Posts By :

Jason

How to Have Effective Check-in Conversations
How to Have Effective Check-in Conversations 1080 608 Jason Lauritsen

It was my birthday and I was craving some time with my kids.

In a brazen attempt to pry my kids away from their technology, I offered a trip to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. My hope was, once they were a captive audience in the car, we’d be able to chat a bit.

But before we could even get loaded into the car, a shouting match exploded between the two of them. Apparently, my son (the thirteen-year-old) “slammed” the door before my daughter (the fifteen-year-old) could walk through it. She was startled and took immediate offense to this crime of epic proportions.

In a flash, there was screaming and accusations flying back and forth, with my dream of a fun ice cream outing quickly fading.

Eventually, I got the two of them calmed down enough to get in the car. They weren’t happy with each other, but their love of ice cream ultimately prevailed.

As we drove, I asked each of them some questions just to get them talking. We chatted about school and friends. The heat of the fight slowly faded as we drove.

Then, as we were waiting in the drive-thru lane for our ice cream, something surprising happened.

My son, from the backseat, said this, “Bailey, can we talk about what you think is funny?”

This struck me as a strange question, but Bailey was curious enough to say “Sure.”

He wanted to talk about what had happened back at the house. He shared that he thought closing the door right in front of her was funny, but now realized she didn’t think it was funny at all.

In the next few minutes, they talked about how slamming doors is never funny because someone can get hurt. He asked a few thoughtful questions, listened to what she said, and then said, “Okay, I won’t do that anymore.”

And just like that, the wound of the fight was healed.

Having the Conversations that Matter

This entire exchange took place in the span of just a few minutes.

My son asked a question that felt really important to their relationship. That question, in turn, created a meaningful conversation. He listened, reflected, and then decided to do something to make the relationship better.

Let me be clear, I’m not sharing this story as some evidence of my parenting skills. I was floored by the whole interaction.

They are good kids and they are thoughtful kids, but they can be pretty vicious to one another as siblings tend to be. This was not typical behavior.

The reason I share this story is that my son, in this moment, did exactly what I teach people to do with check-in conversations. I wish I could take credit for teaching him the steps. But if he learned it from me, it’s been simply through observation.

He used a check-in conversation to quickly repair some damage to a relationship that mattered to him.

It was such a simple and beautiful example of the incredible power of bravely stepping into a meaningful conversation with someone who matters to you.

The check-in conversation, as I teach it, is a technique to skillfully invite the conversations that matter with all of the important people in your life. It’s a vital skill to master as a manager and leader, but it’s also vital if you want to be a great partner, parent, or friend.

Pushing through the discomfort

Learning to have effective check-in conversations is simple. Every effective check-in conversation involves four steps which I will share with you below.

Knowing how to check-in is actually the easy part. The more challenging step is finding the courage to have these conversations instead of avoiding them. They often lead us to places that many find uncomfortable. When you skillfully check-in, you frequently hear things you may not like or aren’t prepared for.

In my son’s case, he learned that he was mostly at fault for what had happened. And, if he wanted to avoid this experience in the future, it was on him to make a change. I’m proud of how he responded because it required courage and vulnerability.

When you check-in well, you can get to the truth of what’s really going on with the other person. Whether hearing it makes you uncomfortable or not is irrelevant because it is their truth and their reality.

Learning to embrace the discomfort of hearing these realities is important because knowing is always better than not knowing if you want to foster strong relationships.

Four Steps of an Effective Check-In Conversation

Every check-in conversation, regardless of whether it’s with your direct report or your sister, has four steps.

Whether you want to generally check-in on someone’s well-being, the status of your relationship, or career progression; this four step process will ensure that you have a meaningful conversation regardless of the topic.

Check-In Conversation Step #1: Ask a great question.

Most well-intentioned check-ins go wrong before they even get started because we ask bad questions.

We are all guilty of it. Think about the last time you checked-in with someone. What question did you ask them? I’d bet it was one of the following:

  • How are you?
  • How’s it going?
  • How have you been?

