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Permission to Speak – Leadership Blog – Kelly Vandever Interviews Nora Burns on Bad Managers and the Undercover Employee


Podcast Logo Episode 18Permission to Speak

Video Blog & Podcast

Hosted by Leadership Communications Expert Kelly Vandever

Permission to Speak is the video blog and podcast that loiters at the intersections of leaders who want their people to speak up, technology that facilitates connections, and results that serve an organization’s higher purpose.

Our guest for this episode:  Nora Burns


Topics discussed:

– Building cultures of respect

– Examples of good bosses and bad bosses

– The Undercover Candidate

– The Undercover Employee

– HR Undercover

– The job interviewing process

– The onboarding process

– Trend #1: Bad Math, not realizing the impact the hours assigned and suddenly changed employees

– Trend #2: Getting Paid, specifically communications about payday, when it is, how it works

– Trend #3: Lack of Protection of Confidential Information of Our Employees, go through great length to protect client information, but employee information available for everyone to see/access

– Example of one supervisor who gave real meaningful feedback

– Lots of bad managers

– Not investing in the front line managers, they manage their front line staff poorly, then we promote one of the front line employees and there only example has been poor management; then it continues on up as people are promoted from within but never receiving an example of how to manage well

–  Great pride of promoting from within, but the challenge of not having good examples of how to manage well

– Need training and need good training, interactive, facilitator lead training

– Trend #4: Death by bad Computer Based Training

– Need to have a cross-blend of those not promoted from within so you can have a blend of ideas

– Need lack a blame game when someone says “I don’t know how to handle this.”  Need to be able to get help with not just what to do but why to do it that way.

– If your organization doesn’t support you by helping you learn to be a great manager, find examples other places in your community like the rotary, the chamber, through professional associations, other volunteer organization, the scouts, your church, etc.  Look for great mentors and managers.  And read.  So many great books and resources – libraries are free, ask the author to gift you a copy of their book.  Expand your thoughts beyond “What is the company doing for me?”

– Challenge yourself to see what you might do better in your organization

– Stay interviews, ask people why they stay, 30 days, 60 days 90 days, 180 days.  Ask, “Are we doing what you were expecting we’d be doing with respect to your schedule, in terms of our management, about how we communicate with you about our policies and our guidelines, etc.?”

– Take value in your exit interviews

– Talk to people you didn’t hire.  After going through interview process, ask, “Would you still want to be our customer?”

– Use multiple streams of insight.  Open door. One-on-one.  Surveys.

–  Performance appraisal and regular intermittent check ins

– Barriers to an environment where employees feel they have permission to speak.

– Barrier #1: the moment we don’t take action when people are discriminated against, we close the door to further information.  Employees talk across stores across shifts. If you fail to act, everyone finds out.

– Barrier # 2: dismissing employee suggestions with ease, rather than exploring the ideas further and be thankful that the frontline employee cares enough about the organization to even make suggestions!

– Open door policies, what they mean and look like in an organization

–  Pleasant surprise was how much frontline people really wanted to make a difference and help the organization and provide superior customer service

– Also pleasantly surprised by the power some organizations gave their frontline people to make a customer’s day by allowing them to give discounts up to a certain amount per shift, no questions asked, very empowering

– Another pleasant surprise were the stories of why people did what they did, so enjoyable to meet

– Take the time, leave some space for you to change and develop

– Allow the space for your employees to succeed

– Remember there’s a lot of gray in management, allow some room to change

Article mentioned during the interview about how confidentiality based surveys send the message “it’s not OK to speak up around here.”



Nora’s websites



Questions answered in this episode:

What is work really like for my frontline employees?

What are my employees really thinking?

What are the problems that come from promoting people to management from within the company?

What should I be doing besides conducting exit interviews?

Why aren’t exit interviews helping us get better?

What are the biggest problems with on boarding front line employees?

How do I know if I’m a bad manager?

What does a good manager look like?

Why don’t employees speak up?

Why do my employees work in their front line jobs?

How do I find out what my employees really think about working for me?

What are barriers that are keeping my employees from speaking up?

What do I do to get better as a manager if my employer isn’t willing to invest in training for me?