I believe in employee-centered leadership—hiring for character and rewarding the same. When I was a new manager I didn’t. I thought being a commander, a dictator was the way to get results.  It was a hard lesson for me to learn. I eventually realized fear based motivation was counterproductive, and that expecting people to just do their job without direction was a formula for failure. And then I learned that rewarding people for excellence as well as holding people accountable could be systemized. I learned that employee-centered leadership isn’t always warm and fuzzy.

Employee-Centered Leadership Isn’t Holding Hands and Singing Kumbaya

Building a team is about motivation, training, recognition, and team involvement, but it’s also about holding teammates accountable. Many managers don’t know when corrective action should be taken. Early in my career my management style could best be described as inconsistent. One day I might yell at someone for a matter out of their control and the next day ignore poor behavior. Since my leadership approach was largely fear-based, I expected interactions to be confrontational and therefore often avoided them rather than hold teammates accountable.

“I have run off, hindered, and ruined more direct reports than I want to admit. Too often, I told myself I was being a “nice boss,” because I didn’t hold people accountable. I didn’t want the confrontation. It would be unpleasant, and I wanted a pleasant work environment. As long as I viewed it as confrontational, it probably would be, but I began to realize it wasn’t confrontational if it came from the desire to help. Have you ever lost an employee you shouldn’t have lost because you didn’t hold them accountable? How many employees have you ruined?” — How Many Employees Have You Ruined?

When is Corrective Action Called for?

It’s simple. Ask these four questions. Stop when you find the answer. For example, if they’re untrained then train them. No tools? Give them the tools. And if they’re trained, have the tools, and nothing interfered with their activities then corrective action is the next step.

  • Are they trained? If not train them.
  • Do they have the tools? Supply the needed resources.
  • Were there consequential obstacles out of their control? Can the consequences be controlled? If so, how?
  • Did they decide not to follow procedure? If so, corrective action is called for.

How to use the Sandwich Method of Critique

The sandwich method of critique has been much maligned; even I thought it gimmicky when I was introduced to the procedure. And when it’s improperly done it is gimmicky, but when it’s true—it works. The first slice can’t be phony it has to be real — from the heart. If you don’t know anything you truly appreciate about the teammate, you can’t use the sandwich. 2-minute Video: How to Critique without Creating Animosity–Using the Sandwich Method

  • First slice. Share a character trait you appreciate—it must be real.
  • The meat. Tell the truth, straight forward without apology or emotion. Explain the expected activities needed to change the behavior. Get a commitment to following the procedures.
  • The final slice of bread. Use another positive. My favorite is to ask if they understand why you’re critiquing them. If your teammates know you have their best interest at heart, they’ll answer that you’re trying to help. That’s not confrontation — that’s help.

When and How to Terminate an Employee

Earlier this year two managers came to me for advice on terminating an employee. I asked if they believed they had done everything they could to help the employee succeed. Their answer was no. I followed by asking if the employee knew his job was in jeopardy. Once again, they didn’t think so. The next step was to sit down with the employee, share expectations, offer help, and be up front about the consequences. A thirty day period was set to review progress. At the end of thirty days, I suggested the managers ask the employee to grade his progress. Although he wasn’t making the desired amount of progress both managers doubted he would admit it. When asked, he admitted he hadn’t met expectations and agreed it would be better to look for another position. There was no confrontation.

  • Have you done everything you can to help the employee succeed?
  • Does the employee know where they stand?
  • Does the employee understand the consequences?

Employee-Centered Leadership is based on Common Sense

Whether its conflict management or behavioral modification, the key to employee-centered leadership is using common sense, cutting emotion out of the equation, and using a system. This system works for many, The New Managers Workbook: A crash course in effective management

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash