5 Tips For Effective Leadership!

November 28, 2016

I receive calls from time to time regarding what it takes to be an “effective manager/leader”. Managers and supervisors have the ability to shape and drive their organization when they can be effective but with individuals coming from many different backgrounds and roles, challenges are bound to arise. Differing opinions lead to conflict, distrust amongst team members, ineffective communication techniques, lack of accountability, and destructive criticism all potentially result in setting a manager’s team up for failure. In order to address these potential pitfalls, managers need to identify them first. Here are 5 common leadership pitfalls and how to avoid them:

  1. A Lack of Trust

Trust is a key component for managers and supervisors. Without trust, your staff and you, are much more likely to fail. A significant level of trust brings improved relationships, performance, and success.

When there is distrust amongst the leadership team in your organization, communication and processes become inefficient. Having trust within a team means individuals demonstrating consistency with their verbal and nonverbal communication, caring about one another’s welfare and interests, and respecting and valuing one another’s skills and knowledge that are being brought to the team.

In order to build trust within a team, all members need to commit to fostering open communication that is reliable and consistent, respecting one another, showing confidence in one another, and understanding expectations.

  1. Team Communication is Ineffective

“Different strokes for different folks.” Just like many things in life and business, this rings true for communication. Different team members are going to have various communication styles, which can be a good thing when navigated properly.

In order to understand the team dynamics, you have to first be familiar with your own communication style. It’s important to increase your self-knowledge or self-awareness so that you are better able to understand the communication styles of your team members.

  1. Conflict Goes Without Resolution

The power of collaboration is tremendous. But what is even more tremendous is the power given to conflict when not resolved. It’s also important to note that not all conflict is bad. Functional conflict can be a good thing when used positively and constructively. Dysfunctional conflict prevents teams from getting things done and achieving their goals. Conflict without resolution sets the team up to be contentious, ineffective, and overall unhealthy. It is extremely important for teams to learn how to deal with and manage conflict.

You can more easily identify the source of a conflict when you are knowledgeable about what causes it. Conflict can be caused by differing opinions on:

  • Values, beliefs, attitudes, or opinions
  • Policies and procedures
  • Expectations, goals, or responsibilities
  • Information needs
  • Personality, social style, or work style
  • Someone else’s “bad” behavior

There are a variety of conflict management and resolution strategies that you can use when approaching your team but the most important thing to remember is that it starts with proper communication.

When communicating about conflict it is important to listen actively, clarify for understanding, validate the concerns of other individuals, share your viewpoint clearly and assertively, check for understanding, and maintain control.

  1. No Accountability

Leadership teams expect accountability out of their employees but are they holding themselves accountable as well? Increased accountability definitely has its advantages.

According to The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), positive results of accountability include:

  • Improved performance
  • More employee participation and involvement
  • Increased feelings of competency
  • Increased employee commitment to work
  • More creativity and innovation
  • Higher employee morale and satisfaction with work

These are things leaders strive to pull out of the teams they manage but they should also be focusing on applying accountability to the leadership team itself. To increase the sense of accountability within a team, it is important to have clear defined roles and individual ownership. Accountability can also be fostered through freedom and support, expectation of evaluation, and improvement.

If a task is not completed, a budget is exceeded, or a key metric is missed, that doesn’t mean we automatically seek punishment. It just means that we ask the accountable person for an explanation of the reason so the team can better find a solution.

Here are some of the questions you should be asking within your team when defining roles and assigning accountability:

  • Who should be doing this?
  • Why should they be doing this?
  • Can someone else do it?
  • Is this the right person to be doing this?
  • Is this person effective?
  • How can we support this person?
  1. Feedback Processes are Broken

Feedback is an essential practice to any organization. When used properly, feedback pushes individuals and teams to grow and enhance their work. Unfortunately, many feedback processes are either outdated or broken.

Feedback can be used to build trust, hold accountability, resolve conflict, and more. Often, though, feedback processes become mundane or counterproductive. Formally giving and receiving feedback once a year won’t cut it for some organizations and giving and receiving feedback so frequently it becomes micromanagement also won’t cut it.

Feedback is most effective when it is:

  • Direct, specific, and relevant
  • Well-timed
  • Objective and constructive
  • Adaptable
  • Aligned with established expectations
  • Allowed to “marinate”
  • Regular and ongoing

Building a leadership team may be a struggle at times but when you address all of these challenges and build a fundamentally sound leadership team, success happens. By coaching & training your leadership team, individually and as a group, they will be better able to handle all of the obstacles that occur when running a department or organization, and feel more confident in their leadership roles.

