Category: Leadership

Effective Management: Developing Your Employees, Building Teams & Growing a Department

Have you been told you’re too friendly to be an effective manager or leader? It’s not your job to be liked. Your job is to be the be the most effective leader and manager you can be for your employees and team.

Measure your effectiveness as a leader and manager on:

  1. How well you understand what your employees highest potential is
  2. How well you help the employee realize what their highest potential is
  3. How much of that you are developing and unlocking

Developing Your Employees

An effective manager provides their employees clear direction, goals, expectations and feedback as well as an overall understanding of where they fit in and what’s next for them.

  • If you asked all of your employees if they know where they currently stand, do they REALLY know where they stand?
  • Would their overall response be “I think I’m doing pretty well?”
  • 85% of employees say that career growth is the key reward at an organization. If we asked your employees what’s next for them and their career, do they have a clear vision and pathway from you?

Actionable item: Create a list all of your employees and next to each one write a sentence or two summarizing where they REALLY stand. Then tell them – directly, with support and candor. Get the dialogue started on their career. Ask them “what’s next” for them.

Building Your Team

An effective manager has a relentless pursuit for uncovering deep-rooted problems within their team, candidly discussing problems and solutions with a key group of people, then implementing and driving a plan to completion.  As much as you would like to think your employees tell you what’s wrong, there only telling you what you want to hear. The essential pieces of feedback are left unsaid and you’ve got to make it your mission to find it.

  • Are you being honest and transparent with yourself and your team about the REAL issues plaguing your department, employees, or team? What are the issues people are talking or thinking about, that they are not willing for comfortable to discuss.
  • Are you discussing the tough issues with your core team weekly and working with them to find solutions?
  • How frequent are your one on ones? Not the “How’s everything going” one on ones, but the “tell me what’s really busted in our department” one on ones.

Actionable Item: Go on a fact finding mission throughout the week. Solicit employees for their feedback and let them know you want to hear ALL the issues so you can start addressing the problems. Meet with your core team on Friday and prep them to come to the meeting with the top departmental issues, top people issues, and top opportunities. Use the Friday meeting as an nondiscriminatory brainstorming session, prioritize the issues order, and then over the weekend develop the directives for the upcoming week based on the feedback session.

Growing Your Department

A well run department has specific work guidelines, consistent communication of goals and progress, clear performance expectations from its members, and strong reinforcement and adherence to those performance expectations.

  • Do your employees have a defined structure with clear boundaries, defined roles, and know their work expectations?
  • Are members clearly and immediately addressed when expectations are not met?
  • How well would your team rate the quality and frequency of your group communication relating to the progress and goals of the department and how it fits into the organization and strategy?

Actionable Item: Create a list of general performance expectations. Print out the job descriptions that each employee received and make sure that they are current; expectations are clear, and the job duties and roles are still relevant. If they aren’t, then you need to rewrite them immediately and re-establish job role and duties with your employee.

Annual Letter to Employees from the President & CEO

As the CEO it’s my job to set the tone of the organization for the upcoming year. For us in 2014 we want to make sure we stay true to our vision and values as well as keep focus on the core business, something that we didn’t do in the past. As a manager or leader of your department or organization, you must set the tone for your team. Nowhere in a business is influence more valuable than where tone is set from the top

Here’s a copy of our annual letter from the President & CEO that we sent out to our 33 employees:


Nick and I would like to thank you for all of your hard work and outstanding contributions this year. We know how much time and energy this company demands and we deeply appreciate all of your efforts to make it a fantastic success.  Our loyal customers can always count on you, your team can always count on you, and we can always count on you to go that extra mile.  We have to thank you again for all you do for FCP.

2013 was a transformational year for us. We have enjoyed double-digit revenue growth bringing us to nearly $15 million in annual sales, we returned to profitability; and, most importantly, we re-established our values and made significant improvements to the organization developing a solid culture of service, support, and recognition. 

As we grow and become more successful, it tends to attract bigger and better opportunities. As we succeed, a key challenge becomes prioritizing those opportunities, and what we’ve learned from experience is that trying to do too much results in a lack of clarity, over-commitment; and we wind up disappointing people, exhausting ourselves, or simply failing.

To prevent this complexity we have made a commitment to only pursue opportunities that help strengthen our core business, the core that has produced over a decade of remarkable revenue growth, the same one that has helped us through 2013 stronger than ever.

Now, we have a simple goal for 2014: Stay focused, follow our vision, aim for simplicity, and continue building our great team. We have committed ourselves to never lose sight of what we are trying to achieve. We will continue to focus our energy and attention on our vision:  to set the standard for quality and service in the automotive industry. 

FCP is entering a new era, in a new facility, with great talent, and a great plan.