All seemingly nice questions, but what kind of response do you typically get to these questions?

Fine.

Good.

Busy.

One word that tells you nothing other than they don’t really believe you want to have a conversation with them.

Asking a great question is the key to a great check-in. A great question is one that invites a response that requires a follow-up.

My son’s question in the car was a great example. When he asked “Can we talk about what you think is funny?” whatever she responded with was going to require some follow-up conversation. It would have been impossible to leave it there.

My favorite, universal check-in question is actually a simple modification on one of the questions above. Here it is.

How are you on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being “couldn’t be better” and 1 being “couldn’t be worse”?

The beauty of this question is that it doesn’t take long for them to respond and whatever number they share is a doorway into a meaningful conversation.

Any question that invites a response that requires a follow-up is likely a great question for a check-in conversation. You can click here to download my list of 18 Great Check-In Questions.

This brings us to the obvious next step.

Check-In Conversation Step #2: Ask the follow-up question(s).

Once you ask a great question and get the initial response, you obviously need to ask the follow-up question or questions that foster the conversation that matters.

The important thing to remember when asking the follow-up question(s) is that the goal of the check-in is for you to get an understanding of what’s really going on with the other person. This means being open, curious, and non-judgmental – regardless of what they say. (This is where embracing discomfort is important).

The follow-up questions you ask will depend on what great question you started with.

For the question I shared above, the follow-up depends on the number the person shares with you.

  • If they share a higher number like a 9, it’s an invitation for you to learn about and connect with them. You might ask, “What’s going well for you right now?”
  • If they share a lower number like a 2 or 3, your follow-up will be different. “That’s not good. What’s pulling that number down for you today?”

The follow-up question opens the door to the conversation you want to have. Be thoughtful, curious, and caring in your follow-up and the person on the other side of the conversation will usually reward you by sharing.

Check-In Conversation Step #3: Shut up and listen.

While this may seem obvious, the next vital step is to close your mouth, open your ears (and eyes) and really listen to what’s being shared.

When we ask a great question and a thoughtful follow-up, the sharing and conversation that really matters can begin. To get the most out of this opportunity, it’s critical to pay close attention to what’s being communicated. This includes what’s being said, but also what’s not being said along with the non-verbals being shared as well.

Listen patiently and allow the person to open up. When it makes sense, ask more follow-up questions.

Your goal is to learn and understand what’s really going on with that person. And once you’ve done that, you can move to the final step.

Check-In Conversation Step #4: Offer support and encouragement.

The last step of an effective check-in is to connect the conversation to your desire to be supportive of the other person.

If the conversation reveals that the individual is struggling, what support can you offer to them to help them through the challenges? This doesn’t mean you have to solve their problem. In fact, it’s often more powerful to ask a question like “How can I help?” or “What does support from me look like for you right now?”

If the conversation focused more on what’s going well, then closing the conversation with some appreciation and gratitude for the individual could be warranted. Or you might share how excited you are for them and ask if there’s anything you could do for them to be supportive.

In the example I shared with my kids, the check-in conversation was to repair a rift in the relationship and revealed an opportunity to do something different in the future. So, my son closed out the check-in by committing to behaving differently in the future.

More Check-In Conversations = Better Relationships

Being a great manager has everything to do with the relationships you build with your people. To foster a loyal, high-performing team requires that you invest in building relationships with each individual.

Strong relationships require strong communication. Mastering the check-in conversation is the key to building better relationships with your people. And as a bonus, it will help you improve every other relationship in your life as well.

I recently posted a video on my YouTube Channel outlining how to check-in effectively. You can visit that video by clicking on the video below.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

What Baggage are you Carrying into 2023?
What Baggage are you Carrying into 2023? 1080 608 Jason Lauritsen

Like so many others, I decided to take some time off between Christmas and New Years. 

My goal was to largely put work aside to rest up, spend time with my family, and reconnect with some friends. 