As a final note, one that I have stated so often, be fair, firm and consistent with your policies, practices, and procedures and that my friends will go a long way toward on how you are viewed as a manager.

Follow me on Twitter (Jim Potts@jimpottsauthor). I will be giving out reminders on small newsworthy bits of information that will not be posted on the blog.

New Federal Law Not Going Into Effect on December 1, 2016

November 23, 2016

Good news right before the holiday! Judge Mazzant of Eastern District of Texas issued an order granting the request of 20 states for a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Obama administration’s new rule raising the minimum salary for the FLSA white collar overtime exemptions to over $47,000. The rule was scheduled to take effect next week on December 1. In enjoining the rule, the court found that the states had demonstrated a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their lawsuit and had shown that irreparable harm would result if the rule was not blocked immediately. In so ruling, the court found that the rule was unlawful and exceeded the authority of the Department of Labor. With the court’s ruling, the new overtime rule is temporarily blocked on a nationwide basis pending final disposition of the litigation (and/or reversal of the order following review on any appeal).

I have already been receiving questions if this applies to California. This was a Federal change that would have impacted California employers. Now it does not. The requirements for exempt v. Non-exempt California rules are still in effect.

The case is State of Nevada, et al v. United States Department of Labor and is pending in the Eastern District of Texas.

A New Workers Compensation Law Going into Effect!!

November 21, 2016

The Workers Compensation system, in the past, has been strictly limited to “employees.”

Under Labor Code section 3351(c), the term “employee” does NOT include the officers and directors of a private corporation where those officers and directors are the sole shareholders of the corporation, unless they elect to be. The same goes for “all working members of a partnership or limited liability company” under subsection (f).  Well, the “powers-that-be” in Sacramento have passed AB 2883 which would amend sections 3351 and 3352, which would allow an officer/shareholder to be exempt from workers’ compensation coverage only if he or she owns at least 15% of the outstanding stock. Both partners and officers would have to prepare a written waiver signed under penalty of perjury.

In short, AB 2883 would require action to be exempt from workers’ compensation, rather than requiring action to come under the workers’ comp rules. Just for fun, ask anyone who has a hard time paying their bills if they would rather have workers’ comp coverage or a pay raise (or a job) and you’ll see why limiting the people who can opt out of workers’ comp even further is not a welcome move.  This is just another example of a “bad law” placed on California employers. Let me explain.

Not every business owner is up to date as to every single law when it comes to running a business—but they need to be. Right now, there are plenty of people who have businesses with no employees and who think (correctly) that they don’t need workers’ compensation insurance because they can automatically opt out. That’s great – there’s no need for extra expenses and extra paperwork, especially when small businesses are trying to keep the lights on and make ends meet.  Imagine two gentlemen (or ladies) are equal partners in a house-painting venture with no employees. What if one of them gets hurt? Is there suddenly an “illegally uninsured” case to be had? Is there liability for whoever hired them as independent contractors to paint a house? Why are we even discussing this…?  I don’t know if this proposal was the result of lack of sleep or a fiercely competitive round of “who can draft the most ridiculous legislation possible” over at the state capitol, but in either case, this is bad law.

California is losing businesses (and residents) every year to other states. No, they’re not fleeing from AB 2883, but AB2883 is another example of the thinking in Sacramento, and how divorced it is from the people trying to make a living in this State. Not to mention that almost 80% of the businesses are made up of small businesses.

So, what now? Officers/Shareholders must now fill out the waiver form and get it in if you desire not to have to pay workers compensation costs associated with your compensation. Workers Comp carriers (like State Fund) will be all over this because they wanted revenue stream that will be generated by the new law. Do your due diligence because if you do not, it will cost you!

Will a Trump Presidency Help Employers? Let’s Take a Look!

November 14, 2016

Well, there is a new Sheriff coming to town! I do not believe there has been any information from the Trump camp either before the election, or after, when it comes to employment law issues. In part, that was due to the polls. We certainly did not get the opportunity to hear any debate on those issues. There was too much character assassinations going on from both sides.

So, with a Republican in the White House there is going to be some scrambling by some of those agencies that ran somewhat amok during President Obama’s administration. What does it mean for employers? What’s going to happen with employment laws and enforcement?

The truth is that we really don’t know at this point.  The fact that the House, Senate and President will all be led by Republicans is something that is going to throw the whole system for a loop.

Let’s review some areas that might be addressed over the next few months or so.

