One of my favorite team-building exercises is to ask team members to share their personal histories. This tool, described in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, asks team members to share their hometowns, information about their families, their greatest challenges growing up, their first jobs, their worst jobs and something unique about themselves. I have repeatedly been enthralled with the worst job stories!

Over the last few years, I’ve coached 57 teams and over 250 leaders through this process as part of our annual planning sessions in EOS® and although a degreed scientist may not call my evidence conclusive, it is at least anecdotal and interesting. Here’s what I’ve found to be the three common themes of a WORST JOB.

  1. A lousy BOSS! I’ve heard it said before that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. The stories that my clients tell support this maxim. Most often, these stories revolve around bosses who simply didn’t care for people. One leader told about a boss whose only tactic was yelling. Another told of a boss who would pit her subordinates against each other and another told of a boss who demanded that his people work in extreme conditions and under unreasonable policies, yet consistently broke or bent the rules for himself.

This is how to prevent this at your company: Show your people you care for them by being interested in them personally. Here are some ways that EOS® can help you do this.

  • Consistently hold Quarterly Conversations: Don’t reschedule them, put them off or think they are not the BEST use of your time. They are!
  • Ensure that a “check-in” is used at the beginning of every meeting, during which everyone shares their business and personal best for the week.
  • Speak directly. Give feedback quickly, both positive and negative. If you only speak directly when there is criticism needed, you’re just an ASS!

2. The WRONG PEOPLE. Have you heard the phrase, “you know it when you see it”? In this case, stories of Worst Jobs emerged in which the leader only stayed a few weeks or days, mostly because they could FEEL or SEE that the company was full of the wrong people: people who created a culture the leader/employee was not attracted to. I might be biased, thinking that the leaders I coach are the cream of the crop, but the people at their “worst jobs” sure missed out on amazing people because they didn’t have high hiring standards. Awesome people (I call them STARS) exit nasty cultures quickly!

This is how to prevent this at your company: Be diligent in your hiring and nurturing of the Right People. Here are some ways that EOS® can help you do this.

  • Have an iron-clad hiring process that repels the wrong people, one which includes having the candidate interview with multiple people from multiple departments. Make sure the people doing the interviews are ABSOLUTELY aligned with the company’s core values and LIVE them. A players hire A players. B players hire C players. One of my clients was hiring for a CSR role and invited all the CSRs on the team to a group interview. After reviewing the candidates, the team decided to hire none of the candidates. They said they’d rather have a hole in the accountability chart than an asshole in the accountability chart! Let the right people in your company help you find and select the future A players!
  • Get rid of the C players. Everyone but you knows that the C players are holding the company back. Have the courage to lovingly move them on to their next opportunity. One of my clients was struggling with a decision to let a C player go when the leadership team “ganged up” on him! The team was adamant that this C player was doing more harm than good, and because of the open, honest culture we built, they were able to find a solution. They also offered to fill in the role while the Integrator looked for a replacement.

3. No appreciation for or use of their Unique Ability®. When describing their worst jobs, leaders told stories of being put in a “bullpen,” assembly line, or work team where they were treated like a faceless number. Questions went unanswered, supervisors didn’t know their names, and they received little training or direction.

This is how to prevent this at your company: Give your people more to do, not less. Here are some ways that EOS® can help you do this.

  • Delegate and Elevate. Get your people working in the right seat by using the Delegate and Elevate tool. (Email me for a copy of this tool.) Some of my clients have started to use this tool BEFORE they hire people. If your people are working in the bottom two quadrants of the tool’s matrix, they are NOT in the right seat. You are LOSING MONEY and they are losing steam and engagement with the job. Furthermore, if you do have employees on the front lines who are expected to do less than interesting work, mine their Unique Abilities® for additional projects they could work on or additional trainings they could take that will help them grow in the organization. Your front lines contain a HUGE amount of untapped potential if you will just look, then invest. Several of my clients beam with pride when they get to talk about the promotions and growth they’ve nurtured from the front lines.
  • Know their strengths. With all seven billion of us on the planet being unique, we’ll all bring different talents and skills. The more you tap into someone’s strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses, the more you’ll invite them to grow and contribute at a meaningful level within the company. Using profiling tools like Culture Index, Kolbe or StrengthsFinder can help you determine their strengths with less trial and error.
  • Expect them to bring value. Every employee in a company that runs on EOS® should be expected and invited to contribute to an Issues List. Additionally, everyone should be taught to IDS (Identify, Discuss and Solve). Having high expectations of your people puts positive pressure on the whole organization.

My BIG A-HA moment . . .

What I never, ever heard, not even once while discussing “Worst Jobs” is that the pay sucked! Not one leader cited low pay as their reason for deciding which job was worst. Although, during the research for my book, Earn It: The Tools You Need to Earn the Money You Want, the leaders surveyed claimed that giving a raise was their number one way to keep people in a job when they thought the person might be looking to move. The scientist in me is screaming that there’s a disconnect with that approach! I challenge you to be a great boss, fill your company with the Right People and tap into their Unique Abilities® to earn your way on to the BEST JOB EVER list! Helping your people flourish hits the bottom line, only always!

** Unique Ability is a trademark of The Strategic Coach.

** Delegate and Elevate, IDS and Quarterly Conversations are tools within EOS, The Entrepreneurial Operating System.