Updated on 14 January 2013 and 24 September 2013
About a year ago, I was attending a conference on entrepreneurship. During the conference there was a panel to discuss the availability (or lack-off) of talent in West Asia and North Africa. The perception was that there is a lack of talent.
The panelists, did not agree. One panelist stated (the following is not an exact quotation) “we do not have talent problem since there are many qualified and highly qualified professionals; the challenge is work ethics.”
At that time, I did reflect on my experience as a co-founder and CEO for a management consultancy and education provider and I did agree. Since that time (and before), we had been either impacted or observed issues (in other companies) related to work ethics.
For example, since I do not like to micro manage and I travel extensively, I like to let team members to set their own priorities, where possible, including deadlines. Many managers would think this is a mistake or I am being naive to do this; giving so much freedom and maybe so. However, I would rather trust and give people a chance than micromanage.
My control mechanism is that asking for reports: like asking team members to tell me what they plan to do in any given day and at the end let me know what they accomplished at the end of the day or through weekly reports. I also tell team members that you might not plan well initially; you might over or under plan; the key is to learn and then you can adjust.
Initially, some team members do not send reports; primarily because they are not doing much. In that case we give them one reminder and a second reminder and discuss the issue and why this is important. If no response, we end up using firmer language.
Some team members will send report either from the start or after reminders but they include on it a couple of tasks that could not have taken more than 1 hour of work; occasionally maybe 2, 3, or even 4 hours in a full day’s work.
Here we start having discussions, mentoring, coaching to find out cause – maybe an honest mistake. However, what we often find is NOTHING; no real justifications for slacking off. A few people just want to hang out in the office and “do the least thinking and doing” that they can get away with. In a way, some might be saying: “since the boss is giving us freedom he must be naive or even dumb” so this would be an open ticket for ABUSE.
Once I had a team member who is mostly outside the office – sales related job. So we asked for reports. His answer: “we do not work this way”. I answered: “then how do we work? You are not in the office, you are not closing deals, and you do not submit reports so what is happening in your day?” Needless to say – this person is gone.
Another situation: we ask a team member (these team members are professionals and MBA’s) can you give me a timing on when you finish this task or small project; his answer: “why are you pressuring me?” May be I should have told him: “you lost the trust – now you have 1 day to do it” and see how he/she reacts.
One more situation: a team member not performing well so we asked once, coached, mentored, discussed again and again – but not much changed. When I travel the productivity cannot be more than 1 hour per 8-hour day. Then we recognize the internet usage is huge so what we found out is this person spending a great deal of time on the internet looking for fashion sites, wedding dresses, and watching YouTube (comedies and music). Thanks to this team member, we discovered some singers and shows that we did not know about.
What is not mentioned above is during the work time – some of the time is actually non-work but with a work related item on the computer screen 😦 In other words, the reality is worst than the chart.
In closure, we do stress that in our personal experience, talent has rarely been the problem and we have never terminated an employee for lack of talent. However, ethics – is where we draw the line. Those who do not have the minimal required work ethics – or general ethics they do not last long.
Do you share similar experiences?