Category Archives: human resources

Paying attention to people WILL pay off: How to get that link between better people management, increased productivity and profit.


“People are our greatest asset”: How many times have we heard that? I know from my own experience that good people management makes for good business but how many employers out there are wondering what the evidence is before they take the plunge?

There is a good deal of research that has been done to find the evidence, and it is definitely there. One particular UK study* of 67 manufacturers (average 253 people) showed a predictable improvement of close to 20% in both profitability and productivity when a range of integrated people management practices are improved.

The two key areas of people management practice they found to be significant predictors of profitability and productivity as:

  1. Acquisition and development of skills – Having the right skills and abilities for your business, the right people capability and an approach/ attitude to developing capability. See learning & development as way of improving morale, job satisfaction for your staff as well as way of improving the way they do their work.
  2. Job design – Thoughtful job design that provides meaningful work where possible, opportunities to take more responsibility when ready, seeing a job through from start to finish and getting a sense of achievement from work done.

ImageBoth these areas underpin what Frederick Hertzberg and his famous theory on motivation, would call intrinsic motivators:  a strong universal human need for purpose, achievement, challenge, learning and satisfaction.

The great thing about both these two key areas is that they don’t cost much. To design and implement, they require thought, planning and possibly some change to your business but not necessarily much in the way of extra dollars.

Acquisition and development of skills

The simplest form of business learning is to review business progress regularly with your staff – how did we go this week? How did we go with that new client? What worked and didn’t work? Have a regular process for review and a way of harnessing the learning and making changes to business processes that improve the whole business.

Encourage people to learn on the job, learn from each other, learn from outside – courses, visits to other businesses and learning through networking.

For acquisition, take a considered approach to recruitment, think carefully about what capability you need for now and for future and recruit accordingly . Think about how you bring new people into your business and show them how to do the job, and how to offer every opportunity for your staff to learn and to stretch their abilities and their existing knowledge.

Job design

Think about having job roles that encompass a bundle of connected responsibilities and tasks that people can say “That’s mine – I am responsible for that” and have the satisfaction of seeing an entire job done and finished. This doesn’t mean that people don’t continue working together as part of a team: even team workers have specific roles.

If you as an employer take the time to clearly spell out why we are all here (purpose of the business), organize the work (clear roles and structures), give staff some autonomy and integrated opportunities for everyone to stretch and grow. All are guaranteed steps in the right direction for happy workers, higher productivity and a profitable business.

What’s your experience? I’d love to hear from you…..

* MG. Patterson, M.West, R.Lawthom, S.Nickell (1997) Impact of people management practice on business performance Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD), UK.

Staff engagement: What can employers learn from FaceBook and Twitter?


Employers: Do you wish sometimes that your employees were as interested in contributing to their work as they are in FaceBook or Twitter? I am not advocating for social media in the workplace but to look at what those two platforms are doing right. Perhaps a more enlightened question might be what do FaceBook and Twitter offer that makes them so engaging?

A wise friend once told me that there are three key things that people want in life:

  1. Respect
  2. Affection
  3. Control

Over the years, I have often reflected on these and I use them as a simple checklist to see what is being done and what might be missing in working arrangements and relationships.

1. The Art of Respect: preferably a relationship of mutual respect, which involves a balance of rights and responsibilities – asserting your own rights and supporting others’ rights simultaneously. One person’s rights should not diminish another’s rights, and similarly with responsibilities. Developing and showing respect involves courtesy, listening, understanding, learning, acceptance and honesty. This could be about treating staff and colleagues as grown ups, gladly giving & supporting responsibility, accepting different points of view, different approaches to work and appreciating the richness in that diversity. Crucially, it also means you should expect the same in return from staff and colleagues.

2. Affection: potentially misunderstood in the workplace, I would characterize this as warmth in any relationship that is built on mutual respect and understanding.  I would say it’s also about inclusion, which is critical to human social wellbeing, and equally important in the workplace: no-one likes to be forgotten or left out and everyone likes to feel good about themselves.

