Trelka Management Training and Consulting

Creating Confident Managers and Engaged Teams

Not My Fault, It’s Somebody Elses

But It’s Not My Fault Because…

Do you have an employee who never accepts fault for anything? Does that person always try to change the conversation with the purpose of putting the focus on the faults of others? These employees try to use deflection to ensure the conversation doesn’t focus on their actions.

This is one of the more maddening problems that a manager or supervisor can face. We are trying to get the employee to see their error and then get them to improve on it.

I have written about the problem of employees who won’t accept accountability before here and the same rules apply. But my focus in this post is to dig a little deeper into the problem of those who want to focus on other people’s actions.

The Purpose of Addressing Fault

If as managers and supervisors we are acting correctly the focus of our actions should be on identifying the actions that are causing the problem and addressing them. The focus should not be about attacking the person or viewing at a personality issue.

Remember, you can’t change people. Your focus should be on establishing what the requirements of the job are and then holding people accountable for their actions. It shouldn’t matter if you like them on a personal level or not.

The Underlying Issue is Insecurity

Generally, when an employee is unwilling to accept fault it is due to some insecurity on their part. They may feel deficient in their skills or knowledge. Or perhaps they feel that their manager or supervisor has a negative opinion of them. There may also be underlying team friction that is causing their defensiveness.

Identifying the source of the employee’s insecurity may be important to get them to accept fault and then work on correction. If you understand why a person is reacting the way they are you can develop a strategy that will address the issue in a positive and productive manner.

Not understanding the underlying causes will only lead to stress and conflict.

Addressing the Cause not the Person

When dealing with a person who won’t accept fault the first, and most important thing is to not lose your cool. Yes, they drive you nuts but don’t buy into it. They succeed when you lose your cool because it takes the focus off the problem.
Always keep the conversation focused on the problem, on the actions of the person. Avoid letting personality enter the discussion. Keep focused on actions – what did or didn’t happen.

If the conversation turns to the actions of others don’t take the bait. This is what they want. Say, “I understand there may be other circumstances or reasons but the only thing you can control is your actions” or “I will deal with those issues with those individuals but I want to talk about how you can improve”.

Keep the focus on helping the individual to improve. Don’t focus on punitive or disciplinary action unless you are at a point where it is necessary.

Your goal should always be about helping your people improve. When your people do well, your team does well, and the organization does well.

The most problematic employee will respond in a positive manner if they truly believe their manager or supervisor has their best interest in mind.

As the Manager or Supervisor, You Need to Direct the Conversation

As the manager or supervisor, it is your job to ensure that the conversation focuses on the correct things. You must have the emotional intelligence and the skill to turn the conversation to a productive end. You do this by keeping the focus on the actions that are in the employee’s control.

Help them to understand that what is in their best interest is focusing on their own actions. Your concern needs to be about helping them to succeed. If you can get them to focus on their actions and keep the conversation their you will demonstrate your concern for their success.

At the end of the day hold them accountable. Do not let them redirect fault. Help them understand how it is hurting them personally and how correcting the problem will benefit them personally. Help them understand that you have their best interest in mind – you want them to succeed. Don’t focus on personalities. Focus on actions.


What is Accountability – Podcast Episode 2

What is accountability?

In this podcast, we flesh out in greater detail what accountability is and how to maintain it in a way that positively engages your team. Check out my blog post on accountability that is a companion piece to this podcast.

In my blog post and podcast, I dispel the myth that accountability is the same as discipline. Further, I assert that discipline is not the first step in accountability, but is the last action that should be considered.

Why is this important?

There are too many managers who want to attack problems. They see every problem as a nail and they are hammers. Because of this, they fail to achieve true accountability and destroy trust with their team.

Today, people need to be engaged in a positive manner. Discipline is often used to cover up for the failures of the manager. Accountability starts with good communication. It starts with establishing what the end goal of the team’s action is.

What will you learn?

You will learn what the goal of accountability is. What actions are important for you to ensure your people are being held accountable. And, you will learn tips and strategies for maintaining accountability. You will also learn why discipline should not be the primary focus of accountability strategies.

Accountability is About Correction not Discipline

Accountability Not Blame

Accountability is at the heart of leading and managing people. It is about holding people to a standard and then ensuring that they are maintaining that standard. What it should not be about is blaming people and punishing them.

