Bruce Tulgan, Founder, Consultant and Speaker at Rainmaker Thinking, joined the podcast this week to discuss how detrimental under management can be to any business, and the importance of structured onboarding, meetings and employee feedback.
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Speaker 1: Welcome to The Best Team Wins podcast, with Adam Robinson. He’s talking to today’s industry leaders and entrepreneurs about the people side of their business.
Adam Robinson: Welcome to The Best Team Wins Podcast, where we feature entrepreneurs and business leaders, whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson and for the next 25 minutes, I’ll be your host as we explore how to build your business through better hiring. Today on the program, Bruce Tulgan, founder, consultant and speaker at Rainmaker Thinking. Bruce is the best selling author of 20 books focused on career pathing, generational change, diversity, leadership and management. His best seller, It’s Okay to be The Boss, focuses on what he calls the under management epidemic in the workplace. We are here today to talk about how, Bruce, you help leaders improve the people side of your business and we are so excited to have you here. Thanks for being here.
Bruce Tulgan: Thank you so much for including me.
Adam Robinson: Let’s set the stage before we dive in. Give us 30 seconds on Rainmaker Thinking and what you’re focused on.
Bruce Tulgan: Well for the last 25 years we’ve been doing research on the front lines of the workplace. We’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people of 400 different organizations. Our interviews are in depth, ongoing interviews. So, many of these interviews, thousands, thousands, and thousands of these interviews have gone on for years and years. We keep talking with people as long as they are willing to kep talking to us.
Bruce Tulgan: So, we’ve got three longitudinal studies going over the last 25 years. One is on human capital management, best practices. One is on generational change in the workplace and the third is on leadership and management and supervisory best practices. So, everything we do at Rainmaker Thinking is based on this ongoing research and we provide training and consulting services for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Adam Robinson: If listeners want to learn more about what you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Bruce Tulgan: Rainmakethinking.com is our website and of course, there’s always @brucetulgan on Twitter.
Adam Robinson: All right. So, let’s dig in here. What is the under management epidemic? What does that mean and what do listeners need to know?
Bruce Tulgan: What our research shows is that most leaders, managers and supervisors just don’t do enough leading, managing, and supervising. There’s not enough high structure, high substance communication. Too many managers just don’t practice the fundamentals. They don’t meet with their people on a regular basis in a structured dialog, where they clarify broad performance standards, spell out expectations, talk through the work, plan, trouble shoot, problem solve, resource plan, hold people accountable, and help people go the extra mile and help people get credit and recognition and reward for going the extra mile. Those are just the basics. Under management is a lack of the basics of leadership and management in the workplace and what passes for management and leadership in most organizations is relatively unstructured ad hawk communication. What we call management by touching base. “How’s everything going? “Everything on Track? Any problems I should know about?” Management by interruption, which is, “My dor is always open,” but that leads to people interrupting each other all day long.Management by monitoring email. Management by being in group meetings together. That’s what passes for management but none of that is structured, focused, communication.
Bruce Tulgan: What happens is people convince themselves that they’re managing because they are touching base. They are interrupting each other all day long. They are on shared emails. They are in meetings together. So, they convince themselves they are doing the work of managing but really what happens is they’re not drilling down, they’re not getting into the details and so problems hide below the radar.
Adam Robinson: So, it’s symptomatic of a lack oof skill or awareness of how to do it right but what does doing it right look like in your estimation?
Bruce Tulgan: Well, what we look at is, what are the consequences of low structure, ow substance communication and the consequence’s are huge. Problems occur that never had to occur. Problems get out of control that could have been solved easily. Resources get squandered. People go int the wrong direction for days, weeks, or months on end. Low performers hide out and collect paychecks. Mediocre performers mistake themselves for high performers. High performers get frustrated and think about leaving and managers end up doing tasks that should have been delegated to someone else. Those are the costs of doing it wrong but when we look at the leaders, managers, and supervisors, who have the best outcomes, the ones who are doing it right. So, we start with outcomes and the say, “What are they doing?” The managers who have high turn over among low performers and low turnover among high performers, the managers, who are able to delegate responsibly, managers who are always helping people get better, managers who have fewer unnecessary problems and fewer squandered resources, mangers who employees have high productivity and high quality, what are they doing?