Make sure that everyone is informed about what is going on in your workplace, trust them with information that is important to the business and watch people rise to keep that information confidential and use their judgment. Include people by asking for their opinions, their ideas, their suggestions, their energy and treating their responses with respect.  Particularly important and useful is to include employees who are knowledgeable or experts in the area being decided, no matter what level they are working at.

You need to ensure that employees understand that you won’t always act or even like their contributions but at the very least, they should be actively considered, and people acknowledged and thanked.

3. Control: it’s worth thinking about how this can be extended in the workplace. It’s mostly about tapping into what people are interested in and naturally motivated to do. Simple things to consider include individual office or working spaces and giving some flexibility in how this is organized, giving employees a say on how their work is done to allow for different approaches and personal styles, and possibly flexibility with hours worked, if this suits the business.

Deeper and more fundamental control is around job design – try to delegate “whole” jobs: where employees have responsibility from start to finish, rather than one very small part of a larger process. There is far greater satisfaction in seeing a product or service delivered if there is a greater involvement in the overall development. Ironically, this is one of the powerful motivators for small business owners and yet this is often denied to their staff.

Despite the obvious power differential between employer and employee, the focus of the enterprise ought to always be on purpose and productivity for the good of everyone – shareholders, managers, staff, customers.I suspect these three principles come close to the heart of striking a balance in any productive, mature and grown up workplace, and while I don’t always quite achieve them, I aim to.

I think FaceBook and Twitter potentially facilitate all three critical areas – they allow people to engage with people they are interested in following, encouraged to be included in conversations and of course, the hugely successful LIKE button – says it all!

And finally, don’t overlook the absolute obvious appeal of FaceBook – it’s in the first word of the title. We are all human and respond really well to faces, something that a lot of websites and platforms seem to miss. If you’ve been hiding out, show yours around the workplace a bit more often for a better response from your staff.

Nora Stewart works as an HR and workplace professional with Wise Work, Australia and aims to show her face at least twice a week…

What successful employers have in common with The Spice Girls: They know what they want, what they really really want…


Recruiting employees in some ways is a bit like match-making – trying to find the right person. And, just like the game of love, in the heat of the moment it can be very hard to see past the one who looks just right on the surface. But perhaps in the cold light of day, they don’t actually have all the abilities skills and knowledge that your business really needs. Like The Spice Girls, get clear about what you really want but that’s where the similarity ends: save your passion to drive your business and recruit with a clear head.

Being an effective employer and a successful business person requires good judgment, and judgment can be improved with thinking, planning and a good dose of objectivity.

Some suggestions for planning your next recruitment:

  • Consider the job first and the person second, not the other way around. Don’t have the tail wagging the dog.
  • Look at the reality of your business, acknowledge what the business really needs, and not a fictional idea you may have of the job. If your business requires a wide range of very different tasks, that’s what you need to focus on getting, and not someone with specialist skills.
  • Learn to articulate what you want and to know it when you see it – IT being the specific behaviours, skills and knowledge you are seeking, not just how you respond to the person. One of my clients in the hospitality industry said, when I asked them how they determined whether a candidate had good commonsense, was judged partly by what kind of body tattoos they had and where they had placed them. “Well, you know if they have them on their face or hands, that they haven’t really thought it through. Others may have them discreetly covered and in our workplace, that’s fine”.
  • Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. Work out what is essential to doing the job and don’t settle for less. Only consider those who have the essentials.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – what job features might be attractive to the kind of person I am looking for? What can my business offer that the person I am seeking would want? People are motivated differently and at different times in their life, and you may find that you are able to offer something that costs nothing but worth a lot to the right person.
  • It’s all about the evidence – how will I know that the person applying for the job can do the job?  You need evidence that the person can either do the job or has the potential (depending on what you want)You need to devise a selection process that gives you the evidence you need, not a whole lot of information that doesn’t relate to the job.  And remember, the way you get that information can be extremely informative – how well they write, how well they talk, how well they think and how they react and respond.