  • As I have continued to update you, the new overtime regulations are set to be implemented on December 1, 2016.  Will a lame-duck Congress try to block those rules from being implemented? And if they are still implemented, will a Trump administration seek to roll those back? That would be a challenge.  Suffice to say for employers, this added uncertainty is a real headache. Until you hear otherwise, employers should continue to implement these changes.
  • One thing that seems clearer: The NLRB’s moves over the last few years will come to a screeching halt once the Board’s makeup is changed. The NLRB, for better or worse, always seems to change with each Presidency.  A Trump Presidency will no doubt bring changes back; this may impact everything from graduate assistants being able to unionize, the quickie election rules. Everything is in play.
  • For those wondering, the Board has two seats open now; along with the existing Republican member, that would give the Trump presidency a pretty quick majority.
  • The EEOC’s strategic plans will now be called into question as well. In recent years, it has taken aggressive litigation approaches on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Will those tactics be abandoned? Where will the enforcement priorities lead to? Again, don’t expect big changes overnight but over time, this is definitely something to watch.
  • And do not underestimate the impact that a Trump Presidency will have on the federal court system.  He will now be appointing far different judges that we’ve seen over the last eight years — both at the U.S. Supreme Court and at lower court levels.  This will have a long-term effect on employment discrimination cases which are often heard in the federal courts. Now, we may see more state court cases.

But for all the uncertainty out there, remember this: Many of our federal laws are unlikely to change.  ADA, FMLA, Title VII are all fairly hearty laws that share widespread support.  The changes that may come are all things around the edges — things like enforcement approaches, guidance, etc.

For employers, it’s best to keep a close eye on the developments for employment law. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years or longer if the mid-term elections are consistent with the most recent results. We shall see! Stay tuned and don’t change the channel!


Memo to Employees: Legalized Marijuana is Still Not Permitted

November 11, 2016

The following is a suggested policy regarding the use of marijuana by employees even though they may use it on their own time.


To:                   All Employees


Re:                   Medicinal & Legalized Marijuana


On November 8, 2016 California voters passed State Measure 64 thereby legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Previously, the use of marijuana had been approved for medicinal use only. Please keep in mind, under Federal law marijuana is still considered a controlled substance. The purpose of this memorandum is to clarify the following:

  1. The company has a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of marijuana or any other controlled substance;
  2. The company policy regarding testing employees if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an employee is under the influence of a controlled substance (or alcohol) remains in effect;
  3. The company policy regarding testing employees in the event of a work-related accident and/or suspecting that the work-related accident was the result of the use of a controlled substance remains in effect;
  4. A refusal by the employee to be tested can lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination;
  5. A positive test for the use of a controlled substance including, but not limited to, the use of marijuana can lead to further disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Finally, we hope that all of our staff will take this memorandum in support of our zero tolerance policy seriously. Thank you for your attention regarding this matter and if you have any questions about this policy please discuss it with you manager, supervisor, or human resources.

Healthcare Premium Payments While on Workers Comp

November 7, 2016

Every now and again we get a question from a client, “Must an employer continue the health insurance of an employee out of work with a workers’ compensation injury?”

The answer? It depends. Let’s take a closer look.

If facing this issue, ask yourself these two questions.

1. Is the employee on an FMLA or other statutorily approved leave of absence, which protects the employee’s health insurance? Under the FMLA, if you provide an employee group health insurance, the employee is entitled to the continuation of such coverage during the FMLA leave on the same terms as if he or she had continued to work (including family coverage), provided that the employee continues to make his or her normal contributions to the premiums. So, in this case, follow the FMLA and continue coverage.

2. What does the plan say? If the employer is not FMLA-covered, the employee is not FMLA-eligible, or the employee has exhausted available FMLA leave, then the employer will need to review the plan to determine coverage during a workers’ comp leave. Most plans have minimum-hours-worked requirements (i.e., “An employee needs to work __ hours during a week to be eligible for coverage.”). If that is the case, the workers’ comp leave will leave the employee working zero hours, rendering them ineligible for coverage. You will then issue a COBRA notice to the employee, since a “reduction of hours of the covered employee’s employment” is a “qualifying event” under COBRA. Otherwise, if your plan’s eligibility requirement permits coverage during a workers’ comp leave of absence, then follow the plan and continue covering the employee. Do not terminate the employee under any circumstances.

In the event coverage terminates, you can assure the employee that you are not leaving the work-related injury uninsured. Workers’ comp should continue to cover the injury-related medical expenses.

Note: We always recommend not offering Cobra until after an additional 30 days past the expiration of the FMLA leave to ensure the employer has accurately recorded the start and end dates of the FMLA leave period. There have been cases on this issue so make sure of the dates.