Balanced Decision Making

What does fairness mean in the workplace?  It can be a little confusing.  Fairness does not mean treating team members equally, it means treating them equitably depending on the individual team member and the individual situation.  It does mean being consistent.

My Webster’s dictionary defines “fair” as open, frank, honest, just, equitable, impartial, unprejudiced.  Other words we can add to update this definition are engaged, safe, productive, appreciated.

Here are some options you need to think about when you are making decisions and judgements about people.

  1. Spend the necessary time with them to find out if they are in alignment with what you are trying to accomplish.  Take some time to think through your vision for the work area/team, then share it with everyone.  Let everyone know what is going on in the organization.  Hold yourself accountable for your contributions toward achieving the vision.
  • Give feedback often – positive and developmental.  Make giving feedback a valuable process for both of you.  Communicate your thoughts and ask questions.  Don’t surprise the team member by bringing up something you did not discuss when it happened.
  • Be quick to praise.  Praise immediately.  Being as specific as possible with examples, observations, and documentation will help the team member visualize the good.  Give positive feedback about both performance and behaviors. 
  • Respect other’s input.  It is a good idea to get input from others – the team members.  Receive everyone’s input, recognizing that there will be differences of opinions.  Everyone is different.  Respect that.
  • Don’t play favorites, except based on performance.  Ensure you are looking at the person’s performance and behavior objectively.  Let the team member know that you are aware of what they do, how they do it, and why they are an integral part of the organization.  Don’t talk to the same people when you are in the mix.
  • Exercise timeliness.  Being timely in following up with team members when they have requested something from you or asked a question will let the team member know that he/she is valued.
  • Prepare for discussions with individuals about their performance.  Don’t just reflect on what they have done or not done for you lately.  Be prepared for monthly team meetings.  This means preparing an agenda, outlining the points and thoughts you want to share, and what you want to accomplish at the meeting.  Make it an open forum.  Invite others to lead discussions about certain topics.
  • Talk about goals, rewards, and consequences.  Create a healthy competitive environment.  Have contests about everything you want to accomplish – focusing on one goal at a time.
  • Empathize.  When someone is going through a tough period in their life, it is okay to give them some grace, especially if they have delivered for you in the past.

When you are considering whether to give someone another chance or not, consider all the options.  Have you come to the end of your rope, but you have never told them there is a problem?  Have you given them written and verbal thank you’s but not told the other side of the story?

Here are several options to consider when making this decision about someone’s livelihood and career.

  1. Continue as is. – Is it just easier for everyone to let this issue ride until something bigger happens?  Will the aftermath be worse than any positives you accomplish with constructive feedback?  Do you have the backbone to tell it like it is and to follow-through?  If not, don’t start down a path you are not willing to go to the end.
  1. Ask the person if they are aware that there are some difficulties with their performance or behavior. – If they are self-aware, they may let you off the hook by owning up to friction that they have created.  If they are not self-aware then this gives you an opening to make them more aware of the issues, they are creating for you and the team.
  1. Ask them if this is a job or career that they think they are a good fit for.  Are they enjoying their work?  Do they look forward to coming to work every day?  Their answers will give you some insight as to next steps.  If they are out of sync with their strengths, possibly you can guide them into another position or career that meets their needs and matches their talents.  If they feel they are a good match and you don’t think they are, this will give you a chance to coach them in their areas of weaknesses.  Set specific benchmarks and milestones they will need to meet in order to prove their worthiness.
  1. Redesign the job to match their strengths.  Work around their weaknesses by delegating the mismatched duties to someone else or buddying them up with someone who can help them shore up these weaknesses.  Again, give a timeline for checking back in.
  1. If you feel it is appropriate, offer to let them go part-time. Carve out the things they do well to fit the hours agreed upon, part-time work or contract work is something they are interested in.
  1. Discharge the individual with support during the transition period – days, weeks or months based on the level of the position.  When discharging someone, your conversation with them will be different based on what has led up to the discharge.  You do not have to give a lot of details.  You can simply say “This is not working out for the organization, for me, and probably for you.  I think it is time to end our working relationship and allow you to move on to something that is a better fit, a job that meets your needs.”

“Let us keep our mouths shut and our pens dry until we know the facts.” – A.J. Carlson

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt



Being a Leader is Not for Everyone

I have seen leaders succeed and I have seen leaders fail.  When I look at both situations, it makes me want to reflect on the reason why?  The ingredients for a successful leader are both simple and complex.  I believe the central leadership characteristics for success are drive, selflessness, and curiosity.

Drive.  If a leader is not self-motivated, it is all for naught.  There must be an inner passion and determination to achieve goals that are bigger than just one person, goals that have a positive impact on people in the immediate sphere of influence and maybe the world.  Drive causes the leader to rise in the morning with a new energy and vision for what he wants to accomplish today with the help of others.  This leader is generally optimistic about the future.