Bruce Tulgan: What they’re doing is just the fundamentals. They’re having regular, structured, one on one communication with their direct reports. They’re having team meetings, but only for what team meetings are good for, and they’re having good team meetings, quick, effective, focused team meetings with good meeting discipline but then, they’re having one on ones, regular structured one on ones. Structured means that there’s enough schedule to the one on one, enough predictability that the manager can plan in writing and the direct report can plan in writing and then they have a regular structured one on one. Once a week, maybe it’s every other day, sometimes it’s every other week and they talk through the work. That’s the time for planning, for trouble shooting, for problem solving, for clarifying expectations, for making sure people are following standard operating procedures, they’re making sure that problems aren’t hiding below the radar and for helping people plan how to get what they need and for holding people accountable every step of that way and helping people go the extra mile. Regular, structured, one on ones. That is the centerpiece of practicing high structure, high substance, communication in the workplace.
Adam Robinson: Say I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a founder of a business or I’m a new manager in the role managing people for the first time. I look around and I say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got eight direct reports all of a sudden. I need to get really good at this,” so structured one on ones are the framework but what does a structured one on one look like? What are the elements of a quality conversation based on your research?
Bruce Tulgan: Well, it’s different for every person and the key is building a unique structured conversation with every person you manage. That’s the key is customizing a dialog with every single person based on what you need from that person, based on what that person needs from you but here’s what should be in every one on one. The one on one’s need to be planned. You need to prepare in writing and you need to talk about priorities because most people have more work to do than the available time. So, you need to go over, what are the priorities. What might not get done. Priorities aren’t just about what’s going to get done, priorities are about what might not get done. Then, planning the work. If its ongoing tasks and responsibilities go into standard operating procedures.
Bruce Tulgan: If it’s a new project, then starting to go over the stages of planning and then making sure expectations are clear. Keeping track in writing of how performance is lining up with those expectations, and then trouble shooting, and problem solving, and resource planning, and holding people accountable for the commitments they’ve made, and helping people go the extra mile, and giving them recognition and reward, when they do go the extra mile. Those are the elements.
Adam Robinson: You mentioned team meetings have a time and a place. What is the appropriate function for team meetings? Most team meetings are just so terrible. The end up quality is just so bad, lack of agenda, people are on cell phones, all of the reasons people complain about having to be in meetings. How do you feel team meetings fit into the context of structured one on ones?
Bruce Tulgan: Well, for one thing, you have to make sure that good meeting discipline is required and enforced. That means people need to prepare for meetings. They need to know why they’re at a meeting and be there for that reason. If they don’t need to be at a meeting, maybe they need to second guess why they need to be there, why they’re being invited and you need to know why you’re going, be prepared, and practice good meeting discipline.
Bruce Tulgan: Here’s the thing. There’s only four good reasons to have a team meeting. Now, the first reason is a feeling of belonging and togetherness. You create feeling of belonging and togetherness. The second reason is, if you have a bunch of information you want to communicate to a bunch of people in the same way at the same time. The third reason is if there’s an open question that people need to be able to listen to each other, hear each other, and respond spontaneously to each other. So, brainstorming, or planning interdependent work, where you need to be able to all be there at the table, having the conversation at the same time.
Bruce Tulgan: The fourth thing team meetings are good for, often the best thing about team meetings is that, they often make it clear that what’s really necessary is a bunch of one on one huddles. Almost always, if you have a team meeting, it makes clear that at least one, one on one huddle is what’s really necessary and that’s why those one on one huddles so often follow these meetings.
Adam Robinson: Right. Let’s transition and talk about new hires and onboarding. A lot of time has been spent on this podcast talking to CEO’s and entrepreneurs, who are struggling frankly, with anything more than a trial by fire onboarding experience. What role does structure meeting play in the simulation of new hires and integrating them into a team? What recommendations do you have for listeners who are struggling with that today?
