How should I react when an employee is not performing well or makes a mistake?

Frustration is of course the natural response — and one we all can identify with. Especially if the mistake hurts an important project or reflects badly upon us.

The traditional approach is to reprimand the employee in some way. The hope is that some form of punishment will be beneficial: it will teach the employee a lesson. However, some managers choose a different response when confronted by an underperforming employee: compassion and curiosity. Not that a part of them isn’t frustrated or exasperated but they are able to suspend judgment and may even be able to use the moment to do a bit of coaching.

What does research say is best? The more compassionate response will get you more powerful results. The more employees look up to their leaders and are moved by their compassion or kindness, the more loyal they become to them. Conversely, responding with anger or frustration erodes loyalty. (Harvard Business Review)

There is probably something in your personal experience that confirms this. I know there were plenty of instances in mine.

 


From the September 2020 issue of my newsletter. “On management and strategy” is a free, monthly newsletter in which I share my own writing as well as links to articles and research on management, leadership, and strategy. It’s easy to subscribe… and unsubscribe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity: it’s about exploration v. exploitation

Meta-analysis of the research on creativity by Francesca Gino in the Harvard Business Review. The whole three-article series is good. Here’s a sample: Five ways in which managers can bolster creativity:

  1.  Hire for curiosity;
  2. Model inquisitiveness;
  3. Emphasize learning goals;
  4. Let employees explore and broaden their interests; and
  5. Have “Why?” “What if…?” and “How might we…?” days.

Not convinced?

She identifies two tendencies that restrain managers from encouraging curiosity:

  1. They have the wrong mindset about exploration, often thinking that letting employees follow their curiosity will lead to a costly mess; and
  2. They seek efficiency to the detriment of exploration.

It’s the old exploitation-exploration dilemma. James March’s paper is a classic on this. Knut Haanaes provides great examples in this TEDtalk.

 


From the September 2020 issue of my newsletter. “On management and strategy” is a free, monthly newsletter in which I share my own writing as well as links to articles and research on management, leadership, and strategy. It’s easy to subscribe… and unsubscribe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lesson from jazz legend Miles Davis

Loose improvisation is integral to jazz, but we all know Miles Davis as a very exacting character. He could be mean, demanding, abrasive, cranky, hypercritical, and we might conclude, given these personal qualities, and the consistent excellence of his playing, that he was a perfectionist who couldn’t tolerate screw ups. [Herbie] Hancock gives us a very different impression, telling the tale of a “hot night” in Stuttgart, when the music was “tight, it was powerful, it was innovative, and fun.”

Making what anyone would reasonably call a mistake in the middle of one of Davis’ solos—hitting a noticeably wrong chord—Hancock reacted as most of us would, with dismay. “Miles paused for a second,” he says, “and then he played some notes that made my chord right… Miles was able to turn something that was wrong into something that was right.” Still, Hancock was so upset, he couldn’t play for about a minute, paralyzed by his own ideas about “right” and “wrong” notes.

[Says Hancock:] What I realize now is that Miles didn’t hear it as a mistake. He heard it as something that happened. As an event. And so that was part of the reality of what was happening at that moment. And he dealt with it…. Since he didn’t hear it as a mistake, he thought it was his responsibility to find something that fit.

Hancock drew a musical lesson from the moment, yes, and he also drew a larger life lesson about growth, which requires, he says, “a mind that’s open enough… to be able to experience situations as they are and turn them into medicine… take whatever situation you have and make something constructive happen with it.”

(…)

What matters, Davis is quoted as saying, is how we respond to what’s happening around us: “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” Or, as he put it more simply and non-dualistically, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”

Source: Open Culture

 

 

 

Two crashes, 346 dead, no one taking responsibility: Will anyone pay?

A case study of real lives lost.

Technical design flaws, faulty assumptions about pilot responses, and management failures by both The Boeing Company (Boeing) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) played instrumental and causative roles in the chain of errors that led to the crashes of Lion Air flight 610 in October 2018,1 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in March 2019,2 that resulted in the tragic and preventable deaths of 346 people. Both crashes involved Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. (p. 5)

The report reveals several unmistakable facts. The MAX crashes were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake, or mismanaged event. They were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA—the pernicious result of regulatory capture on the part of the FAA with respect to its responsibilities to perform robust oversight of Boeing and to ensure the safety of the flying public. The facts laid out in this report document a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing. It also illuminates numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA that played a significant role in the 737 MAX crashes.  (p. 6)

Boeing does not appear to have fully accepted the lessons from the MAX accidents or taken responsibility for design errors. Without that recognition it is hard to believe that Boeing will make the changes necessary to improve its safety culture. (p. 230)

Source: Final Committee Report on the Design, Development, and Certification of the Boeing 737 MAX, September 2020,  accessed 200918.

For committee activities, see https://transportation.house.gov/committee-activity/boeing-737-max-investigation, accessed 200918.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A calling, a lifetime dedication to an audacious project, and the interview question

Towering above the nearby blocks in the Eixample district of Barcelona, the Sagrada Família is unmistakable for its colossal scale and its convention-defying architecture.

Looking like a Gothic cathedral seen through a surreal fairytale filter, this is the most audacious project of the influential Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). More than 135 years after construction began and long after Gaudí’s death it is quite visibly still a work in progress.