Selflessness.  A leader who thinks of others first is a servant leader.  The leader is more worried about how to put others in the limelight than him or herself.  This giving and caring leader wants to achieve success for the customer, the team member, the company, and the community.  This leader is generally involved in ways above and beyond the everyday to do list.  The selfless leader is humble.  It does not mean that the individual does not want recognition, it just means that he or she wants the recognition to envelope the whole team.  This leader is asking the question, “how can I remove barriers for my team so that they can take care of the customer (internal or external) in the best way possible?”

Curiosity.  An often-overlooked trait in an effective leader is curiosity.  In a leadership role curiosity means that the person is interested in others as human beings – What makes them tick? Who are they when I am not looking? What can I do differently and creatively to reach them and teach them?  Curiosity is not sticking one’s head in the sand but looking around and observing keenly.  This leader is fascinated by people and how things work together to achieve positive results.

I also believe the characteristics in leaders who often fail are anger, narcissism, and lack of trustworthiness.  Sometimes, these traits are called derailers.  The leader has a lot going for them – intelligent, gets things done, and stands out from the crowd.  Nonetheless , even one of these traits can get in the way of longevity in a job.

Anger – You have seen leaders who come unhinged when someone makes a mistake.  It is not a pretty sight.  Everyone who is around is embarrassed for the leader and for the individual who is the brunt of that anger.  The reaction is typically way out of proportion to the crime.  The team member or small group who are the victims will either leave the organization or become so cowered that they do just enough to keep from getting fired.  No one is motivated to go the extra mile by anger and the fear that comes with it.  What a mess anger leaves in its trail!

Narcissism – There are many papers and articles written about narcissism.  One that I read some time ago talked about the 16 different types of narcissism.  Another word I have heard to describe this trait in its extreme is “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is a tactic for manipulating someone in a way that makes them question their own reality.  A narcissistic leader needs to have his or her ego stroked whether it is deserved or not.  This is someone who has been falsely nurtured to believe they can do no wrong.  This is  a leader who will probably never say “I am sorry” or “I messed up”.  This leader likes to be front and center.  This type of leader lacks sympathy or empathy.  He or she comes across as arrogant but can be charming too.  Enough about that nastiness!

Lack of Trustworthiness – I have worked for leaders who I did not trust for various reasons – they did not remember having agreement about next steps, they flip-flopped on decisions sometimes without communicating the new decision, they talked about me and others behind the back, they discussed confidential matters openly, they did not stand up for me when questioned by a higher up leader, etc.  Not much fun to work for this type of leader.  These non-trustworthy leaders may have hidden agendas or lack values and purpose or are just unpredictable.  We want the leaders who we follow to have integrity.  We want them to be transparent about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.  Trust and respect are huge in developing teamwork and a workplace where team members want to stay and be productive.

These thoughts lead us to ask, “Can a leader change?”.  The answer is “It depends.”.  Is the person willing to work towards being a leader who has more drive, selflessness, and curiosity?  Is the person willing to do the really hard work to become more in control of their emotions, less self-centered, and more trustworthy.  I do believe that some leadership skills, knowledge, and behaviors can be learned and practiced and will over time help them to evolve into a good manager and leader.  It is just much easier if the person who wants to be a great leader has some of the inherent traits to begin this life-long learning journey.

To sum this up, here is an entertaining video about bad leaders vs. good leaders.  Hope you enjoy!  Now, go out there and be a great leader, one who others what to work with and emulate!!!


The Who, What, Why, and How of Personality Assessments

I am a big fan of personality assessments used in the workplace or for any type of teambuilding.  We use this tool often in our work. Besides being plain ol’ fun, it provides individuals, teammates, and supervisors insight they would not otherwise have.



The assessment can be used for individual employees, teams, boards, groups or even families.



A personality profile describes who you are as a unique person. The assessment we have chosen to use is the Workplace Big Five. It provides general information (see two sample assessments below) about each person who completes the assessment questionnaire based on 5 essential personality characteristics.  Each individual will get scores in the following categories:

  • Need for Stability
  • Extraversion
  • Originality
  • Accommodation
  • Consolidation

The assessment only takes 15 minutes, but, if the individual doesn’t overthink their responses and goes with their first response, reveals much. We learn, among many other things:

  • How they respond to stress.
  • Whether they are stimulated by people and activity or not.
  • Whether they are open to change or prefer the status quo.
  • How they respond to authority.
  • How much they plan.
  • How each of these characteristics interacts with the other.



The purpose of completing the assessment can be multi-fold or for one aim:

  • Selection
  • Promotion
  • Validation
  • Development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Collaboration

It is always helpful for each individual who participates to become more self-aware of his/her personality, individuality, competencies and motivations. There are no good or bad scores. The results help the individual explore their unique personality styles, how their personality exhibits itself in the workplace, and how it helps them relate to team members.

