When we are not operating according to our vision, we allow office drama to sink our boat.
What are your thoughts on office drama?
Is it inevitable?
Is it preventable?
Do you enjoy hearing the latest gossip?
Are you actively fanning the flames?
Whether you have put much thought into it or not, office drama is costly. A study in 2008 discovered that employees in the United States spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict which CPP estimated as costing over $359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days.
Are you still a fan (or bystander) of drama in your office?
What is that costing you if each of your employees is spending 2.8 hours or 7 % of their 40 hour work week on office drama? Our organization is a boat. We want our team members rowing together. We want to move water with our oars not be taking water into our boat.
Office drama causes leaks
The calculation above doesn’t even account for the collateral damage related to the fallout from office drama. What would you gain as an organization if every employee in your office could increase engagement and efficiency by 7%?
When we don’t address the leaks, we expend energy plugging holes rather than rowing. In service based industries such as property restoration, organizations are struggling to attract, develop and retain good people. We respond to floods that cause water damage to homes and businesses but we should not be allowing floods of dysfunction to needlessly drain our team’s energy.
Drama that goes unaddressed by leaders leads to water flowing into the boat and resources flowing out of the organization.
We need to intentionally develop:
Aligning your hiring practices with your values
Turnover is a symptom of a leaking culture.
Are you frustrated by high turnover?
You feel the burden of having to continually recruit and train new employees. Beyond that pain there are hard costs for your organization as well as the demoralizing toll of strolling through the graveyard of co-workers past. Poor hiring habits and turnover are energy drains.
The cycle of hiring, training and losing employees is costly.
If you want to stop taking on water start by developing clarity on vision and values. Apply this clarity to the hiring process. Don’t waste your time recruiting people that have skills but are not good value or cultural fits.
While you cannot control everything your team members do once they are in the organization, you can control who you allow on the team. Start respecting the process.
Invest in the process of rowing together
The Blueprint of Success hinges on your ability to intentionally develop your people and your process. You need your people in order have a team and you need a team in order to pursue your vision. When drama starts to leak through the organization, it is important to catch it early before it becomes a flow.
We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to invest in development but somehow we have time to continually plug the holes, pump water from the boat and chase drama around the office. Start the process of facing the facts and making some progress in your process. Nothing is more important to progress than rowing together.
How organizations approach training and certification has a direct effect on development and retention.
In the property restoration industry we all have heard multiple employers complain that they sent their employees off to a water damage certification class only to lose them in a short period of time to their competitors. These same persons in positions of leadership believe that the issue is 100% on the employee side. If we take a step back to dig beneath the surface are we able to determine whether the symptoms give us more insight on the potential cause(s)?
Organizational approach to training
How does your organization approach training within your team? Is training a priority in the sense that those responsible come prepared to meetings with relevant information? Often designated training time approaches with no preparation and is utilized by leadership to air out opinions on how the team is coming up short on execution. When a team has experienced water, fire and hazardous restoration employees, there are plenty of resources to facilitate sharing of knowledge from within.
Questions leaders should ask about training
Organizational approach to certification
How does your organization approach certification with your team? Is certification something that is earned and celebrated? Most organizations are one of two extremes - A) certify everyone from day one or B) certify as few persons as possible.
Certification extreme A often puts the cart before the horse and produces employees who have the book smarts without any field experience which creates some tension with their trainers. Being able to quote the IICRC S500 standard reference guide for professional water damage restoration is only one of many steps to being able to successfully perform mitigation.
Certification extreme B creates an environment without opportunity to expand knowledge or promotion within the team. While those in leadership would say they value industry certification, they either value it too much or do not practice what they preach. The end result is that only a few designated representatives become the information silos in the workplace.
Organizational application of certification
Whether you certify everyone or only a select few, what do you do with certification on your team? If your competitors are lining up to pay your employees who have become more valuable by completing benchmarks such as IICRC S500 or EPA RRP, why are you not competing for your own internally developed resources?
