The Whine Line Procotol, Big Red Car? Do tell.
So, your Big Red Car was engaged in a bit of discussion and blog reading in which the subject of how to deal with problem hires or heretics — do not dig that word in this context — was bandied about.
A couple of things came to light, but the most important is this — dealing with employees both good and not so good is a normal part of CEOing.
Your generation did not invent sex or business; dealing with less than perfect employees is not a problem unique to your outfit. It is just a normal part of CEOing, and you got that gig.
Employees are dynamic. Your star marketing person may become your challenge and vice versa. Here are you and the employees on good days.
It is all just part of running a team, a company, CEOing. It is normal and you don’t need to be firing people for a little whining. The challenge is to keep the whining within a tolerable level.
That requires you to develop your own personal Whine Line Protocol.
From whence does it come, Big Red Car?
Partners, managers, line employees will generate lots of frustration in the ordinary course of business. As a pal likes to say, “This would be a great business except for the damn customers.”
That is what I call whining, to which I often ask, “Would you like some cheese with that whine, Cosmo?”
This is the underpinning of what I lovingly call The Whine Line Protocol.
The Whine Line Protocol, Big Red Car? Huh?
OK, here it is, dear reader.
1. Every business generates friction. We want businesses to be smooth, but it takes friction to get to smooth. So the friction of life, the friction of business is real.
2. Everybody is in the line of friction. Some more than others.
3. Some folks are more vocal in expressing their frustration with the friction of life/business. The result is that they whine. [Pro tip: You actually want your folks to vent. You do not want them holding it in and getting sick. People need to vent and venting is good.]
4. Whining, like yoga, is a relief valve that allows the building pressure an escape path. If allowed to build unchecked, it can have unhealthy consequences for the business, relationships, customers, and the physical health of the whiner.
5. A good CEO recognizes this and develops their own Whine Line Protocol. How much whining are you going to tolerate?
In business, I always had a few whiners. I recognized the utility of allowing them to release the tension. Part of the skill set of an experienced CEO is dialing down the whining by allowing it to vent.
I would also say that even the very best employees I had would whine, reach the limit, recognize we were at the edge of The Whine Line, and move on. It was healthy.
Did you encourage it, Big Red Car?
Yes, dear reader, I did.
I would ask, “How’s that project going? Tell me the problems you’re solving.” This is just part of my “managing by wandering around” style. It is part of CEOing.
Then, I would lean back and let the whiner — at times we are all whiners, no pejorative attaches to that word — run with the ball.
After some time period, as I could see the pressure being released, I would say, “OK, I think we are getting to the Whine Line.”
The person would smile; we would laugh, but we both knew that that convo had gone as far as it was going to go at that time.
As a CEO, you have to tolerate some amount of whining, but you have to have your own Whine Line Protocol — the limit beyond which you will not go in that conversation. Hey, you can revisit it; you can have a second inning, but at some time you have to call “No mas!”
How does that work, Big Red Car?
It works fine. [Pro tip: It also works well with your children if you are parenting. Even with my grown children I will from time-to-time invoke the Whine Line Protocol. They get it. We ameliorate the excess and move on. We do not condemn the whining up to that point in time. Fair play to that. But, I call “calf rope” and we move on.]
In the CEOing business, you have to develop your own style, your own authoritative leadership voice, and your own style points. One of mine is and was The Whine Line Protocol.
Think about it. Might work for you.
The light hand
We have taken a light hand with this, but there are a couple of other things you should also check.
1. Do you have a clear set of objectives for the people involved? Is your Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives (are their objectives defined and clear), Values, and Culture clear and up to date?
2. Have you conducted a recent Anonymous Company Survey to see what the Hell’s going in the company? Sometimes a whiner is telling you something you don’t know and need to know.
Here is how you do that.
Anonymous Company Survey
3. Has your whiner gotten a recent Performance Appraisal? is the whiner on target as it relates to objective attainment? Sometimes whining is a scream for attention and nothing answers that call like a Performance Appraisal.
Here’s how you do that.
Before you think any outbreak of whining is just “garden variety,” you may want to check your six. Usually, it is not that dramatic, but if the entire company or a goodly segment says the same thing in the Anonymous Company Survey, then you, dear CEO, have some work to do yourself.
Don’t let a little whining panic you. It is just part of the deal.
I also want you to reflect on your leadership style, your authentic leadership voice while you are considering your own Whine Line Protocol.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. You got this.
Do not adopt this guy’s leadership style.