My next post will be all about how to recruit once you know what you want.

Want to know more about recruitment planning?

Please email me (see About Me for details) to get a copy of your FREE e-booklet 5 Steps to Successful Recruitment Planning or leave  questions and comments below.

Growing Business Through People: Seven Tips for Small Business Owners


It’s not news to you that small business forms part of the backbone of the Australian economy, and business owners and their employees form the backbone of those enterprises. But what help and guidance is there for those small business owners to consciously manage and lead their way to a better future?

Here are some things to think about, some tips to help you, the small business owner, get more from the people in your business by giving the right things:

1. People are integral to and integrated with the business – having employees is about having additional capacity in your business in every way possible, not just an extra pair of hands. It should bring additional skills, knowledge abilities, energy and ideas, and ideally a synergy between all the people in the business that gives 2+2=5 ie. what you get out should exceed what you put in. This means that every part of planning in your business should be considering your staff as a means of achieving that purpose. Ask them for their ideas, be open to their suggestions and ask them to take responsibility for trying new approaches.

2. Planning and knowing what you want –“Everything is created twice: once in your mind and then in reality”. So said Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Clear thinking that gives a purpose, a plan for getting there, and then communicating that plan, are all critical. This includes designing jobs that will get your business further forward and also give staff some job satisfaction.

3. Good management – don’t employ people if you don’t expect to manage them. People need purpose, guidance and support. They need the right tools for the job, the right skills for the job and encouragement to keep going.

4. Have realistic expectations – Not a single one of your employees is going to work as hard or as much as you.  If they do, expect them to leave to set up their own business or make you an offer for yours!

5. Set clear ground rules – everyone needs boundaries Be clear about what is acceptable working behaviour: how we do things around here, and what is not acceptable, and;

  • Communicate them often, preferably through actions;
  • Enforce them – don’t let employees away with unacceptable behaviour;
  • Change them if they’re not working to get the outcome you want.

6. Your employees are not there to be your friends – they are there to do a job. Nothing can replace respect, courtesy and good manners in a good working relationship but don’t confuse this with friendship. This doesn’t mean that a friendship shouldn’t develop but be very careful about how you go about this, particularly in a very small business.

7. You’re the leader – give your employees a good example to follow. Everyone will be watching what you do, and will take their cue from that, no matter what you say.

Managing Turbulence


I have just finished designing and giving a training program called “Managing Turbulent Workloads“. Turbulence is a really fascinating topic and pretty relevant to most working people in the Western world. The world of work has instead become a whirl of work, becoming ever dizzying and seemingly without boundaries. The course does cover tools and techniques for managing some of that swirl – like the 2 minute rule for managing email, and the 90 minute rule for giving focused time to work – to mention a few that are about that most precious of resources – time. However, a few principles I suggest, particularly to those in very pressurised middle management positions:

  1. Management is a mixture of science and art – the science of using evidence and fact and the art of good judgment in managing people, personalities, issues and emotions;
  2. Appreciate the need for balance between the “big picture”, the long view and the helicopter view and the detailed view – need to keep adjusting your lens to ensure that you are taking in both of these perspectives;
  3.  Go back to the start if you get lost – lean on the solid, more objective foundation that you have built so far.

What do you think about managing turbulence? Is it possible, is it necessary or should we just enjoy the buzz?

BANKS: The New Deal PART 3


Leading on from the previous entry Banks: The Emperors with No Clothes? with the observation that banks have so much power. I think the simple answer is the same as why any person or institution has power – because we gladly give it and they gladly take it. They have been seen as serious and trusted institutions in the past, and challenging those ideals was difficult, a bit like a young child questioning their parents “Because I say so” attitude. There is not necessarily logic there but there is unquestionable authority in that set of words.

Perhaps another reason for banks’ power is because we haven’t been very creative in coming up with new ways of obtaining credit or at least, not new regulated ways of obtaining credit. So, we play it safe. And what the banks want, the banks get, even if this somehow distorts our entire world of work and life!

