Beware of the New Employee

new-guyLet’s face it, we love new stuff- new clothes, new phones, new cars, new TVs.  If it is new, it is obviously better.  Many managers feel the same way when a new employee comes on board.  The energy and ideas that the new person brings makes the manager fall in love with her.  She becomes the chosen one before lunch.

A leader knows to temper this enthusiasm as they need to not only assimilate the new team member but also keep the current team relaxed and motivated.  The leader realizes that the fresh ideas and energy are obviously a good start to the new employee’s tenure, but without seeing their execution, team work, and a work ethic, it is hard to make them a star. 

In short, a leader knows that they need to see the following out of a new team member before deciding they have a keeper:

1.       Positive Attitude.  It is easy to be positive on the first day at a new job.  A leader knows that this attitude needs to last for months, even years.

2.       Great Team Work.  Listen to hear how many Me’s versus We’s the new person uses when describing her past experiences.  This may be the first clue that you have a diva.

3.       Strong Follow Through.  A keeper is reliable from day one.  Give the person tangible deadlines and see how they react.  Set up a good support system so your key team members can not only help, but weigh in on the hire.

4.       Grace Under Pressure.  A rock star employee never lets you see her sweat.  After your team member is acclimated, put her in uncomfortable (but professional) situations and see how she reacts.  If she cracks, she may need more training.

5.       Creativity.  It is easy to take some learnings from a previous position and apply them to a new situation.  Does your new team member consistently come up with unique ways to solve problems?  Or does she use the same few tricks and rehash them?

It is important that you give your new team member time to breathe. By making a snap judgement in either direction, you can risk alienating your current team and putting its performance at risk.  Take your time and challenge the team member before deciding how good they are going to be for your team.

Become an Influencer

Follow the Leader PhotoHave you ever met someone in your company that everyone seems to go to for advice?  That person seems to have much more power than their title because they are seen as a trusted advisor, confidant, and guru.  You go to this person because they are going to give you sound and well thought out direction and help you through any crisis. 

Becoming this key influencer in your company/industry is a big way to becoming a true leader.  You want people to seek out your guidance and to have confidence in how you perceive situations as the true way. 

The question becomes “how do you achieve this status?”.  Working on the following can help.

1.       Become a Great Listener.  Many business people will tell you that the key to success is listening.  By hearing what is being said instead of thinking about what you are going to say next enables you to perceive the issue and formulate your plan.

2.       Ask Questions.  To keep the person talking about the situation and to more fully understand it, ask a lot of questions that bring you to the root cause of the issue.  Keep asking Why until the answer cannot be expounded upon.

3.       Be a Collaborator.  No one likes a Know-It-All.  Work with the person to make sure you solve the problem together.  Ask them how they would solve the problem then play out their solution scenario.

4.       Have Real Concern.  You have to care to share.  Take the time to invest in the person sitting across from you.  People know when you are only working with them because you have to.

5.       Be Neutral.  Do not take sides in a discussion.  You can empathize with the person, but resist the urge to comment positively or negatively about another person.  Keep your emotions in check and play the middle.  Your words will carry weight and you don’t want them to be misconstrued or repeated to justify someone’s dislike towards another.

6.       Be Honest.  The person may not like your feedback, but by being honest in all conversations, they will respect you.  Live by two phrases- “I have a horrible memory so I need to tell you the truth as I see it,” and “Remember, you asked me for my opinion.”

7.       Draw the Line.  If you are a person’s supervisor, keep that level of professionalism.  Let them know that you are their boss and trashing another colleague’s credibility will not be tolerated.

8.       Stay Quiet.  No gossip should come from you.  It is the other person’s news to tell.  Breaking the news will be a surefire way that people will lose their trust in you.

9.       Have Confidence.  Understand that people are coming to you for a reason.  Believe that you have the skills, knowledge and experience that you will give good advice.  Also believe that even if the outcome is wrong, you gave the best advice with the information given.

10.   Keep It Real.  Stay grounded.  No one wants to hear from a preachy person.  Now is not the time to use your word of the day app.  Answer questions in real terms.  Avoid circular answers.  Be direct, clear and concise.

You need to be an effective communicator to become an effective leader.  You also need to become a “go to” to get that recognition from your peers.  These skills will help, but only if you apply them properly.

When Emotion Needs to be Removed from Decision Making

Business People YellingEvery day you make certain decisions that are based on emotions- what you want for lunch, what you should wear, how much potential a project or team member has, whether you like a new policy or procedure.  It is part of what makes you successful, knowing when and how to read your gut is a great barometer for making quick decisions and for keeping your moral compass grounded.

But what happens when a situation arises where emotions are detrimental to the solution.  Things like a laying off part of your team- even though they are key members, a customer calling to drop a product line or an HR issue that is one of the office “hot buttons”. 

How do you separate the intense emotion that accompanies these situations from the situation itself?  How do you keep calm when everyone around you is caught up in their emotions?  How do you become the rock and guide your team safely through the situation?

I find that the process is very similar to the “Listen, Process, React”. 

1.       Gather the facts from the commentary.  People will be understandably upset or “hyped up” during your fact finding mission.  Even when someone is ranting, there is value in the conversation.  Pick up the nuances and underlying meanings to start putting together the real story.

2.       Understand the situation.  Once you have gathered the facts, start to figure out what the actual situation is and what the ramifications of your decisions will be.  Knowing that somewhere between all of the stories is the truth, use your knowledge and experience to fill in gaps.

3.       Formulate a plan.  Make your plan as detailed as possible, answering all potential questions so that when you present the plan, it is coming from a voice of authority. 

4.       Present and execute the plan.  Once your plan is presented to the team or stakeholders, work on executing it.  Getting people involved in the solution will help them heal from it. 

5.       Make yourself available for discussions.  Once the plan is rolling out, people will want to learn why and how you came to a decision.  Make sure you give them that courtesy.  It will help them to make similar decisions and to handle things in the future.

I have dealt with plenty of horrible situations.  Many were blown out of proportion because emotions got the better of the participants.  By staying cool, figuring out what actually happened and making a plan to fix it, most of the hard feelings could have been avoided.