The first few days went pretty well due to all of the great distractions that Christmas provides. Cooking, cleaning, shopping with the kids, and all the rest. But once the holiday passed, I had a problem. 

I kept waking up early (real early) and couldn’t go back to sleep. My mind would start up on work. And, in particular, a couple of specific issues.  

The first night, I thought it was just a fluke. But on the third morning in a row of being awake at 4 a.m., I finally grabbed a cup of coffee and got to work. 

The things on my mind weren’t huge issues, just loose ends–things I hadn’t resolved and thus I couldn’t let go of. 

After a couple of hours, I’d done enough work to put these issues to rest in my mind. And the next morning I didn’t wake up so early. 

I call issues like this “psychic baggage.” Things that we hold in our mind because we know that they are unresolved. 

Carrying around psychic baggage has a real cost. Depending on the issue, it can drain your energy, interfere with your sleep, or harm your relationships. 

We all carry some of this baggage, some more than others. And we all have the ability to set at least some of that baggage down, if we choose to do so. 

What is Psychic Baggage?

It’s easy to overlook how much baggage we are carrying. 

In my case, I didn’t even realize these issues were weighing on me until I started paying a penalty in lost sleep. 

Psychic baggage comes in many shapes and sizes. 

Sometimes, it’s as simple as things we have chosen to carry around in our head instead of writing them down. How many times have you thought something like this? “Oh, I need to remember to follow up with Jenny about that project we discussed.” 

Instead of making a simple calendar reminder, we just “try” to remember. That’s baggage we have to carry.

It might be an important task that you just haven’t done yet. “I need to remember to call the plumber about that leak I noticed under the water heater.” Until you take action, it’s psychic baggage to carry. 

These are all relatively easy baggage to put down. The bigger, heavier psychic baggage that we carry around with us has to do with relationships. 

Conversations that need to happen. Checking in with someone you are worried about. Apologies you need to make. People you need to forgive. 

This type of psychic baggage can be a bit more challenging and complicated to put down. But, it’s the heaviest and most harmful baggage to carry around with you. And the benefits of freeing yourself of this baggage are immense.

Putting down your Psychic Baggage

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on how you might be able to put down some of your psychic baggage. Every time you succeed, you create more space to focus on what really matters to you. 

Identifying and setting down psychic baggage is an act of self-care. It’s an investment in your well-being. 

Here are a few prompts for how to get started.  

If you are worrying about it, confront it.

Identifying your psychic baggage is an exercise in mindfulness. Pay attention to where your mind goes when you are distracted or, in my case, waking up at 3:30 a.m. The baggage is often sitting in plain sight. 

What are you worrying about? What keeps coming up over and over? WHO keeps coming up, over and over? 

This is your mind doing the work of carrying the baggage. And it will keep happening until you notice it and take some action. 

Forgive others and yourself.

Most of us carry around a frightening amount of psychic baggage regarding other people who we feel have wronged us or whom we feel we have wronged. 

When we carry this baggage, it affects how we show up in our relationships with others. Holding onto resentments only harms you and serves as a barrier to other meaningful relationships. 

The key is forgiveness. We often make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness is something we give to others. It’s not. Forgive is something we give ourselves. It’s an act of putting down the heavy psychic baggage of resentment that you are choosing to carry. 

Forgive others. Forgive yourself for mistakes of the past. Put down that baggage. 

If you need to make some apologies, do that. Like forgiveness, an apology can have a positive impact on another person, but often the biggest impact is on you.  An owed apology is heavy baggage to carry. And issuing that apology allows you to put it down.   

Have the conversation that most scares you.

Perhaps the heaviest of all psychic baggage is the important conversation we are afraid to have.

This might be addressing a serious performance issue with someone who reports to you at work. Particularly when it’s something that may not have an easy solution. 

It could be talking with a friend who you worried about because of their recent life choices. 

Or, it could be talking with your parents about end of life issues. 

Or, having a conversation with your significant other about some issues in your relationship. 