Common organizational responses to certification
Optimizing training and certification
Lead by example. As a person in a position of leadership, are you still actively learning new things about your industry? While the leader should not be the only one acquiring certification, they should lead by example that on going education and personal development are important. When was the last time you learned and/or shared something?
Invest in your greatest assets. Do you invest in regular training to develop your teams abilities and opportunities? Employee retention in the current economy is more difficult and costly than customer acquisition. Certification alone is not the cure all to employee development but it should be viewed as a valuable tool for the team as well as the team members.
Celebrate achievement. Who doesn’t like to celebrate? What does your team celebrate? Do you celebrate certification both leading up to and following completion of the course? Do you make an effort to notice and share the day-to-day wins of your team?
Don’t allow negativity to steer the organization
Perhaps many organizations are speaking their future into reality when they view their team members in a negative light. If you are fearful or suspicious of your people leaving the organization rather than blame them for being unreliable, make an effort to create an organization that they wouldn’t want to leave. Easier said than done, but clearly focusing on blaming others and complaining to your friends with similar negative views isn’t fixing the problem.
Structure your team for success with the right view of span of control, interactions and direct reports.
When an organization grows beyond the one-person operator delivering goods and/or services out of their garage, the process of building systems for success becomes essential to long term health. What works as a small company has to evolve as the company grows or the organization will outgrow the preceding systems. As an organization grows, adapts, changes and evolves, one question every leader and organizational system must answer is how many direct reports any given person in a position of leadership should have. At the end of the day this question has no right answer given that each organization is unique and each manager has a different threshold for efficacy. Let’s take a look at some of the metrics, discussions and insights related to the topic of finding the right number of direct reports.
Gauging interactions (energy output)
How do you measure efficacy when assessing the right number of direct reports? Business Insider took a peek at the number of reports of Tim Cook, the COO made CEO of Apple, who was believed to have upwards of 17 direct reports. Hal Gregersen, Ph.D., the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center states, “It's a question of how many people a leader can have a constructive conversation with when everyone is in the same room (Lebowitz, 2015).” Time is a limited resource that every manager only has so much of and trust is the greatest asset in developing employee engagement in an organization, the question is not how thin can a leader stretch themselves but how effective they can be in leading the members of their team whether directly or indirectly.
Business journals and many persons in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) site Japanese management philosophy and regard 6-7 direct reports as the maximum number that a leader can effectively manage. In his own defense, Tim Cook emailed a response to Business Insider countering that, “"If you have smart people, a strong organizational culture, and a well-defined and articulated strategy that everyone understands, you can [have] numerous direct reports because your job isn't to tell people what to do.” Whether those analyzing a leader from within the organization or from the outside agree with the direction and decisions that they make, at the end of the day they will rise or fall based upon how they approach their leadership responsibilities.
Measuring span of control
So much of this discussion on the optimum number of direct reports is opinion based, one metric cited by Schaffer Consulting remarks that span of control is something which can be measured in this discussion, “When a manager goes from four to five subordinates, his potential interactions with them increase from 44 to 100 over a given period; and going from seven to eight subordinates raises the total interactions from 490 to 1,080 (Inc.).” This is a classic business concept that continues to be of relevance and value to organizations such as the United States Air Force in their goal of focusing missional clarity. Size of the organization obviously comes into play and the overall structure of a team must be crafted to support it’s necessary functions as well as it’s growth goals.
As for the ethereal question "What is the right span of control for a manager," a consultant Jamie Flinchbaugh blogged, "Some factors to consider are: The narrower the span of control, the more coaching at the point of activity can be done; the broader the span of control, the more the entire process can be encompassed within fewer decision makers and more aligned decisions (The Build Network, 2014).” This is a simplified means of looking at the bigger picture, but a leader must analyze the position they are in with regards to the development of their organizational structure to determine where their immediate efforts are most valuable. Does the leader need to be directly involved in the training of key share holders in the building process or do they need to take a few steps back from the process to empower those on their leadership team to take ownership for their areas of responsibility.