Let’s welcome 2014 as our new home, we’ve all earned it.

Happy New Year,

Nick & Scott

What did you do to set the tone for your department or organization for 2014?

Constructive Criticism: 3 Simple Ways to Give Effective Negative Feedback

Let’s skip the “praise sandwich” and learn how to give candid constructive feedback.

In my previous article, The Power of Positive Reinforcement, I emphasized the importance of recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors. There comes a time though when delivering negative feedback is inevitable. Most managers in my experience find it very difficult to give negative performance feedback, but if you show that you are motivated by the desire to help and not to punish, it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant task.  Here are three ways that I preface constructive criticism or negative feedback to encourage my employees and keep them motivated:

Let them know that they are valuable enough to invest time and resources into them:

 “I appreciate all you’ve done for us. The company is very supportive of your efforts and committed to putting resources behind your growth and development. There are a few areas where I think we can make some improvements to make an even bigger impact on the organization. “

Let them know that you are supportive of their development and success:

“You’ve shown a lot of commitment to this organization and drive to improve yourself. I know you have ambitions and want to improve so please realize that as your manager, I’ve got to be hard on you. “

Let them know that they contribute to the success of the organization:

“You’ve really made a difference here. I’m glad you joined the team and I’m happy to see the progress you’ve made.  If you put in more time in these areas I know you can add even more value to the organization. “

Remember, the goal of any feedback, positive or negative, is to improve the behavior of the other person to bring out the best in your entire company. Learning how to deliver negative feedback will produce positive results and strengthen the relationships with your employees.

So, how do you give negative feedback? I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Secret to Making Good Decisions in Business

Someone recently asked me “Are you scared your going to make a bad decision and the company will suffer?”

Of course I’m scared. I make bad decisions all the time but when it’s time to make a big decision I almost always get it right.

Here’s the trick – an incredibly important concept discussed by Jim Collins in his book Great by ChoiceBullets Before Cannonballs – first “firing bullets” to gain empirical validation before making a big bet (firing a cannonball).

We shoot lots of bullets before we launch cannonballs. You can consider these “bullets” as low-cost, low risk tests or experiments. Your missed shots are quick and have minimal impact on the company. When bullets hit the mark your load your cannonballs and unleash everything you’ve got.  Successful companies find ways to test the waters before investing large resources into a project or making a critical business decision.




The Power of Positive Reinforcement

A close friend and mentor once told me, “young strong leaders typically aren’t good at positive reinforcement because they don’t need it themselves.” He was right, I was awful at giving positive reinforcement. In fact, I don’t think I gave any of my employees positive feedback or encouragement when they did something right, but I could quickly point out when they did something wrong.  I never quite understood the value of positive reinforcement until it came together for me while reading an excerpt out of the book 212 Degree Leadership.

Imagine you are sitting blindfolded with a tinker toy model on a table in front of you, just out of reach. Your task is to reproduce the model in less than two minutes. You cannot touch the model, but you do have a supervisor who can provide you with limited feedback and you have all the supplies you need. Unfortunately, your supervisor has been instructed to provide you with negative feedback only!

Can you imagine how you might feel? You do not know exactly what to make and every time you grab the wrong part you are told “no” or “wrong.” If you happen to grab the right part, you hear nothing at all. Not very inspiring, is it? Yet the simple demonstration represents the disconnect people all over the world frequently feel when the vision is not clear and they are not supported with positive direction and feedback.

Frustration. Anger. Anxiety. Depression. At that very moment I understood how detrimental and demotivating only giving negative feedback was to my employees. Not an ideal working environment for anyone. Plus, it’s exhausting and stressful for the person delivering the feedback.

Now let’s try another round of the exercise. This time, imagine you are still blindfolded with two minutes to reproduce the model, but your supervisor can now provide you with positive feedback. In other words, if you grab a part you need, your supervisor will say “yes” or “right.”

Self-Esteem. Motivation. Confidence. These are the feelings that come to mind when I’m receiving positive reinforcement, giving me the physiological freedom to be creative and do great things.

We all know that positive reinforcement makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future but we often focus our time on what employees are doing wrong versus reinforcing what they are doing right. As I change and grow, I’m learning the value of giving much more positive than negative feedback. Making this shift in my approach was transformational to the culture of my organization, my employees well being and attitudes, and my own personal development and well being.

Try it for a week. I started small by creating two reminders each day in my Google Calendar reminding me to give positive feedback to an employee that is deserving of the praise.

You can also use the five to one method;  for every time you offer corrective action or constructive criticism to an employee, make sure you acknowledge them for five things they’ve done right.

Just remember to keep it authentic though. Too much positive reinforcement can lead to praise overload, diminishing the value.