All of this is heavy baggage to carry. And despite how scary the conversation feels as you consider them, what lies on the other side of those conversations always warrants the courage it takes to step into them. 

The unfortunate reality I’ve learned about this type of psychic baggage is that the longer you carry it, the heavier and more costly it becomes. 

Lighten your load

One way to make 2023 a great year is to choose not to carry around as much psychic baggage. You will feel lighter and more free when you do. 

Give yourself this gift. 

Over the next week, pay attention to what things come to mind when you are distracted, feel anxious, or can’t sleep. When you notice a particular issue, theme, or individual who keeps coming up, make a note of it somewhere (literally write it down). 

Your list might end up having one big thing or a bunch of little things. As I said earlier, baggage comes in many shapes and sizes.  

As you add things to your list, carve out some quiet reflection time to look at the list and ask yourself this question. 

What step do I need to take to put down this baggage? 

Do this for each one. Then, decide where and how to start. Pick an easy one first. You’ll feel the impact right away. 

Wishing you a wonderful (and lighter) 2023 full of joy and well-being!

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Performance Management Isn’t Only About Results
Performance Management Isn’t Only About Results 1080 608 Jason Lauritsen

I recently finished binge-watching the FX show, Welcome to Wrexham.

It’s a documentary made about the team and community surrounding a Welsh Football (Soccer, for us Americans) Club that was purchased by two Hollywood stars, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in 2019.

I’d highly recommend, particularly if you are either a sports fan or even just a fan of Ryan Reynolds. It’s really good.

One arc of the story is how Ryan and Rob, despite being the owners of a football club, know very little about football and they learn to love the sport throughout the first season.

In one episode, after a Wrexham loss, the coach was discussing the game and describing how he saw what happened. One of the things he said about the loss was something they featured in the episode.

Instead of saying, “We lost the match,” he said, “We didn’t get the outcome we were looking for.”

The coach went on to talk about all the things the team did well that day and how they had played in the way he’d wanted. But a few things didn’t go as hoped and, as a result, they lost the game.

This choice of words has really stuck with me. Rather than write off the entire game including the effort and preparation that went into it as simply a loss, he honored and recognized the whole picture.

We didn’t get the outcome we were looking for. 

The power in these words for me is the reminder to separate all the efforts that go into producing an outcome from the outcome itself.

Sometimes, you can do nearly everything right and still not achieve your goals. Other times, you can work your tail off on the wrong plan and end up failing. And then there are times when you get lucky – pulling out a win even when you probably shouldn’t have.

This has been really helpful this week personally as we’ve grappled with my wife’s campaign for state legislature that culminated on election night. We didn’t get the outcome we were hoping for. That doesn’t mean it was a bad campaign or that good hasn’t come from it.

This has also been helpful for me in the past when a business or product didn’t work. When you can separate the outcome from the process, it creates an opportunity to learn. There are always things you did right and things you should have done differently

Separating the outcome from the effort is incredibly important when we think about performance. As a leader, you are in the outcomes business. But the only way you can consistently produce great outcomes through the teams you lead is by understanding the process it takes to create those outcomes.

There’s a reason some professional sports coaches consistently produce great outcomes for their teams and others can’t. It’s because they have a deep understanding of the process and components that will produce success. They know how and why they get the outcomes they do.

As a manager, it’s easy to hyper-focus on outcomes as the only thing that matters when we evaluate an employee’s performance. This is short-sighted and misses the most important steps you can take to unlock higher performance.

Here are two steps you can take to ensure you aren’t focusing on the wrong things.

Reward effort and intention, not just outcomes.

One of my very first “real” jobs was as a third-party recruiter. I was highly motivated to succeed, so I paid close attention to the little training they provided me. I worked the plan they gave me.

For seven months, I showed up and dialed that phone. I followed the scripts. I hit my goals for how many calls to make each day. But my outcomes were dismal.

In the eighth month, something clicked, and things started to happen. Within a year, I was one of the top-performing recruiters in the office.

