Friday, June 28, 2013

Looking for Signs of Trouble

In my last blog entry I talked about employee engagement and how leaders make a difference.  It's not always easy for a leader to know if their employees are engaged or not.  Bigger organizations engage in sophisticated employees surveys like Gallup's Q12 or customized from company's like Sirota.

Independent of these useful sophisticated instruments, there are early warning signs of trouble for leaders of all organizations of all sizes.  Leaders have to be attentive to these signs of trouble....they are often indicators of leadership problems that haven't yet surfaced.  Safety problems are one such indicator.  It's almost axiomatic that well led workplaces are safe workplaces.  Another is absenteeism...if people aren't showing up for work it can be an indicator of an unproductive work environment.  Unanticipated turnover  is another warning sign....especially among key staff with solid work histories who depart on short notice.  Spikes in requests for internal transfers can be another sign.  Union organizing efforts, although in and of themselves not always a leadership problem, can be an indicator of unresponsive leadership.

Although chronic unit under-performance may be another indicator, trouble spots can emerge even in organizations or units that are achieving or exceeding business goals.  This can be a sign of a "workplace tyrant" who is achieving short term goals at the expense of everyone around and below him in the hierarchy.  This kind of success is rarely sustainable and all too often goes unnoticed until the leader is promoted based on their ability to produce outstanding results. 

In none of these cases should the appearance of one or more of these indicators create an assumption of a leadership problem.  They should however be a sign to the senior leader to dig a little deeper into what the underlying causes are to safety problems or absenteeism or turnover or other indicator.  Early intervention can provide a coaching opportunity to a developing leader and prevent  long term organizational issues.


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