but rather when Clifford shared some of the leadership and talent management lessons he's learned from a three decade career in basketball coaching. These lessons, while 'learned' by Clifford in the context of a basketball team are pretty valid for just about any leadership, coaching, and talent management scenario, I think.

    I will just break them off, one by one, without too much additional commentary, as like all the best leadership advice, these concepts pretty much are really easy to both understand, and to visualize how they would fit in your context and organization.

    1. Never address your team unless you really have something important to say - Clifford used the example of a coach halting a practice to assemble the entire team and saying something silly or obvious like 'Guys, we need to hustle more'. Professional basketball players, and likely the experienced folks on your team too, don't need you to repeat the obvious. They need you to help them navigate issues, understand challenges, and align the organization with the bigger picture. Wasting the team's time with nonsense is the sure path to them tuning you out.

    2. If someone asks the people on your team about you, the answer you are aiming for is 'He/she wants me to succeed' - Clifford made the important point that pro basketball players all care about their own development, careers, and future opportunities as much, if not more than the team's success. It's silly to ignore that, the best coaches find ways to balance to the two sometimes competing goals and motivations. And the key to to that is not exactly 'caring' about the players/employees, (it is fine to 'care' about them, don't get me wrong), but what you really need to do to get the best effort out of the players is for them to think and see evidence that you want them to be successful. And sometimes that means tough, hard to hear feedback, but most players, (and hopefully) most employees, will see that not as you don't care about them or don't like them, (again, neither matters all that much comparatively), but that you ultimately are invested in their career success.

    3. Leadership and coaching is not the same thing as skill development - Last point on this again had a basketball context in the pod I referenced, but does carry over to the real world too. For pro basketball players, developing new skills or improving their skills has to be seen as one of the basic elements that can lead to career success. But Clifford sees that as largely the responsibility of the player, with support from coaches and other members of the staff. The head coach/organizational leader really is responsible for understanding each player's skills, assessing how individuals fit best within what the team is trying to achieve, and to reach back up to Item #2 above, how to position each player for the best chance at success. And one more sub-point to this, Clifford made a great point about how it is important for players to not lose sight of their strengths while they simultaneously look to develop new skills.

    Solid stuff I think, and a pretty good use of about 40 minutes while I made a half-hearted attempt at improving my cardio fitness on Sunday.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Apr252018

    The downside of performance transparency

    Openness, transparency, shared and socialized goals - and progress towards attainment of those goals are all generally seen as positive influences on workplaces, organizational culture, and individual performance. We seem to value and appreciate a better understanding of what other folks are working on, how our own projects fit in with the overall organization, and probably more than anything else - we like the idea that performance management, ratings, promotions, and compensation are, above all else, "fair". And when we have that better sense of what people are working on, how much progress is being made, who in the organization is succeeding, (and when we believe the metrics that define success are also clear and visible), it seems logical that it will translate to increased engagement, productivity, and overall positive feelings about work and the organization.

    But, (and you knew there had to be a but), sometimes, openness, transparency, and increased visibility to employee performance and the ability to compare employee performance can drive undesired and even detrimental employee behaviors. And a combination of performance visibility along with the wrong or even misguided employee goals can lead to some really unfortunate outcomes.

    Example: What happened when surgeons in the UK began to me measured primarily on patient mortality and these measurements were made much more visible. 

    From a 2016 piece in the UK Telegraph:

    At least one in three heart surgeons has refused to treat critically ill patients because they are worried it will affect their mortality ratings if things go wrong.

    Patients have been able to see league tables showing how well surgeons perform since 2014.

    But consultant cardiac surgeon Samer Nashef warned that increased transparency had led to doctors gaming the system to avoid poor scores.

    Just under one third of the 115 specialists who responded to Nashef's survey said they had recommended a different treatment path to avoid adding another death to their score. And 84 percent said they were aware of other surgeons doing the same.

    So to re-set - UK surgeons were measured on surgical patient mortality outcomes. These outcomes were highly visible in the industry and by the public. And, as humans always seem to learn really quickly, surgeons began to 'game' the system by increasingly avoiding riskier surgeries for the sickest, neediest patients so as not to negatively impact their own ratings. So the sickest patients, with the most difficult cases found it harder to get the treatment they almost certainly needed. And the best, most talented surgeons, who should have taken up these complex cases, learned to avoid them, or pass them off to other, less talented doctors.

    So the combination of the wrong, or at least imperfect performance metric, (surgical mortality), with the desire (however well-intentioned) to make doctor performance against this imperfect metric more transparent and visible serve to incent the wrong behaviors in doctors, and reduce the overall quality of care to patients - particularly the ones who were in the most dire circumstances.

    The lessons or takeaways from this story?

    Be really careful when making employee performance measurements open and transparent across the organization and beyond.

    Be even more careful if you decide to focus on a single performance metric, that the metric is actually one that is meaningful and relevant to your organization's customers (and isn't one that can be gamed).

    And finally, before you do either of the first two things, you spend some quality time with your organization's best performers to figure out what it is they focus on, how they measure themselves, and how they make sure they are providing the best service possible.

