As our awesome grandkids would tell you, we scoop lots of poop on our mountainside horse and donkey ranch. If we had a nickel for all our scoopings through the years, we’d likely be more than financially set for life.
I’m retained by professional firms to serve as their investigator, coach, consultant or temporary administrator. My mission is to help them do a firm-wide “health check” regarding what’s working, what’s not, teach simplified strategic planning so their goals are reached sooner than later, help them minimize malpractice and other risks, enhance client services and retention, improve staff morale, efficiency and productive and a wide range of other things.
What does my work with law and other professional firms have to do with scooping the poop on our farm? Regardless what assortment of services clients may opt for me to provide, I must always be on the lookout to identify and help them scoop up any poop lurking within their offices (a/k/a office BS). We all know, however, that real poop is far easier, quicker and faster to spot and avoid. Office BS can be extremely subtle and shrewdly dished out. Cover-up disguises for BS’ers are also plentiful and may include chronic fake smiles, empty promises, excessive excuses and those oh-so-smooth talking big mouths.
The good news, however, is that once identified, office BS (as well as other office negatives) can often be turned around and nurtured into great success stories… just ask any experienced gardener and they will tell you what great fertilizer horse and donkey poop makes if “seasoned” and applied appropriately. Ditto re law office poop which is one of the best parts of my work…not the poop, of course, but watching these success stories evolve from …well…office poop piles. And, the credit for this goes to a firm’s excellent leadership, resourcefulness and perseverance.
Read on for a starter list of repeatedly proven and highly recommended suggestions for turning office poop into fertilizers that yield successful, profitable “crops:”
1. Our actions speak our truths. Chronic BS in the office must be stopped in its tracks or we must at least quit griping about the crap that piles up because of it (e.g. unkept promises, procrastination, unmet goals, lowering of other employees’ morale and so much more!).
2.Getting rid of one employee’s BS is great. As we all know, however, it does not make us immune to others’ BS. Be on guard. Act wisely and quickly when you smell it.
3. Be the kind of boss and mentor you’d want for yourself when you goof up or otherwise need reining in…fair, timely, thorough, clear, resourceful, patient but decisive too……
4. Monitor the employee’s actions carefully and regularly, ensure they have the “tools” and guidance needed to turn things around successfully. Be patient. Making great fertilizer from poop is not an overnighter, but in more situations than not, it can indeed be done.
5. Recognize and celebrate your success stories, big and small. Review how you did in handling each situation, repeat the good and avoid things you learn you should/could have done differently.
A BIT LONGER VERSION
- ACTIONS = TRUTHS & POOP = POOP = POOP We all know our actual actions – not our words – reflect our value systems, priorities, work ethic and so much more. Yet, how often do firm leaders ignore the very things needing attention including the chronic BS’ers of the firm? Why…perhaps they don’t like confrontation or don’t know how to deal forthrightly with challenges without being combative. Or, perhaps the perpetrator is a big rainmaker for the firm…hmmm…now there’s an often seen “put-our-heads-in-the-sand” situation. Bottom line: Chronic means CHRONIC — the BS won’t stop until exposed and no longer tolerated by leadership. Why should it if there are no consequences – no accountability whatsoever – for one’s BS, bullying, ignoring of office policy and procedure, etc.?
- ALWAYS BE ON GUARD FOR IT Be on guard and wide-eyed alert to any existing or potential unfertilized donkey dung being spread around your office. Identify it and act quickly to end it. It’s really that simple.
- HANDLE POOPERS WISELY Once BS (or any other unproductive, toxic or morale killing situation) is confirmed, deal with employees privately, professionally and swiftly. This means crystal clear explanations of what behavior will no longer be tolerated and what the consequences will be if the behavior continues. Plan such meetings for a time when you can give it your full, undivided and unhurried attention allowing time for the employee to respond to the issues fairly. Don’t talk yourself into thinking it’s not as important as your casework. Of course, we all must set (and frequently reset) our priorities wisely, however, to put these types of discomforting supervisory tasks on hold or worse, never to address them at all, has a huge negative effect on your firm. This includes leadership’s implied permission that it’s okay for any other employee to act in the same negative and unaccountable manner. And, as any procrastinator has learned, most problems will not disappear as we wished they would. Instead, they grow into far bigger issues which means the resulting negative fallout increases as well.
- MAKING GREAT FERTILIZER FROM POOP If you want the best fertilizer, then equine poop must be properly composted. This includes an attentive monitoring process, time and patience. Ditto re constructive changes we or our employees need to make. Leaders must not think their job is done after identifying harmful behaviors and talking with the responsible employees. There are multiple key steps to successfully evolve a problem employee into a productive, highly valued one. This includes an improvement plan that is custom designed for each employee taking into consideration their strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and more. Other critical steps include: persistent and consistent follow up supervision; additional training if needed; and a positive attitude by leadership that there will indeed be a successful outcome. More harm is done when leaders let employees know they must make improvements, but then fail to follow up on whether or not they are complying or to offer the “tools” needed for him or her to be successful (e.g. classes/coaching on specific substantive topics, communications, anger management, organization, time or stress management, etc.). When we fail to recognize the essentials of the proper and well-planned fertilization process, an opportunity is missed to create a success story. And the damages don’t stop there because such failures send out yet another “Don’t take us seriously” message to all employees from the powers that be.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING Just as the horses’ and donkeys’ poop on our ranch is a non-stop occurrence, the same is true for the BS in our lives and offices. While we can’t totally eliminate BS, disingenuous people and other office management “challenges,” we can become better and quicker at identifying and exposing the poop and its carriers. We should definitely not be too busy to recognize and celebrate our success stories – small or big – and we must also take time to heed the lessons learned from them. This means de-briefing ourselves on how we made lemonade from lemons or fertilizer from poop. In other words, it’s well worth our time to conduct self-audits to ask ourselves, what could we have done better, what should we continue doing, what have we learned not to try again, etc. The extra time taken to analyze our successes increases the value of all rewards gained.
Same re our failures … heeding lessons learned creates invaluable fertilizer from the poop in our lives.