Do You Know What Your people (Are Supposed to) Do?

What kind of people do you have below you that you made decisions on or have influence over? I’m not talking about introverts vs. extroverts, but rather skillsets. This is an age old question. Do you really know what your people do? Sounds like a potentially silly question, but it is very real, and is a problem in Corporate America these days. Think of it this way, you are giving your personnel evaluations for the year (hopefully not for the first time since LAST year) and you have to tell them how they are doing. Sure, you can tell if they’ve accomplished what you told them to accomplish, but … let’s forget the evaluations, let’s take a step further back for just a minute back to goal setting. Let’s paint for just a minute . . . .

If you remember, you sat down a little over a year ago and started to sketch out goals for every one of your employees. You know most of them fairly well but you may only have your own, limited knowledge of what their job descriptions actually mean. You don’t pay much attention, though as you know what your peers say each of the job descriptions mean to them so you go with it. As you map out your team’s goals, you feel confident that they are going to succeed and also be a great contributer to the company’s bottom line.

Fast Forward >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> You are back at your evaluations, and even though your direct reports may have “succeeded” they aren’t truly excited about what you have to say and you, yourself, find something just a bit off. It almost feels like . . . you both actually lost! Time to dig in a little.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Rewind a little more – even before you did your goal setting, and go back to your hiring process. Let's take a look at what you could have done, perhaps from the very beginning:

As you are working on your staffing plan (you do have a staffing plan, right?) jot down all of the employee types you are going to have under your direction. If you are inheriting a team, you need to do this retroactively. Now that you have your list, go do some research yourself. Don't call your buddy at your last job and ask him what he thinks each function serves – chances are, he's doing it wrong! Do some research yourself and find out what the industry standard is for that position. Look into professional organizations and what they say about the position. Only then, can you do yourself, your company, and your employee a service as you will hire the right person.

So, let's go back to the present. What do you really know about what your people do? Let's look at project managers. This is a title that has many different meanings to many different people. I know what it means to be a PM according to PMI. I have a good understanding of the industry and know what "industry standard" processes are but I am not sure that everyone in my industry does. I once heard someone say "I am a PM, I don't plan things. I get things done, I don't have time to plan." OUCH I wonder how much additional cost was involved in THAT project??? The truth is, that PMs are truly planners, not "doers". If you, as the leader of that PM resource understand that, you are setting that PM up to win and the company to win, and ultimately yourself to win.

I challenge you to do your research before you set your goals for the next go-round. If you find that you've had it all wrong, you are now armed with the right information to help make positive change in your organization. Give your employees their goals utilizing this information . . . if they are willing to accept this challenge, you have a winner on your hands. If not . . . well, I'll let you decide what their new job title should be.

By the way, if you want to know why a PM is a planner and not a "doer" I'll be writing on that very soon.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have employees that have a "mystery job" that you might need to get in front of?

Thanks for reading and have a productive day!

–Jim

Your Project Team Does Matter! and so does their experience

As a project manager I deal with a diverse set of team members that are not under my immediate supervision. By this I mean that I am a project manager, and not a functional supervisor. When I need team members for a project, I pick from a pool of employees with available time. One of my current projects employs approximately 20 team members. One team member specifically has had a few personal hiccups (extreme life events) causing missed work and on some days poor performance. This particular employee, however, is a 9 year veteran of our organization and a superb performer (normally).

The problem comes in when this individual had a conversation with management about some needs and individual consideration. During the conversation, she was continually denied simple requests that were not out of the ordinary. When inquiries were made after explaining the value she provides, it was stated “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been there 1 year or 9.”

Damaging words!

The truth is, it DOES matter. Losing this employee would cause a backlog in development. Not just a backlog of a single person, but it would take two to three people to develop as much as this employee does. The experience and knowledge she has is not interchangeable with just anyone, let alone a new person or someone here for only a year.

This kind of statement WILL destroy workplace morale. This employee then came out, continued her work as normal, but subsequent conversations quickly turned to that statement. Now many employees have heard it, including veterans of 20 plus years. It is no longer a single employee that feels an “inch tall” but an entire department. With current lay-offs, it has everyone looking over their shoulder, including top performing veterans that should have nothing to worry about.

Words like this kill relationships with top employees. These relationships are hard to build up to begin with and are even harder to rebuild once they’ve been told they do not matter. The truth is, they DO matter and so does the experience they bring in. Take care of your top performers and build up your sub-par performers. Who cares if they’ve had a rough year (medical, death in family, or even other personal matter). Be compassionate at the very least. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Don’t let that experience walk out the door over careless words.

Invest in your relationships.