John G. Miller on Engagement, Accountability, and Working
I like the simple yet elegant approach of John G. Miller. I was planning to write a review of his book QBQ: The Question Behind the Question – What to really ask yourself to eliminate blame, complaining, and procrastination. I received his email newsletter and he wrote about engagement and leadership. I asked for his permission to reprint the newsletter and here it is. By the way, I will still write the review of the book at a later date as the ideas are very important to employee engagement.
Wanted: QBQ! Managers Who Engage People
Where is the good people management?
One of the many Miller daughters is now a barista with a large coffee house chain. What a fine organization they are. Great benefits. Decent pay. Good work environment. Fun culture. The company is successful beyond the founder’s wildest dreams, I’m sure.
But none of that matters to a teenager working her first job and experiencing her first boss.
High school senior, Molly, came to work on a Tuesday at 3:30pm, expecting to work till 6:30, and then head back to school for the annual “Back To School Night” event where parents, teachers, and students mingle. And for this young woman, academically #3 in her class, these things are important. (Her dad, a solid B- student all of his school life, doesn’t remember attending even one of these events back in the day). Upon arriving, she’s told by the 29-year-old “shift leader” that she’s actually scheduled to work till 7:30pm-an hour longer than expected. When she expresses that’s not what the overall store manager had on the schedule before, the understanding shift leader says he can handle it and she can leave at 6:30. Well, she stayed till near seven o’clock and then headed off to the school to meet Mom and Dad.
Now, I know this sounds like we’re tootin’ her horn-and no, she’s not perfect-but Molly is honest, punctual, accountable, and hard working. She’s the employee every retail manager reading this QuickNote would like to have on their team. She works hard to make all drinks excellently and is learning to deal with some pretty unpleasant customers-and she’s doing it with a smile. She’s getting a good dose of life and we’re proud of her.
So now it’s Saturday morning and she arrives at work. Moments later, the store manager confronts her-with three associates watching- by tersely asking, “So, why did you leave early on Tuesday?!” Totally caught off guard and embarrassed in front of her co-workers, she tells The Boss of the school event and explains that she hadn’t been aware of the schedule change. She also shared that the shift leader told her she could leave early. The forty-something manager now glares at the teenager and says these words: “Well, that’s not possible.”
Huh? What’s “not possible,” Boss? That you changed the schedule and forgot to notify your staff of the change? That the shift leader authorized her to leave? When you say “that’s not possible,” are you implying that this team member before you is lying? This same team member who recently come in at 5:50am-an hour early-because you urgently needed her to cover for someone who didn’t show? This same employee who also later told her parents that she had a copy of the original schedule in her purse proving the truth of her claim but admittedly didn’t dare show it to you?!
When I heard this story, my first thought was: So where are the well-trained, thoughtful, skilled-in-communication, personally accountable, and caring managers who are willing to look in the mirror? Where are the QBQ! managers?
Let me be clear: Molly has been there 90 days and has loved this job. Will this interaction break her? Heavens no. But in these days when every firm QBQ, Inc. works with talks non-stop about “employee engagement,” did this experience engage The QBQ! Daughter? Did it build trust? Does it cause her to want to please? Is she feeling good about her manager? Will she be excited about getting to her next shift a few minutes early? Did it serve to build her belief in the company?
No on all counts.
The good news is this: If our daughter is ever blessed with the title “manager,” here are the lessons she has learned young:
- When making a schedule change, be accountable to reach out to all staff affected and let them know. In other words, communicate!
- Give assistant managers the authority to make decisions on the spot-in the moment-all by themselves.
- If you don’t approve of your shift leader’s decision, then speak to him/her one-on-one and do not take a management failure to the front line associate.
- When you do feel the need to talk to a staff member, ask for their view of the situation and listen-really listen-to what they say and do it in private.
- Look in the mirror and ask The Question Behind the Question, the QBQ: “What could I have done differently?” and “How can I own the results of my store?” and, of course, never ask the lousy question, “Why can’t we find good people?”
- And, lastly, thank your lucky stars for any employee who is honest, punctual, accountable, and hard working.
In the end, Miller child #4 works for a terrific firm with a stellar reputation, but that matters little to most front line folks. What does matter is the quality of everyday management-how people are treated. That’s what makes or breaks any organization.
Please pass this note on to managers everywhere, and also email us your stories of accountable managers who are doing the job of engaging their people and doing it well. We’d love to hear from you!
John G. Miller
Author of QBQ! and Flipping the Switch
With Kristin Lindeen
QBQ! speaker/workshop facilitator
Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value TM
11368 Nucla Street, Denver, CO 80022
303-286-9900, Fax: 303-286-9911
Email: info@QBQ.com © QBQ, Inc. 2008. All rights reserved. QBQ, QBQ!, and The Question Behind the Question are trademarks of QBQ, Inc.
Look for a short review of his books in the near future on this site.