All Posts By

Laurie Maddalena

Are You Driving Away Great Employees?

I once worked for an organization that had a 20 page travel policy. This policy went into excruciating detail about the dos and don’ts of travel, including the limits of how much could be spent at each meal. This was just one example of a practice that set the tone of distrust and micromanagement throughout the organization. Whether the company intended to or not, the leadership team created an employer-centered culture that left little room for ownership and empowerment.

As a former human resources executive, I can appreciate protecting the organization by being explicit with boundaries and expectations. But I believe many organizations are taking it too far. We have become so extreme in our efforts to ensure employees don’t take advantage of the organization, that we take an offensive approach by creating policies and practices that nearly take the common sense out of working. The result is a culture where employees feel micromanaged, deflated and uninspired.

Many organizations focus on implementing engagement activities to retain employees, but often neglect to look at practices that might be driving away great employees. What sets the exceptional organization apart from the mediocre organization is a balanced approach to ensure all practices are cultivating an environment of engagement and ownership.

Below are three strategies to ensure you are not driving away great employees:

Shift from employer-centered to employee-centered. This is a leadership mindset that creates the overall culture of the organization. Take a look at all your policies, practices, handbooks, employee experiences, letters, and so on, and determine if they are employer-centered or employee-centered. Do they set a tone of trust and ownership, or of micromanagement and distrust? Employer-centered policies assume that people need everything spelled out for them and are highly specific and rigid.

Employee-centered policies provide guidelines, but treat employees as adults and assumes they will use common sense.

Create an exceptional onboarding experience. Put yourself in the shoes of a new employee when you look at your practices and ask yourself if this is an organization you would love to work for.

If you were a new employee reading over your company handbook, would you bristle, or feel welcomed? One of my clients starting sending an Edible Arrangement to new employees the week before they started work with the organization. The impact from this practice has been phenomenal. The CEO has received appreciate voicemails from new hires, and many have remarked that they felt very special and welcomed. What can you do to create an awesome experience for new hires that wins them over as soon as they join your team?

Become a purposeful leader. Most leaders take a reactive approach to management rather than a purposeful and meaningful approach. A purposeful leader is in touch with the departmental culture and focuses on cultivating an environment of development, coaching, and involvement. Two of the top reasons employees leave organizations is that they don’t receive quality feedback and that they don’t get the coaching they need to develop. Traditional managers are driving away great employees by only reacting when necessary and not designing a meaningful relationship with employees to provide feedback and coaching and involve them in decisions.




Forget the “Open Door Policy”

I was recently facilitating a leadership program, and one of the participants voiced a challenge she was having with her organization’s open door policy. The organizational leaders felt it was important to always be available for staff and that meant always having their doors open, ready for an employee who needed them at a moment’s notice. This manager was sharing that she was interrupted so much, that she couldn’t get anything done! I bet this challenge sounds quite familiar to you.

 It’s time for the “open door policy” to go. Let’s take it out of our handbooks, stop boasting about it to employees, and discontinue our lectures to managers on how they need to be available at all times to create a family-friendly environment. The open door policy is one of the most inefficient organizational practices in business today. It promotes overtaxed managers, needy employees and ineffective leadership.

 I believe that the original intent of the “open door policy” was to create an environment of communication and collaboration, not an environment where people are constantly interrupted and get nothing done. Yet that is exactly what type of environment  an open door policy perpetuates; inefficient work, scattered managers, micromanaged employees, and poor results. The open door policy is robbing leaders of the precious time they need to actually plan and get work done.

One of the worst places you can work is in your office. Most leaders are interrupted constantly all day; by the phone, employees, email, and other people just “stopping by”. What leaders really need is time and space to focus, plan, create, and think. And this might mean working in more “unconventional” ways like in a coffee shop, a conference room, or even at home. Heck, it may mean closing your office door sometimes!

Employees don’t need their leaders to be available 24/7. They don’t need their managers to be nearby in case they need something. In fact, an open door policy encourages employees to come to their manager for unnecessary issues. It creates more work  and more dependent employees.

What employees really want are managers who are approachable and supportive. They want managers who will set clear expectations, provide timely feedback, and get out of the way. They want leaders who spend planned and meaningful time with them to coach and develop them.

So, close your office door and get some things done. Better yet, close your email and put your phone on do not disturb. Take two or three hours to actually do meaningful work. At the end of the day, I bet you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and success like never before.

The Effective Executive

I recently conducted a survey of high level leaders and found that their number one challenge was managing time and increasing productivity. Have you ever left work at the end of the day and wondered what you actually accomplished? Operating in reactive mode is a very common challenge leaders face. 

 I recently wrote an article that was featured in Credit Union Management Magazine entitled “The Effective Executive: Strategies for Leading Your Team so You Can Focus on the Big Picture”. This article highlights five ways to increase productivity, engage your employees, and lead at a higher level.

 Below are the five strategies:

Define key result areas. These are the three to five functions only you can do in your job. Once you get clear on your key result areas, plan your month, week and day around these high-leverage activities.

Shift your focus: people first, then things. Your success as a leader depends on getting things done through other people. Spend most of your time developing and coaching your staff and less time on operational areas.

Design the relationship. Be purposeful in designing the relationship you have with each employee. Ask each employees questions to find out their individual needs and tailor your leadership style to each person so you can garner the best performance from each employee.

 Use the coach-approach. The cornerstone of coaching is to be more inquisitive rather than directive. Ask more questions and listen instead of telling your employees what to do. Challenge your employees to think critically and develop solutions on their own.

 Build in accountability. Set clear expectations and deadlines, and build accountability systems into your individual and team meetings to encourage accountability. Be explicit about who will do what and by when. Employees are more likely to naturally follow through when they know there is a system in place to check progress.