Bruce Tulgan: Well, our research shows that you need to start communicating clear expectations every step of the way, in the attraction process, then in the selection process, and then in the onboarding process, and onboarding needs to be structured. There’s an organization, I’m sure you’ve heard of it, the United States Marine Corp.
Adam Robinson: I have.
Bruce Tulgan: They have the best onboarding program in the world. It’s 13 weeks. It’s 24 hours a day and they call it boot camp. It works like charm. What they do is they take an ordinary human being, they tear them apart, and then they rebuild them and they turn an ordinary person into a United Stated Marine. No small thing. What they do is they have a critical mass of new hires and they have a shared experience that they put everyone through and obviously, most employers don’t have 13 weeks and they don’t have a huge critical mass of new hires, and they don’t have a proving ground, and a firing ranges but you don’t need that. You don’t need to make people do push ups in the sand at 4:00am, but what you do need is an intensive process, where you make the connection between the individual and his or her new role and the mission of the group, the mission of the team.
Bruce Tulgan: Then you make a connection between the individual and the other team members. You don’t just give the person some paper work like, “Here’s the organization chart. Here’s the employee handbook. Here’s where the clock [inaudible 00:13:50] is and here’s where the restroom is. Now start moving your arms and legs and do what everybody else is doing.” Too often that is what passes for orientation. You’ve got to make an intensive experience, where people are making a connection to the mission, a connection to the people, and then they’re starting to understand the basic building blocks of their role.
Bruce Tulgan: Onboarding then turns into up to speed training. Our advice is that you want to have a schedule for every new hire. Even if you only have one person starting on one day, you’ve got to have that person meeting with everybody he or she is going to interface with, saying, “Tell me your job. Where does my role fit with your job,” and then train that person one task at a time so that they can also then get up to speed and start in value and then, this transitions naturally into the one on one structure with their immediate leader, manager, supervisor. It just will start every other day and then every third day and then maybe once a week eventually.
Adam Robinson: What role do a companies core values or just the value system of the company play into the fabric of one on one’s or coaching at this level? How do you see organizations doing this effectively to reinforce culture, I guess is another way to ask that.
Bruce Tulgan: Well, what our research shows is that every organization has a culture. It’s just that most organizations have a culture by default instead of a culture by design. Most cultures, by default, are tied directly to this sort of path of least resistance, unstructured communication, where people are scrambling to do more and more with less and less and everybody’s sort of out for themselves. Companies can’t just announce a culture and then enforce it. What a culture is, is shared norms and values, shared meaning, shared practices, shared language. So, companies have to decide what are the things that we’re never gonna change? What are the things that are gonna be simple to our identity and then, that language, those practices, those norms and values need to be communicated in everything that’s done, every step of the way.
Bruce Tulgan: In one on one’s, one on one’s should not be shooting the breeze. One on one’s should not be career discussion or counseling or pastoral work, one on one’s should be talking about the work. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? What do you need? What resources do you need? What problems do you need help with? What expectations do you need clarified? Every step of the way, of course, you want to be making the connection to core values and reminding people wherever it’s necessary about the connection to core values.
Adam Robinson: Most managers are really just not comfortable giving what we used to call constructive feedback. Some people call it radical candor. Some people like it Some people don’t. Most managers are really bad at it. It strikes me that it’s a critical and necessary ingredient for strong management in coaching. What’s the right mindset are content of a critical conversation that you coach your clients and client managers to embrace, when it’s time to have that tough conversation?
Bruce Tulgan: We ask managers every day, what’s the hardest thing for you about managing people and the number one answer is, “I don’t have time.” The number two answers, “Well, everybody’s different. What works with one person doesn’t work with another person,” and the third is, “Giving people critical feedback, negative feedback, when they haven’t done as good a job as they think they have.” What’s funny about that is that most managers, they’ll tall you, “My people know if something goes wrong, then they’ll hear from me.” Most managers, the one time they make sure that they’re gonna talk to their people is if things are going really, really wrong.