Holding people accountable for their work and addressing underlying issues that are the cause of performance deficiencies should be the goal of a manager or supervisor. Blame assignment should not be a part of this process. And in most cases, the first response shouldn’t be about discipline. Instead, you should be looking for the root cause of the problem, assigning responsibility, and then working with the employee to correct the cause.

Too often managers and supervisors shoot from the hip when addressing performance issues. Instead of taking the time to gather facts and think about what the long-term consequences of their actions are, or what they are looking to achieve, they just jump into blame and punish mode.

When this happens, it serves the opposite purpose of what should be the intended outcome. The manager’s or supervisor’s goal should be the discovery of the root cause of the performance deficiency and then working with the employee to resolve it. Improvement of the individual’s performance should be the focus.

The Goal of Accountability

The purpose of holding people accountable isn’t the same as discipline. Accountability is about establishing performance expectations, communicating them, and helping employees understand where they are falling short. Correction of deficiencies and improvement of performance are the key.

Accountability is not discipline. Discipline may become part of the process after you have performed the other steps necessary to address root cause and help the employee improve performance, but it should not be the focus.

Begin With the End in Mind

Anytime a manager or supervisor is addressing a performance issue they should be thinking about what the end goal is. What does the ideal state of performance look like and how does it differ from the current state. But you also need to consider what the goal is with your relationship with the employee and their relationship with the team. If you have read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will recognize this as Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind.

So often we are operating from a state of putting out fires that we don’t always take the time to really think about what the end goal is and what affect our actions are having on individuals in our organization and our team.

When addressing performance issues, the key is to identify what you hope to achieve in the correction of the problem. And to make sure that those actions are in line with overall company and team goals and objectives.

In most cases, the end goal is to maximize efficiencies to ensure profitability. To accomplish this, you need to motivate your employees to want to perform to a level that meets these objectives. Your accountability objectives should be focused on the best way to improve employee performance by engaging the employee in the solution and motivating them to want to correct it.

Placing blame does not motivate people. Being concerned about them and their performance does. Having a genuine concern for the success of the individual, and framing the problem resolution in that light will motivate much more than placing blame.

An Accountability Strategy

When accessing your accountability strategy consider the following:

  • What is the end state that is desired?
  • What actions can I take to try to reach this end state?
  • How will the employee perceive your actions?
  • In what way will your actions affect the team?
  • How will your actions help reach organizational goals?
  • What is the best way to identify the root cause of the problem?
  • How can I help the employee improve their performance?

Accountability is about setting clear expectations, goals, and consequences (both positive and negative). The goal is to help employees improve their performance with the end goal of meeting organizational objects. It is not about placing blame but is about identifying the root cause of performance problems and correcting them with the end in mind.

Why I Want You to Succeed as a Manager or a Supervisor – Podcast Episode 1

Podcast Episode 1

I want you to succeed as a manager or supervisor.

When I started out as a supervisor I had no clue what I was doing. I lacked the people skills necessary to be successful. Because of this, I experienced anxiety and depression. Looking around I didn’t have a lot of good role models to help me. Most of my fellow managers and supervisors were of the old-school variety. Those techniques no longer worked in the changing work environment that I found myself in.

I had to learn and adapt my management style to meet the needs of the workforce I was tasked to lead if I wanted to succeed. It took a lot of hard work, discipline, and study.  Having a mentor to talk to and bounce ideas off would have made the work much easier and enjoyable.

What this Podcast is about

This podcast is about helping managers and supervisors learn better ways to lead people. I want to help you learn how to succeed in leading people. And even though I don’t necessarily have all the answers to every problem, I hope to be able to challenge the way you think about these problems and get you thinking in new and creative ways.

My goal is to be your online mentor, coach, and fellow traveler in your career journey. I want to help you make your workplace an enjoyable place where both your employees and you thrive.

We spend 80 percent of our week at work. This shouldn’t be something we dread. People can be difficult to deal with. At the end of the day, the only thing that you have control over is yourself. If you take accountability for your thoughts and actions you can create a work environment that you will be excited about. People aren’t the problem, we are.

The Challenge

I challenge you to reconsider everything you think you know about being a manager and supervisor. Question how you view your people, your organization, and yourself. Challenge yourself to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can.

Join me and let’s learn together how to take ownership of our careers.

Scarcity in Management and Supervision

What is a scarcity mentality and how does it related to management and supervision?