Avoiding top heavy management
If the number of direct reports is too low, because the team has built multiple layers of upper and middle management to insulate those in positions of executive leadership there is a potential for disconnect. When an organization becomes slow and top heavy by way of structure, there are too many layers to weave through in order to accomplish anything in a timely or mission centered manner. As far back as 1989, Jack Welch, the CEO credited with turning GE around, was an advocate against the six direct report rule for many of these reasons. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, the management guru shared his candid thoughts on the matter, “We took out management layers. Remember the theory that a manager should have no more than 6 or 7 direct reports? I say the right number is closer to 10 or 15. This way you have no choice but to let people flex their muscles, let them grow and mature. The leader can focus only on the big important issues, not on minutiae (Tichy & Charan, 1989).”
Systems should be built to support the people in the field who are making the products and/or delivering the services that make up the core functions of the organizations value interaction with the market. The question of the right number of direct reports is not a matter of ego nor strictly of science, but rather is a key discussion that will evolve with the needs of the organization in a manner that is unique to that team. Mike Myatt, Forbes contributor and chairman of N2 Growth, shares, “Where many leaders become disoriented is by confusing platform with people, and position with responsibility. Here’s the thing – it’s not about the platform, it’s about the people. Without the people there is no platform, and ultimately nothing to lead. It’s not about you (the leader), but what you can create and influence through those you lead (Myatt, 2012).” Rather than looking for the perfect number of direct reports, a leader should ask how many people they can effectively support to keep the vision and mission of the organization moving forward with relationship to the team’s values.
Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
Lebowitz, S. (July 8, 2015) Apple CEO Tim Cook now has 17 direct reports – and that’s probably too many. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-has-too-many-direct-reports-2015-7
The Build Network (April 3, 2014) Wait, how many reports direct reports did you say you have? Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/the-build-network/direct-report-challenges.html
Tichy,N., Charan, R. (October 1989) Speed, simplicity, self-confidence: An interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1989/09/speed-simplicity-self-confidence-an-interview-with-jack-welch
Myatt, M. (November 5, 2012) Span of control – 5 things every leader should know. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/11/05/span-of-control-5-things-every-leader-should-know/#7f921b0328c8
How many times do you hear, “Someone needs to hold so-and-so accountable for their actions”? And the peanut gallery nods their head vehemently in agreement, “That’s right, it’s about time that so-and-so was held accountable for such-and-such.” People in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) are often fond of the peanut gallery, those that cheer them on in the execution of the leadership duties. Funny enough, the history of the peanut gallery comes from days past and referred to the cheapest tickets where the rowdiest vaudeville consumers heckled the performers. Needless to say, those in a position of leadership who only seek “yes men” to affirm their ever action seek the praise of those who are not fueled by vision or invested in progress.
Magnified Plaid, or MxPx as they have come to be known, is a indie punk rock band from Bremerton, Washington and they have a fitting song entitled Responsibility, the chorus of which belts out,
Responsibility? What's that?
Responsibility? Not quite yet.
Responsibility? What's that?
I don't want to think about it; we'd be better off without it.
If you like rock music with a splash of humor then you may find some enjoyment is viewing the video for MxPx Responsibility - see at end of article. It may also help serve as a sensory cue to invest in your accountability measures for your team, a rally cry of sorts.
For many organizations, the attitude is the same with regards to a practical or effective approach to accountability. Leaders talk about accountability as though the only measure of such is a good tongue lashing, preferably in front of as large a group of people as possible. So, let’s see if we can answer the what, when and how of establishing accountability.
Accountability? What’s that?
“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes,” says speaker and author of Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud. There is a progression in accountability, it does not appear out of thin air or materialize on its own. Accountability for a person and an organization comes from consistency in executing clearly established values. Effective accountability traces itself back to clarity in vision, communication of values and consistent effort from all levels within the team to live out those principles. As we have discussed many times, there are causes and there are effects or there are symptoms and there are sources, leaders are concerned with finding sources so that they can eliminate symptoms.
