Expensive people issues – ignoring them is costing you real money

Burning money

One of your key managers has become a bit pre-occupied and distant lately. Nothing you can point to directly but something has changed and their performance is not what it was.

It is the small indications you have noticed the most. They eat alone or go out for lunch. They do not make small talk. Laughter has been replaced by silence and occasionally even an out of character snap back.

You do not know why any of this is happening of course because you have not asked them and well, based on your experience with them, they would be unlikely to tell you anything anyway. It is probably a phase and will all blow over in time. Besides you have a business to run and targets to meet. Messy people issues are for HR to deal with.

Most managers will readily acknowledge the all too common scenario above. There are many variants and degrees of severity but essentially the situation boils down to a key worker having some sort of issue and their performance suffering.

Perhaps you are part of a large organisation and the effects are not huge in relation to the rest of the staff. Perhaps the person in question is in a role which impacts few others in the organisation and has no impact on the customer experience. Perhaps.

However, what if you are a smaller business and that person represents a major percentage of your staff? What if they are your key salesperson or an agent who interacts directly with your customers? What if that person manages a key department and the reduced performance and poor attitude filters down? What if that person is you and you are the CEO? What if indeed.

Even if you set aside or forget the basic human right whereby the employee should be helped to feel better on ethical grounds, try applying an actual pounds and pence costing to the results of the poor performance in terms of wasted wages and lost opportunity. Try a modest five or ten percent reduction and factor this into relevant organisational scenarios in your business and you’ll soon see some uncomfortable figures developing. These numbers represent money you are losing which should really be on your bottom line.

In my experience these issues rarely if ever fix themselves. If things worsen for this person you are looking down the barrel of more disruption, stress related illness, sickness and even the employee leaving altogether; potentially with the all too common legal repercussions which can follow.

People who are wrapped up in a personal issue are generally stuck there. They cannot see a way out because everything looks black. If they could see a solution to a superficial problem there would be no issue in the first place, just an exercise in prioritising and resource marshalling.

People who are stuck need a resource outside of themselves to get unstuck. As a good manager, you are duty bound to take positive steps once you know there is an issue. Some managers are great at being this much-needed resource but sadly they are in the minority. Many managers lack the skills and empathy to address the situation properly and, even though they may have the best of intentions, when they take a, “come on chin-up, it’ll be alright” or a “pull yourself together” approach this can often make the situation worse.

Even talking to someone at work at all can be a no-go area for the person with the issue because whether it is a work-related problem or a personal one there are a host of reasons they may not feel comfortable discussing it. They might not want to risk exposing their perceived weakness or failure any further. Their boss may in fact be the cause of the issue. They may fear a lack of confidentiality, even from an internal company coach or counsellor.

What then is the solution when you have someone who is stuck, suffering and costing your organisation money? You cannot simply ignore them and, unless you are a skilled and experienced coach who has the full trust of their staff, you are unlikely to help them effectively yourself. Internal coaching often doesn’t work due either for a variety of reasons already mentioned.

I would recommend a high-quality external coach be brought in or made available. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I may be a little biased here but my bias comes from a place of love. I am a high-quality coach and much of my work centres on this very type of personnel issue. I and other quality coaches provide the mental and emotional space, the deep dive questioning, positively challenging environment and full confidentiality which people need to open up fully and discuss, sometimes for the first time, any and all issues which are holding them back. It can and frequently does work wonders.

When these people get back on track they often bounce back better than ever and the positive ripples can spread far and wide within the organisation. Whichever coach you do choose, make sure the chemistry is right and check that coaching is indeed the best option. A modest outlay in quality coaching at the right time can realise a massive return on your investment and it can add real value to your bottom line.

Don’t ignore those messy people issues. Tackle them early and engage them effectively.

Invest in some high quality external coaching support and you will be amazed.