As discussed in the previous entry, the requirement for full-time or, at least, permanent work to get a mortgage meshes well with some pretty old-fashioned ideas in many workplaces that you are not a real person unless you work full-time – a lesser citizen, a second-class person and frankly, quite invisible. Just talk to parents who are seeking reduced hours to look after children at home, or people with disabilities or chronic illnesses who would like work but can’t work the God-given quota of 38 hours a week.

And yet, employers continue to cry out that they can’t find good talent, they find it hard to recruit good workers. I think that solutions are staring them in the face and employers and employees alike seem unable to see differently.

What are some of the possible solutions?

I have made reference to a solution that HR departments/ small businesses could implement quickly in a previous entry (see FLEXIBLE WORKING: April 2010).I suggest that for some workers to move to what I would term a “permanent flexible” employment arrangement, where the time is carefully managed, for the same agreed salary. The concept is that pay stays constant whilst hours/ time worked might vary.

For example:

Sue works in a specialist retail outlet and is employed for a 38-hour week. This business is very busy over Christmas and New Year and during the Southern winter – June to August. In total, the business needs her to work about 50 hours a week for about 4 months of the year. The rest of the time is quiet and requires less time – about 30 hours per week. This system means that regardless of the hours worked or not, as long as the hours worked per annum are managed as the same, the pay will remain the same every week.

TIME WORKED

52 weeks per year x 38 hours per weeks = 1976 hours per annum

  • Busy period            50 hours x 17 weeks = 850 hours worked
  • Less busy period  31-31.5 hours a week x 31 weeks = 978 hours worked

MINUS 4 weeks recreation leave x 38 hours per week = 152 hours paid leave

* Public holidays are mixed in here and appropriate pay rates should be added in to this if they are worked. Sick leave is also included in these hours.

PAY remains the same over the 52 weeks of the year, regardless of hours worked. This means that there is stability in income even if the hours move and change. It also means that employee and employer need to keep an eye on hour and work done and this can improve focus on productivity and also provide a reason for discussing work. And I can comment positively on this arrangement as this is currently my own work arrangement with a small business, and so far it is working extremely well.

And what about some new solutions for bank lending practices?

I’d suggest they re-visit their risk management model in conjunction with a good hard look at the evidence of:

  • what factors actually support ability to service a mortgage, and
  • what factors are good indicators of mortgage default.

They would then have some real evidence to guide how their criteria for loans needs to change. I would predict that a review of the actual track record would be an eye-opener and a basis for workable change.

QUESTION: What else could you suggest that banks and organizations could do to allow work practices and credit lending practices to be more flexible and still create positive and stable outcomes?

BANKS: The Emperors with No Clothes? PART 2


My experience with getting a home loan a number of years ago (before the GFC) was bizarre. My husband and I had 85% of the total price (including stamp duty) of the property and could not get a home loan with one of the regular banks. Why not? Neither of us had permanent, full-time work. The fact that we both had long-standing contract work that was extremely well-paid did not seem to count.

So, how do lenders conduct their risk assessment of potential customers? My brief but wide-ranging research on current practices in Australia yielded the following key criteria:

  • Employment status – those who have a “steady” employment record are a better risk than self-employed or those who don’t;
  • Income– undefined
  • Overall credit history – savings record including deposit, money management and repayments record over the past twelve months i.e. a positive credit history

Furthermore, on the issue of employment, the self-employed are singled out as particularly high risk “Typically, traditional lenders see the self-employed as a credit risk and are hesitant to approve them for a loan. This is a consequence of the banks risk assessment being primarily based upon income serviceability…Despite this, many people who are self-employed are very solvent and some are among the wealthiest people in the country. That said, most money lenders still prefer you to be on a stable salary income than to be listed as a sole trader or partnership structure.”*

In addition, the latest statistics (ABS November 2010) indicate that Australia has a total working population of 11.417 million of which 8.033 million (70%) are full-time workers and part-time employment is 3.384 million (30%).** And of these numbers, it is estimated that 18.5%*** are self-employed, approximately 2.112 million people, which is about 10% of the current total population.

