Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 7, 2015

"Invest to get the best from your people"/ "Do I have to reimburse my maternity leave ‘top-up’?"

Oct. 25 "Invest to get the best from your people": I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 5, 2015:


Many factors have been promoted over the years as critical to managerial effectiveness. But when leadership consultants Mike Figliuolo and Victor Prince began to search for a framework less dependent on the personal characteristics of leaders, they came up with a system that excited them. They found a way to link the “leadership capital” invested by a manager in his or her team members, with the output of those employees.

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Often we don’t spend much time thinking about that first item, how much time and effort to invest in team members. It just happens, on the run. Or, if we ponder it, we are inclined to fairness, trying to spend equal time with each, avoiding favouritism.

But Mr. Figliuolo and Mr. Prince figured there was a smarter approach, when linked to each team member’s output. And they defined output reasonably precisely, into five categories:

  • Quantity of result: This can be hard to discern for knowledge workers, but there is an expected output and managers have a reasonable sense of whether it is high or low.

  • Quality of results: Are the individual’s customer service calls, reports, or other output high quality or not?

  • Timeliness of results: Is the person quick, meeting deadlines, or a procrastinator who often blows past important time lines?

  • Morale building: To what extent does the individual improve morale on their team? Are they disruptive, irritating others and bringing the mood of the team down, or are they a positive, collaborative presence, lifting others?

  • Relationship: To what extent do they improve relationships with stakeholders and colleagues outside their immediate team? Are they pleasant to work with, improving your brand with outsiders?

Somebody may, for example, be superb at the first three factors, providing excellent results in a timely way. But they walk over other people as they accomplish that. Evaluate each employee on each factor, assigning two points if you rate the person as strong, one for medium and zero for low. That 10-point scale gives a sense of everyone’s output.

Now add in how much time you spend with everyone and the framework comes alive, as sketched in their book Lead Inside the Box:

  • High-cost producers: These individuals garner strong results but also require a large investment of your leadership capital. You like those results but need to be wary of the investment.

  • Detractors: These people have low results but still require a large investment by you in training, developing and monitoring. That’s a big problem.

  • Passengers: These folks don’t require a lot of your time and effort. But they also don’t produce much. They are just along for the ride.

  • Exemplars: These people are golden, with high output but not much time and effort required on your part.

“It’s so obvious when managers look at this. They see their people clearly. They know where each person fits,” Mr. Figliuolo said in an interview. Leaders can also use it to figure out whether to invest more or less time in an individual. Although the input and output factors initially yield four categories, the consultants further subdivide those into two behavioural styles for each grouping.

High-cost producers are split into steamrollers, who gain top results but upset a lot of people, and squeaky wheels, who are always in your office demanding attention. Help the steamrollers understand their good results should come without so much commotion and aggravation for others. Meanwhile, wean the squeaky wheels from dependence on you.

Detractors can be defined by the root cause of their performance issues: Square pegs don’t have the skills to do the job, so you must develop them better, while slackers have the skills but don’t get much done, so need to be motivated and held accountable.

The two types of passengers are stowaways, who like to fly under the radar and expend the bare minimum of effort required to keep their paycheques, and joy riders, who are energetic but usually about things they want to do, which may not correspond to your priorities. Spend more time holding the stowaways accountable and invest more in keeping the joy riders focused.

The golden exemplars include rising stars, who want their performance to provide a stepping stone to larger roles and responsibilities, and domain masters, who are happy delivering strong results without needing much input from their boss. You need to promote the rising stars in two ways, not just providing them greater roles and higher titles but also promoting them to others, making sure their contribution is widely recognized, so other opportunities will arise for them within your firm and they don’t leave. Make sure the domain masters are properly rewarded for their contribution, not ignored, and eliminate roadblocks they experience.

The hardest thing in using the model, Mr. Figliuolo says, is shifting our own behaviour as managers. In particular, the model requires us to spend more time on poorer performers, which goes contrary to preference: We like to spend time with top performers. But he says the model shows the impact a leader can have on an employee’s performance and thus illuminates how to invest our leadership capital, guiding us to be more thoughtful and rigorous.


"Do I have to reimburse my maternity leave ‘top-up’?":  I cut out this article by  in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 5, 2015:

THE QUESTION

My employer pays a “top-up” to me during maternity leave – an amount over and above what I’m receiving from employment insurance. However, my employer has a clause stating that, if I do not stay with the organization for a set period of time following my leave, I am responsible for reimbursing the top-up. I never signed an agreement stating I would follow this policy, but my employer is stating that it is mandatory. Am I bound to pay this back?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Daniel Lublin Employment lawyer, Whitten & Lublin, Toronto

This situation should arise only if you voluntarily leave the company within a set period of time after you return from leave (usually three to six months) and it’s something you consented to.

The company has to show that you specifically agreed to this requirement and, without a signed contract, that will be difficult to do.

It’s possible for the company to argue that you were made aware of its policy and implicitly agreed to take the money knowing that if you resigned you would have to pay it back. But this is the type of agreement I would expect to be put into writing and without such a document, it will be hard for your employer to enforce.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Billy Anderson Founder, The Courage Crusade

In addition to the legal realities of this issue, there is the non-legal impact on your integrity and reputation.

You want to feel good about your decisions and you don’t want to hurt your long-term career opportunities.

Even if you do have a right to refute what they’re saying, what impact will that have on your job? Will it taint existing relationships if you put up a fuss?

How important is this job to your long-term career? Will you need this reference, or can you afford to leave on less-than-perfect conditions if need be?

It sounds as if you’re already considering not coming back for very long. Does that mean you have existing doubts about this job?

Financially, how important to you is the top-up? Would you be willing to forgo it in order to maintain the freedom to decide whether or not to return and for how long?

Do you have a strong ally in the company (preferably senior) from whom you could get advice? Very often we try to come up with answers on our own, but the best solution usually comes from a discussion.

In the end, the right decision will depend on your values. For example: Do you value freedom more than loyalty? Try to define your top five values and see how they align with the struggle you’re now facing.


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