The SESCO Report – February 2015
Are You An Effective Leader?
Effective leaders wear many hats and have the most difficult responsibilities in any organization. Leaders are expected to serve as a role model for the people who work for them, must coordinate their work, resolve conflicts, must promote employee growth and development, represent employees and your department to management and outside parties, and also create a motivating environment so that employees can achieve superior performance. On top of all of these leadership responsibilities, most leaders also have technical and/or organizational responsibilities which many times become a priority because of lean staffing, customer demands and senior leadership expectations.
Good leaders aren't born, but they are developed and evolve through hard work, consistent effort and an awareness of several factors that influence their success.
In order to become a better leader, we must first understand what our inherent leadership style is. Typically, leaders can be placed in one (1) of three (3) categories: autocratic, democratic, or laissez-faire. So what style are you?
Autocratic Leaders – Autocratic leaders tend to be highly opinionated militaristic. Their mantra is, "I'm paid to think; you are paid to work" and as you can imagine, this style rarely gets the best performance from employees, because most employees don't like to be treated so impersonally. Moreover, these autocratic leaders deny themselves suggestions from and viewpoints of others that are often very helpful when figuring out how to solve problems or tackle new opportunities.
Democratic Leaders – Democratic leaders, by contrast, see themselves and their employees as a team. Their slogan might be, "We're paid to think and work as a unit." Most employees would rather work for a democratic than autocratic leader and democratic supervisors tend to get the full benefit of their employees' ideas, opinions and views. Leaders who use this participative, team-oriented style tend to demand more time to solve problems or analyze opportunities, because they negotiate, discuss and consult with their teams as much as possible before making a decisions.
Laissez-faire Leaders – Laissez-faire leaders provide general direction and overall guidance, but they give their staff as much freedom as possible. A laissez-faire boss may say, "Do this however you want, as long as you get the results we need and don't violate company policy." This hands-off leadership style may work well with highly trained, self-motivated workers who neither need or want close supervision such as in professional positions/organizations – doctors, lawyers, CPA's, engineers and other related firms.
Leaders who have developed reputations as successful managers didn't just luck into them. Part of their success can be credited to recognizing and avoiding several common pitfalls:
Belief that one leadership style fits every employee and situation. Managers who use only one approach to leading cannot get the best performance from everyone, because individuals react differently to different leadership styles and their reactions may be either positive or negative.
A tendency to be overly autocratic or dictatorial. Although an autocratic approach demands the least amount of effort and conscious thought, employees are generally excluded from the decision-making process except its tool to carry out what the boss thinks should be done. Managers who take it upon themselves to define problems and decide how to solve them sometimes run themselves out on a limb and end up sawing it off.
A tendency to adopt the same approach to leadership one of your more impressive former managers used. The trouble with this is that you are leading an entirely different group of people under a different set of circumstances than your role model faced. It is important to let your own technique evolve and take shape and base it upon the nature of your group and the types of problems and challenges that your job presents. You can't, and shouldn't, be a clone of a previous boss, no matter how exceptional he or she might have been.
Good leaders adhere to the following tenets:
They always consider the individual that they are managing. For the first time in history there are four (4) different generations working in the workplace. Each generation thinks differently, needs different leadership styles, values jobs and personal lives differently and as such, a good leader will recognize and understand the needs of each individual within the workplace and manage toward that individual's needs.
Good leaders consider each situation as an opportunity. Good leaders will step in, take charge, make decisions, allocate resources, assign responsibilities, and ensure that the work gets done right and on time.
Good leaders emphasize results over methods. Those leaders who emphasize results over methods develop confident, competent subordinates who think for themselves and approach problems creatively. They empower workers to think to the best of their abilities and employ their own resources all day, everyday and for the benefit of everyone.
Finally, good leaders stay in touch with their employees as individuals and as a team. Employees respect leaders who communicate directly with them. Good leaders have to be seen and this is best accomplished by managing by walking around. Managers who appear to be aloof or too busy or who isolate themselves behind desks, walls or secretaries sometimes earn contempt from their employees.