A scarcity mentality is a belief that there is a limited supply of some resource. It is a belief that where one person gains another must lose. I have seen a lot of supervisors and managers who demonstrate a scarcity mentality when it comes to giving praise and recognizing the contributions of others. These managers feel threatened due to their own insecurities.

Do you believe that if somebody else comes up with a better idea or receives the recognition that it diminishes your contributions?

There is a level of emotional insecurity that belies the belief that when someone benefits somebody else loses.

If you are secure in your abilities and contributions then you should never feel threatened when somebody else achieves something that exceeds what you have contributed.

The scarcity mentality is destructive not just to the individual manager or supervisor but also to the team. Believing that another’s gain is a loss puts you in a competitive situation with your fellow managers and subordinates that is damaging to relationships and team cohesion.

If you believe that to get ahead you need to take ownership for all good ideas you will stifle your team. It will cause them to withdraw and not contribute. An atmosphere of distrust will develop that will undermine your ability to lead effectively.

How do you overcome a scarcity mentality?

First, you need to realize that there isn’t a limited amount of recognition that is available. The ability to recognize and to be recognized is unlimited. Just because somebody else has a good idea doesn’t mean it takes anything away from you.

Also, you need to recognize that if somebody on your team comes up with a great idea or innovation it will benefit everybody on the team including you.

Second, embrace and show support for those who bring innovative ideas to the team. As a leader, you will get more recognition if you lead a team that continually contributes innovated ideas no matter who comes up with them. Leaders who encourage and recognize innovation will succeed far more than those who do not.

Third, understand that one good idea generally leads to another good idea. Instead of a lack of something, there is a true abundance. You can build off the ideas of others to come up with something even more beneficial. Remember to give credit to the originator of the idea that you used as your jumping off point.

Finally, get over yourself. Put your own ego aside. Have a genuine appreciation for the ideas others bring to the team. Being part of an engaged team that is trying to improve the organization should be exciting. Take it as a badge of honor that you have people working with you who care enough to share their ideas. Be a manager or supervisor that inspires people by recognizing their good ideas and contributions.

A scarcity mentality only creates division, destructive competition, and distrust. It leads to people pulling back and not contributing to the greater success of the team.

Let go of your insecurities and realize that the world is infinitely abundant. We all have something to contribute and there is no limit to the amount of recognition that is available. By celebrating the contributions of others, we create a workplace that inspires and encourages innovation.

Recognize that you are abundant, your workplace is abundant, and the world we live in is abundant. What is good for others is good for you and vice versa. Be thankful for others. Their contributions will lead to your success if you open yourself to the possibilities of abundance.

Messaging – Its What You Say and How You Say It

Thinking about your messaging – how you deliver a message – can determine how successful you are in your communications.

Messaging is how you deliver a message and why. You need to give thought as to what the desired outcome is that you are trying to achieve. Also important is how the message will be perceived.

A blunt message with no consideration of perception will act like a hammer. It will be an attack and make people shut down.

When considering messaging here are some things to think about:

First, could the message be a negative or a positive? If it could be a negative how could you turn it into a positive?

An example: your team is not meeting its production goals. You need to communicate this in a way that helps them understand how they are falling short but doesn’t make them feel that they are being taken to task. The goal should be to motivate not frustrate.

Can you deliver the message in a way that shows concern for the best interest of your team and puts consideration on achieving organizational goals?

Second, what are you trying to achieve because of the communication? Hopefully, the communication isn’t to instill fear and intimidation.

In the example above it should be about improving your team’s performance. So, the messaging should be about concern for your team and help them to achieve their goals.

Third, once you have formulated the message consider how it will be perceived. In your mind, it may be a benign message but that may not be how others will perceive it.

You must consider how others will interpret your message. Try to see it from their perspective. How would you understand it if you were in their shoes?

Finally, think about what your motivation is. Why are you delivering this message? Is it because you’re upset, excited, encouraging?

If you’re upset and looking to get a quick fix to a problem – STOP. Give yourself some time to cool off and think about a better way to communicate what it is that is on your mind.

Before running head first to address a problem consider your messaging. Make sure you are doing things the right way for the right reason.

Think about how others will receive the message. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would feel receiving the message.

Make sure your motivations are in line with your values. Don’t allow your emotions to deliver a message that will blow up on you.