Stone Cut is a brief profile of the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, who, for 40 years, has made finishing Gaudí’s would-be masterpiece his life’s work. “I was awakened by a piece of stone.”

This last sentence is intriguing.

I say we don’t really know who someone is until we know their story; until we know what brought them here.

Come to think of it, that might be the best way to start a job interview.

Not unlike what doctors and lawyers do:

So, tell us, what brings you here today?

 

See also

Post-covid19 job interview

Questions and their purpose

 

 

 

 

 

How do I know my people won’t watch Netflix all day?

I don’t follow my newsletter’s1 stats. I put out what I think is useful information for my readers and they comment on what works and what doesn’t. Also, I often post links to articles that readers themselves send me (keep ’em coming!).

I don’t follow my newsletter’s stats but I received an email from the platform that one link in particular in last month’s newsletter was clicked a lot more than others. It is to an article in Fortune by Laura Vanderkam2 titled “Working from home poses serious dangers for employers and employees alike.” It seems to have hit a nerve, what with people working from home3

Here’s Laura’s answer:

Netflix isn’t the real danger. The real danger is that without a physical separation between work and the rest of life, people won’t ever stop working—risking burnout, which has huge costs for employees and their organizations. Wise managers address this, rather than worrying that people will slack the second they aren’t being watched.

Asking employees how they are –how they really are– goes a long way in building rapport and establishing credibility.

 

 

 

  1. https://brisebois.substack.com []
  2. https://fortune.com/author/laura-vanderkam/ []
  3. https://richardbrisebois.com/2020/05/29/a-friendly-reminder/ []

Workers have less leisure time than 40 years ago

Expectation: Gains in productivity will result in a shorter working week which will allow people to spend more time on sport, socializing or hobbies.
Reality: Over the past four decades, men are doing less paid work, while women are doing more. Both have less time for play — with childcare up and leisure time down.
So says a report from the Resolution Foundation in the UK, via Financial Times

 

The real future of work. It’s not what you think

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job projected to have the largest percentage increase in employment from 2018 to 2028 is the home health aide followed by the personal care aide, a reflection of the growing older population in America.

Despite the increasing need for these workers, home health aides and personal care aides typically earn less than $12 per hour. And they are overwhelmingly women of color, and disproportionately black women: 87 percent of paid adult care workers are women, compared with 46 percent of nondomestic workers, and about 25 percent of home care aides are black, compared with 12 percent of nondomestic workers.

The workers we need the most aren’t wearing boots and hard hats; they are wearing sneakers or scrubs. (source)

The real future of work is the people who take care of us – a low-wage service work force that is disproportionately made up of black women and other women of color. A workforce that will grow in numbers as the population ages. And they are largely unprotected by our safety net.

This helps situate the relative importance of robots replacing humans and remote/distributed work.

Also, I can’t get over the numbers.

$12 an hour is $96 a day, $480 a week, $24,000 (for 50 weeks). Roughly $2,000 gross, $1,800 net.

Can one live on $1,800 net?

If you follow the 50-30-20 philosophy, you’d have $900 to cover your Needs (Housing, Groceries, Utilities, Transportation, Bills, Insurance, etc.), $540 on Wants (Shopping, Entertainment, Restaurants, Hobbies, Etc.), and $360 for Debt Payoff and Savings.

 

 

 

We witnessed the lynching of a black man

Note: For some reason (probably human error, that is, me) this entry did not post at the determined time, which was weeks ago now. I’m not saying anything new, but I am speaking my mind. I’m sure I will come back to this in later posts.

We witnessed the lynching of a black man. We all did.

And we were reminded of other similarly barbaric and despicable acts taking place in the recent past. Enough instances to lead one to conclude that this also is a pandemic.

I share Elie Wiesel‘s observation that

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Indeed, “we must take sides.” (Night).

Personally, taking sides consists not only in not being racist but, rather, in being anti-racist. Reading and reflecting on this hand-out from the Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC is a good place to start.

For corporations, statements are a modest start but clearly not enough.

 

Maintaining professionalism in the age of black death

Please be mindful of what our black colleagues are going through. Shenequa Golding’s Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is….A Lot is a good place to start to nurture your empathy.

Here are a few excerpts:

I don’t know who decided that being professional was loosely defined as being divorced of total humanity, but whoever did they’ve aided, unintentionally maybe, in a unique form of suffocation.

If I am to perform my duties for 40 hours a week, it’s asinine to assume that the life I live outside of those 40 hours won’t rear its head. Whether I’m a sleep deprived single mother of two or a struggling college student who really needs this internship to graduate, the belief that only the part of me that fattens your bottom line is allowed in the workplace, is stifling.

This is magnified for young black professionals who are recruited for their culture, but told, in so many words, that their blackness and the struggles that come with it are to be left at the door.

A black man went for a run only to be ambushed by two white men, shot and then killed. A black female essential worker was asleep inside her home when police serving a “no-knock” warrant shot her eight times. A white woman, enraged that a black man asked her to follow the park rules lied to cops about being threatened. And a black man died face down on the ground because a white cop suffocated him.

But yeah, I can totally have that presentation for you by end of day, Ted. No problem.

black lives matter

We’re biting our tongues, swallowing our rage and fighting back tears to remain professional because expressing that hurt caused by witnessing black death is considered more unprofessional, than black men and women actually being killed.

So if you can, please, be mindful. Your black employees are dealing with a lot.

[Photo by Sticker You]