    Chances are, in the UK surgeon case, none of the best surgeons would have said they became great surgeons by avoiding the most difficult cases.

    That's it, I am out - have a great day.

    Thursday
    May112017

    Probably not going to get a "Best Boss" mug from the staff any time soon

    Sometimes it can be really tough to be the boss.  Lots of calls, lots of emails, lots of meetings, and probably lots of people in the organization that want a little piece of your time.  They might need some direction, want to get your opinion on something, might need some clarification before taking an action, and sometimes the team just might want a little face time, you know, a little interaction with the boss. Sometimes people feel a little better after getting some 1-1 time with the big kahuna.

    So all that can get tiring for the boss. At least at times it can. The boss, too, has things to do.  The boss probably has his/her own agenda and priorities on any given day. The boss, sometimes, probably comes into work not in the best mood and maybe does not want to deal with any of this 'other' stuff that was not perfectly slated into their calendar for the day.

    So I can kind of get it when once in a while the boss does not really have time for small talk in the elevator or in the hall. Or when, even in a small company, you need about 3.5 weeks advance notice to maybe get 30 minutes on the boss' calendar to day your piece. I get it. I do.

    But time management is only one of the dozens of things a successful leader needs to be good at in order to succeed, and while I don't know for sure how to manage time effectively, (I am writing this at 11:30PM so I can attest), I do know that the wrong way for the boss to set expectations for the staff as to his/her availability and accessibility is to do what TV personality Steve Harvey dropped on his organization, (and as described in Mashable).

    Take a look at an image of Harvey's set of instructions to his staff that was reportedly sent at the start of the show's most recent season:

    Awesome stuff, right?

    Don't talk to me under any circumstances unless we have a meeting on the calendar in advance. Don't speak to me in the hall, don't linger outside the elevator, don't 'ambush' me in the makeup room - basically DO NOT APPROACH ME AT ALL.

    Love it.

    But at least Harvey dropped a 'please don't take offense' at the end of the 14 ways to not talk to Steve Harvey bomb.

    That will make it all better. 

    I actually kind of like some of Harvey's rules. I may try to enact a couple in my life too. And if I do, just please don't take offense.

    Monday
    May082017

    15 Years Later, Still Talkin' About Practice

    This week was the 15th Anniversary of NBA legend Allen Iverson's classic 'talkin' about practice' press conference, where the Philadelphia 76ers star, just a few days after seeing his Sixers team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics addressed the media and was confronted with questions about his (allegedly poor) practice habits. Iverson had a tempestuous relationship with 76er coach Larry Brown, himself no stranger to controversy, and the 'practice' rant stemmed largely from Brown's comments to the media about Iverson's casual attitude towards practice and preparation.

    Some video exists from the 2002 press conference, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), that shows Iverson in full on 'practice' rant, mentioning about 20 times in two and a half minutes that he saw it as being ridiculous as a the franchise player, and league MVP just one season prior, and a legendary fierce and fearless competitor, that he had to spend time well, talking about practice.

    Video below and some more comments from me after the jump...

    A few things about Iverson's comments and the 'practice' issue overall.

    One, the video, and most of what everyone remembers from the press conference was the two minutes of so of Iverson repeating, 'we're talking about practice, not a game' over and over, which makes it very easy to call into question Iverson's dedication and commitment. What is missing from the video, and can be found in the full transcript of the press conference here, is that before and after the 'practice' rant, Iverson talked openly about being hurt, confused, and disappointed in trade rumors that were floating around at that time. Iverson, rightly so, considered himself and was recognized by the league, as one of the very best players in the game. In 2002, he was in the middle of an 8 or 9 year run where he'd be named to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team each year. In our workplace parlance, he was 'top talent' an 'A player' or a purple squirrel if you will. So naturally Iverson would have to be surprised and insulted that the team he had performed so well for, including dragging on his back to the NBA finals just one year prior, would even consider shopping him around the league.

    Two, the rant, and the 'practice' context raise really interesting and ongoing questions about talent and more specifically how hard it can be to 'manage' the best talent. Iverson was a former league MVP, the league's leading scorer, and had an unquestionably ferocious style of play, notable for a guy just 6 feet tall and thin-framed. No one who watched Iverson play consistently ever came away from recognizing his commitment and intensity to winning basketball games.  At the time of the 'practice' press conference, he was 26, had just completed his 6th year in the league, and won his third league scoring title. Was he a perfect player? No. But he was one of the very best in the game and it can be argued he knew how to best prepare himself and his body to stand up to the rigors of a long season and playoffs.

    Should Iverson have been more attentive and subservient to the wishes of the coach, and tried to be a more dedicated 'practice' player?

    Probably.

    Did Brown know the right way how to get the best out of Iverson, his star player?

    Probably not.

    I guess I am coming off as a bit of an Iverson apologist here, especially when most of the people that have seen or heard about the 'practice' rant come to the quick conclusion that Iverson was selfish, pampered, and in the wrong. I guess all I will say to that is as a manager or leader you eventually sink or swim largely by your ability to get the best performance out of your star performers.

    Iverson has some blame here for sure, but definitely not all of it.

    Probably too much of it.