In these times of change, fluctuation and uncertainty, the notion of permanent, full-time work as the key to approving home loans seems to me to be asking for trouble. It’s also quite ironic that banks are looking for stability- obviously their own work practices didn’t prevent the banking system falling into crisis, creating their own set of additional instabilities to world economies. It seems that they are looking from others what they are unable or unwilling to create for themselves.  They are not really setting a great example of leadership. So why do they have so much power? And what are some solutions for employers and employees so we can all get what we reasonably want?

Why do banks have so much power?


* Source: www.debtrelief.com.au

** Australian Bureau of Statistics November 2010 issue of Labour Force Australia

*** Independent Contractors of Australia Update May 2010

BANKS: Our Unequal Co-dependency PART 1


In Australia, the public tide of resentment against banks is swelling from a small set of waves to a tsunami, with a number of large consumer organizations and activists, such as Choice with their Better Banking campaign and GetUp with Hold The Banks To Account, beating the drum for support to the same cause.

As usual, the Government is slower to respond as they are caught in the bind of needing banks more than banks need them. The latest political tut-tutting at banks who had the temerity to increase their interest rates more than 0.5% above the official rate rise seemed to me to be more for show than anything with real teeth because they know it is difficult to bite the hand that feeds them.

Banks provide much needed revenue to Government (estimated at $5billion per annum) through their own profits being taxed and also by collecting taxes from customers (another $400 million p.a.), not to mention the 145,000 people /voters employed by banks*. In addition, Government has offloaded the burden of a cash payment system to using electronic transfers into bank accounts for all types of welfare payments, supplier payments and indeed, payments to their own employees. Don’t I remember the joy of getting real folding money into my hand when I was owed travel allowance (TA) for upcoming travel when I was a public servant – bliss! (Even better that it was not taxable: I think an entire column could be written about the ethics of that little number).

And whilst much of the current focus of public attention is on home loan interest rates, bank charges and also just in the last few days, a computer glitch that brought the entire National Australia Bank (NAB) payment system to a halt, the operations within banks have a much deeper effect on our world of work than first appears obvious.

Or, at least it does here in Australia.

QUESTION: What about elsewhere? Is the dependency the same or different? I would love to hear your thoughts.

NEXT: Banks: The New Emperors With No Clothes? It appears that banks generally have a less-than-rational risk assessment process for loans, and this has already got them into lots of trouble –why do they continue to do things the same way? And, for workers with mortgages, what effect does this have on the world of work?

*Source: Australian Bankers Association Inc- http://www.bankers.asn.au/Default.aspx?ArticleID=593

FLEXIBLE WORKING: A possible solution for small businesses who want to attract and retain workers through the ups and downs…..


Most small business owners are faced with peaks and troughs in their business – times when it’s very busy and times where it is quiet. ABC Radio National Life Matters program this morning discussed how businesses have weathered the global financial crisis (GFC) highlighted that those businesses who managed their business and their people in a flexible and innovative way came through that environment pretty well. One business decided to reduce their overall working week to four days on a permanent basis, another business asked their staff to take a pay cut of between 10% and top management 20% until the situation improved. They had a 79% take-up of the pay cut, and workers were paid back the money owing plus 25% bonus within 5 months –not hard to see why there is high trust in that organisation.

These are all good solutions that have obviously worked for these organisations. However, not everyone is in a position to take a pay cut at short notice and the four day week may work for some times in the business but not when it is very busy or if you have clients that expect “business as usual” working hours.

The other key reason for looking at this solution is that anyone with a mortgage is under pressure to keep payments going at the level of commitment with the bank. Banks require stability and permanency to approve a mortgage, and are not interested in anything that isn’t permanent – try getting a standard loan when you are working on contract or on casual rates.