In a group setting, it is so freeing to see how you are alike and different from your teammates. If someone discovers she has a low ‘warmth’ score, she might become more conscious of how this effects her encounters with others. Conversely, there are ah-ha moments such as “Oh, ______ is not acting like that to get under my skin, that is just who she is.”

The estimate is that 60% of your personality is based on who you were at birth (nature), while 40% is based on what has occurred since then (nurture). The old adage, “A tiger can’t change its stripes” comes to mind. Did you know that under the tiger’s fur, the skin is also striped? The interpretation is that we can’t change our essential nature. We are who we are down to the skin. Nonetheless, being self-aware can make all the difference in the world.



If you would like to learn more about assessments and how they can be used with coaching or teaching, we would love to hear from you anytime!



Powers & Associates is certified to assess the The WorkPlace Big Five by:

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WorkPlace Big Five Assessment Samples

See a sample trait report here:  Trait Report

See a sample narrator report here:   Narrator Report


Professional Empathy: Walls, Barriers & No Tresspassing Signs

Wall: a continuous structure that encloses or divides an area; generally permanent.
Barrier: a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access; a circumstance or obstacle that keeps people or things apart or prevents communication or progress.
Trespass: to enter an owner’s property without permission; make unfair claims or take advantage of something; commit an offense against another person. Tresspassing: the act of intrusion on said property or personal space.
I have observed all of these in the workplace.  Just this week as I was meeting with a young woman who works for a client, we talked about how it feels to share your turf – whether work responsibilities or office space – with another person.  Things can be going along swimmingly, even harmoniously, when one person goes too far in the eyes of the other – taking over a project, using their dominant personality to get their way, acting as if they are your boss when they are not, etc.

In the workplace of today, teamwork is common, even mandatory, and generally accepted as best practice in a dynamic work environment.   That being said, the spirit of individualism is alive and well and can lead to moments of tension or awkwardness.  Striking the proper balance between teamwork and individual expression can be difficult.

You have probably experienced individualism push back against teamwork both ways – on the giving and receiving ends.  When someone steps into your work territory your hackles go up.  When you offer help to someone (or even more just do a coworker’s task without prior discussion) you are very surprised (even shocked) when they are not happy about it.

Why in the world would someone not want your input, ideas, creativity, and possibly even genius thoughts to be brought to the table?  There are several possible reasons.  They:

  1. Have their own ideas about the task or project.
  2. Don’t want to appear incompetent or as if they need help.  They are concerned about perceptions of their boss or peers.
  3. Are a little bit insecure.
  4. Know their role, have been doing it for a while and are comfortable with the established boundaries.

These same points can be used to measure your reaction as well.  Maybe you are able to see the big picture better than others.  You may understand and appreciate the advantages of hearing, seeing, and experiencing others’ ideas.  Even if this is so, it can still feel strange and awkward when you sense a trespasser.  If this is something you can identify with, use that to help generate or hone a sense of professional empathy.  If someone bristles at your help, then think about why you would bristle at someone else’s help and proceed with caution.

Beware!  When you are helping someone in your organization and you are entering someone else’s territory without permission (or even with permission – vocally or by omission) you may not get the appreciation you think you deserve and you may leave behind a bad taste.

Yes, walls need to be broken down sometimes.  Yes, problems need to be solved creatively. And, yes, collaboration is a good thing.  But tread softly the first time.  Be sensitive to others being hurt or offended.

Ensure that you are working toward a common goal and not just pushing your agenda. I will leave you with these suggested steps in the collaborative process:

  1. Assess the situation.  Be aware of the personalities involved, especially those who have more competitive personalities.
  2. Secure permission to be involved.
  3. Be flexible while being a part of the process and solution.
  4. Allow time for discussion, feedback, and debriefing.


Brenda Haughney   –  President


“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan

Going Beyond the List: The Whys of a Great Workplace

We see the articles and lists all of the time.  16 Companies to Work for in 2016. Best Places to Work and Why.  Top Ten Companies for Employees.  Being a professional who works to help companies and their cultures every day, I know that the impact of these types of articles is not really about the companies in the list. Unless you happen to be one of the ten companies mentioned, WHO is mentioned is not important at all.  What’s key is WHY they are listed?

I recently came across an article in FastCompany Magazine by Lydia Dishman titled “These Were The Best Places to Work in the U.S. This Year.”  When I took the time to reflect on the best places I have worked or been associated with, the companies are all very similar to the litany of high-profile companies in the article.  The message can easily be adapted into a small to medium-sized business, a fast-growing or established one, as long as you are willing to open your mind and listen to your employees.  I made a list of 11 points that are a part of every successful and dynamic company I have worked with, then compared it to the FastCompany article.  Surprise!  They were very similar.

Continue reading “Going Beyond the List: The Whys of a Great Workplace”