Set employees up to win – not fail

April 1, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments

simplifyEmployees get set up to fail more often than you think. It’s never done intentionally – it just happens. Tasks are poorly defined. Desired results are sketchy. The chain of command looks like a pile of broken links. Training is inconsistent and inadequate. There are leaders that actually expect employees to know what they’re thinking … and to execute their nonverbal commands perfectly.

Some employees try their best to deliver what they perceive they were charged to do and get chewed out when their performance doesn’t match unspoken expectations. Others give it half an effort knowing they can’t win. The end result is always a demoralized team and de-powered culture that is capable of so much more. Once a pattern of getting set up to fail settles into a company’s culture, getting things done takes more time, money, and resources. The company springs leaks that it cannot plug up fast enough.

When Strategies does onsite No-Compromise Leadership sessions, we interview employees. That’s when we hear the other side of the story as employees vent about their frustrations with the company and its leadership. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t “rip the leader to shreds” sessions. Rather, they are open and honest opportunities for employees to express their concerns with the practices, thinking, and behavior of the company and its leader(s). It’s no different than leaders expressing their concerns about employees. Everyone wants the company to be the best it can be – to be set up to win.

Here are some no-compromise strategies that will have your employees set up to win – and power up your culture at the same time:

  • It’s NOT the economy: It’s easy to blame the “getting by with less” economic times we live in, but that’s just an excuse. The recession is behind us so stop holding on to the recession mindset of gloom and doom. The recession taught companies to be efficient. It didn’t give permission to short cut information flow, training, and the need to clarify expectations. It just taught you to do those things efficiently. Stop looking backwards at tough times. Look forward and you’ll see a world of limitless opportunity. No compromise.
  • There’s not enough time: This is an even bigger excuse than the economy. Yes, you’re busy because you’re stuck in a routine that includes plenty of inefficient use of time. Translation: you don’t have time because you don’t make time. You have time to properly plan and launch projects, give feedback, conduct performance reviews, and coach your team members to get better. I’ve got to call you out on this one: you don’t make time for things that you don’t like to do. It’s the harsh truth, but you’re not alone. Replace your “normal” routine with one that includes the tasks you might not necessarily enjoy, but that you must be accountable for as the leader. No compromise.
  • Clarity is the precursor to excellence: Great missions have a plan with extreme clarity on the ultimate outcome. Excellence is an outcome. It is never the result of good luck, easy work, and wishful thinking. In my No-Compromise Leadership book, the first of the ten tenets to become a No-Compromise Leader is to “have absolute clarity about where you’re taking your company.” Think of it as a vision statement on steroids. Take the time to deliver absolute clarity to your employees on what needs to be done and you’ll be setting them up to win big time. No compromise.
  • Put the hammer down: It’s easy for leaders to fall into that mode where they nitpick and point out EVERYTHING that’s wrong in their company. Frustration builds and you wind up wandering around your company with a hammer looking only for what’s not right, and whacking it. Surprise: you’ve turned into Darth Vader and succumbed to the Dark Side. Leaders that play the everything that’s wrong game not only set their employees up to fail, they set themselves up to fail. Never succumb to the Dark Side. No compromise.
  • Learn your lessons: Mistakes are lessons to be learned from. When the same mistakes keep occurring, you’re not learning. You’re not examining the process or system that lead to the mistake. Systems exist to create predictable outcomes. The rule is, and always will be: If you don’t like the results you’re getting, change or tweak the system. No compromise.
  • Divide and conquer: My friend Jack Stack has a great saying, “With every pair of hands, you get a free brain.” Command and control leaders stifle the talented, capable and innovative members of their team. The same goes for the BIG EGOs that want all the glory and recognition. I may be the CEO of my company, but my work has me on the road lecturing and coaching most of the time. My team at Strategies corporate office is small and efficient – kind of like my own Seal Team Six. My mobile phone rarely (if ever) rings with problems I need to solve when I’m on the road. They know the mission, and solving problems is something I trust them with. This allows me to do the work I love. If this doesn’t sound like your leadership style, it’s time to change. No compromise.
  • It’s about execution: It’s easy to knight yourself as the leader, but it’s something entirely different to grow into an effective and accountable leader. If you cannot hold yourself accountable, you will never be able to hold those you lead accountable. If accountability is not a strength, it’s time to give Strategies a call and get into our No-Compromise Leadership coaching and training. No Compromise.

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Categories: Business Builders , Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership , Staff Retention , Teamwork

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  1. You make excellent pionts in your article especially about taking time to do the things one does not like or want to,my biggest challenge is follow up on systems and trying to get staff to consistently implement them.I do not know what course of action to take when that happens ,do you write each person up for every little thing?Coaching helps when I am one on one with the person but how do you get staff to perform ?

    1. The answer is not simple. Much had to do with your leadership style and communication. Rest assured, if its a recurring situation, it’s your approach to leadership and not necessarily your employees. It’s easy to blame them. But the issue is almost always originating with the leader. Coaching can help.

  2. How do I get service providers do anything but services. They are not actually my employees? So Im not really sure how to go about this. Can you give me some helpful tips? Thank you

  3. Hi Tania,
    If your service providers are independent contractors and not “employees,” legally, they do not work for you. They simply rent space from you. Given this, you cannot require them to adhere to any standards of performance, polices, systems or expectations that resemble an employer/employee relationship. That being said, there really isn’t much you can do other than suggest ways to grow their business. But other than retail sales, there is no financial benefit to your business. What I’m clarifying here is the ultimate downside of booth rental.


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