So, my suggested solution is for some workers to move to what I would term a “permanent flexible” employment arrangement, where the time is carefully managed, for the same agreed salary. The concept is that pay stays constant whilst hours/ time worked might vary. For example:

Sue works in a specialist retail outlet and is employed for a 38 hour week. This business is very busy over Christmas and New Year and during the Southern winter – June to August. In total about 4 months of the year, the business needs her to work about 50 hours a week. The rest of the time is quiet and requires less time – about 30 hours per week. This system means that regardless of the hours worked or not, as long as the hours worked per annum are managed as the same, the pay will remain the same every week.

TIME WORKED
52 weeks per year
x 38 hours per week  = 1976 hours per annum as outlined below

Busy period* 50 hours x 17 weeks =  850 hours worked
Less busy period*
31-31.5 hours a week x 31 weeks =  978 hours worked
MINUS   4 weeks
recreation leave x 38 hours per week= 152 hours paid leave


* Public holidays are mixed in here and appropriate pay rates should be added in to this if they are worked. Sick leave is also included in these hours.

PAY remains the same over the 52 weeks of the year, regardless of hours worked.

Another more extreme example might include larger amounts of time not working at all, with an overall smaller number of hours worked per annum.

David is working in a seasonal business that only operates 7 months of the year. He currently works on a contract for 40 hours a week for an hourly rate of $28 per hour flat rate including penalties. David is a good, reliable worker but he is never sure if the employment will continue at the end of each season, and neither is his employer. He often works other jobs in the off period but they are also pretty uncertain.

In this situation, David works 40 x $28 per week x 30 weeks = $33,600

Certainty for everyone could increase if the employer paid David a weekly salary of $646.15 for the whole year. This would also even out tax taken every week and give David more certainty and surety to be able to apply for a standard mortgage, as he would be an employee (contract of service) rather than on contract (contract for service). It may increase loyalty and trust between David and his employer, and ensure that he returns each year to his employment. They may also wish to review the arrangement each year where there is an expectation of more or less hours. David could also claim this employment as his main job for tax purposes and still be able to work outside of this arrangement on the off-period.

Some of the benefits of this system include:

  • Certainty for the employee to allow them to plan and budget;
  • Ongoing employment that satisfies credit providers;
  • Tax paid is the same each pay and minimizes the problem of underpaying or overpaying income tax;
  • Certainty for the employer with their employees – they are more likely to keep people that they have invested time, skills and knowledge;
  • Potential flexibility for both employee and employer around hours worked depending on mutual needs. This arrangement also gives a regular opportunity/ excuse to discuss work hours, work needed to be done. It also focuses the employer more closely around work planning and what is actually required.

This arrangement may not necessarily work in all employment situations but it is certainly worth entertaining, particularly for those businesses that need flexibility and certainty with their employees.

Performance management: The Jamie Oliver approach to being a “proper Guv’nor”


Listening to the radio yesterday, both  issues of Australian management performance and also chef working in the kitchen were discussed yesterday on ABC Radio National’s program Life Matters, referring both to Australia’s mediocre management results and also the success of the chef Greg Mehigan at giving feedback. This reminded me of my admiration for those working in kitchens to show the way forward with practical management of their people.

I am a great foodie, a sucker for good-looking and tasting food and have become quietly addicted to some of the better food TV shows. And even in my private reverie, I have realized that some of our more famous TV chefs have a lot to teach us about managing people. They remind us that in a fast-moving and competitive consumer business of dining, that there is no room for poor performance, and sloppiness has the potential to kill an enterprise pretty quickly.

