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Ken Keller: Leaders set tone

Posted: February 9, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 9, 2014 2:00 a.m.

 

Research suggests that employees do not leave because of the company they work for, but they quit because of their manager.

I’ve written, coached and taught the kinds of things a good leader should say, such as, “Let me know if you need help getting this project completed,” and “You’ve been killing yourself — why don’t you take Friday off?”

And, unfortunately, I’ve also heard that both owners and managers say to employees, “If you don’t like working here, there’s the door!”

Dave Baney, the CEO of 55 Questions, worked in the food industry for many years assisting, among other things, franchise owners recruit managers to run multi-million dollar locations. With his permission I’ve extracted some helpful thoughts on what should not be said to employees by owners or managers at any level.

Too many managers don’t have helpful or encouraging words. Instead, they use a vocabulary meant to destroy and humiliate people. This somehow makes the manager feel more important and powerful. What it really does is destroy the relationship.

Here are some of the most atrocious sayings; I hope you haven’t heard them around your office lately, and if you have, it’s past time to put a stop to it.

“These days, you’re lucky to have a job at all.” The translation is that the manager can’t believe you are still on the payroll and can’t believe you aren’t unemployed. It’s not only a huge insult, but worse, a statement of personal failure off the manager.

When someone hears, “I don’t pay you to think” it destroys motivation and engagement. Engaged employees will always offer creative “what if?” ideas, which are usually embraced by good managers.

This statement screams, “Do what I tell you to do, and nothing else.”

“If you don’t want this job, I’ll find someone who does.” Good managers realize that to get and keep great people, they have to give leeway and let them know that their contributions have value. Bad managers believe that people are expendable and that anyone can be quickly replaced.

Bad managers constantly remind employees, “You work for me and don’t forget it.” Actually, the name of the company everyone works for is on the front of the paycheck and paychecks are signed by the owner.

“It sounds like a personal problem to me, so deal with it.” Personal problems become work problems when they involve employees who do not get along. Good managers are the ones capable of stepping in to mediate and resolve a situation. Bad managers lack the tools to address these types of situations and aren’t interested in gaining relevant tools so they simply tell the employees to figure it out themselves.

When a manager asks, “Who gave you permission to do that?” it means that communications are lacking, priorities aren’t clear and the person asking the question is likely obsessing about hierarchy and authority.

“I’ll take it under advisement” is the ultimate brush-off that translates, “Go away and leave me alone. I’m not going to do what you suggest, and I value your opinions less than I could ever describe in words.”

“Drop everything and DO THIS NOW!” is not something anyone wants to hear. There will be emergencies in every business that require an “all hands on deck” mentality. But good leaders do this only in real emergencies. Bad managers operate in emergency mode all the time.

Good owners and managers encourage their employees, recognize their work and have honest conversations to solve problems and jump hurdles together.

Do any of these phrases sound like something a manager in your company might say? How about you, are you guilty of saying these kinds of things?

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

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