What to Talk About First with New Team Members

Don’t make new team members fill out paper work their first morning. Don’t immediately jump into some kind of intense meeting or financial review. Use the time and the power of first impressions. Focus on what really matters—the culture of your organization.

One leader suggested the following. She has a conversation with each new team member on their first day. During this conversation she has them take a pin and place it in a large map of the US she keeps in her office and asks the new employee to place the pin near their home town.

She begins this conversation by pointing out that they all come from different cultures. They all have different values. They all have different educations. They all have different family dynamics. Different faith traditions. And that all of them have different motivations for being on the team.

She might even point out some of the more interesting things about some of the senior team members (with their permission, of course) and discuss the new comer’s background and how they see themselves fitting in based on all the unique things about them.

This valuable first conversation is about inclusion and diversity. While there are many valid first conversations with a new team member, making them feel unique and included and letting them know that the organization welcomes diversity can go a long way towards making the new guy feel at home immediately.

Why Absent Leaders Are the Most Destructive

Absent leaders are those who enjoy the privileges of leadership yet avoid useful involvement with their team. This style of leadership is marked solely by its destructive nature.

For some team members having a boss that lets you do as you please sound great—especially if they are being bullied or micromanaged by their current leader. However, a top complaint among team members about leaders is when they are absent. Team members tend to be most concerned with what their leaders don’t do.

Being ignored by one’s team leader doesn’t foster a work culture of individual responsibility, rather one of being treated poorly and being alienated. Impact of an absent leader on an organization is more immediate and long lasting than any other kind of destructive leadership archetype as well as the constructive ones. Some even believe it contributes to other organizational issues like increased bullying between team members, role ambiguity, additional stress and possibly even health complaints.

In large organizations, despite their destructive nature, absent leaders often go unnoticed. For example, in one fictional organization two senior team members go over the head of their absent, do-nothing leader to complain. The higher-up they complain to says that they already have a handful of bad leaders to deal with—one who has a substance abuse issue, one who is constantly being sent to HR, and another accused of misusing the organization’s money. This higher-up tells the senior team members they simply don’t have time to deal with someone who isn’t actively making waves and they will just have to deal with it.

While this fictional organization clearly has all kinds of problems it demonstrates how do-nothing, absent leaders can fall between the cracks and be left in their position because their offenses are not overt. So, an absent leader can be left in their position for years, slowly poisoning the organization.

Some Thoughts On Setting New Year Goals

Given this time of year is busy and stressful both in our careers and in our personal lives it seems impossible to even begin to think about next year when there is so much crammed into the end of this year. But it is really never too early to start thinking about the future.

As a leader it is your job to set the tone. When looking at your end of the year numbers, keep in mind that you’ll want to budget both time and resources to invest in the professional growth of your time. You’ll want the best quality training you can get. Whether it is keeping up with new technology, changes in regulations that affect your business, or changes to products, services and branding you’ll want your team up to date for the challenges ahead.

Pep talks, metaphoric speeches and rallying the troops is all well and good, but you’ll want real, concrete goals for the new year. Vague New Year’s resolutions like ‘getting the business into shape’ are useful and it is hard to make your team accountable for such vague goals. You want to set goals that are specific and achievable—if you set goals too high you are setting your team up for failure. You also want to set goals for which you can measure you and your team’s success. Also, give yourself and your team a time frame for achieving these goals.

At some level all successful businesses depend on quality data. Whether your team collects this data for the organization or you organization outsources their data acquisition make sure you are acquiring data that is not only accurate, but the data you actually need. Look back at your year and decide where you data was lacking.

 

 

The Power of Storytelling

Human beings have always been storytellers. We’ve used stories to bring ourselves together, to explain what then could not be explained and to inspire ourselves to be better than we are. Beyond this kind of storytelling we all tell our inner-selves’ stories. Our subconscious and conscious selves select facts and experiences from the stream of life to create a narrative that informs who we, the protagonists, are.

If this is beginning to feel a little Jungian, you aren’t far off. Stories can shape people and those people help sculpt the groups of which they are a part. Many great leaders throughout history have been storytellers. President Lincoln, for example, in the Emancipation Proclamation described an American in which all men truly were created equal. FDR in his fire-side chats described an American ideal for all citizens to live up to.
A leader’s unspoken inner narrative (those of the subconscious that are not often verbalized) are part of what create the shape of an organization and influences its team members.

These stories drive our decision-making process and ultimately our actions. This is the lens through which we see and analyze anything from a customer’s reaction to our products or services and through which we decided whether or not to hire a new team member.

If a leader tells themselves stories about unrealistically positive future this is in turn what their team will believe. Likewise, if a leader’s inner narrative only blames others for the failures of an organization their team will also follow these kinds of stories when analyzing their own and other’s behavior. If a leader’s inner stories are only filled with strife and failure this will affect the leader and the team’s ability to perform.

The wisdom here is not to try and use or misuse narrative, but to understand that the human mind needs coaching to be objective. Leaders should try and recognize how their inner narrative is filters and distorts everything the mind takes in.

Reducing Holiday Stress for Team Members

During the holidays keeping your team stress free is more out of the leader’s control than normal. On top of that team members may be doing more harm than good on themselves working extra hours to earn money for the holidays while end of the year deadlines creep nearer and nearer along with the holidays themselves.

Here is a quick list of tips that organizations large and small can try out to reduce holiday stress in employees.

Try to schedule holiday events for your organization during regular business hours instead of asking team members to spend even more time away from home and family.

If you have a assistance program of any kind whether it be monetary or otherwise remind team members it exists and encourage them to use it.

Make sure you show extra appreciation, even if it is only verbal and whether they worked voluntarily or by request, when team members work on a holiday.

Encourage more casual dress during work hours nearest the holiday and at holiday parties.

Provide holiday food. Again, whether this is at a party or near a holiday don’t add stress by asking team members to provide the eats.

If you give annual or quarterly bonuses of any kind, give them early so your team may make use of it during this financially stressful time of year.

Provide floating holidays so your team members can take time off whenever it is their family and friends celebrate.

Reduce hours or extend lunches to allow your team to run errands during regular shopping hours.

Provide time-off for your employees who choose to volunteer during the holidays, or better yet work volunteerism into your work environment.

For shift based and hourly team members, try to provide opportunities for additional work.
Some organizations even provide child care, gratis, so team members can run errands.

A final, but important note: remember that some people do not celebrate the most common winter holidays or may not celebrate at all. For some, the holidays can be a painful reminder of lost loved ones or a difficult family life past or present. Don’t push employees to participate in your organization’s holiday events and programs if it makes them uncomfortable.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Decision Making

Mistakes are unavoidable but we can avoid making “dumb decisions.” There are things that all people with different kinds of intelligence do to themselves that lead to these dumb decisions.

One classic mistake is overthinking. Intelligent people often make the mistake of over analysis. Especially as a leader we will have both external and internal pressure to make the right decision. More than like there is no way for us to turn down the external pressure, we can only control the pressure we put on ourselves.

No one will ever make the right decision always—so we must stop putting that pressure on ourselves. We will make mistakes, but we are prepared for that. Don’t over analyze your every move or you will paralyze your decision-making ability.

Something we can do to streamline decision making is to make small decisions and often. The further we put off making single, small decisions the more they grow into monsters pending on our to-do list. In business and often in life decisions have a due date. Keep up with the small ones to avoid to-do list full of monsters on down the line. Additionally, making a bad decision on a small matter is more fixable than the alternative.

Not making a decision is also a decision and getting caught in that feedback loop can be dangerous.