Messaging can be delivered in a way that will either motivate or demotivate. By taking a little time upfront to consider what your goals are and how the message will be perceived you can ensure that your communication will be a positive one.


You’re a Supervisor, Now What?

What do you do when you are promoted to a supervisor but feel like you are in over your head? Like so many people who become supervisors I started out my career as an entry-level employee and worked my way up. When I was chosen to move up into a supervisory role I wasn’t the best candidate for the job.

So often supervisors aren’t chosen because they possess good people and management skills. They are chosen because they possess strong technical skills within their chosen field.

Just because somebody has shown an aptitude for a technical skill doesn’t mean that they will be good at managing the people in that technical area.

It also doesn’t mean that they can’t learn it just like they learned their technical skill. The problem is that most companies do not prepare these people for this new, and very different role.

So, what do you do when you find yourself promoted beyond your skill set?

One thing you can do is seek out others who have gone through the same transition and done it successfully to find out how they did it.

This blog is a good place to start. I have been there and I have succeeded despite my deficiencies in personnel management. Also, check out my post: Supervising – Just Relax for more tips for beginners.

Here is what I believe the keys are to make the transition from a line employee to a supervisor.

First, practice humility. Remember where you came from and what the struggle is of the people doing the work. Admit what you don’t know and be generous in giving credit to others.

Have respect for the people you lead. You once were where they are – empathize with them so that you can keep your connection in your new role.

Second, don’t think you know it all even if you do. Just because you can solve a problem doesn’t mean you need to. Assist your people when they need it but let them own the solution to a problem.

So many technical people make the mistake of thinking they need to solve every problem because they are the expert. If you come at every issue with all the answers you will get labeled as a know-it-all and will lose the respect of your people.

Third, realize you’re not part of the line employee group anymore. As soon as you move into a supervisory role you become part of management whether you like it or not. New supervisors often struggle with understanding how to deal with this new reality. They want to maintain their old relationships but they are a bridge between the front-line employees and management.

Embrace your new role. You can make a positive impact by bringing your experience from the floor to the management group. Use your experience and your new elevated role to be a positive change agent and bridge the gap between production and management.

Finally, seek out a mentor. Find somebody in your management group who has gone through what you have and done it successfully. Ask them to offer you advice and critique your progress.

It can be difficult asking others for help, especially to ask them to evaluate you. But the biggest growth you will have is when you get out of your comfort zone and seek growth.

Being a new supervisor is tough. It is difficult to transition from being a line employee to a management role. You will face pressures from management as well as the employees who used to be your peers who you are being asked to lead.

Approach your new role with humility. Coach your people instead of solving all their problems. Embrace your role as a change agent between the line employees and management. And seek out a mentor to help you make the transition successfully.

Remember that this isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. Every career progression comes with a little discomfort. If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and maintain your humility you will succeed.

Free Introductory Management Course Coming!

I am putting together my first management training offering. Keep an eye out for my first course offering a FREE 8-Week introductory management course titled “How to Succeed as a New Manager or Supervisor”.

More details to follow in the coming week. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I know you will really enjoy this interactive learning course which will the be first of many course offerings to follow.

I am here to help you succeed in your management and supervisory role. By sharing my knowledge and experience I hope to give you the tools to succeed. All course will be offered at fair prices and will always include my help at every stage along the way.

Comment below to let me know what courses you would like to see produced. What do you struggle with most as a manager or supervisor?

Empathy for the Person Not Just the Employee

It is easy to have empathy for our employees and the struggles they face at work, but do you also practice empathy for the individual person?

An employee’s happiness and satisfaction at work aren’t tied just to the internal factors of the workplace, they are also a product of external factors that originate in the employee’s personal life.

Our employees are whole people, not just one-dimensional beings. And while we can’t control what happens outside the workplace we none the less need to be aware of anything that is going on in an employees personal life that is impacting their work life in a negative manner.

Our concern also needs to be about the person, not just about the effect that the problems are causing on their work performance.

Empathy has to come from a genuine place of concern. It can’t be manufactured or superficial.

So what can a manager or supervisor do for an employee that is having issues outside the workplace?

To start with you can listen. Just be available to understand their problems and offer a sympathetic ear.

A word of caution on this though – even though you want to be empathetic you cannot solve their problems. You also cannot be their counselor, spiritual advisor, or psychiatrist.