Take my favorite Jamie Oliver, and his approach to managing his FIFTEEN apprentices in his program of the same name. The deal was that fifteen aspiring and lucky young unemployed people were chosen to work with Jamie Oliver to fast-track through cheffing basics within 8 months with the aim of working in his new upbeat and happening restaurant Fifteen. It quickly became apparent that proportion of those chosen had no understanding of the basic requirements of the world of work, such as turning up on time, or even, turning up at all.
No problem, says Jamie. His response was to immediately ring the absentee, talk with them about how to solve whatever their current problem was to get them back to the kitchen quickly.
He must have also started to realise the meaning of the 80/20 Pareto Principle: that 20% of the people need 80% of your time and energy. He showed diligence and tenacity in chasing up the same offenders with increasingly doubtful excuses, gave each person the benefit of the doubt and showed trust in their potential.
For those who did turn up, he gave plenty of advice, support and encouragement for their work but was not shy of telling his apprentices if what they were doing really didn’t measure up. However, these moments were limited and used to best effect by showing them exactly what he wanted from them, not just expressing his dissatisfaction.

In our increasingly convoluted and politically correct workplaces, this refreshing approach seems more and more distant- unattainable. My guess is that it is because our workplaces have become larger, the purpose of our work more indistinct and our communication more impersonal. We have a layering of barriers as we become increasingly more disconnected from our purpose and the people we are supposedly working to help. In addition, much of the work being conducted in offices is increasingly conceptual, happening in our heads, without much practicality or connectedness to the more tangible world. For example, working in the areas of government policy, marketing, advertising, economics or even HR can be a jargon-filled, guessing game. Is it any wonder then that being able to have a straight conversation that names the issue and the possible solution is so difficult?

And then you have the additional underlying problem that is becoming all too common – those people who don’t wish to take responsibility for their actions or their impact on others. Those delightful folk who lack personal awareness and make other’s lives difficult by either continuing to refuse change, to accept direction, to play the “poor me” role or who bully everyone.
These are difficult situations to deal with but not impossible. However, the only way to deal with performance at work is to deal with it. Sounds obvious but quite difficult to do, particularly when we have the dreamy conceptual world beckoning, dragging us back into our heads or more jargon-filled conversations.
So, what to do?
Deal with problems immediately when they arise. Do not stew over the problem or push it under the carpet. This sounds very obvious but we all have experience with the power of our minds: these problems develop into monsters very quickly and mostly, the reality is actually much easier to deal with than the wildest fantasies in our minds.

Take the person aside privately and indicate you would like to talk with them. It is also important that you can be very specific about the details of the problem. Good also if the person that you have the problem with to be able to accept what you are saying, even if they don’t agree with you. You could try to gauge their level of willingness to make a change or an improvement to their performance. Without willingness, nothing will happen.
This can also be a test for you to know how well you understand your own expectations of others, and how clearly and objectively these are communicated to others. Do you have a clear standard that is enforced, and also one that people are rewarded for achieving? It is objective or is it driven by personality and the way you like things?

Make an agreement with the person, if you can, about what difference you want to see and by when. You may also need to help the person to achieve this if there is a barrier – lack of understanding, skill, money or perhaps even good old-fashioned confidence. Plenty of praise and encouragement when you start to see changes will be very important, although make this genuine and not too over the top.

You must stick to your side of the bargain if you expect that they will do the same. It would be prudent to make records of all of your conversations and ensure the other person has a copy of these also.

What if it doesn’t work?
What I have outlined here is really a sketch or outline of how to deal with a problem and often life isn’t that simple. Review the situation and ask yourself honestly:

  • Are my expectations realistic? Could I make smaller steps to make it more achievable?
  • Are they understood by the other person?
  • Does the person really have all the resources needed to achieve what I want them to do?
  • Is this type of work really suitable for this person? Do they have the style and temperament for the work or are they really a square peg in a round hole? If yes, can I change the job to suit or not?
  • Is there a deeper personality or other conflict going on here, not to do with this job?

It may be that you come up with a negative for each of these questions. There are some problems that don’t have an easy answer. It may be that the person needs to move on or move out. There is a lot of fear about facing this, particularly with those working in government and other similar institutions. This is an OK outcome and you can rest easy if you are certain you have tried to resolve this problem with all your energy, ideas and care.

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