Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's 2 a.m. Do you know where your star employee is?

It's 2 a.m. Do you know if your star employee has logged on again from home and is still awake?

Work flows to the most competent, right? Chances are good that the best writer on your team, if this person is also fairly senior, is staying up too late -- anguishing over the team's mediocre writing.

Documents that should have been wrapped up by 6 p.m. at the office instead get reopened after 10 p.m. at home, when Star has rested a bit or put the kids to bed, and is now ready to tackle nagging thoughts. "Eee! I can't possibly send this to the client as is!"

The more tired Star is, the more likely he or she is to rewrite rather than edit or request changes of the team members who wrote the original.

Well rested people identify key points, make keen observations and pose incisive questions.

Tired people rewrite -- because it's easier. The problem is that this is a downward spiral.

The more rewriting Star does, the more demoralized the team becomes, and the worse their work gets because, they say, "It doesn't matter. She's just going to rewrite it anyway."

I've seen it! Many times! If this is your situation, don't be embarrassed -- you are in the majority!

Boss & Star confide their frustration

A variation on that scene is this one: Boss and Star are confiding in each other, united in their frustration over work that doesn't seem to improve, despite feedback and good intentions.

Both situations are common, and they often precede my being hired to give writing workshops.

I am proud to say that Star in the above scenarios is someone who has worked with me in the past. I know because he/she tells me.

But I'm even prouder to say that there's every reason for hope. I really can help your team improve such that Star doesn't burn out and leave you.

Office-wide culture of self-improvement

For 2015, I'm revamping my offerings to emphasize office-wide improvement. It's possible to create a culture of self-improvement where individuals know how to progress and are motivated to do so.

It's not enough to train junior staff. Mid- and senior-staff need to know how to "receive the ball," so to speak. The roles and relationships on the team need clarification, so that everyone can improve and keep on improving -- because the office culture permits and encourages it.

I don't mean to say that everyone who hires me is anguishing, though many are. Some companies invest in their employees as a matter of course, and that's how they stay strong over the long haul. One longtime client in particular still has me in from time to time for refresher classes.

Here are other common reasons people hire me:
  1. The agency is growing very fast, mid-level staff are mostly new and representative of too many disparate corporate cultures. Training gets everyone on the same page.
  2. The agency grew fast, and the people who took workshops in the past want the new people to have them, too. The veteran staff don't have time to train the new people themselves because they've been so short-staffed for so long while waiting the the much-needed new-hires.
  3. A refresher class is a reward. People who are already giving-giving-giving (!) at high levels of quality enjoy an occasional switch-up. It's nice for someone to give to them for a change.
  4. The teams themselves are self-aware. They have a nagging sense that there are more efficient or effective ways to do what they do, and they are open to expert advice.
Why God created junior staff ;-)

School doesn't prepare us for work -- that's why God made interns, AAs, AEs and SAEs who undergo on-the-job training.  ;-)

Some people squeak by over time despite so-so writing -- because they're good on the phone, because they are strategic thinkers or because they have a way of bossing around the client that the client likes. But they don't make VP because their writing at times embarrasses SVPs and EVPs.

Others learn as they go because they lucked out with a supervisor who is also a good writing mentor or because they took the initiative to improve themselves on their own time or dime.

Who's responsible? 

At any rate, senior staff are good at their jobs, not necessarily at teaching writing, editing and critical thinking. It shouldn't be up to them to train the entire team to write well. It should be up to the teammates themselves. They need to know what the standards are and how to reach them.

That's where I come in. My goal in 2015 is to create office-wide cultures of self-improvement. Frankly, it takes more than one or two workshops to achieve that. But I bet I can get you going with fewer than eight workshops, maybe four to six, depending on your circumstances.

Legacy investment serves up enduring clients

Two, four, six or eight workshops might sound like a lot.

But if the investment leaves your office with a legacy of self-improvement -- not just with individuals who may forget what they learned over time, or who burn out and leave you, taking their gifts elsewhere -- then you'll have achieved a greatness that endures through rough patches.

A culture of self-improvement can serve up satisfied clients long after the workshops end.