Bruce Tulgan: If the buildings on fire then you’ve got to go talk to them, right? So, what ends up happening is what we call bad news management. It’s gonna be hard to give people negative feedback if up front, in advance, you’re not spelling out expectations and trying to help them succeed, trying to help them avoid unnecessary problems. If you’re not reminding them, coaching them, helping them get the resources they need, if you’re not setting them up for success and then when things go wrong of course it’s going to be hard to tell them, “Oh, this all went wrong.” They might even be thinking, “Well, gee, you don’t have all the facts,” and you might think, “Well, gee, I guess I don’t have all the facts.” They might think, “You didn’t make it clear,” and you might think, “gee, I guess I didn’t make it clear.”
Bruce Tulgan: The problem with negative feedback is that most mangers are not making expectations clear up front, in advance, every step of the way, following up, following, up, following up, setting people up for success, reminding them over and over again, as many times as necessary, helping them make a plan, helping them follow a standard operating procedures. When managers are doing that and then they’re giving people feedback right, wrong, and average, every step of the way, when managers are giving people positive feedback when they do a good job, and corrective feedback when they’re not doing a good job, coaching can’t be a special occasion.
Bruce Tulgan: You can’t build trust and confidence necessary to coach someone if it’s a special occasion whenever you sit down to have a serious conversation, but if you’re talking to people every day, every other day, once a week, guiding, directing, supporting, coaching, giving feedback, positive, negative, and average, then it becomes much easier. Then when things are going wrong, that’s just that part of the conversation.
Adam Robinson: With your benefit of seeing hundreds of organizations and talking with lot;s of new mangers over the years, not entirely possible to boil this down to one thing, but if you were to name one thing a new manger could focus on that’s listening today, one practice, one approach, one structure, that they could take to the office tomorrow morning and start to implement, what’s the one thing, the most impactful thing, you think new mangers can do to improve their results as mangers?
Bruce Tulgan: Well, there’s a tool that we use, we call the who, why, what, how, where, when tool. So, with every single person that reports to you, ask yourself, who is this person? Not, who is this person [inaudible 00:21:49]. Is this person an A player, a B player, or a C player? When it comes to productivity, when it comes to quality, when it comes to attitude, who is this person? Then, the next question is why? Why does this person need you? Why are you managing this person? Another way to think about that is, what’s the purpose? What are you trying to help this person get better at?
Bruce Tulgan: Then, the third question is, what is your message for this person right now or what questions do you need to ask this person right now. The fourth question is how. How should you talk to this person and that’s a two part question because it’s like, in writing, or on the phone, or in person, but it’s also how? Should you ask questions, or should you give orders. Should you ask questions like an auditor or like a [inaudible 00:22:39] or should you just spell out instruction, or should you talk like an older sibling, and then where. Where are you going to have this conversation? You should remind yourself if you’re in a remote location, okay, where is remotely, so, I better be really good at that and when is, when like, what time and when like, how often because some people if you coach them every day, twice a day, all of a sudden, they’ll do great. Some people you could talk to them once a week or every other week.
Bruce Tulgan: Who is this person? Why are you managing this person? What’s your message? How should you talk to this person? Where and when? Ask and answer those six questions about every person you manage and you’ll be one the right [inaudible 00:23:24].
Adam Robinson: Fantastic Bruce. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the final word. We’ve been learning from Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking. Bruce, thank you very much for being with us today.
Bruce Tulgan: Thanks so much for including me.
Adam Robinson: That’s a wrap for today’s episode of The Best Team Wins Podcast, where we’re featuring entrepreneurs and business leaders, who’s exceptional approach to the people side of the business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson, author of the book, The Best Team Wins, which you can find online at www.thebestteamwins.com. Thank you for tuning in and we will see you right here next week.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to The Best Team Wins Podcast, with Adam Robinson. You can find out more information about Adam and his book, The Best Team Wins, Building your Business through Predictive Hiring, at thebestteamwins.com. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next week.