Accountability is the natural consequence of consistency rooted in clarity and conversely a lack of accountability is the natural consequence of inconsistency that stems from a void in institutional clarity. For an organization to build accountability they must clarify their vision and consistently communicate, train and discipline around their values. If an organization says they value A and B and yet they hire candidates that value C or have leaders who believe in D then that organization cannot expect A and B to be communicated clearly, executed consistently or accountability measures to be effective. As Dr. Cloud notes above, there is a beauty to developing a culture because one of the fruits of a clear culture is that those invested in the vision will enhance accountability by setting a standard and holding people to it.
Accountability? Not quite yet.
Consistency means doing what you have said regardless of the obstacles or the opposition. How many positive efforts die before they ever grow legs, before they are ever put in motion and how many more die the minute there is opposition. Those in a position of leadership are tasked with the responsibility to identify and implement programs, systems and changes that will grow their team. The best ideas don’t have to be complex or innovative to move a vision forward but they will have to be combined with commitment and endurance. Changes, especially those that net long term results, require energy and resources, they will cost money, time and will have to adapt to the path that unfolds but they should not die because someone decides they aren’t comfortable with change or don’t want to put the work in to see something through.
The peanut gallery cheers as long as they are not challenged, they heckle like petulant children when they don’t like something but they are not of the character to get in the trenches and move a team forward so their opinions should not be given value by those who are leading an organization from vision to action. When those in a position of leadership allow obstacles to deter them or fold under the pressure of internal opposition to change they send a clear message that their resolve isn’t set to defend their values. “A person who refuses to say ‘the buck stops here’ really isn’t a leader at all,” notes Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Being a leader requires being confident enough in your own decisions and those of your team to own them when they fail.” Leaders must be open to input where those engaged in the mission are sharing insights of repute but complaining by those who want to defend the status quo should be quelled.
A quick test to determine whether someone is complaining or providing constructive criticism is to simply ask, “Before you finish your statement – 1) if you are bringing me a problem are you also bringing me a solution and 2) if you believe you have a solution are you willing to put your skin in the game to see it through?” If the answer to either of these questions is no then it is a complaint and the person in a position of leadership should move on, quickly. No further discussion. (More on accountability – Conflict)
Accountability? What’s that?
Many organizations have vision and value statements but how many actually follow those words from top to bottom and from bottom to top? When an organization is clear on their vision and those in a position of leadership are consistent in their values and together they recruit, hire, train, discipline and build around those core items then there is a foundation for accountability (Video on discipline). Discipline is a key component of accountability. Yet, discipline is not just about yelling at people who aren’t doing their job or sending people home, or like one organization we worked with having a naughty board posted prominently in their employee center so that the record of team members failures could be observed by all, rather accountability flows from consistency and clarity.
Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, shares, “The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer. Peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader, anonymously complaining, and having them stop what they are doing to intervene.” The kind of accountability that Cloud and Lencioni talk about is of the type that we hear about in championship sports teams where captains from within the team, as well as the team as a whole, buy into the vision and hold each other accountable. When an organization brings people in that enhance the culture, people of value are inspired. When a person in a position of leadership stands up to opposition and silences complainers, people of value are invigorated. When the team is clear about the vision and consistently executes the values the key ingredients are in the soil for a culture of accountability to flourish (More on culture).
I don’t want to think about it. We’d be better of without it.
It’s so much easier to maintain the status quo. Yet, with the rate of change and the demands in the market, status quo is the most rapid path to total failure. Change is painful but death is permanent. Doing the hard thing of turning something around requires commitment to work through obstacle after obstacle and to consistently progress through opposition after opposition only to wake up and do it again. No more so-and-so needs to do such-and-such. Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
The DYOJO is the Do Your Job Dojo. In The DYOJO we want to help each other develop intentionally.
Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer