One of My First (and Most Memorable) Business Lessons

Shortly after leaving university and joining 1-800-GOT-JUNK? the company welcomed a new leader to my department, the call centre.

This leader’s name was Patrick Louis.

Michel Falcon (Left) & Patrick Louis (Right) in Toronto, ON

The 1-800-GOT-JUNK? call centre consisted of a team of 100 call centre agents (not all scheduled at the same time) answering 1,000,000 calls per year (if my memory serves me correctly). 

The Scenario

When Patrick came into the company he inherited a team of young individuals. A few people were making $100,000 per year as call centre professionals. If you know anything about the call centre industry, this is extraordinarily unusual.

The company was and still is great! This description isn’t a bash on the organization, it’s a description of the reality at the time. This is likely why Patrick, a seasoned professional was brought into the company.

During my first year, many of my peers and I called in sick regularly. We performed well as a team but we often operated outside of the guidelines put forth to us, and likely made the life of our Workforce Management Team (WFM) very difficult. The WFM team is responsible for scheduling agents in the call center to ensure there was enough coverage to answer 80%+ of calls within 20 seconds.

To summarize, Patrick had a few challenges ahead of him:

  • The profit and loss statement of the call centre was likely in the red because wages weren’t sustainable.
  • Some (maybe most) of his inherited team didn’t have many responsibilities outside of paying rent and earning money for the bar.
  • He needed to find a solution, fast. This key department within a recognizable company couldn’t keep operating this way. 

Patrick’s Solution

Now, let me tell you something…I was one of those agents that called in sick when I wasn’t. 

Sorry, Patrick! I hadn’t fully matured yet.

But, aside from that, I think I was one of the better agents (this was before transitioning to the operations side of the company). I paid attention to the changes that were happening and when I didn’t understand why changes were happening, I’d ask Patrick to tell me directly so I could learn.

Since I left business school to learn how to grow a company and make operational decisions – this was my real-world MBA. I knew I had to pay attention and acquire wisdom.

These are some of the changes I witnessed and their cause and effect:

He Changed The Pay Structure 

Before his arrival, we were largely (and generously) paid on commission with a modest hourly rate. Receiving a loan from the bank with this proof of income wasn’t very likely. He changed the compensation plan so that our commissions were dissolved but had an opportunity to earn a very nice hourly wage, which financial institutions would favour for loans. There were other opportunities to earn more income by way of sales contests but not direct commissions. Not only did this save the company money, but we also performed better as a department!

He Changed the Employee Profile

Before Patrick’s leadership, we were largely a team of 20-25 year-olds. He had the experience to recognize that the company needed a team of people with true responsibilities other than buying beer. These individuals needed to come to work every day to pay their mortgage, support their children and other things that held high value. This new demographic of team members rid the call centre of the absenteeism issue it previously struggled with.

I can’t tell you firsthand how long Patrick conceptualized the plan but it appeared to happen after attentively observing then following up swiftly. Naturally, there was an objection from tenured employees.

Mostly from the individuals who were used to making six figures (or close to). I remember peers of mine requesting one-on-one meetings with Patrick to voice their displeasure. 

Although Patrick’s decision was unpopular, he always stood by it. 

I shared this story with my girlfriend, Sophia. She hung onto every word because she was fascinated by the example of leadership and making tough decisions. As I shared this story with Sophia it reminded me of something I’ve always known…

…1-800-GOT-JUNK? really was my real-world MBA. Scenarios and case studies like this may be taught in business school but it’s not comparable to watching it play out right before your eyes.

The Lesson

Patrick must have known that this major change, one that would impact individuals’ bank accounts (a sensitive topic), would cause some of his team members to quit. But, the decision needed to be made.

I learned to measure risk, think of contingency plans, how to make swift decisions and stay the course.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

5 Ways to Know When Your Boss Is Targeting to Fire You (And What to Do About It)

You can feel it. Something is not right.

Your boss is acting…um, weird! 

They’re not the same as when you first interviewed with them. Or, they seemed like a great leader during the interview process, you built rapport during onboarding, you were doing well but then, all of a sudden, their behaviour towards you changed.

I know how this story goes down, not because I’ve been the leader that has targeted someone. Since operating michelfalcon.com, writing blog posts and producing videos, I’ve had many people ask for advice on how to manage a relationship with their manager.

More often than not, after they describe their leader’s behaviours and actions I sense that they are on the path to getting fired. 

Who knows, it very well could be warranted. 

But, whether it’s warranted or not, there is a certain way to coach, uplift, and lead and then there are the following five ways that will tell you that you’re being targeted. 

Not all hope is lost. You can turn this around if you follow the recommendations outlined in this blog post.

Please note, that I believe the five ways I will outline below are a cowardly way of managing someone. After all, someone’s livelihood and career is being played with if you were to lead this way. 

I’ve invited my friend Rhys Green to contribute the “and what to do about it” part of the blog post that we will call The Response.

rhys green, trailblaze partners, small business consultant
Above: Rhys Green, CEO and Co-Founder of TrailBlaze Partners

Rhys is CEO of Trailblaze Partners, a service operations consulting company based out of Vancouver BC. Before that he spent 10 years with 1-800-Got-Junk? leading teams and working on the operational challenges that come from fast growth.

They Cancel (or Don’t Show Up For) Recurring Meetings

I’ve never met a great leader that didn’t regularly meet with their direct reports. A leadership tactic that I learned during my time at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was something called Goal Setting & Review (GS&R).

Every week, there would be a recurring scheduled meeting on the leader and team member’s calendar in perpetuity. For example, I remember when I reported into someone named Simon, our GS&R was scheduled for Tuesday at 1:00 pm (this was ten years ago, don’t ever tell me something you want me to forget because my memory is undefeated). As the title of the meeting suggests, during this time together we would review our goals and how we were trending toward them with other dialogue to support the meeting too.

Whether it’s a GS&R or some other regularly scheduled meeting, if your manager is continuously canceling or rescheduling your meeting then something is not right. If your leader responds with, 

“Oh, sorry. I’m so busy.”

Remember that everyone has the same hours in the day and that you make time for things that are important to you. These meetings are for your professional development which is why, if I was your leader, my hair would literally have to be on fire for me to cancel our time together.

I will kick it over to Rhys to share his best practices on how to manage if this is happening to you.

Rhys’ Recommendation

Direct and honest communication wins the war here. The next time you are able to get a one on one meeting with your leader, give them a heads up in advance that you’d like to talk about your professional development and performance. Use an I statement like “I feel like my development and performance aren’t important (replace this with however you actually feel about it) when you change or cancel my one-on-one meetings.” This should open up the opportunity to have a really good conversation about where you stand. 

Their Demeanor Changes

It seems like ages ago when you and your manager interviewed each other, it appeared you shared the same values, you even shared a laugh or two. During your onboarding, they seem very invested in you, your development and, ultimately, your well-being. Yes, that seems like 100 years ago.

RELATED: How to Stop Hiring Toxic Employees (a Lesson For Every Company)

Today, you noticed they rolled their eyes after you suggested a solution to a challenge the company was faced with.

They completely ignored your commentary during the off-site team meeting and moved the conversation in another direction.

They used to respond with “Yes, Emily I have a few minutes” when you would ask him a question. Now, they respond with “What!?”

These verbal cues should have you wondering if you have done something wrong or something that upset your manager.

Rhys’ Recommendation

I’d hit this one with empathy. It may not actually be you that has caused the change, but if it is you definitely want to know. I’m a big fan of the heads up, so give your leader the heads up that you want to have a conversation about how you’re working together. Start the conversation out by highlighting the behaviour change you’ve noticed (use examples) and asking if there is something going on that you’re not seeing. Are they having a hard time at home, is their leader giving them the gears? You’ll pretty quickly figure out what’s going on with this approach and it will serve to build the relationship by trying to understand. 

They Abruptly Start Micro Managing 

I’ve actually heard this before, 

“We needed to expedite their exit, so we caught them doing things wrong quickly.”

Damn! That’s malicious. That’s poor leadership! Those are a lot of things I don’t like.

Remember when you would go home and speak to your spouse or tell your friend that one of the reasons you loved your new job was because your manager didn’t breathe down your neck? You had the freedom to do great work! Sure, you made a mistake here and there but your leader would coach you and you learned from missteps.

RELATED: How to Fire An Employee (With Integrity)

Yeah, those days are over. Now, it seems like everything you do is received with criticism. You even were blamed for something you didn’t do. Your manager recognized the mistake but never apologized.

If these things are happening then it’s likely that your manager is targeting you. 

Rhys’ Recommendation

What a terrible feeling! One minute you feel like you’re crushing and have so much autonomy the next you can’t do anything right. For this one I’d over-communicate. If your boss is asking for an update once a day I’d give them two. While this could be that you are being targeted, it may also be just that your boss is stressed now, where they weren’t before and so their more natural behaviours are showing. Either way, more documentation will help you if you do end up getting terminated. 

They Exclude You From Decisions, Meetings and More

You used to be included in key decisions and meetings that impacted your department and company. You felt a sense of pride that your manager was entrusting you and valued your opinion.

But, all of a sudden, you stopped being included in these meetings. One day, you walked to the office kitchen area to refill your cup of coffee and noticed that a meeting that you’re regularly invited to is being hosted. You check your calendar on your phone to see if you happened to miss something on your calendar but, no, there’s nothing scheduled.

This is something I wouldn’t immediately concern yourself with because these meetings may now have an agenda that is too sensitive to be discussed with you right now. However, I would make note of this.

Rhys’ Recommendation

At your next one-on-one (assuming they’re still happening) just ask the question. Hey Boss, I saw the weekly management meeting happened without me this week, has something changed that I should know about? As with all of these remember there is often not an ulterior motive behind this type of change. Your boss could very easily have been trying to get you some time back in your day and save you from an irrelevant meeting. 

Your Responsibilities Start to Diminish

As the newest member of your company’s sales team, you listened attentively during training and sooner than later you started receiving inbound sales leads to manage. You even closed a few leads and other team members started to congratulate you. The better you did the more leads you were closing. You were doing very well! Sure, there were others doing better but they had been at the company for much longer.

Suddenly, the inbound leads you were getting or the marketing tasks you were ordinarily responsible for weren’t being assigned to you. At first, you ignored it but made note but now it seems like your days aren’t filled with as many responsibilities as they use to.

Something’s not right.

You can feel it in the pit of your stomach…

Rhys’ Recommendation

You’ll notice I generally like the direct communication route. This one is no different. Talk to your leader and let them know how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. If you don’t find their answer to be genuine and reassuring, speak to HR or ask for a skip level. Changing your job significantly without you agreeing to it is a big deal and one you should address as soon as you notice. Follow up on your conversations in writing. 

The best course of action is always open communication, however, you should also be keeping your options open. Make sure you know what the market is for your skillset, who the top employers are and take note of when they’re hiring for someone like you. The impact of all of these behaviours on your mental state can be really damaging and it can be amplified if you feel like you don’t have an option to go somewhere else. There is always an option, it’s on you if you don’t know what it is and how to get it.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

5 Employee Management Tips to Boost Employee Morale

Managing employees isn’t hard!

I’m not saying this to shock and awe you.

I believe managing employees isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. We simply need to adhere to some sound employee management tips and strategies to become great companies.

As leaders, we generally make it hard on ourselves to manage our employees and the outcome is a poor experience for our team members which negatively impacts their perception of you as their leader and paralyzes their morale and performance.

I’ve come a long way in my leadership ability to manage a team. I’ve recognized that my management style is different than yours and different than those of my business partners and peers.

I don’t believe I’m any better or worse than the next person, I just know, full heartedly, that my management style is right for me.

Dating back to my time at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I was groomed by people like Brian Scudamore and Patrick Louis. I took some of what Brian and Patrick taught me and found my own style.

More recently, I’ve taken advice from Danny Meyers, Howard Behar and Patty McCord. I now define my leadership style as being a benevolent and servant leader to the 150 employees we have today at my businesses in Toronto.

For the last decade, from afar, I’ve studied great leaders like Kat Cole, Jimmy Iovine and many others to share five employee management tips to boost employee morale.

I hope you enjoy this post, consider leaving a comment below and share it with your colleagues.

Understand Their Purpose (as an individual, not employee)

My book is titled, People-First Culture: Build a Lasting Business By Shifting Your Focus From Profits to People. I define People-First Culture by building a business that your employees and customers will admire.

Simple, right?

On the surface you may think, “Yes, it’s simple enough.” But, I beg to ask you, “If it’s so simple then why isn’t every company admired?”

To become “People-First” I’ve created something I call the 3P Strategy: Purpose, Process then Profit.

Within purpose, I advocate that a benevolent and servant leader must intimately understand the purpose of each team member who directly reports into them…with or without the company. Let me explain…

employee moral

Take Christina Parihar as an example. Christina is a star! She has risen the ranks of our company remarkably. She went from a server, to a shift leader and now she’s a Manager at one of our venues. But, management of our restaurant isn’t her true career purpose. It’s to become the Director, Learning & Development for our company.

This is her career purpose and as one of her leaders it’s my job to get her there. This is an example of helping someone achieve their purpose with the company.

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Meet Riley. He’s one of the top bartenders at our venues. He’s going to leave my company very soon and I’m happy about this.

I’m happy because we, as a company, are going to facilitate his exit so he can pursue his career purpose.

You see, Riley has been studying hard for years to graduate from university. He will graduate and pursue a career in biotech on the business development side of the industry.

Once Riley graduates I will personally take ownership, exhaust energy and connect him with people in my network who will interview him and hopefully hire him. This is an example of understanding a team member’s purpose and helping them reach their goals.

I once read this quote and it really resonated with me:

“Be a great company to be from.”

When I work with my management teams I share that a great employee management tip is to understand their team’s purpose and share in their success.

Clear (I mean, VERY clear) Definition and Visibility of Goals

This is where we make it hard on ourselves when it comes to managing employees and developing them during our meetings and review.

How on earth are we suppose to manage our team if goals aren’t clear and visible?

My partners use a weekly dashboard meeting to review their goals with their direct reports.

I use something called weekly GS&R’s (Goal Setting & Review).

Maybe you use something else. But, whatever, you do…use something! If you’re hiring high performers and want to manage their performance and morale, goals need to be clearly defined and visible.

Great! We have the framework in place but how are we adhering to the framework? Are we cancelling these weekly meetings? Is it a time where we passively review recent performances or do we dig deep and put everything under a microscope.

Cameron Herold once said, “Meetings don’t suck…we just suck at running meetings.” Managing your team during their reviews (which should be done regularly, not yearly) must happen often and with a clear definition of success and visibility.

Gather Employee Intelligence (EI) to Create Never-Seen-Before Experiences

I refer to employee intelligence as things you learn about your team members throughout their tenure with your company (the same can be done for customers). The most admired companies use this intelligence to create experiences for their team (and customers) that they have never seen before. These experiences build admired, People-First Culture companies.

RELATED: 3 Employee Engagement Training Strategies (video)  

Our employees have intimate conversations with us, their leaders, on a daily basis. And at times, these conversations may be falling on deaf ears, or equally as bad, are being acknowledged with unenthusiastic responses.

Let’s put this into action by way of a real-world example.

An employee tells me they have a big exam coming up. I ask for the date of the exam and record it in my phone to remind me three days before. The same day that I get the notification reminding me of the exam, I think to myself, “What would one need to help them prepare for this exam?”

One of the first things that comes to mind was one of those Sage scented vaporizers to use the evening before the exam to relax my team member before the big day.

Not all employee intelligence gestures need to be delivered with a high monetary value. For example, if your team member tells you their mother’s name or their favourite sports team, you can simply…

  • Ask how Rosa’s doing
  • Text them when their team wins a big game

One trick here is to use your phone to capture the data. Don’t leave it up to memory to remember these moments of employee intelligence.

When I host my Breakfast N’ Jam sessions I often find myself excusing myself to the bathroom so I can write things in my phone so I don’t appear rude by doing so at the table.

Find Them Another Leader to Learn From

You can’t be the only person that your employee learns from. After all, you’re not an expert in everything and neither am I. I’m constantly trying to find other professionals that my team can learn from.

These teachings can come from a book, podcast or in-person and virtual coaching. Here are a few examples of when I’ve found members of my team other people to learn from.

  • Jordan Lopez: his marketing prowess exceeded my skill set so we purchased Brian Dean’s YouTube online course for him.
  • Melissa Smilie: someone who has a tremendous future ahead of her, I recommended she read Patty McCord’s ‘Powerful: Build a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” book as she’s going to need to learn how to develop high performing teams.
  • Max Romer: a team member who will be leaving my company to pursue a career in finance, I connected him with someone I know working within the finance department at Microsoft Canada.

Did I  already possess some of these skill sets? Yes, but, like I mentioned, your team needs to learn from people other than you to help continuously manage their morale.

Take action: This week, ask each of your direct reports one thing they want to learn within the next 90 days then go out and find an external subject matter expert for them.

Tell Them to Invest in Themselves

In 2014, I wrote a Linkedin article that received some great traction. I titled it, “Employees Need to Be Responsible For Their Own Development.”

You, as a leader at your company, can only develop so many people. Your bandwidth eventually will reach its limit. There needs to be a mutual understanding between you and your direct reports and it goes like this…

“I will give myself to you BUT you must give yourself to your own development.”

As my Linkedin post above suggests, Michael Jordan didn’t become Michael Jordan by only shooting free throws during designated practice time. He became great by putting in work on his own time.

Beyonce became Beyonce by singing, singing and singing some more at home, not just in church.

Building a high performing team is a counter balance between the leader and the team member. The leader must provide stewardship but ultimately it’s up to the employee to grow themselves.

When I was growing my career in my early 20’s I invested time to reading, watching YouTube videos and reaching out to professionals on Linkedin to ask if I could ask them a few questions. Today, in a way, I’m still an employee. We have investors that count on us to pay them a return. To do so, I must continuously invest in my education. I invest in paying 5-figures to attend retreats and workshops. I read books and listen to podcasts to level-up my game.

Take these employee management tips and apply them within your business. I’m not suggesting doing all five tactics immediately. Start with one or two, build some momentum then add another.

Leave a comment below: which employee management tip resonates with you the most and why?