So, how do you rate as a leader?
Leadership Qualities: Check Yes No or Need to Improve
a. I'm comfortable giving direct orders and acting assertively when necessary. ____ ____ ____
b. I can work as a collaborator, coach, and colleague with my group when the situation requires it. ____ ____ ____
c. I have little difficulty allowing others to use their own judgment and employ their own methods to do a job. ____ ____ ____
d. I prefer to supervise people directly rather than from a distance. ____ ____ ____
e. I would rather let workers decide how to do a job than dictate to them how to go about it. ____ ____ ____
Review and Reflect
Answer the true/false statements by placing a "T" or "F" in the space provided. Answer the multiple-choice questions by circling the number of the best answer.
a. Which of the following statements is true of leadership styles?
1. No style is ideal.
2. Managers should be autocratic leaders as much as possible, because employees expect and respond to close supervision.
3. A democratic leadership style is generally the best to use when dealing with a crisis.
4. Experienced, mature subordinates react negatively to laissez-faire leaders.
b. ___ The most effective leaders use one style of leadership consistently.
c. ___ Successful leaders get to know their employees as individuals.
d. Which of the following situations would generally require an autocratic leadership style?
1. "This project has a three-week deadline; it's identical to the one you completed in ten days last month."
2. "I'm going to assign Mary to that job; she has done it several times in the past three months."
3. "I've just hired a bright, ambitious new assistant, but he has no experience with the type of work we do here."
4. "I'm not quite sure how to set up the schedule for this production run, but several of my people have done that type of thing before."
e. Which of the following situations would generally require a democratic leadership style?
1. "If we don't ship this order by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, we'll lose the contract and have to lay off 15% of our workforce."
2. "Higher management has changed the frequency of your activity report from every two (2) weeks to once a month, but the format is the same as before."
3. "I'm not certain what's causing the problem; it could be traced to several areas in my department."
4. "Mike says he understands our rules on lateness, but he has clocked in 10 to 15 minutes late on four (4) of the last eight (8) workdays."
f. Which of the following situations would generally require a laissez-faire leadership style?
1. "Jack isn't a total expert on this type of work. I'm putting him on the job because the experience will help him increase his knowledge and promotability."
2. "I've found that Janet lacks the self-confidence to tackle an assignment like that without occasional guidance from me."
3. "Data processing says the new minicomputer must be installed where Bob's desk is in order to hook up the cabling correctly."
4. "You can go to lunch whenever you've restocked the shelves and set up the equipment for the orders we're going to run this afternoon."
(Answers are as follows: a. 1; b. F; c. T; d. 3; e. 3; f. 4)
In summary, good leaders are developed over time. Every organization must be committed to providing resources and training necessary to develop good leaders. SESCO has been developing leaders since 1945 and we have a number of individual as well as group training and development programs that will help develop your most valued asset — leaders.
Fair Labor Standards Act Alert
KeHE Distributors has requested that the Supreme Court review a 6th Circuit decision finding that their company's sales representatives were nonexempt from the FLSA and thus due overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. The 6th Circuit determined that these food distributor sales reps were simply order takers and merchandisers and as such, these duties did not meet the definition of a "sell" for the Outside Sales Exemption.
SESCO will monitor this case closely as it could have a significant impact on many Outside Sales/customer service representatives and their exemption status. In light of this case as well as a very active and punitive Department of Labor in applying exemptions as well as potential increase in the salary requirement test, all organizations should undergo a FLSA audit to determine if your compensation practices are compliant. If they are not, SESCO provides for very specific recommendations as to optional pay plans as well as processes to alter pay plans with least disruption. Contact SESCO to explore our exclusive Professional Service Agreement and subsequent auditing practice.
Avoiding Common HR Mistakes
In our consulting practice, we are contacted when there is an issue or challenge. Clients don't call us when things are going well, but when they need help. As one can imagine, we receive and answer all types of inquiries involving employees in all industries and across all 50 states. Based on our practical experience, we have identified common legal mistakes that human resources makes in handling difficult people problems. These include:
1. Inappropriate language in advertisements, interviews with applicants and in offer letters. In the screening and hiring process, common issues include:
• Improper language in job advertisements such as "male," "female," "young," "healthy," etc.