I’m not sure what changed exactly. Sadly, I didn’t get much coaching, so I was trying to figure it out on my own. Frankly, I’m surprised they kept me around given my poor results.

What I do know for sure is that about 90% of what I was doing on a day-to-day basis didn’t change. I had been putting in the right amount of effort, doing almost all of the right things, but I wasn’t getting the outcomes we were looking for.

You’ve probably got people on your team like this right now. You’d consider them a low performer based on outcomes, but they may simply be a high performer that just needs that one piece to be unleashed.

Your job is to help them find it.

Understand why outcomes happen.

Another trap we often fall into as leaders is not trying to understand how our people are getting the outcomes they produce. This is particularly important with high performers.

This is something I’ve been guilty of this many times. As long as someone is producing and is low drama, I would let them do their thing. And while that’s okay to a point, it’s a missed opportunity to get a deeper understanding of performance.

As someone who started my career in sales, I learned early on that two salespeople could both work very hard, have the same skills, do the same things and get very different outcomes based on the nature of their sales territory. One territory might be more familiar with the brand you are selling than the other. Or maybe it had a terrible salesperson in the past.

A lazy manager might conclude that one of these salespeople is a better performer than the other, but that would be the wrong conclusion.

Alternatively, you might have an incredibly committed and talented salesperson in a bad territory getting average results and a poor one in a great territory getting the same. But the performance is not at all the same.

As a leader, you need to understand not just the outcomes people produce, but the context, effort, and work they put into achieving them.

Both the process and the outcomes matter in performance management.

Once you start being able to separate the outcomes from the process, you can begin to gain a deeper understanding of what is truly contributing to performance.

And, you’ll start to see your people, their true performance, and their needs more clearly.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Why we need to kill the dress code
Why we need to kill the dress code 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Perhaps the simplest and most potent management advice I have to offer is this.

Treat people like responsible adults.

Sadly, the legacy of traditional management practices we inherited doesn’t always do this.

Case in point: the dress code.

For most of my career, I’ve railed against dress codes as insulting and mostly unnecessary.

Our role as leaders is to create an experience of work that cultivates performance–one where employees are willing and able to do their best work.

I fail to see how controlling how someone dresses when they work has ANYTHING to do with that.

As we emerge from the pandemic, now is the ideal time to kill the dress code and the command-and-control approach it represents.

In this video, I take the dress code to task. It’s time for us to move on and let adults dress themselves.

People will often rise to your expectations of them when you give them the chance to do so.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

How to Make Work Suck Less
How to Make Work Suck Less 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

My recent video about Quiet Quitting generated a lot of reaction.

Reading through the comments, I was reminded of a sad reality. Work still sucks for a lot of people.

If you look at any article or video online about Quiet Quitting, you find the same thing–a bunch of comments that fall mostly into two categories. The biggest number of people are sharing how they’ve been “quiet quitting” for years because of how much their job or manager sucks.

The other group are the cynics who want to pile blame on these people for being honest about their job experience. These comments have the feel of “Suck it up you lazy whiners.”

What I haven’t heard enough is people talking about what’s actually wrong and how to fix it.

In this video, I tackle why I believe work still sucks for so many people. Spoiler alert, it has to do with work being a relationship. And, I share a few tips on what to do if you want to make work suck less for yourself and others.

Please leave your thoughts and reactions in the comments. It’s great to hear what you think and it helps others find the video.

Work can (and should) be a fulfilling, rewarding experience for everyone. And we can make it that way.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Why You Should Ask Employees What Would Make Them Quit
Why You Should Ask Employees What Would Make Them Quit 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

It’s the conversations we are most afraid of that are the most important to have. 

This is true in all areas of our lives. And it’s particularly true at work right now.

As you worry about retention and losing our best people, I’d ask you this. 

Do you know why each of your best people might leave? Have you asked them? 

This is one of those conversations we tend to avoid because we are afraid of what we might hear. 

But what’s the alternative? It’s watching them leave knowing you should have done more to keep them. 