Make sure that you establish clear boundaries. You don’t want to take on their problems or allow their personal issues to be an excuse for poor work performance.

Second, you can reach out to your human resources department to see if there are any employee assistance programs (EAP) that can offer counseling service that might be of benefit to the employee.

Smart companies understand the impact personal issues can have on employees. These companies offer many employee assistance programs to help employees navigate difficulties in their personal lives. Often times these services are free to the employee and 100% confidential.

Managing people requires that we find ways for our employees to have good work/life balance. It means that we need to be aware of workplace stress as well as personal issues that are causing a loss in workplace satisfaction.

Even though we cannot resolve an employees personal problems, allowing ourselves to be personally consumed by them, we can offer empathy, compassion, and resources to help them deal with the issues in their own time and manner.

Our employee’s happiness may not be our responsibility but creating an atmosphere where it is more likely they will be happy is. And the best way to create that atmosphere is to practice empathy, to care about your people, and to be available when they need you.

For more on the personal side of management check out my other post The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace.



Do You Have a Management Philosophy and do You Need One?

What is philosophy and is it important to managers and supervisors? For the purpose of this post, I will use the following definition of philosophy as our guide:

Philosophy as:
A: pursuit of wisdom
B: a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means
C: an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs

Based on the above definition we see that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom in order to gain a general understanding of values and reality. It is about analyzing the underlying fundamental beliefs of a system of thought.

As managers and supervisors, we need to understand the concepts of managing people and resources as well as the belief systems that surround these areas. Without this understanding, we are merely going through rote motions that may or may not lead to success. Without a deeper examination of our actions and the reactions of others, we cannot expect to enjoy any lasting success.

Most of us probably feel too busy and overwhelmed in our daily duties to give much thought to our beliefs regarding the philosophical underpinnings of what we do and why. But I think that if we are going to be successful in managing the people and resources entrusted to us we need to have at least a basic idea of what we believe is the best way to accomplish our work and measure that against the reality of what really works and what doesn’t.

In addition, we need to have a grounding in general management philosophy so we can take advantage of the best ideas that have been tried and tested. In the endeavor of human knowledge, no man, or woman, stands alone. As has been noted by others we truly stand on the shoulders of giants and we should take advantage of this inherited knowledge.

There are many schools of thought on the best way to manage and lead people including Robert K. Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits, and Jack Welch’s Welch Way among many others.

While reading about these different systems can give you new perspectives and tools to use they should only be used as guides to help you build your own personal management philosophy.

Because we are all different in how we think, interact with people, and view the world we each need to take in the knowledge around us and use it according to our own gifts and weaknesses to form a system of management that works for us and for the teams that we lead.

Coming to an understanding of what your management philosophy will be will require you to sit down and figure out what you believe, what your values are, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

As somebody who thinks deeply about management and writes on it frequently, I would suggest that you keep a journal or diary to write down your daily thoughts.

Take just 10-15 minutes a day. I recommend doing it at the end of the day after you have had time to process and absorb all that you have experienced in the day.

Think about what things went well and what things did not go well. Really think about the underlying causes. Identify what made things work and what did not.

You have to dig deep under the surface. Don’t stop with the first cause you come across. Look deeper to find what is under the surface. It is only when you dig deep that you will get to the truth or root cause.

Over time you will begin to see where you are being truly effective and where you are falling short. Once you start to identify patterns in your behavior you will be able to develop the fundamentals of a successful philosophy to managing people and resources based on your knowledge and experience.

Another thing I would strongly recommend is to identify what your core values are as a manager. How do you view your role in relation to your organization and the people you lead? Why did you get into management? What do you hope to achieve in your role as a manager or supervisor? How do you want the people you work with and lead to viewing you? What words would you like them to use when they describe you?

This exercise will help you to define what things are important to you. You can then use this discovery process as a starting point for creating your own management philosophy.

As the writer and philosopher Ayn Rand once said, “Philosophy provides man with a comprehensive view of life. In order to evaluate it properly, ask yourself what a given theory, if accepted, would do to a human life, starting with your own.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon, pg 361).

Philosophy is a comprehensive theory that helps you to understand the correct way to manage. It is about taking in the collective knowledge of others who have come before you and integrating it with your beliefs and experiences. It can help you to create a system that not only leads to your personal success but should also lead to the success and enrichment of everyone you interact with and lead.

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