• Too many hiring managers ask about personal and/or protected characteristics during job interviews which sets the employer up for a discrimination lawsuit if the applicant is not hired. These include "How would you get to work?," "Do you have proper transportation to work?," "Would family create issues in working overtime or on the weekend?"
• Some hiring managers provide an inaccurate description of the job. Sometimes work is difficult and requires long hours and the hiring manager doesn't properly reflect the demands of the job. Soon, an unhappy employee will leave because the job was not clearly described.
2. Wage and Hour compliance. Most organizations who we have audited have misclassified positions, re: exempt vs. nonexempt status. Many positions are considered by the organization as exempt and thus paid on a salaried basis without overtime. In reality, many of these positions are, in fact, nonexempt and thus are required to be paid overtime thus creating liability for the organization.
3. Privacy assumptions and violations. Too many employers fail to advise employees to expect no privacy on their company computers. It is critical that employers place employees on notice through company orientation and effective policy.
Human Resources also possess a great deal of sensitive information about individual employees. It is critical that Human Resources ensure that employee information is maintained confidentially, especially when outside third parties are requesting information.
4. Training and performance. As noted in the feature article, most organizations fail to train supervisors. And supervisors are the ones who typically get you in trouble. They say inappropriate things, don't understand basic rules and regulations such as Wage and Hour, FMLA, workers' comp, etc. As supervisors are considered agents of the organization, the actions of the supervisor creates organizational liability.
5. Record keeping/I-9 issues. We rarely find in our auditing practices proper documentation to include required documentation by law such as the I-9 Form. Further, documentation is rarely discovered that supports screening and hiring decisions and, more importantly, terminations.
6. Breakdowns in communication. Many organizations forget or don't make it a priority to notify employees about policies and procedure changes, outcomes of investigation or discipline issues, or unsatisfactory behavior or quality. In fact, many organizations will not properly document performance appraisals reflecting behavior issues, thus creating an inconsistent trail of documentation, again, creating significant liability.
7. Accommodations. Most organizations are unaware that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires us to consider accommodations to include when an employee is disabled, is pregnant, has a family and medical leave issue, or other medical issues.
Special Thanks to New SESCO Clients!
Piney Flats, TN
SnowSports Industries America
Alexander Auto Group
Carbondale Car Care
Fluesbrothers Chimney Service
Overland Park, KS
Wytheville Office Supply
Southeastern Certification, Inc.
SESCO Client Feedback
"So glad SESCO is there for me. Always receive a response to questions. Very knowledgeable about subject matter." ~ Stephanie Aliff – Monroe Health Center
"In a nation of constantly changing regulations and instability, SESCO provided my firm the stability to move forward." ~ David B. Gentry, President – Gentry Family Funeral Service, Inc.
SESCO Client Inquiry — Staff Response
Question: What steps should a company take to remain open during inclement weather?
Answer: There are many employers that operate 24/7, 365 days a year. Whether it is a local hospital that must stay open at all costs or a manufacturing plant that cannot afford to shut down its machines, constant operations is the status quo for many businesses. For employers that operate in this type of business environment, it is vitally important for both the continuation of the business and the safety of employees to have a plan in place to address how operations will continue in the event a storm hits.
The plan should define which employees are essential to the running of the business and must continue to work in the event of a weather emergency. Once the key employees are identified, the next step is to determine the best method for ensuring that they make it safely to the work site. Common methods include setting up carpools, renting nearby hotel rooms for employees and providing cots onsite so that employees can sleep.
SESCO's Spring Seminar Series 2015
April 8-9, 2015
Human Resources -
The Basic Course
Courtyard by Marriott
May 7, 2015
Human Resources -
The Advanced Course
Courtyard by Marriott
April 14-15, 2015
Human Resources -
The Basic Course
Virginia Community Healthcare Association
May 13, 2015
Human Resources -
The Advanced Course
Virginia Community Healthcare Association