Who’s Eclipsing Your Sun?

April 7, 2024
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Don’t let a moon block out your sun.  

There’s been much said about “servant leadership”, which has been defined by some asconsensus or even individual rule.  I call BS on such a strategy, whose primary aim is to create happy employees and not offend anyone.

What happens when an employee blocks your growth?

While people are the foundation of any business, if they are not in sych with business’ orbit; it’s vison, mission, and values, can they work together as a team towards the goal of any business, which is to profitably deliver a product or service?

The rationale for such a tolerant leadership style, is that happy employees will be productive ones.  Do In-office exercise areas and snacks make people more efficient, productive, and loyal?  Is that really true?

Or, is it that people who are health-conscious and happier and hence are better employees?

Could such a tolerance for kvetching be a result of the “Great Resignation” and the employment shortages of the past several years?  And, if so, now that the unemployment rate is less than 4%, does such a tolerant leadership style still make sense?

Or, is a leader’s reluctance towards confrontation or saying “NO” behind the tolerance?

“You get what you expect, and you deserve what you tolerate.” – Mark Graban

Of course, being nice, acknowledging performance and showing gratitude are great people motivators.  But there’s a prerequisite…acceptance of the Vision, understanding the mission and strict adherence to values, each of which must be effectively communicated to the team and to new hires.

Values in action is what makes a culture.  And if leadership doesn’t create one, employees will make one and it probably won’t generate the results leadership wants.

Here’s where most leaders fall short.  They either cannot clearly articulate the values and/or they can’t effectively communicate them.  The result is that employees might be there for the wrong reasons, like a paycheck.

Of course, the paycheck is important.  But wouldn’t a paycheck for fulfilling a purpose be better?  Wouldn’t a position that is consistent with one’s WHY be the ideal?

And that’s one reason why companies who promote doing “good”.  In 2006, Tom’s initiated a BOGO program (Buy One Give One).  Yet even that failed to sufficiently motivate employees and customers and overcoming a bad business model. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain.

Recently there have been a spate of employees telling their bosses what their values should be.  That’s backwards and can easily happen when clear values are not articulated.

And here in America, if an employee disagrees with the company’s values, they are free to seek employment elsewhere.  The thing about true values is that they are non-negotiable.  They don’t bend to the whims of employees.

The issue of standing for the National Anthem is such an example.  Why is it played at the beginning of a game anyway?  Was this not explained to the players?  Obviously noteffectively, because some felt they were at liberty to disagree with ownership and tradition and either sit it out, stay in the locker room, as happened with the LSU women’s basketball team last week, or worse, take a knee.  If respecting tradition and our country is a value that a sports team or league has, then anyone who decides to play there has an obligation to comply.  Don’t like what the flag stands for?  Go play in another country that better fits your values.  Good luck!

Oh, but you won’t make as much?  Tough luck.

Employees can leave.  What they cannot do is bitch, moan and create a toxic environment.  Or make demands.

And yet, that’s what’s been happening in our government and at NBC.  Who is in charge?  Where is leadership?  What are the values in question?

One of the blessings of near full employment is that some people might not feel as empowered to express views that differ from their employer’s. Others, bolstered by the much-publicized impact that employees have had expressing their political views, might feel empowered.

Employer Beware!  Having a hiring process that identifies values misfits can prevent potential culture breakers from infiltrating your business.

Once the vision, mission, and values have been communicated, what’s next?

Enforcement or Accountability.  Here too is where many companies fall short.

Even the best hiring process can allow some to board that do not share some of the company’s values.  When an employee acts on their different value and creates an unwanted cultural stress, if the matter is not identified and remediated, it will grow and fester.

Once a cultural misfit has been identified, here’s a roadmap to follow.

Gather Information: Before confronting the employee, gather all relevant information about the breach of cultural values. This might include specific incidents, witnesses’ accounts, and any documented evidence.

Consult your HR advisory firm:  As this process could lead to an employee’s termination (liberation), make sure you’re in compliance with all City, State and Federal laws.  Let them guide you.  It’s important not to wait to get this valuable information.

Private Meeting: Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss the issue. Ensure the meeting takes place in a neutral and confidential environment where both parties feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Express Concerns: Start the meeting by expressing your concerns about the employee’s behavior and how it conflicts with the company’s cultural values. Be specific and provide examples to illustrate your points such as your Practice Culture Guide.

Active Listening: Allow the employee to share their perspective on the situation. Listen actively without interrupting and try to understand their reasons for breaching the cultural values. This step is crucial for building empathy and finding common ground.

Reiterate Expectations: Clearly reiterate the company’s cultural values and why they are important for the organization. Emphasize the impact of the employee’s behavior on the team and the business as a whole.

Explore Solutions: Brainstorm possible solutions together with the employee. Encourage them to suggest ways they can align their behavior with the company’s values. Offer support and guidance as needed.

Agree on Action Plan: Once potential solutions have been discussed, work together to develop an action plan for addressing the issue. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for the employee to work towards.

Document Agreement: Document the outcomes of the meeting, including the agreed-upon action plan and any follow-up steps. Both parties should sign off on the document to ensure clarity and accountability.

Follow-Up Meetings: Schedule follow-up meeting within a specified time to review progress on the action plan and discuss any challenges or obstacles the employee may be facing. Offer support and encouragement to help them stay on track.

Monitor Progress: Continuously monitor the employee’s progress in aligning with the company’s cultural values. Provide regular feedback and recognition for improvements.

Consequences for Non-Compliance: Clearly communicate the consequences of continued non-compliance with the company’s cultural values. This may include disciplinary action, up to and including termination, if the behavior persists despite efforts to address it.

Escalation if Necessary: If the employee continues to refuse to accept the company’s cultural values and the breach has a significant negative impact on the organization, escalate the matter to HR or senior management for further action.

By clearly defining a vision, mission and values, using them as a part of the hiring process,  putting them into writing in a formal Culture Guide used for on-boarding and monitoring compliance can create an environment that will help fulfill a practice’s mission, encourage profitable growth and generate happy, healthy patients.


Towards keeping your sun shining,


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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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