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Why being late for appointments can be so expensive

Young businessman with a briefcase and glasses running in a city street on a background of red brick wall. concept of rapid career

So, you are a bit late for a business meeting but it should be okay, right? It is only a few minutes and besides it was not really your fault was it? The traffic was worse than you expected, that last e-mail was important and the people you are meeting are normally laid back and friendly so they will probably cut you some slack. The meeting can start without you and you can quickly get up to speed, right?

Do not be so sure.

Business people are busy. We have to make rapid and often automatic decisions about the world in general and the people we interact with in order to stay sane and make sense of the world. Everybody does this.

We put great store in first impressions. You need to make your first impression a good one.

It would be nice to suppose that first impressions are formed by a person analysing all parameters in any given situation then making a rational and intellectual front of brain decision about the meaning and next steps. Perhaps the process might follow this route: “My appointment is late so I will check the internet and determine if there are potential traffic problems. Perhaps a flat tyre or important family matter? I’m sure there will be a good reason for it and I will happily bide my time in order to find out what they have to offer me once they get here. I’m sure the other people here will reach the same conclusion.”

It would be nice but in the real world it does not happen like this at all.

All first impressions are formed in our old or reptile brain and a summary report gets sent higher only after being screened here first. First impressions happen fast and they have durability too. Whether good or bad, this summary report lodges in the reptile brain. It is hard to get it rewritten once it is in there.

The old reptile brain is not very sophisticated but it is there to protect us. It is the seat of the flight or fight response. It checks for danger or threats. Its mission is also to prevent us wasting time and resources and to stop us using up valuable higher processing functions when it feels we do not have to.

For people who value and respect their time meeting someone who has a different view of time is a trigger. Someone who is late is perceived as a threat. Someone who is late equates to someone who will waste valuable resources. The negative report gets sent; it carries a lot of weight and it endures. The reptile brain has a number of such triggers. Other people have them too so you need to work hard to create good first impressions yourself.

I am a busy man and I place great store in punctuality. Timeliness is a key measure in determining whether I will work with someone or not when I meet with them or interact with them for the first time. Time respect is one of my key values. I will do everything in my power to ensure I arrive at places ahead of time in order to prepare and provide a professional first impression. I expect others to do the same for me.

Lateness indicates a number of fundamental things to me: Lack of care for self and others, chaotic and disorganised, untrustworthy, disrespectful, unreliable and arrogant. The list could and does go on. I do not want to work with people who exhibit these traits no matter what they have to offer. This will cost them money and gain them a poor reputation. If you do this it will be costing you money. Would I refer you to others? Unlikely.

Am I actually right about that person? Perhaps not but it does not matter. I simply do not have the time to apply my neo-cortex or my patience to the issue. Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Maybe I am but my reptile brain has detected the threat and sent the report and that is what I have to go on. These are my perceptions and, as for all humans, perception is reality. I have to make fast decisions in order to be successful and I am not alone.

Now, we cannot help events which are truly out of our hands of course but unless you are actually in grave mortal peril I would like to be informed of your time status and even have the meeting rescheduled rather than have you show up late. I can then do something more productive with my time. We have mobile phones now and you must at least have written my number down as part of your preparation.

Some people use lateness as a power play. They feel it elevates their status in some way and therefore lowers mine. I tend to walk away from these people and leave them to it because there are plenty of business people out there who are punctual and a genuine pleasure to deal with.

When I feel a person has respected my time I tend to respect them more.

We all know at least one person who is chronically late all the time. They would be late for their own funeral as the saying goes. They are probably beyond help. If this is you then you are probably beyond help too.

If you are only late now and again there is hope. Get a grip and take control of your approach to time. Get coaching if it helps. At least get a good alarm clock. Even if it goes against your normal preference you must show others you can respect their time if not your own. If you do not it could cost you far more than you think.

You are sending behavioural messages all the time so send good ones whenever possible. What other poor first impressions might you be making? What do you look for when you meet someone for the first time and why?

To get the low-down on effective people management skills check out my Amazon author page http://viewauthor.at/AndrewDPope and see my full current range of no nonsense business and self-development books. The list is growing all the time so watch this space.