In this video, you’ll learn why it’s a good idea to talk with employees about why they might leave and how to do it. 

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe. 

Quiet Quitting is NOT the Problem
Quiet Quitting is NOT the Problem 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Is it just me or does it seem like references to “quiet quitting” are everywhere all of a sudden?

Thanks, TikTok.

Last year, it was to TikTok (also known as “for real quitting”).

Now it’s quiet quitting. But what is it? Is it actually quitting?

And it’s not really that quiet if you are posting it on TikTok, is it?

What’s going on here? And what should you do about it?

Today’s video has the answers.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe. 

How to Fix Employee Performance Issues without Breaking the Employee
How to Fix Employee Performance Issues without Breaking the Employee 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

One of the biggest mistakes I see from managers and organizations is how they address performance issues with employees.

They treat the performance issue as if it’s some flaw in the employee to be fixed. Or worse, like the employee has somehow decided to under-perform on purpose and deserves to be punished.

Performance improvement plans are the pinnacle of this error. They rarely improve performance, but often break the employee’s spirit.

It’s a heart breaking practice if you truly care about people. I can still remember how crushing it felt to watch an employee mentally give up right in front of me as they were presented with their PIP.

This cruelty to employees is completely unnecessary.

When someone is under-performing in their role, it’s rarely their fault. They aren’t broken. They don’t need to be fixed. They need support.

In this video, I break down how a manager should approach employee performance issues. And, I share how to diagnose the cause of the issue and address it in a way that leaves the employee feeling both respected and motivated to perform.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Performance Is Always First
Performance Is Always First 1080 720 Jason Lauritsen

As I was scrolling through LinkedIn this week, I stumbled across this post from the prolific Adam Grant.

The post was promoting an interview he had done with Prince Harry about mental health at work.   

Given the amount of writing and speaking I do about well-being and compassion in management, you might assume I’d read this and burst out with an “Amen!” 

But you’d be wrong. 

While I am sure Adam’s intentions are probably right on, the message of this post is wrong. Not all of it, but the punchline is bad advice. 

Valuing people at work. Yes!

Good managers care about your well-being. Yes!

Great managers care more about your well-being than your results. WRONG. 

Hear me out. 

The purpose of any organization is performance. That organization needs to produce goods or services of value to others and do it in such a way that they are able to stay in business. 

Everything an organization does in the service of staying in business can be thought of as performance. And to achieve this performance, they hire people to do jobs. The purpose of these jobs is to contribute in specific ways to organizational performance. 

Here’s the point. No performance = no organization = no jobs. 

Performance is why we have jobs, and it’s why managers exist: to help others perform their jobs successfully.  

Adam’s post reads as though you don’t need to concern yourself with results and performance. That is bad advice, and I’d be surprised if that’s what he meant.  

Well-Being vs. Results

This is a false trade-off. 

When we say things like “managers need to put well-being before results,” we’re assuming that the problem with bad management is simply their priorities. It’s not.

Managers aren’t choosing between focusing on results and caring for people’s well-being, at least not consciously. 

What’s happening in most cases is that managers don’t know it matters or have any idea how to care for the well-being of their people. 

Instructing these managers to put the well-being of their people ahead of results isn’t going to solve anything. It sounds just like another in a long line of HR directives they have learned to ignore. 

Caring for well-being and focusing on results are not in opposition. In fact, caring for your employees’ well-being is perhaps one of the most powerful ways you can support them in achieving great results.

Well-being is vital to performance but alone isn’t enough.

Performance is always the Goal

This is the point I want to make here: Performance has to always be first. As a manager, if you aren’t helping an employee perform successfully, it won’t be long before both of you are without jobs. 

Well-being is part of how a “Great” manager accomplishes this. They facilitate the employees’ success and performance by supporting their well-being. 

At the same time, great managers work equally hard to create clarity of expectations, provide coaching, and show appreciation. It’s all a part of the equation that produces performance. 

And performance is what keeps our paychecks coming. 

