Frequent flyers hate blackout dates, employees may too

Dear Ken Keller,

Planning for the year ahead, we have decided to create “vacation blackout dates” during our busy season. This is new for us but our business is on the upswing and we want the revenue. Unfortunately, during the summer months many of our employees take vacations with their families. Any thoughts on how to best communicate this? —Fred G.

Dear Fred,

You need to announce this decision as soon as you can. This is a message that is best shown to people so they can visually grasp the implications. Hand out calendars with the dates of the blackout period clearly marked so your employees to take them home and have conversations around the kitchen table.

Expect pushback and prepare in advance to address all questions and concerns that might come up. You will likely also be asked to make exceptions for people; how will you handle those?

People generally deal with this kind of change if they have enough time to create alternative plans. But for others, it may turn out to be an employment deal breaker. If you can create incentives to sweeten this policy change, it may well be worth doing.

Dear Ken Keller,

We are a company of so-so formal accountability. Our to-do lists our long, but few things seem to get done on time. For years, we did not give raises, so we decided to skip performance evaluations, believing that if we gave great performance evaluations without raises, it would be frustrating to the employees and make life worse for managers.

We’d like to start getting more things done, on time and on budget, and that may upset the rut we have fallen into. Do you have any ideas how we can start slowly with the goal of eventually changing everyone to a more results oriented company? –Jack K.

Dear Jack,

Your situation is faced by many companies. What you are seeking is a formula for changing individuals and how they feel about things. I cannot provide that, but I can give you some ideas as to how to start changing the culture in your company.

The first step starts with you deciding what you want. You have already laid out the ultimate objective in your note to me, but each goal needs to be quantitative and with due dates for each one.

The second step is to measure where you are with each goal. This does not have to be a fancy tool, just an approximate read on the current situation. As an example, how many projects are there that will actually move the company forward, what is the current status of each, what is the priority rank, what impact will it have on the business and who owns each project. There can only be one owner per project; someone to be held accountable.

The third step is to ask yourself if the owner of each project is invested in the outcome. If there is not a strong champion, the likelihood of success drops quickly.

The fourth is to measure what resources are needed for each of the top three priority projects and what are the deadlines for key milestones for each one.

Finally, make a big deal about the progress being made on these projects. Start meetings by getting status reports, be free with praise and be ready to not only coach those working on these key issues but to pitch in and help.

The old saying “Nothing succeeds like success” is true and when your employees start to hear about and then see progress being made on something that will help the business, momentum should build and you can start getting more people involved.

People will stay on the sidelines and see what happens before they buy-in to any change. Your job is to lead success and make it both safe and easy for others to jump on the accountability bandwagon.