Column: Bad worker habits your fault

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His name is David and for the last three years he has shown up to work 15 minutes late every single day. Her name is Sharon and she has neglected to learn how to use the new inventory software since it was first purchased in 2011. Their coworker, Brian refuses to turn in his weekly reports on time.

If you have a leadership role in a company, you have undoubtedly run across a David, Sharon or Brian at some point. In fact, chances are you walk past one every day when you come into the office.

Are you ready for the worst news? It’s probably your fault.

There’s a certain portion of the workforce (about 20 percent) that has an innate sense for what they need to do to make themselves and their company more successful. These individuals become successful entrepreneurs and members of the executive team.

Then, there’s everyone else.

The majority of these people are honest, hardworking and do whatever it takes to meet expectations. They are an extremely important part of the workforce. Without this 80 percent, the world would be filled with a bunch of Type-A overachievers who are all fighting to be the CEO.

Another interesting characteristic of the 80 percent is that (for the most part) they will do whatever is asked of them. If you ask them to follow up with all outstanding prospects, they will make the calls. If you need the financial statements completed by the 15th of each month, just let them know. In other words, they will strive to meet expectations.

If this simple formula (tell the 80 percent what to do and it gets done) is true, then why in the world does so much fall through the cracks?

There are three reasons why many leaders complain to me that it’s hard to find “good employees”. The first, and most often referred to as “the real reason” is that the 80 percent is lazy, doesn’t listen and is not bright enough to add value in today’s complex workforce. While I do believe these people exist, I think it’s a very small percentage.

Next, most leaders do a terrible job of setting clear expectations for their staff. They are convinced that a 20 minute meeting a couple times a month is more than enough guidance. If you can’t clearly articulate what a team member needs to do to get a raise, chances are that they have no idea.

Finally, most people aren’t held accountable for their behavior. I once had a client who was ready to fire his entire sales team because they weren’t updating their prospecting activity in Salesforce.com. I agreed 100 percent and recommend firing the whole group that very day! However, before having them escorted from the building, I asked if he had held them accountable in the past for not updating the system. Guess what he told me?

The next time you’re tempted to complain about your staff, make certain that you have set clear expectations and held your people accountable.

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