Being a great manager isn’t about putting well-being ahead of results, it’s about understanding and embracing well-being helps fuel high performance leading to success all-around.

 

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Management Shouldn’t Be So *Bleep*ing Complicated
Management Shouldn’t Be So *Bleep*ing Complicated 1080 721 Jason Lauritsen

Why do we make management so hard? 

I’ve got an entire bookshelf that is full of management and leadership books, many filled with contradictory advice about what really matters or the most effective approaches.  

Why have we made it so complicated?

Spending years as a corporate executive was a study in unnecessary complication. One specific meeting stands out. I can’t even recall the issue on the table, but it had to do with some employee concerns. 

This room full of senior executives spent what was felt like hours debating over what to do. As the newly hired HR exec, I observed and listened as this went on and on. 

The most maddening part of it all was that the people in this room really didn’t understand the issue at hand. They were making all kinds of assumptions, but no one had any grounded insight into the problem we wanted to solve.   

Finally, I decided it was time to intervene and I said, “If we want to know what the employees want, why don’t we just go ask them?” 

That’s ultimately what we did. 

We love to over-complicate things and we’ve done it with flair to the practice of managing people at work.

But managing people doesn’t have to complicated.

In fact, the role and purpose of the manager can be summed up in just five words.

Help people succeed at work.  

It’s really that simple. If you do this every day, you will be successful as a manager. 

But somewhere along the line, over the past 100 years or so since management was invented, we’ve done everything we can to make it more complicated.  

I’m done with complicated. You should be too.  

I have yet to find a complicated management practice that benefits either the manager or employee involved. In nearly every case, that process is designed for the needs of someone else (HR, executives, compliance, etc.) often at the expense of the manager, employee, or their relationship.

Case in point: performance appraisals. 

Complicated management practices are not only ineffective, they are profoundly wasteful. 

The core tenets and practices of management should be simple. Work is a relationship and thus, the most important practices of management are those that foster and build relationships.

These don’t need to be complicated.  

What does simple look like? 

Here are some examples of simple management tenets. 

  1. Treat people like adults. 
  2. Be kind to everyone. 
  3. Don’t be a jackass (I know, same as #2, but I think it’s worth saying again). 
  4. Be the example. 
  5. If you aren’t sure, ask.  
  6. Check-in as often as they need it. 
  7. Ensure people know what is expected of them. 
  8. Say you are sorry. 
  9. Say thank you more often. 
  10. Tell people you care about them. 
  11. Spend time with your people. 
  12. Trust people until proven otherwise. 

I know what you are probably thinking, these sound like motivational poster platitudes. 

Yep. 

There’s a reason those Successories posters were so popular. They reveal the simple truths to us that we crave in a land of unnecessary complexity. 

Sure, you will need to spend time with managers calibrating what these tenets mean in day-to-day practice. But I would caution you to reference item 1 on the list. 

Managers are savvy adults who want to succeed at their job. The meaning of simple statements is, well, simple to understand. Resist the urge to immediately complicate. 

When you establish simple expectations for a manager, they can figure it out more easily on their own through experience. 

I know I have personally learned the specifics of “don’t be a jackass” through conversations with several people I managed who were kind enough to share with me exactly HOW I was being a jackass. 

And I became better as a manager as a result. 

It’s time to simplify management. 

There has been a lot of hand wringing over the Great Resignation in the past year. Everyone scrambling to sort out what’s happening and what needs to be done to stop the exodus.

I think the answer is simple: Better managers. 

And to get better managers, we need to get back to the basics of the job and simplify. 

When you get your managers focused on their one true job, to help people succeed at work, and permit them to build better relationships with their people, most people will stop leaving. 

This won’t fix every problem, but it will have a huge impact. 

Keep it simple. Make it human. Retain your people. 

Rather watch than read? 

If you prefer video over reading, here you go.

***

If you are not subscribed to my email list and would like to receive great content like this delivered straight to your inbox each week, click here to subscribe.

Jason Lauritsen